Corporate rock: depending on your inclination it’s either the sworn enemy of music proper or a much needed shot in the arm for the industry. Let battle commence!
And in the red corner . . . Busted! ‘Who‘s David‘ (Island 00 ) is their latest unashamed attempt to empty the wallets of the nation. And just who is David? ‘I chose it because it rhymes with invaded’ says James of the band with the refreshing honesty of youth.
Metal stalwarts Monster Magnet embrace rock in all its long haired, sweaty glory with ‘Unbroken (Hotel Baby)’ (SPV m ) a slice of unadulterated lucrative 808 power riffs. Sharing a similar sentiment are Scandinavian noiseniks Span on ‘Don’t Think the Way They Do’ (Universal Island 000 ). ‘Wanna wear a guitar and be rock ‘cos it's on our veins!’ they urge. What’s not to love, as millions would have it? Rocking just as hard but taking a more uncompromising stance are lkara Colt with ‘Wanna Be That Way’ (Fantastic Plastic 0” ). just under three energetic minutes of Sonic Youth-style shouting and squealing.
Aspiring for the same kind of alternative kudos are Speedway, who — hey — subverted the manufactured music industry with their hilariously ironic cover version of Christine Aguilera’s ‘Genie in a Bottle‘. But their true spots show with ‘Can't Turn Back' (Innocent O ), a truly unmemorable MOR nightmare that even the most desperate reality TV star would turn their nose up at.
More ironic still is the old ‘alternative is mainstream' maxim, one that applies to The Strokes more so than virtually anyone. The none hipper-than-thou platinum-selling New Yorkers present ‘Reptilia’ (Rough Trade on ), a formulaic but catchy number which appropriately borrows heavily from rock's dinosaurs.
Treading an equally well worn path are The Stands on ‘Here She Comes Again’ (Echo 00 ). ‘Again’ being the operative word. with both the melody and lyrics as derivative and uninspiring as the La’s-lite title.
Aren’t there more exciting unchartered musical waters to be covered? A loud and resounding ‘yes' is the answer from Kasabian with their brand of subversive Primal Scream-style electronica. “Reason is Treason’ (BMG em ) is a hook-laden gem. rivalled by dance pioneer Ferry Corsten's ‘Rock Your Body Rock' (Positiva em ), an eminently whistleable fusion of electro trance and guitars. Glasgow's Kobra Audio Labs ‘KAL2’ EP (KAL 000 ) shares the electronic territory but takes a more downbeat hip hop approach. in contrast with the wide eyed day-glo optimism of Junior Senior’s latest, ‘Shake Your Coconuts’ (Crunchy Frog me ). Equally catchy is Keane’s poignant ‘Somewhere Only We Know' (Island on. ). But best of all are Dogs Die in Hot Cars, whose Single of the Fortnight ‘Man Bites Man’ EP (V2 00000) is the best record Elvis Costello never made. The Fife rockers veer through Buggies and Bowie territory in impressively distinctive fashion. Maybe going corporate isn’t that bad after all. (Emma Newlands)
108 THE LIST 13—19 Feb 2004
references the Jesus & Mary Chain and talks about era-defining music'. the Magnificents might seem ripe for a kicking. Thankfully. this bunch of ex-Edinburgh College of Art students deserve all the hype they can get. Their ballsy. chaotic debut fuses electro and punk. mixing juddering beats. Gang of FOLir-eSQue rhythms and rumbling guitars and. as zietgeisty as that sounds. it works brilliantly.
The Mary Chain comparison. meanwhile. is far from frivolous: here too is a band who make a roaring. seemingly incoherent racket beneath which lie tunes that shimmer and sparkle. (James Smart)
SINGER SONGWRITERS JOHNNY DOWD Cemetery Shoes (Munich) 00.
PAUL KELLY Ways & Means (Cooking Vinyl) 00
Old and gnarly is the new yOung and beautiful. Well it probably isn't. but these two more mature singer songwriters at least show that music isn't the sole reserve of the fresh of face. spaneg of tooth and tight of buns. American Johnny Dowd didn't release a record until he was 50- years-old but this is now his sixth opus. and a Curmugeonly blues attack it is too. Dowd's SOiind isn't particularly sophisticated in terms of production or songwriting. but there is a bloody—minded charisma to songs like ‘Wedding Day' and ‘Easter Sunday' that at least keeps yOur attention. In comparison. Australian Paul Kelly is more mainstream but less interesting. and does tend towards the platitudinous throughout. Ways 8 Means is Kelly's ninth record and a mammoth double CD to boot. and while there are snatches here and there reminiscent of fellow
Antipodean songsters Crowded House. Kelly lacks the killer choruses needed to pull the songs out of the quagmire of blandness.
AMP FIDDLER Waltz of a Ghetto Fly (Genuine) COO
The new album from singer/producer Joseph Anthony ‘Amp‘ Fiddler may well be long overdue (his debut was way back in 1989) but it's perhaps not the sensation you might be expecting if yOLi've recently been exposed to the hype in the specialist press.
There is no doubt this Detroit native is talented — the list of stars with whom he has worked (George Clinton. Carl Craig, Prince. Moodymann. Only Child. Jamiroquai. Brand New Heavies. Seal) are a testament to that and Clinton‘s presence on this long- playing distillation of funk. soul. jazz and smooth-as-velvet electronic grooves shows the granddaddy of p-funk believes it too. Some moments really do stand out during this ghetto fly's sultry waltz and his album as a whole is a real grower. but the best buzz is clearly yet to come. (Andrew Richardson)
ELECTRONICA OPERATOR os1.1 (benbecula) 00.
It's been hard to miss Edinburgh producer Operator. aka Lewis Maccoll. in the last 12 months. If you frequent more esoteric gatherings. yOu might well have seen him living it up at a gig or on stage himself at clubs such as
Pogo Vogue. Dfrnt Drum. in the Wee Red Bar or Nice N Sleazy's. The keen. young art college graduate pushes hard and he deserves the breaks but his debut album will not be perceived to be breaking as much new ground now as two years ago. when he originally recorded the tracks. With a fairly rudimentary grasp of production and some quirky. difficult tunes that marry acoustic and electronic. Operator seems respectfully to be emulating genre- defining auteurs such as Canada's Manitoba and Germany‘s To Rococo Rot. He's certainly half way there and there are moments of true individuality. Watch this space. (Andrew Richardson)
GEORGE BURT] RAYMOND MACDONALD OOTET
(FMR Records) 000
. 7'1' a 11.451. 4.113%? 33..-!
No point in looking for the pop-influenced facets of the Burt- MacDonald group's first couple of albums on this disc. which continues their parallel exploration of free improvisation with saxophonist Lol Coxhill. The band is expanded to an octet with the further addition of a third saxophonist. Christoph Reiserer. and a second voice. conceptual artist Aileen Campbell. who also ‘plays' popcorn maker and hairdryer. The resulting music is not likely to grab those who like to tap their foot in time. but it extends their previous work with Coxhill (often in playful rather than po-faced fashion). and the expanded sonic palette allows them to experiment even further with elements of sound and timbre as well as musical concept. (Kenny Mathieson)
ALTERNATIVE ROCK PHIA
People Are Like Seasons (City Slang) «0
This is a bit more like it. Compared with the throbbing intensity of the music he made with the God Machine. Robin Proper—Shepherd's first two solo albums were plodded melancholically. On the opener to his third. however. he breaks into a canter.
It's a conservative 80und through0ut — guitar and strings laid over the drum machine. but a least he's no longer scared to sound epic. On Feel. for example. he sounds like Beck singing a Rolling Stones ballad. The production throughout is the modicum of taste: an admirable expression of the less is more philos0phy. Yet he still sounds a bit drippy on tracks like 'I Left You'. (Tim Abrahams)
JOHN SQUIRE Marshall’s House (North Country) 00
Oh dear. Try as long time devotees of the Stone Roses might to love him, the band's ex-guitarist is ever more hell-bent on making us work for the privilege these days. Superficially inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, John Squire's second album under his own name is a patchy effon straight from the off, but at least opening duo ‘Summertime' and ‘Hotel Room' are mildly memorable in their buffed. Byrdsian jangle. It gets worse. though. as the likes of 'Automat' and ‘Tables for Ladies‘ descend into out-and- out pub rock. Throughout. Squire's formerly endearing holler makes him sound ever more uncomfortably like