Saturday, 17 March 2018

My Bloody Valentine ‎Loveless

My Bloody ValentineLoveless

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Isn't Anything was good enough to inspire an entire scene of My Bloody Valentine soundalikes, but Loveless' greatness proved that the band was inimitable. After two painstaking years in the studio and nearly bankrupting their label Creation in the process, the group emerged with their masterpiece, which fulfilled all of the promise of their previous albums. If Isn't Anything was the Valentines' sonic blueprint, then Loveless saw those plans fleshed out, in the most literal sense: "Loomer," "What You Want," and "To Here Knows When"'s arrangements are so lush, they're practically tangible. With its voluptuous yet ethereal melodies and arrangements, Loveless intimates sensuality and sexuality instead of stating them explicitly; Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher's vocals meld perfectly with the trippy sonics around them, suggesting druggy sex or sexy drugs. From the commanding "Only Shallow" and "Come in Alone" to breathy reflections like "Sometimes" and "Blown a Wish," the album balances complexity and immediately memorable pop melodies with remarkable self-assurance, given its difficult creation. But Loveless doesn't just perfect the group's approach, it also hints at their continuing growth: "Soon" fuses the Valentines' roaring guitars with a dance-inspired beat, while the symphonic interlude "Touched" suggests an updated take on Fripp and Eno's pioneering guitar/electronics experiments. These glimpses into the band's evolution make Shields' difficulty in delivering a follow-up to Loveless even more frustrating, but completely understandable -- the album's perfection sounded shoegazing's death-knell and raised expectations for the next My Bloody Valentine album to unreasonably high levels. Though Shields' collaborations with Yo La Tengo, Primal Scream, J Mascis, and others were often rewarding, they were no match for Loveless. However, as My Bloody Valentine fans -- and, apparently, Shields himself -- will attest, nothing is.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A House ‎The Way We Were: The Best Of A House 04.85-02.97

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Irish rock history is littered with hard luck stories, of bands who really should have made it but were denied by a philistine music industry and the cruel hand of fate. Most of the time it's self-pitying nonsense - but in the case of A House it actually happens to be true. Dave Couse and co. really did have it all, grace, style and a talent for sparky guitar pop that showed up most of their contemporaries as the bunch of chancers they were. Now, comes this beautifully packaged retrospective - and happily, it's the perfect way to remember them. Released on the back of the adoption of 'Here Come The Good Times' as the official Irish World Cup song, its 19 tracks represent a neat summary of the band's entire career, with a bonus disc of rarities thrown in to keep diehard fans happy. Like the Irish team itself, it's hard not to dream about what might have been instead of celebrating what was actually achieved. But every underdog has its day - and this is undoubtedly theirs.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Associates Popera The Singles Collection

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While it would be more accurate to call it "The '80s Singles Collection," given the continuing Associates and Billy Mackenzie story through much of the '90s, Popera does contain the major hits of the band's curious and wonderful career, along with many should-have-been chart toppers and some fine early obscurities. The result is the best single disc to start with for newcomers, though more hardcore fans will likely miss many of the fascinating tangents and album tracks that could not be included. That minor gripe aside, though, Popera lives up to its punnish name in spades. The first four tracks are unsurprisingly the big early-'80s U.K. hits, as much controversial landmarks on the charts and via live TV performances as Soft Cell's similarly genre-busting smashes. "Partyfearstwo," elegant, romantic, and the biggest single of them all, "Club Country" and its barbed nightlife paranoia, the sparkling "18 Carat Love Affair," and the remake of Diana Ross' disco hit "Love Hangover" each burst forth with a unique energy and life. The tracks that follow never achieved those chart heights but came close at points, while artistically each was its own lovely universe, ranging from the cabaret morning blues of "Breakfast" and the sweet "Take Me to the Girl" to the giddy "Waiting for the Love Boat," included in two versions. The remake of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" is a touch perfunctory, but Mackenzie's swooning vocals as always save the day. Oddly, the earliest songs appear at the end, five independently released singles that serve to underscore the Associates' uniqueness in post-punk days, scratchy and dark guitar slamming up against bizarre melodies and keyboards. Through it all and all the lineup changes, Mackenzie's soaring, theatrical voice rings out like the unique gift it was, one of the most underrated instruments in modern pop of any stripe.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Pet Shop Boys ‎Behaviour / Further Listening 1990–1991

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Behaviour is arguably Pet Shop Boys' best album -- rivaled by the one that followed it, Very -- so it's appropriate that it's paired with the best "further listening" component available in the reissue series. This is certainly a byproduct of the duo's high creativity between 1990-1991, but it's also a smartly selected, sharply assembled album in its own merit, containing several of the group's very best non-LP songs -- "It Must Be Obvious," "Miserablism," "Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend," and the anthemic "DJ Culture" -- which are sequenced between many fine extended mixes, including one of "Where the Streets Have No Name"/"I Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Several of these mixes are for songs not on the album as well ("We All Feel Better in the Dark," "Was It Worth It?," and "Music for Boys"), which give the record additional value, since these are different versions than those on Alternative. But even if you have that record, the richness and very flow of this installment of "further listening" makes this expanded edition perhaps the most essential of all the 2001 PSB reissues.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Bees Sunshine Hit Me

The Bees Sunshine Hit Me

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This album was The Bees first album, and was released in 2002. Two close friends, Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher performed and produced the album in their shed full of home recording equipment somewhere on the Isle Of Wight... The album is generally laid back and chilled, but definatly manages to grab your attention. Each track flows well into the next and the whole album has a brilliant summery vibe to it. After first listening to the whole thing the whole way through it made me want to get down the beach, lie in the sun and listen to it all day. It really does make you feel good, a good album to play when you get up and can see the sun shining through your curtains. One thing the bees like to include in their music is strange percussion. They use things like cowbells often but if you listen to the background in songs you will hear tons of odd sounds, some of which sound like pots and pans and someone tapping along on a kitchen sink. The whole record is a blend of styles. These include pop, jazz, funk, reggae, folk, indie etc. They draw ideas from everything while still managing to keep it original sounding. The music also sounds very relaxed and honest and is catchy and lively. In most of the songs on the album there is always a lot of layers and different melodies however they still manage to create space for the record to breathe. The production of the album does have an old 60s vibe to it which definatly aids the music because it does sound very 60s in some places. Think beach-boys and the beatles stylee. This record even includes a cover; A Minha Menina(originally by Os Mutantes, a brazilian band from the 60s).Overall, Sunshine Hit Me is a brilliant slice of pop waiting to be discovered. Its not just another easy listening album as it may seem, this record grabs your attention from start to finish and will keep you mesmerized many plays later.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Electronic ‎Get The Message The Best Of

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When New Order's Bernard Sumner joined the Smiths' Johnny Marr to form Electronic in 1989, some called it a dream collaboration. Marr's gifted guitar work made him a star musician on top of making the Smiths one of the greatest bands to emerge from post-punk. Sumner and his coolly boyish vocals stepped up to fill the shoes of his old friend, the late Ian Curtis, upon the end of Joy Division in 1980. New Order and the Smiths were two bands that matched one another in appeal and importance. Both groups also defined what would be known as alternative rock, so Marr and Sumner coming together just made sense. Get the Message: The Best of Electronic is a definitive look at how the super duo succeeded in making cohesive and appealing dance-rock and became one of the greatest alt-rock bands. All three albums -- 1991's self-titled masterpiece, 1996's Raise the Pressue, and their 1999 hidden treasure, Twisted Tenderness -- are represented throughout along with an assortment of outtakes and remixes. Their various collaborations, including their very memorable work done with the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, cannot be forgotten, either. Their U.K. Top 20 hit "Getting Away with It," the fluid acoustic guitars of "Get the Message," and the previously unavailable single mix of "Disappointed," all of which feature Tennant on vocals, remain timeless standouts for Electronic. Other highlights include the sexy synth beats of "Imitation of Life" (B-side to "Forbidden City") and "All That I Need" (B-side to the Karl Bartos-penned hit from Raise the Pressure's "For You"). With Rhino's meticulous selection of tracks, Get the Message is definitely one of those collections tailored for both longtime fans who already own everything and for new fans seeking a great prelude.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Manic Street Preachers ‎The Holy Bible 10th Anniversary Edition

Manic Street PreachersThe Holy Bible 10th Anniversary Edition

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Formed in 1991 and fashioned after The Clash, the Manic Street Preachers had its heart set upon rescuing the British music scene from the acid-drenched dance grooves pouring forth from Manchester, and it quickly became a controversial force that was either loved or hated by the English press. A strange episode of public mutilation by guitarist Richey James during an early interview — he carved the words "4 Real" into his arm — alluded to the troubled times to come, and sure enough, just as the ensemble was poised to enter and potentially conquer the American market, James disappeared without a trace, never to be found. As a result, the collective’s third album The Holy Bible wasn’t released in the U.S., though that didn’t stop the Manic Street Preachers from developing a cult of fans that spanned the globe. Despite its initial belief that a band should dissolve after releasing a single outing, the group, having already surpassed that mark, remained together, and although it continued to record and tour, it never fully recovered from its loss. Indeed, The Holy Bible was the Manic Street Preachers’ finest moment, and with its revolutionary slogans, angst-filled despair, and snarling punk rock attitude, it was a direct descendent of The Clash’s London Calling, the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual. Ten years after the fact, the collection has been given the sort of treatment that is customary for classic albums. Its official U.S. debut comes as a 2-CD, 1-DVD set that includes the original album; the band’s preferred bombastic re-mix of the outing that Tom Lord-Alge prepared for the American market, which surprisingly is an improvement; a handful of thunderous concert cuts; several unremarkable demo recordings and radio sessions; numerous television appearances; a 30-minute interview with the surviving members; and several promotional videos. It’s an overwhelming amount of material, especially since The Holy Bible will be unfamiliar to most. Yet, the attention also is much deserved, even if the entirety of the affair doesn’t achieve the magnificence for which its ambition obviously strives. Musically, Manic Street Preachers bends punk, pop, and heavy metal into a distorted mass of twisted, violent mayhem, and the entirety of The Holy Bible unfolds while punishing waves of percussion, ominous rumbles of bass, and rampaging assaults of guitar scream in a menacing fashion behind the disturbed howl of front man James Dean Bradfield. Yet, it’s the lyrical content that makes the collection so challengingly difficult to embrace. Pitting Nicky Wire’s socio-political rants against James’ tormented musings, the collection is abrasive, confrontational, and, at times, downright shocking in its examination of human suffering. True, there are moments when the group’s anarchist diatribes go astray, such as on the apparent pro-death penalty posturing of Archives of Pain or via the anti-gun control cheering — which admittedly might be intended as an anti-Ronald Reagan mantra — that concludes IfWhiteAmericaToldtheTruthforOneDayIt’sWorldWouldFallApart. For a leftist band, these two songs rather ironically embody the passions of the current conservative-minded American government, and its supporters likely would adopt the tunes as their own, if only the Manic Street Preachers didn’t scare the bejesus out of them. Even so, it isn’t likely that they’d wander much further than the opening song Yes, which harshly criticizes Western imperialism. Not surprisingly, however, it’s James’ compositions that cut the deepest, if only because buried within his images of anorexia (4st. 7lb.) and self-loathing (Die in the Summertime), he offers glimpses of his own dark soul. Where the passage of time has removed some of the biting sting from outings by the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible is as harrowing, horrifying, and intense as ever. Not to be taken lightly, the album also shouldn’t be overlooked.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Suede ‎Coming Up Deluxe Edition

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"Pick a fight with Suede, you gonna pick a fight with the Suede fanbase," warned Matt Lucas on Shooting Stars in 1997. Leave aside the fact that Lucas was then dressed as a menacing man-baby: the truly surreal thing about this pop culture nugget is its target. Suede, suburbia’s moodiest, druggiest misfits, were now so mainstream-famous that they could be knowingly mocked on primetime, thanks to their biggest album yet, the hit-rammed, melody-overloaded Coming Up. 22 years later, it seems obvious that Britpop’s John the Baptists would rise from the grave to claim some of the rewards being lavished on lesser lights like Kula Shaker and Shed Seven, but it wasn't at the time. Despite their punchy 1993 debut generating a whirlwind of hype, the loss of wunderkind guitarist Bernard Butler and the sprawling darkness of 1994’s subsequent Dog Man Star read like a two-part commercial suicide note. Replacing Butler with a teenage fanboy and the drummer’s cousin was hardly encouraging. Yet amongst the B sides, lost songs and demos lovingly collected in this third lavish re-issue from the Suede back catalogue (the compilers clearly taking Matt Lucas’ threat seriously) lies the first clue that everything was about to go magically right. Together, a 1994 B side, was the first collaboration between Brett Anderson and new guitarist, Richard Oakes: its shamelessly poppy ebullience, fizzy guitars and breezy bubblegum vocal created a blueprint for the album which followed. And what a dazzling, spangly pop album Coming Up, remains, made shinier still by expert remastering. Anderson cites the surging outsiders anthem Trash as the pinnacle, but Beautiful Ones is more remarkable, the urgent, knotty wordplay of its verses giving way to an ecstatic chorus which embodies the album's title (the demo fascinatingly reveals that the song began life as Beatles-y whimsy). That these big pop beasts were interspersed with savage melodramas like She and swooning love songs like Picnic by the Motorway made Coming Up more alluring and enduring.
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