Fiona Shepherd listens to some records . . .

Top Glaswegian musical empire Creeping Bent finally proves that it's a real bona fide record label rather than a series of abstruse statements with its debut release by Spacehopper. The ‘Milkmetal‘ EP builds from whispered. latent menace into a petulant row where you dodge the flying crockery. then subsides back into muttered threats. It‘s all very visceral. but a song would be nice. Then again. Spacehopper quite obviously don't want to be nice.

With ‘Gettin‘ Dirty‘ (Creation). The BMX Bandits deliver their usual death metal paean to the therapeutic worth of sacrificing innocent animals. Nice to know that in our dotage we can rely on the nerdy ones to warm our cookies and cushion us from the big. bad. horrible world.

Two resolutely lo-fi releases from either end of the central belt come in the form of a IIrusei Yatsura/Blisters split single on Modern Independent Records and Starstruck's ‘Fondled Orange‘ EP on Bosque Records. Underground credentials? Well. both come on coloured 7in vinyl (scarlet and orange respectively. since you ask) and both sound like they were recorded in a third-hand portastudio on a dicky four-track after some recreational substance abuse. The Blisters especially would benefit from a tidier production. so they can sound dissonant rather than muffled.

At the nastier end of the spectrum is the debut single ‘Vow’ from Garbage on Discordant Records. Points of interest to note include the presence of Nirvana producer Butch Vig on the drumstool and Shirley Manson. the artist formerly known as Her With The Big Eyes From Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. giving it some Toni Halliday pseudo~attitude on vocals. (Curve is actually quite a pertinent reference.) And the song? It’s alright. A bit mannered really.

The only real charmers this fortnight are the inventive Animals That Swim. a band who take the

‘irk' out of ’quirky'. ‘Pink Carnations' (Elemental) is an everyday tale of a horrendous. bloody car crash. Elsewhere they claim they ‘read Bukowski while he was still alive‘. Chaps.


The Bends (Parlophone) Once the ‘lndie "2’ comparison has been made with regards to Radiohead, it’s hard to dislodge the impression from your mind. Thom Yorke has a bone vox, one of the best in the country, and he throws all emotion into his various performances on ‘The Bends’. It‘s hard to imagine Thom Yorke lying to you in song - he’ll never have to worry about the kind of allegations of fake passion our Irish friends have been dealing with since long before they stood looking mean and moody in the American wilderness.

They’re not afraid of “expressing

themselves as artists’, are Radiohead. On one side you’ve got Madonna excusing all manner of pish as ‘how she chooses to express herself’; on the other you’ve got all these clever, posturing indie bands who’d rather be Ironic than be seen as fallible. And sulking in the comer, there’s Badlohead showing up both parties, managing to wear their hearts on their sleeves, bleeding all over the place, and being marvellous with it.

Their debut album ‘Pablo Iloney’ was euphemistically described as ‘promising’. llo reservations with ‘The Bends’. Badlohead have rapidly : become a robust indie rock band, ! coasting at will from a whisper to a ,

scream and capable of emoting all the

way to the back of the hall. Yup, lust

like IIZ. (Fiona Shepherd)

the ban - s


Conversation Peace (Motown)

You thrilled to ‘Ilptight’. Grooved to ‘Superstition’. Decided to give him the benefit of the doubt with ‘Ilappy Birthday’. And, finally, gagged to ‘I Just Called To Say I love You’. By now, you probably reckon that the former twelve-year-old genius has traded in trail-blazing for a steady line in

. syrupy, crowd-pleasing ballads.

But nobody seems to have told Stevie he’s supposed to be washed up. Granted, this isn’t ‘Fulfillingness’ First Finale’, but it’s the work of a man cruising into middle age with confidence, verve and a full command of his talents. Working a certain

toughness into gentle funk, sanitised ragga and slick versions of other contemporary grooves, he presents a batch of joyous, celebratory love songs, of which ‘Sensuous Whisper’ and ‘Cold Chill’ instantly shoulder

. their way to the front of the queue.

Stevie still chooses methods other than Western Union to send his messages of social concern, even if they’re couched in fairly soft, conciliatory terms - the way to alleviate the problems of the homeless is to take the time to hug them, apparently - but if the world wanted Chumbawamba, it would be buying their records. llot Mr Wonder’s greatest album, but just listen to that voice: effortlesst and undeniably soulful. (Alastair Mabbott)


Made In England (Rocket) On the cover, Elt looks pretty pleased with himself - smug, even - and no wonder. Ile’s created a harmonious, aesthetically acceptable commodity out of a style that a short time ago was a source of derision for every right-thinking man, woman and child on the planet. Unfortunately, that’s his haircut. The record Is another matter. ‘Made In England’ kicks off with the single ‘Believe’, a lapse in judgement

possibly as titanic as the song itself,

for after that stunn und drang there’s nothing to build up to. Long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin shows some

empathy with Elt on the title track, but

some of his witterings really should have been whapped back by return of post. (All songs apart from ‘Made In England’ have one-word titles. Why? Who knows, but ‘Dld’ and ‘Iiope’ spring to mind too.) ‘Please’, ‘lles’ and ‘BIessing’ are all quite affecting, but the nadir is reached with the cIunking ‘Belfast’, not helped by Elton’s ludicrously sensitive ‘Bel- faahst’ pronunciation.

And it’s not all Taupin’s fault. There’s the whiff of the production line about Elton’s arrangements - the plaintive passages, the dramatic surges, all business as usual - not helped by the impression that he seems to think he can recycle riffs from ‘Saturday llight’s Alright For Fighting’ 22 years after the fact without anyone noticing. (Alastair Mabbott)


Clear (Stoned Heights)

Just when you might have thought that trip-hop was getting a little bit mainstream, along comes the cold turkey nightmare of ‘Clear’. Tim Simenon should supply a free sample of methadone, such is the mental confusion you’re left in after shooting it up. There’s nothing original in Simenon’s fascination with William Burroughs - Disposable Ileroes recorded a whole album with the man - but ‘Reach For The Border’ and ‘5ml Barrel’ are notable for their putrid grace; the latter especially being a disgusting ordnance survey of the body of novelist, and fellow Burroughs

devotee, Will Self.

Simenon’s strength is that he does not confine himself to regurgitation. ‘Clear’ is most remarkable for its fine lyrical assortment and sheer dogged disinformation. In particular, there are the new avenues of hip hop samples that Simenon hasn’t unleashed before: the stressed psychedelic guitar rap of ‘Bug Powder Dust’ is an ominous awakening, while the dub ‘Darkheart’ is a skillful blend of ruptured beauty.

Yet, as much as it revolts, ‘Clear’ soothes. ‘Somewhere’,perhaps the album’s finest cut, mutates from slumbering Eric Serra choral reef(ers) into Industrial tribal voodoo. ‘Sandcastles’ and ‘Tidal Wave’ gently lap twisted soul around the ears. (Philip Dorward)

38 The List 24 Mar-6 Apr 1995