A music

record reviews

ROCK/ POP Elliott Smith

Figure 8 (Dreamworks) w e a w viz

On his last album, XO, Elliott Smith moved from the familiarity of bedroom recording to the megabucks Spielberg territory of Dreamworks, and seemed pretty shell-shocked in the process. Figure 8 sees him back on an even keel, and giving his sound a real kick up the arse as well.

The result is an outstanding mix of singer-songwriter stuff and proper rock'n'roll, albeit with his trademark wispy vocals. This is most evident on the guitarmungous groove of 'LA’ or

, the melancholic sway of ’Stupidity

Tries'. Throughout, Smith shows his usual deftness of touch with a tune and ear for a beautiful melody. (DJ)

Elastica The Menace (Deceptive Records)

Although it’s a tuneful affair there is something oddly amiss with The Menace. All the familiar components which made Elastica's debut such an enjoyable breeze are in place, their influences are to the fore and the disposable art-punk sensibility is engaged. It must be something to do with timing. There is nothing wrong with the way Elastica instinctively pursue a particular influence as they record a tune, that attitude can make for great pop music. But in leaving this album lying around and thinking about it too much they’ve killed the spontaneity Without creating an individual sound. lam not sure whether this fits the literal definition of irony, but the stand-out track is 'Nothing Stays the Same’. (TA)

The Crocketts The Great Brain Robbery (V2) -;.2: ,1. 71-:

; The Crocketts second album is a healthy dose of Celtic indie rock punk.

Hav:ng thrown off the Ramones/Clash revisionism of their first album We May

Be Skinny And Wirey the emaciated trio surprise with an album that has all the darkly epic sweep of the Violent Femmes eponymous debut. The single 'Host’ is a sublime piece of pop hokum that yells from a black hole of despair. ‘Chicken Vs. Macho' a surprising duet with Mary Hopkins, throbs with bruised romanticism. While 'Mrs Playing Dead', ’Ella Luciana‘ and ’Million Things’ burn with the raw heart of early XTC. Exhilarating. (PD)

Lou Reed

Ecstasy (Reprise) a w a: 1‘:

The Manhattan moaner is back with an exquisite piece of spleen. Reed's twentieth studio album gets off to a shaky start with the sub-’Vicious' riff of ’Paranoia In The Key Of E’ that has all the promise of Bowie's retro stylistics on . . . hours. Then however we are treated to a selection of songs so rich, strong and full of urban angst they take your breath away. Not since New York has he produced tunes as exhilarating as ’Ecstasy’, 'Modern Dance' or the album's stand-out track ’Turning Time Around' (Otis Redding on benzedrine). Not since Metal Machine Music has he produced anything as bonkers as ‘Like A Possum'. Remarkable. File next to Avenue B by Iggy Pop, just don't expect the Wild One’s honesty. (PD)

I Am Scientist No Signal (Evol) see we

Cool name, cool band. No Signal is the

debut album of Edinburgh n0iseniks| Am Scientist, formerly seen creating a pleasant racket as Blind. The Scientist

'- sound is a fairly familiar Yank indie

one, but they've got enough catchy melodies and surprising twists and turns to keep you listening. Throughout, the band make like early

; Afghan Whigs having tea and cake 1 with Buffalo Tom, while singer Scott

MacDonald has plenty of depth to his angsty croon. Songs like ’Can't Tell Anyone’ and moody opener 'Glasvegas’ show conSiderable ability

i and promise for the future. Not world- , beaters yet, but give 'em time. (DJ)

An outstanding mix of singer-songwriter stuff and proper rock’n'roll: Elliot Smith

The Servant Mathematics (Splinter) a it

There is something rather appalling about The Servant: they obviously believe themselves to be at the vanguard of modern music, wittily fusing hi-tech production techniques with a tried and tested indie sensibility. This means that all the songs are littered with filtered drums, my-first- sequencer synth runs and syrupy Portishead-lite string arrangements. Like all self-congratulatory Camden dwelling tossers, they have managed to miss the point entirely, and the resulting long player is horribly akin to Big Audio Dynamite looking down their collective nose at Public Image Limited. Another case of nice haircuts, shame about the music. (JM)


Dongs of Sevotion (Domino) are a 1k Eccentric musical genius is a terrible burden just ask prolific one-man Smogster, Bill Callahan. Dongs of Sevotion (ho ho) sees Callahan in typically weird and darkly humorous form, all the while being as miserable as sin. Don’t let the downbeat nature of this album put you off, though. Like in last year’s exceptional Knock, Knock, here Mr Smog produces a collection of sometimes truly startling raw and battered lo-fi country blues. ’Dress Sexy At My Funeral’ is the best example, with its bittersweet subject matter, Callahan's mesmerising American drawl, and badly beaten-up guitars creating a genuine lump—in-the-throat moment. (DJ)


Two Banks Of Four City Watching (Sirkus) a

Acid Jazz is a dirty phrase to many; perhaps fair criticism of a sound which can't scale the improvisational heights of modern jazz styles, nor access the driving rhythms of other dance schools. But, like J Swinscoe’s Cinematic Orchestra and, before them, Red Snapper, 2b04 is (partially) successful in hijacking the best of both musical forms.

Dill Harris and Rob Gallagher (ex-

record reviews MUSIC

Nightcrawlers and Spanish guitar. File next to Ibiza Pan Pipe Comedown Moods Vol VII. (JM)


Various Artists

Skye presents The Breaks (Harmless) a: it: ‘fiz' w

From these willowy funk branches the fruit of present day hip hOp and soul have grown, and these tracks as selected by expert trainspotting crate digger Skye gives us some of the funk era's tastiest platters. From breakneck paced James Brown-esque workouts like Jerry O’s 'Funky Charge' to the subdued conga pulse of Nina Simone's 'Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter', these tracks capture the era in the 70s when the concept of the DJ was only being formulised. Little did they know what they would give birth to. Never have history lessons been quite so much fun. (MR)

WORLD Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Dust to Gold (Real World Records)

Even if the name is new to you, you will probably have heard the awesome voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Although trained in the Sufi tradition of devotional music known as Qawwali, during his life Khan worked with numerous western musicians including Massive Attack, Michael Brook, Eddie Vedder and, of course, Peter Gabriel. Khan wasn’t always treated as an equal in these collaborations with his voice occasionally being used as an emotionless shorthand for haunting atmosphere”. Here though, we have a full, joyous sound With the traditional dholak, tabla and hdelOlllllllT accompaniment, Data Teira Darbar, in particular, showing that Khan's style could convey joy as well as it did mystery. A fitting tribute to a great v0ice. (TA)

JAZZ Abdullah Ibrahim Trio

Cape Town Revisited (Tip Toe) Abdullah Ibrahim has established himself

as one of the best known names in jazz

Galliano) have pulled together vocalists , ; known as Dollar Brand back then). He

and musicians from the London underground and the results range from jazz standards (a reworking of Coltrane's 'Afro Blue’) through break beats (’Hook & A Line’) to soundtracks for unmade films ('Skylines Over Rooftops', 2bo4's first 12"). Not groundbreaking, but not aCId jazz either. (MF)

Neon Heights And Zed J

A View From The Heights (Glasgow Underground) a

'God that was a good night, and I know we've only just met but I really

love you. It isn't just the pills. Don’t you

think the sunrise is just, like, totally spiritual. We’ll be, like, friends forever now, we can meet up when we get home. Did I mention I really love you.’ Just like E-cretins who confuse chemical reactions in their brain with genume emotion, this record is utterly, horribly, tedious think low tempo house peppered With 'mellow' synth washes, vocals reminiscent of The

l | l l i

since he emerged as a protege of Duke Ellington in the early 605 (he was still

was the most high profile pioneer of the fusion of jazz improVisation and the infectious melodies, colours and rhythms of his native South Africa, but his more recent status as a senior statesman in the music has too often gone hand in hand With the musical equwalent of awe control. This live trio set (With the addition of trumpeter Feya Faku on three cuts) does nothing to shake that impression, but his many devotees will doubtless lap up the old favourites. (KM)

REVIEWERS THIS ISSUE: Tim Abrahams, Paul Dale, Miles Fielder,

. Doug Johnstone, Kenny Mathieson,

Jack Mottram, Mark Robertson.

STAR'RATINGS " r: e Unmissable

Very good I

Worth a shot |


:9; fig 3?:

Below average You've been warned

13—27 Apr 2000 THE LIST 47