MUSIC RECORD REVIEWS
It’s not very often you get a whole cluster of fantastic singles released around the same time. And there’s no ‘but’, finds Damien love.
- The first disc to hit the ﬂoor out of the grubby jil‘l‘y mailer that serves as this l‘oi'tnight's new release file isn't even a single. which bodes well. Swelling Meg‘s ‘Well' (NGM) is in fact a six- track mini-album. but. by dint of' it's being packaged to look exactly like a single. qualiﬁes for inclusion in this column. Crrrazy Steve Lamacq is quoted on the press release as describing the Megs. as we are contractually obliged to refer to them. as ‘Odd and unnerving‘. Which is a point of' view. ‘Forced. studied. tiresomer pretentious and ultimately (lepthless’ is another. and this. after all is a democracy. Spartan acoustic instrumentation. f‘olkish dribbles. a voice that steals the worst bits from Kristin Hersh and Bjork equally.
Ambisonic are rendered more interesting by the l‘etishistic delight with which the words ‘l.eatherette gloves‘ are issued somewhere in rhythmic murk of their 'Mobilized' single on Nation Records. Very much post-Portishead (‘po-po' anyone? Anyone'.’). this is a pleasing conjunction of light funk basslines and lighter guitar over relaxed break beats past which horns occasionally swim in the distance. Not so sure about the spoken bit. but then. it does mention ‘neighbours doin’ our heads in' and ‘schemes‘ so it's got that Welsh vibe. man. which” please a lot of the crrazy radge London media.
Turtleneck are decribed here as ‘Falkirk Punksters'. Which should tell you all you need to know. 'Go' (Bad Taste) paints them as being very much in the particularly redundant. but popular with ver kids. post-Green Day school of post-post- post-post-post-punk revrvalism. Showaddy- waddy. in other words.
And then there's Giant KIIIBTS. who leave us imaginingjust what methods they employ in their genocidal crusade against the bigger person. Bore them to death. perhaps. Or maybe just play them ‘Time Of Our Lives‘ (MCA) and step quickly out of' the way before the unfortunate behemoth keels over. having laughed his/her self' to death. To quote: ‘This is the time of our lives/ls there a life in our times‘.’/Will things get any better than this'." Yeah!
NEW COUNTRY i
The Road To Ensenada (Curb/MCA) lyle lovett comes up trumps again with another great album. The skinny Texan was always the most idiosyncratic of the late 80s flew Country wave, and his music has always reflected the easy eclecticism of the Texas scene, from country through to jazz (and a rousing nod to Bob Wills in the western swing of ‘That’s Right (You’re llot From Texas)’. llis home state is an explicit theme of the album, one which includes the evocative title track and an unlikely duet with Randy llewman on its only
cover, a light-hearted version of ‘Long Tall Texan’.
There is another implicit theme, of course. Much has been made of the use of Julia Roberts’ middle name in ‘Fiona’, but if the album does reflect the break-down of their marriage - and its prevailing bitter-sweet tone would seem to do so - then it is surely in songs-like the lovelorn ballad ‘Who Loves You Better’ or the vitriol-tinged ‘Promises’. Then again, it’s possible to read that particular sub-text into most of the record, and nowhere more directly than in the unlisted track which follows a minute or so after ‘The Road To Ensenada’. (Kenny Mathieson)
SCREAMING TREES Dust (Epic) This largely fantastic album is the Screaming Trees seventh: they’ve been around a long time. Long enough, indeed, to hear and absorb many new strains of rock, and effortlessly merge them into their own singular, intuitive sound. That sound is dominated by Mark Lanegan’s extraordinary voice, simultaneously silkily smooth and huskily rough: it’s as if his stubble is on the inside. Lanegan’s singer- songwriting quality has been amply demonstrated on his solo albums, but this album is a highly concentrated and accomplished group effort.
The physically huge Conner brothers
create a similarly formidable (sometimes oddly Eastern-influenced) wall of noise on such hurtling rockers as the opening ‘llalo of Ashes’, but Dust’s main strength is that it is teasineg eclectic. The intricate, beautifully mellifluous psychedelia of
"Traveller’ is a case in point, as are
the shimmering atmospherics of ‘look At You’.
Throughout, the Screaming Trees manage to brutally rock out without a hint of bluster or sophistry, their richly textured sound complementing their often lovely country-meets-Black Sabbath melodies. It has yet to be seen whether this album will gain the popularity this band deserve, but at the moment the only weakness is that it is far too short. (Phil Miller)
SPRING HEEL JACK
68 Million Shades (Island)
If you can accept (you have no option) that drum ’n’ bass is currently ripping along the cutting edge of modern popular music, pissing from a great height on the mainstream, in terms of sheer groundbreaking creative talent then you’ll probably have this album already. If you can’t accept (you will soon) the reality of this country’s most innovative and relentlessly brainstorming musical revolution since the onset of acid house, then you’re probably still trying to work out what all the fuss is about.
Spring lleel Jack’s second album is a good place to start. Following their work with Everything But The Girl, they have officially been awarded mainstream status; a fact confirmed by the accessibility of the record. Check out the depth of the sounds on tracks like ‘Plates’ with its classical strings or the sci-ii weirdness on ‘Midwest’.Still Confused? Don’t be, all you have to do is open your ears and your mind; initially, the hyperspeed beats and breaks may seem daunting, but once you cross that hurdle you’ll begin to feel the seductive power of the bassline, then let your head do the rest. This may be ‘dance’ music but no one said you have to dance. (Jim Byers)
It Was Written (Columbia)
Talk about a rap renaissance . . . in recent months we have been fortunate enough to witness the phenomenal rise of The Fugees, a welcome comeback from De la Soul and other,
and our very own Brotherhood. Clearly something’s up Stateside because styles are crossing over and new ionnulas are emerging, none more so than the summer vibe for 96 - ll & B. llas’s second album is one of the most eagerly awaited records in a year
equally inspirational outings from SWV ‘
packed with anticipated releases (A Tribe Called iluest return very soon). Following the success of his debut Illmatic llas has waited two years before hitting home with fourteen laid-back rap tracks. Production is from the likes of Mobb Deep and DJ Premier from Bang Star compete with vocal contributions from Dr lire and Jo Jo from .lodeci. The standout cut is the single ‘If I Ruled The World’ featuring Lauryn Hill from The Fugees, a track that marries rap with it & B sensibilities. This is an excellent rap album that avoids in yer face aggression in favour of a more mellow sensibility, simple as that. (Jim Byers)
' are The List 12-25 Jul 1996