record reviews



Hot Rail (City Slang) A A Auk-4r

The only reason David Lynch hasn't yet

used the moody, 'storm brewin’ Tex-

Mex music of Arizona's Calexico is because he obviously ain't heard it. Giant Sand’s John Convertino and Joey Burns‘ third foray into the desert’s heart is largely gorgeous sad lament: 'On the outskirts of expansion/looking out from Blue Pine Peak/the flow is flooding of urban settlers/panning through rivers running dry', croons Burns on ’Service and Repair’. Elsewhere, loops, samples and electric guitar collide with vibes, marimba and accordion on folk tunes, sonic dirges and filmscapes. And any album that ends with the sound of a distant freight train is OK by me. Listen to at dusk or dawn. (Miles Fielder)

The Czars

Before. . . But Longer (Bella Union)


it takes about one minute into this album's opener, 'Val', to realise that The Czars have something very special, and that thing is the voice of lead singer John William Grant. Yer man has the ability to soak up all the heartbreak and confusion in the whole world and issue it forth in a voice that's part Tom Waits, part Jeff Buckley. The songs here are designed to show off this attribute, the skeletal mix of country and blues working well on slower tunes, but feeling slightly clumsy when they pick up the pace, like the stumbling odd- rock of ‘Zippermouth’.

(Doug Johnstone)


Ventimiglia 120899 EP (Jeepster) A AA

The label that gave us Belle and Sebastian and Looper bring us a new EP from this underrated Hull-based outfit. Salako like to overuse formulas loud/quiet techniques a la The Delgados, splenetic guitar when you least expect it and an almost orchestral obsession with layering and building up a tune. There is, however, no getting away from the fact that at their best they can surpass their serene labelmates. The opener ‘Hull City Tiger' is delirious and delicious. A few weak tunes lead us to ’l Mammalian' and 'Tales From the Riverbed', songs that vindicate the decision for them to support US indie gods Pavement last year. (Paul Dale)


Got It Made (Wiiija Records) *AAA Yelping, boasting, bullying . . . as kid siblings in Mancunian rock bands go, Brassy’s Muffin Spencer - sister to the Blues Explosion's Jon is the mouthiest by far. Good thing, then, that Brassy’s

_ flip and fresh powder-keg of a debut

album is so brimful of brash riffs and razor-toothed pop. Add some frisky scratching from drummer-with-a-deck Jonny Barrington and Brassy’s NYC via Manchester mix of punk-pop and hip- hop sounds so perfect it’s a wonder no-one else got there first. Inspired ideas, self-assurance to match any

48 THE LIST 27 ADr—ll Mav 2000

Manchester mob, coolest gang in 6th form charisma, titles like ’B'Cos We Rock’ how could Brassy not be a sure thing? (Kevin Harley)

Polar Aim

Diaries Of Well Known Women (Christel Deesk) sir

From the first discordant chords of semi-melody to the last heartfelt lyric, Polar Aim are the musical equivalent of a very bad day on Prozac. After all you think it’s going to turn out well, they’ve got a cool name and a catchy album title and they're formed by former Jesus and Mary Chain and Moose bass player, Lincoln Fong (cool name once again), but then you listen to the album and suddenly you want to kill something. This effect is achieved by the relentless onslaught of depressed and mournful guitar-hung tunes, each one more turgid than the one before it. The lyrical overlay will either send you into a frenzy or have you gassing up the car with carbon- monoxide for a little slowdeath. (Catherine Bromley)

Thea Gilmore

The Lipstick Conspiracies (Naim)

A A at

Only twenty years old and already on her second album, singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore has melodic ingenuity and sharp lyrical wit far beyond her tender years. Opening with cracking little pop blaster ’Generation Y?’ Gilmore comes across like a strange hybrid of Lloyd Cole and Liz Phair. Like Liz Phair, she’s a straight-talking lady not afraid of cussin' some and capable of turning out both hooky pop tunes and bittersweet melodies. Influenced by folk and country there's also much of Joni Mitchell going on here, although at times the pseudo- bitterness leans uncomfortably in the

Risky, frisky and dangerous to know: Brassy

direction of Alanis Morissette. (Catherine Bromley)

ELECTRONIC Jeff Noon and David Toop

Needle in the Groove (Sulphur Records) M: A

If you approach this album as an experimental departure from a literary project, as Jeff Noon presumably did when he first conceived it, you are far more likely to think Needle in the Groove is worthy of praise. After all why shouldn’t a book about a musician written by one of the true innovators of contemporary British letters be the source for a musical collaboration? If however you care not a jot for literary reputations and look at it in purely musical terms you are likely to be a little disappointed. Despite David Toop’s strangely engaging backdrop of electronic noise, this is still primarily the reading of a book. What makes the album ultimately worthwhile though is excerpts such as ’Rhythms of the City' where Toop's music and Noon's voice combine to create something which is not quite music but is no longer spoken literature. (Tim Abrahams)

Various Artists

Solar Spectrums mixed by Chris Mellor (Logic Records) A at

Electronic Lullabies (Creeping Bent)


On the Floor at the Boutique mixed by The Midfield General (Skint Records) AAA

If you thought mixes were a forum for DJs to reveal their musical character to a wider public, Chris Mellor will make you think again. Although his selections are occasionally inspired, listening to the Boards of Canada's 'Aquarius’ makes you realise the lack

of imagination and personality elsewhere.

Midfield General on the other hand, builds an overall character to his selection despite running through the whole gamut of styles. He manages to make the changes of gear simultaneously interesting and seamless. Although we are in familiar Big Beat territory, it’s performed with skill and a welcome emphasis on basic techno breaks.

The last album is not a mix but a selection of bed-sit techno and ambient mutterings from Creeping Bent. The Glasgow label haven’t really promoted themselves as a home of electronica but here outfits like Scientific Support Department show that Bent have decent techno credentials. The art-rockers show willing and indulge in some successful ambient noodling of their own.

(Tim Abrahams)


The Geometrid (Jeepster) A A A A

It’s storytime again with Stuard David, ex of Belle and Sebastian and now shacked up full-time with his own short-trousered multimedia sprog of a band. Looper's second album sees them slipping bleeps, blips, samples and apologetic breakbeats into softly spoken songs about robots, modems and Tomorrow’s World. We learn that Seinfeld and South Park almost make Stuart smile, and if it all sounds too twee, you'll forgive the album anything for its cheeky sense of fun, busy forward motion, bustling imagination and wistful pop gems. Stuart's tipple may be lemonade, but his band are no aural Enid Blyton. Sweet. (Kevin Harley)

Various Artists

Central Heating (Grand Central) A A A A

Central Heating 2 (Grand Central) A A A

These two double CD collections document the development of Manchester’s Grand Central label. The first dates from 1996 and tracks the earliest movements of the labels artists and their beat-led experiments. Veering between laid-back funk jazz breaks with sultry female vocalising, earthy electronica and bumping hip hop the first is a varied spunky excursion.

Central Heating 2 is a more restrained and ultimately, less engaging selection than its predecessor. Everything has the rough edges sanded off, but this does not diminish its quality, Aim's ’Original Stuntmaster' is a curious delight while Rae and Christian's 'Spellbound' and Andy Votel and Jane Weaver's ’Kitten' are both vivid examples of the label's trademark, off-kilter beauty.

Melody, style and clarity are not dirty words around the Grand Central campfire and although the tracks have an edge, after two CDs worth it all begins to feel a little laden and you begin to wish for some fire rather than just warmth. (Mark Robertson)

JAZZ _ _ Dave O'Higglns The Grinder's Monkey (Short Fuse)

AAAA Saxophonist Dave O'Higgins (half)

jokes on the sleeve that he has