Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas

Decade - 1990's

Label - 4AD
Producer - Cocteau Twins
Country - UK
Genre - Dream Pop

1Cherry-Coloured Funk3:12
2Pitch the Baby3:16
3Iceblink Luck3:18
4Fifty-Fifty Clown3:15
5Heaven or Las Vegas4:56
6I Wear Your Ring3:40
8Wolf in the Breast3:32
9Road, River and Rail3:21
10Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires5:36

Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas (1990)

I'm a huge fan of the shoegaze genre, the early 90's British indie genre which was basically a merging of noise pop ( The Jesus & Mary Chain) with dream pop (The Cocteau Twins.). Shoegaze took the best aspects of both sounds and made it more whole for me, so while I do like The Cocteau Twins and their ethereal dream pop is pretty, it's just a bit too feather weight for me here.

Formed in Scotland in the late 70's, The Cocteau Twins actually became triplets when the Guitarist's girlfriend (Elizabeth Fraser) joined the mix with her pretty, emotionally textured vocals.

This is a good album, it just doesn't really excite me. I prefer the more urgent feel of shoegaze and so going back to this stripped back feel (which is unfair I know, as it came first) is hard. Lots of good things - lovely vocals, a great and intuitive tension built and released, and some tight songs that know where they are going, and go there well. A nice, cohesive, pretty dream pop album.

Score - 7.5/10

Recommended - Yes

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Doves - Lost Souls

Decade - 2000's

Label - Heavenly
Producer - Doves, Steve Osborne
Country - UK
Genre - Dream Rock

2Here It Comes**4:50
3Break Me Gently4:38
4Sea Song**6:12
6Lost Souls6:09
7Melody Calls3:27
8Catch the Sun4:49
9The Man Who Told Everything5:47
10The Cedar Room7:38
12A House3:40

Doves - Lost Souls (2000)

This is a somewhat difficult review to write, because I liked this more than it really deserves. Is that possible? I figure so - because I can think of a million flaws but I still liked it anyway.

Hailing from Manchester, the Doves have obviously been influenced by shoegaze, noise pop and even perhaps, Radiohead, The Verve and Oasis on their debut.

The Doves are good at atmospheric, moody rock. Mostly every song has a hypnotic riff that burrows into your brain, but it is coherency to a fault as their compositions are dull in this respect and also meander and lack direction. They tend to repeat the same song over with a not-different-enough melody throughout, but they are nice melodies, so a point there. I like albums that feel like an album rather than a mish mash of songs that bear no relation to each other in tone or lyric, and this feels very much like an album. I'm just not sure it really articulates anything other than "this sounds really nice".

Don't bother even reading the lyrics, the Doves follow a shoegaze tradition of the lyrics and vocals taking a backseat to the music. While they aren't horrendously bad or embarrassing, they are fairly uninteresting and pedestrian. Similarly, the vocals just sound like they are there, hidden somewhere behind the music without much personality.

But for all their faults, the Doves really have made a solid album that is good, just not enough to keep you interested if that's all you are doing. Not enough movement in the songs and similar compositions mean that the songs don't stand out as individual tracks. However, they do blend as a nice, spacey soundscape. If that's what they were after, they succeeded.

As is the nature of music, I still like it far more than some of the albums I've listened to that are clearly better!

Score - 8.5/10

Recommended - Yes

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Battle of the Decades #8

Still no 50's luck. Might end up doing them at the end I think.

2000's - The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free - 5/10

1990's - Eminem - Slim Shady LP - 6.7/10

1980's - Pixies - Doolittle - 8.5/10

1970's - Cheap Trick - At Budokan - 8.8/10

1960's - The Kinks - Arthur - Or the Decline... 8.9/10


Next lot I'm going back to the top and going in chronological order!

Coming up next:

o Sinatra, Frank – In the Wee Small Hours
o Baez, Joan – Joan Baez (1960)
o Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
o Adam & the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier
o Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
o Doves – Lost Souls

The Kinks - Arthur - Or the Decline and Fall...

Decade - 1960's

Label: Pye
Producer - Ray Davies

Country - UK

Genre - Rock

A2Yes Sir, No Sir3:46
A3Some Mother's Son3:25
B2Mr. Churchill Says4:42
B3She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina3:07
B4Young and Innocent Days3:21
B5Nothing to Say3:08

The Kinks - Arthur - Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire

This was a nice surprise. I listened to it for the first time straight after Cheap Trick so I was already a bit buzzy and this sounded awesome!

A concept, rock opera album with no filler (wow), the album is an often funny look at the fall of the British Empire through the eyes of Arthur, a very English English man who longs for the past glories. He ends up taking off to Australia to live out his days.

The Kinks were one of the four major 'British Invasion' groups at the time, the others being The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who of course. Everyone knows their song "You Really Got Me" so I'd heard of them but hadn't really listened before. This album was a follow up to what is generally considered their best album (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society) and was initially a soundtrack to a planned tv show/play that never took off. Never mind, we still got a great album out of it, full of great lyrics and some unabashed rock fun with no pretensions.

Looking forward to the other Kinks albums on the list.

Score - 8.9

Recommended - Yes

Best Tracks - Victoria, Drivin'

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cheap Trick - Live at Budokan

Decade - 1970's

Label - Epic
Producer - Cheap Trick, Bruce Dickinson, Jack Douglas
Country - US
Genre - Live, Arena Rock, Pop Rock

A1Hello There2:27
A2Come On, Come On3:03
A4Big Eyes3:47
A5Need Your Love9:07
B1Ain't That a Shame5:10
B2I Want You to Want Me3:38
B4Good Night Now2:42
B5Clock Strikes Ten4:11

Cheap Trick - At Budokan (1979)

Well this one shocked me. Previous to putting this on I thought "Dang, Cheap Trick? Cheesey, long haired rocker arena pop rock? Oh no!". Well all of that is still true, except it's um, GOOD.

I normally dislike live albums, I never buy them (except for Radiohead) but this one really knocks your embarrassed socks off. Usually, a live album comes *after* a band is popular, but it was this album recorded in Japan and sold initially as an import in the US, that put them on the map. It sold bucket loads too.

Now why is it good? It's just FULL of energy and fun. The first half is good but not great, but once they get halfway and of course "I want you to want me" (which lets face it, is a crazily fun song) the pace picks up, the Japanese girlies start screaming and it's all on from there until the end.

It's the only live album I've listened to where I've really wish I was there.

One note - I did not listen to this version, I listened to the "full" concert version which was released later with added tracks.

Score - 8.8/10

Best Tracks - I Want You To Want Me

Recommended - Yes

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pixies - Doolittle

Decade - 1980's

Label - 4AD

Producer - Gil Norton

Country - US

Genre - Alt Rock

1. Debaser Listen Listen
2. Tame Listen Listen
3. Wave of Mutilation Listen Listen
4. I Bleed Listen Listen
5. Here Comes Your Man Listen Listen
6. Dead Listen Listen
7. Monkey Gone to Heaven Listen Listen
8. Mr. Grieves Listen Listen
9. Crackity Jones Listen Listen
10. La La Love You Listen Listen
11. No. 13 Baby Listen Listen
12. There Goes My Gun Listen Listen
13. Hey Listen Listen
14. Silver Listen Listen
15. Gouge Away Listen Listen

Pixies - Doolittle (1989)

I have no idea why I like the Pixies so much because they really aren't my style, but I do!

Their previous album Surfer Rosa is a little too full on for me, but Doolittle has always been my favourite Pixies album and while I don't listen to it that often, I'm always happy when I remember to.

Doolittle is sometime very loud (Francis Black screams extremely well!) and sometimes just nicely melodic. Their songwriting is always interesting, if not strange - Debaser was inspired by Bunuel's short movie Un Chien Andalou, and Wave of Mutilation is about driving into the sea!

The Pixies are solid alt rock, probably not as exciting or innovative now as they would have then, but Doolittle is a great album and has stood the test of time (and numerous copy cats) quite well.

Score - 8.5/10

Recommended - Yes

Eminem - The Slim Shady LP

Decade - 1990's

Label - Aftermath
roducer - Jeff Bass + Marky Bass + Dr. Dre
Country - US

Genre - hip hop

Eminem - The Slim Shady LP (1999)

As most people know, this album was quite controversial on its release, filled with violent, sexist, homophobic lyrics so no real surprise there. This was released before anyone really knew much about Eminem and his life and could tell just how much he stood behind the violent stories in his lyrics. Some of it is pretty confronting, especially '97 Bonnie and Clyde' which details the guy killing his wife and taking his child along so he can get rid of the body. I can imagine this album got quite a review on those "Christian review" sites!

This is probably the best hip hop/rap album I've listened to since the NWA album, and it's clear Eminem IS a talented rapper, and is intelligent and imaginative within his lyrics. You can never tell what parts are tongue in cheek, and what parts are serious, so the doubt often translates into being uncomfortable. Exactly what he would want, I expect!

Lets face it, I'm not going to end up as a hip hop/rap fan. If I was, I'd probably like this though.

Score - 6.7/10

Recommended - Yes