Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Various album reviews

Barry Adamson ‘As Above So Below’
Former Magazine bassist and part-time Bad Seed, the man whose name sounds too much like Bryan Adams continues to explore his widescreen vistas of sound, mixing a range of diverse influences with his own inimitable style, from recent single 'Can't Get Loose' to a cover of Suicide's 'Girl'. This separates 'As Above So Below' from the multitude commonly described as soundtracks for unmade films, and if David Lynch ever finds the time again, you never know what could be achieved.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘The Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’
Since the collapse of the Birthday Party, Nick Cave has released a staggering number of albums, and no, none of them are goth. This compilation offers all the hits (well, 'Where The Wild Roses Grow'), alongside a number of truly classic moments, such as the monumental 'Red Right Hand', the ode to the electric chair that is 'The Mercy Seat', and the reworking of 'Henry Lee', featuring the awe-inspiring Polly Harvey. He may not believe in an interventionist god, but if such thing did exist, that deity may well be known as Nick Cave.

Ani Difranco ‘Little Plastic Castle’
According to people who know this sort of thing, Ani Difranco has a sound not dissimilar to Alanis Morissette, although aspiring to be that particular spoilt, whining, overly menstrual Canadian must be considered akin to a football team wanting to be Doncaster Rovers. Unfortunately for us, unlike the Rovers, it's possible that Ani Difranco won't have dived into obscurity and financial ruin by June.

Duffy ‘I Love My Friends’
Another year, another attempt at a Duffy revival, only this time Duffy has enticed contributions from Alex James, Justin Welch, and, more worryingly, Aimee Mann. Unfortunately, this means yet more rehashes of the same old, tried, tested and tired Britpop tricks, with a touch of Simon & Garfunkel thrown in for variation. Not even the promisingly titled 'One Day One Of These Fucks Will Change Your Life' has any energy in it, and the intro sounds far too much like Weller's 'Changing Man' for anyone's comfort. Duffy even sees fit to namecheck his former band, the Lilac Time, and Camden Town. Frankly, darling, it's just so 1995.

The Geraldine Fibbers ‘Butch’
It would appear that the attention the press gives to Carla Bozulich's voice is merely a marketing ploy to distract us from the Geraldine Fibbers' obvious lack of songs. This is confounded by their best moments essentially belonging to someone else - the Pixies-esque intro to 'Toybox', the Cardiacs' style syncopation of 'I Killed The Cuckoo' and a cover of Can's 'You Doo Right'. And if you're going to bother writing a song in tribute to Claudine Longet, you're presumably not looking to insult her, and therefore really should have considered writing some lyrics for it. So, Carla, you might think I hate you, but, on the basis of this offering, you're not really worth the effort.

Girls Against Boys ‘Freak*On*Ica ‘
'Freak*On*Ica' sees New York City's primary purveyors of the finest sex-muzik sleazing their way out of the underground and on to a major label, resulting in the merging of GvsB's distinctive garage sound and twin bass onslaught with a new found obsession with electronica. The carnal caress of Scott McCloud's sexually implicit vocals are thrust against a hedonistic background of samples and loops, turning 'Freak*On*Ica' into an attack of delirious desire and amphetamine psychosis sounds.

Mick Harvey ‘Pink Elephants’
At a time when every third-rate indie band is turning to string arrangements and horn sections in an attempt to compensate for a lack of talent and originality, along comes 'Pink Elephants' to show how they should be used. Mick Harvey continues to bring the songs of Serge Gainsbourg to a new audience and the sixteen tracks here present a bittersweet side probably unexpected from a member of the infamously morbid Bad Seeds, although the overall tone is still rather mournful. However, in spite of Mick Harvey's sterling efforts, the album's most obvious highlight is 'I Love You...Nor Do I' which pairs Nick Cave with Anita Lane, and proves itself a worthy successor to his recent duets with Polly Harvey and Kylie Minogue.

The High Llamas ‘Cold and Bouncy’
It must be hard when one band has perfected a sound to the extent that they become the benchmark to which all others are judged. Unfortunately for the High Llamas, that band is Stereolab. However, when long time 'Lab collaborator Sean O'Hagan takes time off to concentrate on his own band, the High Llamas produce their own subtly effervescent take on Krautrock's less stroppy younger brother. If Laetetia Sadier had woken up on Christmas morning hoping for Kraftwerk's back catalogue, only to find the Kinks' greatest hits, and then decided to get the Moog out anyway, this is what Stereolab would sound like. In Utopia, this is the music that lifts would choose to play.

James Iha ‘Let It Come Down’
It's always a risk when a guitarist decides it's time to leave his songwriting partnership behind. Johnny Marr gave us Electronic (like, cheers), and Bernard Butler decided that everyone else just wanted to stop him having any fun, so things can't have been looking good for little James Iha, whipping boy of the Smashing Pumpkins. Would he be able to survive not having anyone to argue with? Would he get in a strop and refuse to work with himself? Would we be able to pronounce his name properly? Fortunately, by ditching the electric guitars, and asking his mates round for tea (including D’Arcy Pumpkin, and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt), James Iha has made an album of plaintive Neil Young tinged love songs that have well and truly made the Butler redundant.

The Jesus & Mary Chain ‘Munki’
As always, the Mary Chain sound like the Beach Boys having a threesome with Suicide and the Stooges, only this time around it seems that Brian Wilson got to play the dominant role. Although not matching the pure devastation of 'Psychocandy' or 'Honey's Dead', the more accessible 'Munki' proves that the Mary Chain can still deliver near perfect barbed-wire bubblegum invectives, all saccharin coated and strychnine centred. Despite Warner's refusal to release this album three years ago, Jim and William's razorblade edged bitterness plucks their crown of thorns back from the midst of the horde of contemporaries that they have been at least partly responsible for inspiring during the last fifteen years.

Kid Loco ‘A Grand Love Story’
The French revolution continues anew. Following in the steps of Etienne de Crecy and Air, Kid Loco has (quite rightly) decided that Stereolab hued retro-futurist easy listening is the only way that France will break from it's reputation for drivelling Euro-pap nonsense. Pausing only to imbibe some passing substances; catch up on cult British films (as the inlay says - Kid Loco plays on full Camberwell Carrot); and to rope in Katrina from the Pastels on guest vocals, Kid Loco sets himself up as a lounge-core Beck, and ‘A Grand Love Story’ provides a near perfect morning after to Odelay's big night out.

Komputer ‘The World Of Tomorrow’
Falling somewhere between Air and vintage Kraftwerk, 'The World Of Tomorrow' is music for the stilted generation, a soundtrack reflecting the transition from man to automaton, losing hours staring blankly at computer screens. By shunning the organic in favour of the bionic, Komputer have authentically replicated Kraftwerk's post-punk sound that was so far ahead of it's time twenty years ago. This pristine, Krautrock motorik may be too synthesized for the dull and dour Ocean Colour Scene brigade, but this is real music, played by real people, who quite probably really believe that they're robots.

Lo-Fidelity Allstars ‘How To Operate With A Blown Mind’
As the leading exponents of the scene that, for about four days last year, was known as skunk rock, the Lo-Fi's are baggy's bigger brother, the Happy Mondays down the Big Beat Boutique, wired, looking for a fight, and definitely not offering to buy you a lager. 'How To Operate With A Blown Mind' is a declaration of intent, willing to bludgeon you raw until you relent to its dark grooves and sinister beats. All we need now is for Norman Cook to listen to this and learn.

Pere Ubu ’Pennsylvania’
Pere Ubu number among that select few who are responsible for the sound of many of the bands around today, being one of the first to take the punk template and force it against droning guitars and monotonous beats, though unfortunately no-one really remembers them for it. While there is nothing essentially wrong with the album, other than not being interesting enough to justify 70 minutes, 'Pennsylvania' comes across as just another variation of the theme so well defined both by the likes of Girls Against Boys and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and more recent hopefuls such as Six By Seven and Mogwai, reducing one time innovators to a bunch of aging musos who used sound like they knew better.