MUSIC RECORD REVIEWS
In his first column for The List, Stephen Pastel rounds up the oddities and imports that might have slipped through coarser nets.
With the Scottish climate becoming ever more exotic. isn‘t it time to pep tip your record collection with something more extravagant than the new Superarse single? Here's some helpful suggestions. Trust me. I'm not a critic.
Tortoise ‘Rhythms. Resolutions And Clusters’ (Thrill Jockey/City Slang) is a remix job on their eponymous debut. If you don't know. they have the aptest band name imaginable; blink and you won't have missed a thing. So minimalist you begin to wonder if anything‘s happening. lt is: subtle mood shifts evolve. weird textures appear/disappear. progress is made. The overall feel is ﬁlmic. spatial and very contemporary. with a stand-out mix that even hits a Mo Wax-type groove. James Lavelle is a fan. so are Stereolab.
Dub Narcotic scored a local hit with ‘Fuck Shit Up' courtesy of heavy turntable action at Divine. where head hunko Calvin Johnson DJ'd one memorable evening. ‘lndustrial Breakdown' (K/Soul Static Sound) is their first UK release and is probably as good a way into these uniquely Calvinesque lo-fi dance experiments. Straight out of his basement. where the echo mike is always loud and messy.
Dump‘s ‘I Can Hear Music‘ (Brinkman Cl) only) needs your speedy attention. as it is currently available with a free CD that isjust as good as the main release. which is so good that it is music to fall in love to. Like The Beach Boys' 'Today‘ or the first Teenage Fanclub LP, it is a music that is both knowing and innocent. melodic and uncontrived. that understands when mistakes are more perfect than perfection. You need to know about previous releases. ‘Superpowerless‘ (Brinkman) and 'lnternational Airport' (Smells Like Records). and that Dump is essentially James McNew. one third of the astonishing Yo La Tengo.
Which leads us ﬁnally to the band which opened for them on their recent low-key Glasgow visit. local bright sparks BIS. with their sassy debut 45
‘Transmissions On The Teen—c Tip' (Acuarela). Keep on shocking it.
Footnote: these records are not meant to be obscure and can be found at good independent/ import shops.
RODNEY CROWELL Jewel Of The South (MCA)
Rodney Crowell was one of the artists who sparked the whole New Country business in the mid-80$, and if he hasn’t made as big an impact in the wider public consciousness as the
likes of Nanci Griffith or Lyle Lovett, he remains a key figure in the current development of the music.
He sounded in good fettle when he toured with Emmylou Harris and the
: Not Band earlier this year, and that ; impression is borne out on this fine ‘ album. Crowell is a good singer
without being outstanding, but he is a first-rate songwriter, and Jewel 0! The South reflects that strength. i
With the exception of an unconvincing version of the rhythm and blues standard ‘Candy Man’ and the Harlan Howard-Buck Owens ) classic ‘Storm of Love’, all the tunes j are either written or co-written by him. Standouts include the ballad ‘Please Remember Me’ and the l evocative, largely acoustic title track, and all feature top-line Nashville musicians, giving the album a pleasingly high-powered audio sheen, but with just enough grit and drive to i keep it on the rootsy side of smooth. ' l (Kenny Mathieson)
Like many acts before them, 10,000 Maniacs found their MTV Unplugged session acting as a career boost, but unlike those by Clapton, Stewart and Young it turned out to be their epitaph rather than a launch pad for future endeavours. It also did much to highlight the Maniacs’ better qualities: the clarity of Natalie Merchant’s voice, her poignant lyric writing and the band’s grasp of acoustic-based pop. Unfortunately, something gives on Merchant’s solo debut.
The lack of musical tension and lyrical anger that marked their finest
moments is apparent from the opening
‘San Andreas Fault’ — in its place is the languid guitar playing of Jennifer Turner, some Vibraphone and an overall sound that is underproduced and undynamic - the sound of Woodstock ’69 meeting Prozac Nation ’95.
‘Wonder’ and ‘Carnival’ are the two occasions when Merchant overcomes the weighty subject matter elsewhere. ‘River’ is an observant, if uncommitted, tribute to River Phoenix, while ‘Seven Years’ and ‘The Letter’ take the perspective of betrayed lover, adding little to a well worn subject. Merchant’s voice salvages something from the low-key one-dimensional surroundings - though beautiful and purposeful, it loses much of its poignancy in such a meandering context, making Tiger/ilya tentative, frustrating and unsatisfying release. (John Williamson)
7 m— BLACK GRAPE
It’s Great When You’re Straight. . .
It’s something that’s been missing of
late, even in the midst of that ‘Britpop’ phenomenon thing. It was there in the track ‘Parklife’ and on the albums I Should Coco and We Are Shampoo, and it’s there in anything by PJ & Duncan. It’s called fun and, praise the Lord,
that most mercurial and mischievous of fun-seekers is back among us. It’s good to hear you, Shaun. It’s Great. . .
is a full-on riot, a delirious sprawl of
sitars and jellies, rapping and whooping, giddy grooves and gutsy
I guitars, non-sequiturs and
sequencers, dirty funk and dirtier
living. Aided by hip hopper Kermit (of
, Ruthless Rap Assassins), pop producer i Stephen Lironi (ex-Altered Images),
i rap-schooled bass player Danny Sabre, and stooge Bez (ex-someone’s drug nightmare), Ryder has made the 5 essential summer-party-festival-blast 1
There’s snippets of Bowie’s ‘lleroes’ in ‘Kelly’s Neroes’, near-heavenly joy , in the Godlike singles ‘Reverend Black ' Grape’ and ‘In The Name Of The Father’, and pure lusty chaos everywhere else. Makes Happy Mondays sound like Foreigner. Makes Britpop sound boring. In the words of that man Ryder, it’s frothy, man. (Craig
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GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI Bwyd ﬁme (Ankst)
There they lurk in their sylvan setting, posing so shamelessly in wizards’ hats, monks’ habits and medieval dresses, like the most tripped-out refugees from early-70s acid- drenched freakdom. All that’s missing is the tell-tale copy of Camembert Electrique, but that’s probably back at the ranch, covered in Rizlas. This is Corky’s Zygotic Myncf, the bright Welsh hope of . . . have I got the year right? Yes: 1995.
The music that lurks within is even more bizarre than you’d expect. After
a disco intro that Pulp would reject for its tackiness, Gorky’s trawl every corner of pop for its signifiers of sincerity and sensitivity and proceed to trash and subvert at will. Songs change course abruptly for no apparent reason. Strange interruptions come from even stranger cackling men. A brass section springs into life on a psychedelic village green. And true madness erupts on ‘The Man With Salt Nair’, where in true Blitz spirit, Gorky’s persevere with the song despite the pitched gun battle around them. It sounds like they had a ball making this, and it’s not much less fun to listen to. Proof positive that there’s more to Welsh music than Manic Street Preachers. Thank God. And, er, ‘iechid da’. (Alastair Mabbott)
4.0 The List 28 Jul-10 Aug 1995