MUSIC RECORD REVIEWS
Alastair Mabbott greets 1996 the only way he knows how. And might listen to some singles too, it he can get it together afterwards. v.— ’ ....--.... 7. .-
live: too grown-up? There may be better ways to begin a new year than slapping on a single by Sterling, but it worked for me. About the band i can tell you nothing other than they have a bite. snarl and Chunkiness perfectly suited to the seven-inch plastic tablet that is 'i.ucy Is Fine‘ (Mantra). ()ne to watch. Well. buy. actually. Such things used to be said of Mega City 4. and though ‘Android [)reams' (Fire) is perky enough. it sounds tired too. The Manson sound — crunchy guitars and hip-hop- inﬂuenced beats — almost sounds old before its time. but Paul Draper's unfettered vocals lift their songs out of the also-ran bracket and into that of the hot contenders. Of this double-A-side. ‘Flourella' (Sci Fi Hi) is the one to hear ﬁrst.
As heard at Glastonbury last year. Live‘s “Lightning Crashes’ (Radioactive) takes five minutes to build up from nothing to grand climax without ever getting out of control. and could be too grown-up and downbeat for many. Those who respond to it. though. will eventually make Live as big here as they are in the US.
What about that Psychod lip Janis. eh? ’Vanity' (This Way Up) is the kind of song that would like to grab you by the neck and hold your head in a barrel of water. In truth. though. it's more akin to Stiltskin than Rollins. Much more the thing. though far less noisy. is Gallon Drunk's ’The Traitors’ Gate EP' (Gallon Drunk). Sixties meets 90s with a healthy dose of menace.
Possibly no one in the world but me and Jim Kerr cares that the long- lost Dave Formula crops up playing ‘additional keyboards‘ on ‘This Month's Epic' (EMI) by Ill Aura. an eight-minute. well, epic. that runs out of steam after covering but half that distance. As for German foursome The Bates' version ofJacko‘s ‘Billy Jean' (Virgin). Christmas is over. okay? Try again in the silly season.
COUNTRY ‘ DWIGHT YOAKAM
it last year’s Dwight live revealed Yoakam at the rockiest end of his particular country spectrum, this brilliant new studio set returns to the pure honky tonk roots of his best music. The ten new songs (two co- written with the Creek-born, Montana- based songwriter Kostas) find Yoakam . at his sardonic best, casting a world- weary eye on the vagaries of life and love, with a distinct emphasis on the downside of romance.
9 0n the opening ‘Sorry You Asked’, for ,5 example, the singer reeis off a
g catalogue of disaster to a hapless
enquirer who, he knows, was ‘probably ' '
just acting polite/ But you’ll be sorry you ever asked why’. It sets not only the tone, but also the theme of an album which seems all of a piece rather than just a collection of songs, and takes a multi-iaceted perspective on that theme. The country-rock idioms are
peppered with typically Yoakam-ish
touches, like Mexican-style horns, Cajun accordion, or the stark, martial drumming of ‘This Much i Know’. Nis distinctive singing is augmented by fine backing vocals on a number of
' songs by, among others, the excellent
Joy Lynn White, and there‘s not a weak
spot on the whoie album. Essential
listening. (Kenny Mathias-an)
noon.“ 1 ROXY MUSIC The Thrill 0! It All (Virgin)
A new sensation, wherein the son of a Geordie pit worker supercedes his incarnation as an extremely arch future art lizard to emerge as the haunted, melancholy offspring oi lost European aristo-decadence. The Thrill . 0! It All charts, across four discs, the rise, sidestep, rise and fadeout of Roxy Music, one of the most gloriously outre chapters in the history of British pop, and provides all the evidence one need ever present to those who can’t understand your stubborn refusal to write Bryan Ferry off entirely.
The set works chronologically, opening in 1972, the era of Bryan
versus Brian, where crazed Rocky Horror glam-slamming interbred with Ferry and Eno’s proto-ambient chamber music for a new society; the Velvets doing Noel Coward with Brecht and Weil in drag. Come 1973’s ‘Stranded’, the removal of Dr Eno and his electric underlay may have ended the frisson, with the group leaving it as Ferry’s party but, as evinced by say the desperate party comedown of ‘Mother Of Pearl’, or the bustle of ‘Street liie’, the music remained as kinetically glamorous.
From here in, Ferry’s sighing patina predominates but no one ever subverted cocktail hours better; listen carefully and you can hear the ieftfield calling. Play it to your Pulpy grandchildren and watch them smile.
COMPILATION " " A . VARIOUS
Ocean Di Sound (Virgin)
David Toop, musician and music journalist, has compiled this double CD as a sampler to illuminate his book oi the same name (published by Serpent’s Tail and reviewed in The List 269). It is a veritable travelogue of sound, ranging through time and across the continents to illustrate the
interconnectedness of the world’s
i music (as opposed to ‘world music’). On the way, visits are made to such diverse musical spaces as those
. created by Debussy, the Beach Boys,
Paul Schiitze, My Bloody Valentine and
g Drnette Coleman.
This is far from being a self-
’ indulgentiy eclectic mix of the
esoteric, however. King Tubby’s ‘Dub Fi Cwan’, for example, is a perfect illustration of the way in which dub reggae is created. Aphex Twin’s inclusion next to Herbie Nancock’s 1973 track ‘Rain Dance’ shows that popular electronic music has a broader reference than mere bleeps andloops.
Toop’s genius is to have put together an album which stands on its own without the book, however much it might excite you to return to the written word. The tracks are mixed and segued into one another in a sequence which is dictated by their mood, rather than by a need to teach. Ocean 0! Sound is a perfect example of what a really good ambient club sounds like. (Thom Dibdin)
Musical spaceman: Paul Schiitze
THE RANKIN FAMILY
Endless Seasons (Parlophone)
both sides of the Atlantic.
Nova Scotia’s Rankin Family have a huge following in Scotland (their
Celtic Connections concert in 1995 holds the house box office record at the Concert Hall, and they are back for two nights this year), while their albums have been consistent big- sellers in the folk and roots field on
This is their fifth release, and they have chosen to ring the changes a little by recording in Nashville, with Mary-Chapin Carpenter’s bassist and producer John Jennings at the helm. Despite that setting, only Jimmy
Rankin’s raunchy ‘You Feel The Same Way Too’ suggests much of an overt country influence, but they have gone back to a more acoustic sound this time around, and the album benefits from it.
Despite Jennings’s presence, the overall feel is more Nanci Griffith than Mary-Chapin, with the band’s sweet (and sometimes over-sweet), well- focused harmony vocals set in an understated but nicely balanced instrumental soundscape. The Rankins provide seven new songs (mainly from Jimmy), alongside three arrangements of traditional material, and Paul Doran’s poignant ‘Natives’, which is fast heading for contemporary classic status. Good songs, good singing, fine . playing — there really isn't much to take against here. (Kenny Mathieson)
40 The List 12-25 Jan 1996