Fiona Shepherd waxes lyrical on the platters that matter . . .

Scottish acts old and new, lo-fi and DlY. are blitzing the singles racks of record stores this weather. Glasgow indie supergroup The Telstar Ponies make their creditable debut with the smoochy ‘Maps And Starcharts’ (Fire), which displays all the elegance and atmosphere that their initial shambling residency at The 13th Note lacked. But come on. you lazy London labels! ls it really still a prerequisite that a Scottish band has some Bellshill credentials? The Pastels are exempt from this criticism. despite currently residing on trendy London independent Domino. by virtue of their Jurassic staying power and their Stereolab-ish new single ‘Yoga’, their best in ages because of its menacing musical undertones.

Edinburgh‘s Human Condition Records go into overdrive with two new releases. The Naked See’s ‘Faceless’ and Sawyer’s ’Ghetty Chasun'. The former is a churning ugly vortex of noise with no direction but some thrills. Other tracks on the CD are compelling in a Big- Country-meets-Joy- Division kind of way and confirm The Naked See’s position as Scotland’s indie dark horses. Sawyer loiter with intent. making threatening grunge noises but never articulating these threats to the point where they constitute songs

AC Acoustics’ ‘Hand Passes Plenty’

(Elemental) is an instant classic. full of brooding. twanging guitar and Twin Peaks‘ surreal mystique. As sublime as Mazzy Star. as woozy and trippy as My Bloody Valentine. And where is Fenn band? the masses have been crying. Their ‘Sinister Minister’ single is finally released on Mean Records and a power-packed lesson in momentum awaits all who hear it.

The ‘Matadors And Scavengers’ EP (Seminal) is the long-promised debut from The Diesel Kings. It bowls through a variety of different moods without really touching any chords. Piano and string ballad ‘Chanson De La Chienne’ aspires to reach a zenith. but is not extraordinary enough. and the other folk pop tracks (including a version of ‘Purple Rain’) are just cheery rather than joyous.

Elsewhere. strident Derry youngsters Schtum give it some austere post- punk spirit on ‘Corrupt Cop’ (Big River) and Carter urge ‘Let‘s Get Tattoos' (Chrysalis). Admirable sentiment. risible song.


American Recordings (American) Who would have thought that the adoption of Johnny Cash by a metalhead producer/entrepreneur would result in one of the finest albums of either career? But Hick Bubin’s decision to record Cash with only acoustic guitar (and, on two tracks, a live audience) was an inspired move. The stark accompaniment is like a blank screen on which Cash projects a succession of moods: callousness, compassion, desolation, humility and finally, grim humour.

Is this a mere mortal country singer

or a Biblical outcast, cursed to walk this earth for eternity without any hope of redemption? Cash has always been a figure every bit as mythical as any of the characters from his songs, and that’s exploited to the hilt here. It’s a shrewd angle, reinterpreting the Man In Black for a new generation. So resonant is the persona, even four decades on, that it can incorporate a diverse host of contemporary songwriters. As well as Cash himself, writing credits go to Hick Lowe (whose ‘The Beast In Me’ is a truly frightening masterpiece), Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, Loudon Wainwright - even Glenn Danzig, whose song ‘Thirteen’ just about redeems him for all the crimes he’s committed in the name of death metal. Just about. (Alastair Mabbott)

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NANCI GRIFFITH ' Flyer (MCA) J Hanci Griffith follows up last year’s .- 3 excellent collection of songs by her

favourite writers, ‘Dther Voices, Other Booms’, with an album which features fourteen of her own songs alongside Julie Gold’s aching ballad ‘Southbound Train’. Griffith’s excellent Blue Moon Orchestra, marshalled by the ever- present James Hooker, are the core band, but the album groans under the weight of guest contributors, from Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton of U Know Who, Counting Crow’s frontman Adam Duritz (their co-written ‘Going

, Back To Georgia’ is a standout track),

and REM’s Peter Buck, through to The Chieftains and ex-Cricket Sonny Curtis.

The result of all this is another fine album, with a typically strong and nicely varied set of songs which are not afraid to flirt with sentiment, and occasionally to wallow in it. She is good on memorable hooks and heart- on-sleeve sincerity (although the title track seems a little contrived), and the balance this time is weighted toward a more personal and less socially-conscious selection of material. They are winsomely sung in Griffith’s characteristically sweet, occasionally girlish manner, although her voice is appealing rather than outstanding. (Kenny Mathieson)


Homegrown (A&M) The Bermuda Triangle, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan, M-People winning the Mercury Music Prize, and the failure of the music-loving public to grasp Dodgy to their collective bosom with a suffocating ardour - all Great Mysteries Of Our Time, but we only need concern ourselves with the latter here.

Dodgy may only have been dispatching their wondrous, ebullient

.pop missives for about two years, but

that’s still 24 months during which they have been dutifully ignored by the same people who have garlanded Dasis (great band, but no better than Dodgy in the catchy songwriting stakes) with four hit singles in a third of the time.

‘The Second Dodgy Long Player’, as ‘Homegrown’ is subtitled, is basically a refinement of what has gone before. What else do you expect from timeless pop? Progression? Hope. Expansion? Well, maybe. ‘We Are Together’ and ‘Waiting For The Day’ tind the space to slot in a hippy guitar wig-out each between the tight harmonies and blithe strummerama, but the band really excel themselves on the closing ‘Grassman’, which starts like one of Led Zeppelin’s whimsical acoustic numbers and develops into the fabulously bombastic epic that Led Zeppelin’s whimsical acoustic numbers usually become.

But mostly, Dodgy are the smile on the face of the pop landscape. One day they’ll die and you’ll be sorry you never told them you loved them. (Fiona Shepherd)


The Snake (ZTT)

It was beginning to look like this would never happen. That MacGowan would end up another George Best: wheeled out occasionally on the arm of a friend, embarrassingly trading on a talent long pissed away. Well, that’s how the music press liked to tell it and, one suspects, MacGowan liked them to believe. Anyway, when last sighted, doing the rounds to promote the gorgeous ‘What A Wonderful World’ with Nick Cave, Shane was in decider monosyllabic, comatose, glorious-wreck mode. Still, never

believe what you read. The rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. If ‘The Snake’ was a film, it’d have a hard time being granted a video release. It’s that good.

From dumb, gutter-punk trash (‘l’ll Be Your Handbag’) through requests at a wedding reception (‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’) and delirious big- screen wasted pulp (‘A Mexican Funeral In Paris’) to lyrical folk beauty (‘Song With No Hame’); MacGowan is in confident, astringent voice throughout - a voice which, like Tom Waits, he’s moulded to the shape he’s always wanted.

Lewd, loud, tender and soft - if you can show me another who writes so well in so many different camps, I’ll eat my shillelagh. (Damien Love)

36 The List 4-l7 November I994