record reviews


ROCK Woodbine

Woodbine (Domino) ***

It’s not often a music hack will admit to the cardinal sin of not actually knowing anything about a band, but in this case, I’m guilty as charged. What I do know about the oddly named Woodbine is that: a) they're from Birmingham and b) they’ve obviously been listening to The Velvet Underground. A lot. Specifically, the Velvets' third album. It's there in the barely audible vocals, warm harmonies and exquisite slide guitars. This, luckily, is a good thing (although not particularly original), and on the basis of this album, it should be actively encouraged. If soft-focus, five in the morning melancholy blues 3 la Dot Allison, early Cowboy Junkies or Primal Scream's ’Coming Down’ float your boat, then you’ll love this. One for bedsit romantics everywhere. (NF)

The High Llamas

Snowbug (V2) ***

With Snowbug, ex-Microdisney stalwart Sean O’Hagan has created a gossamer light imaginary soundtrack to the archetypal swinging 605 movie, a world where kohl-eyed characters float by dressed by Biba, sporting Mary Quant bobs and smouldering Gitanes. It's a hazy, vaguely camp easy listening affair that recalls the lush, sunkissed pop arrangements of Brian Wilson mixed with the cracked vulnerability of Robert Wyatt and the retro-futurism of Stereolab. Indeed, the Stereolab connection is strengthened by guest Laetitia Sadier who provides swoonsome, half murmured vocals; but ultimately, Snowbug is just a little too languorous for its own good. It’s a perfectly pleasant waste of an afternoon but nothing really sticks in the memory; and its mannered fragility makes the Llamas’ brasher soulmates, The Divine Comedy, sound like a bunch of Buckfast-crazed bootboys. (NF)


Showbiz (Mushroom) ink

Radiohead have got a lot to answer for. Since they opened the Pandora’s box of angsty, ’difficult' rock music, all sorts of second-rate dross has escaped

40 "IE U81 7-2! Oct 1999

into the ain/vaves. Muse’s debut album has all the trademarks you’d expect singer Matthew Bellamy's tortured whine, incredibly polished production, guitars that sound like power drills - but it all amounts to very little in the end.

Muse seem to be labouring under the illusion that metal guitars and tricky time changes are all it takes to touch hearts. However, it's only when they play it relatively straight that they show any real signs of soul or passion, as in the Jeff Buckley soundalike ’Falling Down’ or the gentle 'Unintended’. Elsewhere Muse just go through the motions, throwing in the occasional hint at funk metal (shudder). Pretty uninspired and pretty forgettable. (DJ)


Downhill City (Clearspot) its: Alert! Alert! Bonkers Finnish trio in funny hats make soundtrack to obscure German film! Actually, this isn’t nearly as bad as you’d expect from the above information. Downhill City, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, maintains the quirkiness that all music made inside the Arctic Circle seems to have, without going overboard.

Showing off their eclectic musical tastes throughout the album, 22- Pistepirkko shift seamlessly from sweeping ambience and lo-fi country to noddy techno and dark trip-hop. And they manage to pull off each trick with reasonable aplomb, always remaining restrained and understated. Aside from the pointlessly overlong electro-dub of ’Fujisan (Beatbox Jam)’, which clocks in at a brain-numbing fourteen minutes plus, Downhill City is listenable in a background music kind of way. Which is no doubt the point. (DJ)

Blink 182 Enema Of The State (MCA) *~k*

We know who's responsible Green Day. Their snotty pop punk sold by the skipload in the US and paved the way for tykes like these tattooed trainee coprophiles. All the cliches are here loud guitars, shouty vocals, ’I'm a retard' lyrics, breakneck pace. All tied up in one greasy package, replete with a breasty model in a nurse's outfit on the cover. One problem though . . . they’re quite good. ’What's My Name Again?’ recalls the best guitar pop moments of the last twenty years; but sadly, they're not consistent over a full album and, after a while, the gaps start to appear. (MR)

Smoke signals: Woodbine

Campag Velocet

Bon Chic, Bon Genre (Pias Recordings) *****

It's hard to think of a band as being vital or dangerous when The Designer‘s Republic does their sleeve artwork. But against all the odds, self-styled sonic terrorists Campag Velocet manage to pull it off. with both Swagger and style. Their early singles were startling but ultimately stranded psycho- gems. With Ban Chic, Ban Genre, the band have discovered a welcome (though gossamer) thread of continuity.

‘Drenchcriom Velocet Sythemesc’ still sounds as if someone has finally taken a decent run up and given The Verve a kick in the pants; but it’s the sneering-nallg‘un vocal delivery of Pete Voss that keeps Campag safe from the dangers of flights of cud-chewing feedback fancy.

And just when things start to get dewy—eyed about Flowered Up at the peak of their powers. 'Skin So Soft' ups anchor and eases the Velocet craft out into the welcome

Les freaks sont chics: Campag Velocet

shallows of intelligent ambience. And then it's back to 'Vito Satan‘, a proper pop song with a chorus and everything! Ban Chic, Bon Genre may be a bit too big and a bit too clever, but it also might be the last great debut album of the Millennium. A true stramash. (Graeme Virtue)

ELECTRONIC/DANCE Bedrock: mixed by John Digweed

Various (lNCredible) *‘k***

A really good mix CD makes you want to dance in your living room with your eyes closed, throwing shapes out the window to bemused neighbours. Bedrock, however, makes you want to dance on the nearest podium for six hours, stick your head in a bassbin and scream to the world that dance music is the reason for living, all at the same time. Over two CDs, Diggers deftly mixes progressive house and trance from the likes of BPT featuring Danny Morales, resident Danny Howells, POB & Taylor and Farley & Heller, building to a mother of a climax with Slacker's ’Flying' and his own Bedrock's ’Heaven Scent'. (SB)

HIP HOP Aim Cold Water Music (Grand Central)

* * i * Instrumental is too often read as

‘background music’ or ’with the words taken out.’ Commercial hip hop is quite frequently that very thing. Manchester based Grand Central Records beg to differ. This album is an even spread of half vocal tracks, half instrumentals, all with lush production,

innovative sampling and unpretentious,

unaffected vocal stylings. This is hip hop done subtle, rather than the stomp in, insult your mother, kick the dog and steal your girlfriend approach. Far less boisterous, this is laidback without losing its edge. Another British hip hop innovator to add to the burgeoning list. (MR)


James MacMillan

Tryst (BIS) ** ** MacMillan’s third disc for the

prestigious Swedish label shifts the focus fiom large orchestral works to four pieces written for and performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The main works are Tryst (i989), appearing here in a benchmark interpretation, and the premiere recording of his Meditation On Iona (1996) Both are superbly realised verSions, and are accompanied by first recordings of two shorter pieces, They Saw The Stone Had Been Rolled Away (1993), for brass and percussion, and Adam’s Rib (1995), for brass quintet. All four reflect the composer's characteristic sonic and textural invention, rhythmic excitment, and sense of ritual exploration, as well as his customary spiritual preoccupations. (KM)

COUNTRY Shelby Lynne

I Am Shelby Lynne (Mercury)

ink * fr it The antithesis of Shania Twain and all

that neo-country bullshit, Shelby Lynne sings the blues with a soulfullness seldom heard on even the best of 905 albums. Comparisons have been drawn with Billie Holiday, Dusty Springfield and (the spirit of) Gram Parsons; and for once the hyperbole is justified. This would have been a wonderful record if only for the honeyed ennui of ’Black Lite Blue’ and the Spectoresque boom of ’Your Lies', but between these bookend tracks are eight more gems, beautiful and heart- quaking numbers about love, shit happening and coming from Alabama. The pleasure is all ours, Ms Lynne. (RE)

STAR RATINGS “an” Unmissable “nu Very ood *inl' Wort a shot , it Below average .' at You’ve been warned