December 30, 2018

Echobelly - People Are Expensive (2001)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Rock, Acoustic Rock
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© 2001 Fry Up
AllMusic Review by Dean Carlson
After the weary Lustra, Echobelly found themselves on the receiving end of negative press, corrupt accountants, and the frustrations of starting out on their own independent record label. But all is well in the unwell for the band's fourth album, with Sonya Aurora Madan sounding as progressively paranoid as ever -- in "Ondine," she sings "But this is the plastic age/The quiet rage is damned and civilised"; in "Digit," "There's no disease, the human race is digital/Pacified by fluoride, genetically modified" -- and the undercooked production catching and redirecting her stark rhymes without undermining their meaning. In fact, the open-aired, twilight hum that co-producer Ben Hillier creates goes some way to expand what was once Echobelly's unobstructed angst. "Kali Yuga" is exclamatory yet by no means overbearing. There's a relaxed hope in normally melancholic lines like "I'm dying, give me symphonies," with sketched out sonics recalling those summertime nights of pensive stargazing when a cold soda and the right tune could make you believe that no matter how tempting or attractive a sense of futility may be, it's lazy and destructive, and probably a religion for poets lacking imagination. In a sense, Echobelly are more bleak than ever before but with considerable more confidence. They've managed to ignore their ill fortune and suffer through the hecklers, and have -- in the best possible way -- given listeners a 54-minute soundtrack for the paper bag scene in American Beauty.

tags: echobelly, people are expensive, 2001, flac,

Jodeci - Diary of a Mad Band (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 MCA/Uptown Records
AllMusic Review by Ron Wynn
Jodeci juggle new jack swing and vintage soul on their second album and wind up with a jarring, mismatched release. The disc's love songs, particularly "Cry for You," "What About Us," and "My Heart Belongs to U," are tender, passionately sung, and sincere expressions of romance and love. But they diminish these with a string of innuendo-laden come-on numbers, complete with explicit language, tired raps and samples, and the kind of sentiments and appeals better suited to a Penthouse Forum entry than an album.

tags: jodeci, diary of a mad band, 1993, flac,

Echobelly - Gravity Pulls (2003)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 2003 Takeout Records
Review by John Murphy for MusicOMH.com
Echobelly briefly found fame back in the mid-90s during ‘Britpop’. At the time there was a huge amount of bands with a photogenic lead singer and a group of anonoymous looking blokes. So, despite the fact that Echobelly counted the far from faceless Debbie Jones as a bass player, they were lumped in with Sleeper, Belly, Salad and so on.
However, Britpop soon went sour and as with many other such ‘movements’, the public moved onto something else. Yet while Louise Wener started writing novels, Tanya Donelly launched a solo career, and Marijne Van Der Vlugt just, well, disappeared, Echobelly stuck together and continued releasing albums.
Gravity Pulls is the band’s fifth album, and displays a different type of sound from their earlier days. Echobelly’s trademark used to be infectiously catchy little pop songs married to some subversive lyrics, as on Give Her A Gun or I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me. On Gravity Pulls, the intelligent wordplay remains but the melodies appear to have given way to a more ‘mature’ approach.
This is a shame, as Sonya Aurora Madan always had an ear for a decent tune. Tracks such as Close But on Everyone’s Got One and especially former single Great Things were songs that were hard to get out of your mind but remained resolutely likeable not annoying. Here though the emphasis is more on dreamlike song structures and a very laid back approach. The results, while pleasant, can’t help but be a disappointment.
There is some good stuff here though. The title track is a suitably beautiful opener and gives early notice that the band’s indie days are long behind them. The pace rises slightly with the excellent You Started A Fire, which is probably the album’s only concession to a commercial sound. Best of all, Strangely Drawn is a lovely, stately piano ballad. The minimal backing allows Madan’s voice to really shine – a rarity here since the muggy production sometimes dulls her usually soaring vocals.
Too many of the songs though lie on the wrong side of blandness. The vast majority of the songs are mid-paced and sometimes come across as plodding. Tracks such as One In A Million and Djinn drift by pleasantly if unremarkably and sadly there isn’t much to bring back the uncommitted listener for a repeat playing. It’s good that the band have chosen to develop and evolve rather than produce pale imitations of former glories, but in ditching their previous sound they’ve lost what made them stand out in the first place.
Fans who have followed Echobelly throughout their career can buy Gravity Pulls safe in the knowledge that it continues and refines the direction followed in their previous release People Are Expensive. Others who only remember them from their heyday will probably be disappointed though.

tags: echobelly, gravity pulls, 2003, flac,

Echobelly - Anarchy & Alchemy (2017)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock
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© 2017 Fauve Records
Review by "alex_snacks" for Drowned In Sound.com
Over ten years have lapsed since Echobelly's last release, so it would be far too easy for a lot of people to have forgotten or written the band off. But let it be known that the flame was always burning. Some indications as to the goings on during the hiatus can be located on two low key mini albums by spin-off band Calm of Zero that surfaced as a result. Illustrative of this is the seventh track ‘Faces In The Mirror’ tucked away on this latest crowdfunded album.
Having established their elemental essence during Calm of Zero, singer Sonya Aurora Madan and guitarist Glenn Johansson litmus tested an appetite for the Echobelly comeback. The results? A sold out gig at London’s Scala in 2015. In parallel to this a whiff of a Britpop reanimation has stirred and gained momentum around the country with festivals like the Shine weekender, Indie Daze and the Star Shaped festival ringing in Echobelly and previous contemporaries like Sleeper, Salad, My Life Story and The Bluetones.
Guarding the entrance to Echobelly’s new collection of tracks is a fearsome opener and stomping single ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’. This song clearly marks their return with Johansson's hypnotic blues rock riffs and Madan’s distinctive sultry vocals (with an added primal edge). On this track, this band is at times reminiscent of early PJ Harvey whilst capturing the glimmering light display of Echobelly’s core. The new drummer for this album is Ash Hall accompanied by bassist Oliver Kiernan. Both of them appear to be ‘nice enough’ session musician types with the latter touting Paul McCartney, Mel B and someone from The Kooks called Pete Denton on his credits.
‘Firefly’ continues the album at a similar pace, with a crunchy chugging bass riff that gives way to a more contrasting ethereal section that nudges previous Echobelly song structures like ‘Kali Yuga’ and ‘A Map Is Not The Territory’ found on 2001's People Are Expensive. What starts to become clear from the second track onwards is this album showcases Madan's vocal skills, which have developed one stage further, displaying more variation and showing off finesse like on ‘Firefly’ with its Arabian flirtations and ‘If The Dogs Don’t Get You’ with its rocketing "oohs" and somersaulting vocal attacks. Johansson’s guitar repertoire on the other hand has crystallised and continues to diversify with new tunings found on ‘Dead Again’ and ‘Faces In the Mirror’.
A lot of effort and final thought has gone into this album. Production surprises continue throughout like the springy vocal effect on ‘Molotov’ and variation in structure with ‘Autumn Angel’ being purely instrumental for the first segment, with delicate guitar rising from a hypnotic drone that turns into a distantly dulcet song. This paves the way for the concluding reflective post death track ‘Dead Again’. This is an album from a band that have been there and done it a few times, got bored, changed it up, run away, come back, swapped it up then become sophisticated and accomplished on their own terms with flair.

tags: echobelly, anarchy and alchemy, 2017, flac,

December 28, 2018

+44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2006 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar
Of the two groups that appeared from the ashes of blink-182's 2005 implosion -- the Tom DeLonge-headed Angels and Airwaves and Mark Hoppus/Travis Barker-helmed +44 -- it's refreshing to see that at least one of them (i.e., the latter) realized that moving on from the past didn't necessarily mean turning your back on it. On their debut, When Your Heart Stops Beating, +44 has managed to balance out upbeat rockers and somber introspections to create a record that is thoughtful and composed, yet fun, and almost like the album blink could have made had they stuck together. This is alternative rock derived from guys with pop-punk pasts, but it's much more reserved than expected, meaty hooks and cheeky exuberance not oozing out of every corner. Its sober and meditative qualities aren't completely surprising -- after all, the blink breakup didn't leave ex-members unscathed -- but +44's infectious and stomping first single, "When Your Heart Stops Beating," is a bit misleading since nothing here is quite as immediate as that song. Toned down doesn't mean tedious, however, and the album gets better with each listen. +44's initial focus was on electronics, and though that ultimately took a backseat to guitar-driven rock, it's still present as an undercurrent throughout. This coupled with the clean and tight playing of guitarists Craig Fairbaugh and Shane Gallagher, whose contributions are key to the band's effectiveness, gives +44 a distinct sound away from both blink-182's punk recklessness and Angels and Airwaves' forced grandeur. Bitterness creeps into many songs -- this is definitely a post-band-breakup album -- and tracks like "No, It Isn't" are blatant stabs at Hoppus and Barker's now-strained relationship with DeLonge ("Please understand, this isn't just goodbye, this is I can't stand you"). But not every song is overtly focused on that drama, evidenced in cuts like the summery "Cliffdiving" and the especially lovely electro-piano-based "Make You Smile," which features Carol Heller (briefly a member of +44 in its initial phase). Somber tracks like "Weatherman" and "Little Death" are some of the moodiest songs Hoppus has ever sung, but nothing here feels forced, so it's easy to forgive him when things don't always hit the mark. Plus, he does a much more convincing job fronting a new project than DeLonge; his vocals meld nicely with the sonic structure of +44 to allow the band its own identity instead of just conjuring images of skateboards and Hurley shirts at every turn. Even with its flaws, When Your Heart Stops Beating possesses a surprising vulnerability, which gives the album an understated strength and makes it such an enjoyable listen. This is light-years away from the pretension of Angels and Airwaves, and an unexpected treat from a band that really sounds like it has a future together.

tags: +44, when your heart stops beating, 2006, flac,

A Rocket To The Moon - On Your Side (2009) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
Style: Emo Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2009 Fueled By Ramen
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
Seeing Fueled by Ramen on the spine of a CD gives you an idea of what the music inside sounds like. You can expect sunny, anthemic emo pop with lots of catchy hooks and emotional vocals, almost always sung by young guys with girl troubles. A Rocket to the Moon hews to the FBR template very closely on their debut record, 2009's On Your Side. The choruses are easy to sing with, the guitars are loud but never loose (with lots of acoustic strumming layered in), the vocals are angst-fueled but never whiny or gruff, and the overall sound is punchy while still retaining a softness that will draw in people who like the emo-to-pop ratio skewed to the latter half of the equation. Nick Santino's songs are half "the girl done me wrong" laments, half "I miss the girl so much" weepers, sung with convincing passion and vulnerability. Most of them sound tailor-made for radio, too. It's easy to imagine "Annabelle" blasting from the open summer windows of a car filled with teenagers, "Like We Used To" playing softly in a broken-hearted lover's bedroom late at night, or "Baby Blues Eyes" soundtracking a teary-eyed late-night drive. It's also easy to imagine a few of the songs being pop hits in the 1970s, if stripped of their modern sound. "Where Did You Go?" isn't too far from a Rick Springfield track; the blend of new wavey snap and mainstream sap is almost perfect. The record is only hampered by the sometimes clichéd lyrics, but there aren't enough offenders to make things a slog to get through. In fact, On Your Side goes down very smoothly and is generic in a good way, in that it satisfies all the requirements of a successful emo pop album.

tags: a rocket to the moon, on your side, 2009, flac,

A Rocket To The Moon - Wild & Free (2013) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
Style: Emo Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2013 Fueled By Ramen
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
Emo-rock ensemble A Rocket to the Moon expand upon the anthemic sound of their 2009 debut, On Your Side, with 2013's country-influenced Wild & Free. While A Rocket to the Moon certainly flirted with an acoustic country vibe in the past, they primarily played a kind of electric guitar-driven pop that combined the hooky quality of '70s-'80s power pop with the yearning emotionality typical of their Fueled by Ramen labelmates like Paramore and Fun. While that big-chorus craftsmanship is still fully intact on Wild & Free, it's balanced out with a twangy, front-porch sweetness centered around singer/songwriter Nick Santino's bright, pleasant croon, making things a bit more Keith Urban than Rick Springfield. Certainly, one wouldn't call this new approach particularly innovative. Admittedly, cuts like "First Kiss" and "Wherever You Go," with their pristinely produced mix of electric and acoustic instruments and hummable, romantic lyrics, certainly wouldn't sound out of place on contemporary country radio. That said, the band's mix of punk-pop and modern country does stand out. Tracks like the lilting and romantic "If I'm Gonna Fall in Love" and "Going Out" are expressive, infectious songs that stick in your head. Ultimately, A Rocket to the Moon's new country sound on Wild & Free is an immediately likable one, and in the band's own low-key way, shows a fresh new approach for the band's musical direction.

tags: a rocket to the moon, wild and free, 2013, flac,

Hellyeah - Unden!able (2016)

*European pressing. Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2016 Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
The fifth studio long-player from the veteran groove-metal supergroup, the Eleven Seven-issued Unden!able marks the first time that that Hellyeah's current lineup, which consists of vocalist Chad Gray, guitarists Tom Maxwell and Christian Brady, drummer Vinnie Paul, and bassist Kyle Sanders, has recorded together as a full-on unit. Heavier and darker than 2014's Blood for Blood, the 13-track LP includes the punishing single "Human," as well as a blistering cover of Phil Collins' "I Don't Care Anymore" that features guitar parts from late Pantera shredder Dimebag Darrell.

tags: hell yeah, hellyeah, undeniable, 2016, flac,

Hellyeah - Stampede (2010)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2010 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Bringing together members of Damageplan, Pantera, Nothingface, and Mudvayne, Hellyeah are as close to a groove metal supergroup as the world has seen since Down. Given Hellyeah's pedigree, it comes as no surprise that their second album, Stampede, is an almost nonstop cavalcade of huge, slithering groove riffage. While the album lets a couple of ballads slip through the cracks by way of “Better Man” and “Hell of a Time,” Hellyeah do their best to stick to what they do best, delivering track after track of fist-pumping, down-and-dirty metal in the grand Southern tradition. It’s this simplicity that makes Stampede an ultimately fun record. There are no chin-stroking prog arrangements to puzzle over, knotty guitar acrobatics or deep lyrics to dissect -- just pure and simple old-school heavy metal aggression without pretension. Hellyeah’s membership is seasoned enough that they know exactly what they’re doing when they deliver mosh pit anthems like “It’s On!” and “Stampede,” odes to aggression guaranteed to work a crowd into a frenzy of rebellious aggression with their thunderous, detuned guitars and furious drumming (courtesy of former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul). As long as you know what you’re getting into, Stampede is a great piece of heavy metal escapism that invites the listener to throw on a sleeveless T-shirt, drink a beer or twenty, and simply enjoy the ride.

tags: hellyeah, hell yeah, stampede, 2010, flac,

Hellyeah - Band of Brothers (2012)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2012 Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Groove metal supergroup Hellyeah bring more intensity to the table on their third album together, Band of Brothers. Focusing more on metal than groove, the album is an all-around heavier affair than their previous outing, Stampede. Where that disc had a few diversions into Southern rock, Band of Brothers feels more focused on making everything bigger, louder, and more intense. Given Hellyeah's pedigree, it's definitely an appropriate direction for them, and fans of the bandmembers' previous work in Pantera, Damageplan, Nothingface, and Mudvayne will appreciate this more aggressive, metal-focused approach.

tags: hell yeah, hellyeah, band of brothers, 2012, flac,

Hellyeah - Blood For Blood (2014)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2014 Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Although no one would ever accuse Hellyeah of being lightweights, their fourth album finds them upping the intensity, and Blood for Blood is an album that finds the groove metal titans showing off their reckless side. On songs like the driving "Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones)" and the frenzied "Say When," the band find new reserves of aggression as they push their sound to new extremes. With so much hostility, the normally unwelcome inclusion of the subdued ballad "Hush" comes as a welcome respite from the relentless onslaught of punishing riffs. With such a solid lineup, it should come as no surprise that Hellyeah have delivered yet another album of heavy-hitting tracks ready, willing, and able to throw down with fans of the groove metal supergroup.

tags: hellyeah, hell yeah, blood for blood, 2014, flac,

D.R.I. - But Wait... There's More: E.P. (2016)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Crossover Thrash
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© 2016 Beer City Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: dri, d.r.i., but wait theres more, 2016, flac,

December 27, 2018

Hellyeah - Hellyeah (2007) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Heavy Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2007 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
The roots of the spinoff heavy metal band Hellyeah date back to a 2003 tour by Mudvayne and Nothingface, after which singer Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett from the former combined with guitarist Tom Maxwell and bassist Jerry Montano from the latter in a songwriting session. Conflicting schedules kept the project on hold for several years, until, during hiatuses from their usual commitments, the musicians reconvened with former Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul. The result is not exactly a "supergroup," but it is a collection of musicians who came in knowing what they were doing. Their album is a competent example of its genre, in which Tribbett and Maxwell combine to create crushing riffs over the pummeling rhythm section of Montano and Paul, while Gray howls typically enraged, expletive-littered lyrics to songs with titles like "Hellyeah," "Goddamn," and "Rotten to the Core." The aggressive attitude gives way on "Star," a song of romantic devotion as unfettered in its expression of gentle feelings as the other songs are of belligerent ones. Also dialed down from the usual thrash is the hard rock ballad "Thank You," a sort of musical version of the extensive acknowledgements section that occupies as much space in the CD booklet as the lyric sheet ("Thank you! Mother/Thank you! Father/Thank you! Brother," etc.). It's easy to imagine Hellyeah becoming a main occupation for the bandmembers, even though the music doesn't constitute a notable variation from their other affiliations.

tags: hellyeah, hell yeah, hellyeah album, 2007, flac,

December 25, 2018

Black Flag - Family Man (1984)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Spoken Word, Hardcore Punk
Style: Instrumental
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© 1984-1990 SST Records
AllMusic Review by Pemberton Roach
Black Flag's most experimental album, Family Man features one LP side of spoken word performances from Henry Rollins and another of instrumental music from the late-Flag lineup of Greg Ginn (guitar), Kira (bass), and Bill Stevenson (drums). Although occasionally chilling in its intensity, the spoken word material, much like the between-song recitations of fellow Californian Jim Morrison (with whom Rollins sometimes shares a vocal similarity here) on the live Doors albums, mostly sounds juvenile and dated after the fact. That said, Family Man's spoken word tracks, along with Jello Biafra's recordings with the Dead Kennedys, can largely be credited with bringing "alternative" spoken word to a larger audience who were either unaware of, or could not relate to, the Patti Smith/downtown New York scene. Unlike the solo Rollins tracks, the instrumental music is still challenging and vibrant. Although sounding at times like a high-school garage band attempting to perform Rush covers, Ginn and company play with a sense of desperation and punk rock fury that makes much of the music positively electrifying. Similar in spirit to the less poppy tracks on Hüsker Dü's contemporary Zen Arcade, side two of Family Man is characterized by its emotional purity. Ginn reveals himself as a refreshingly and brilliantly free improviser and his playing should serve as an inspiration and lesson to later "punk" bands who value technical proficiency over rockin' out. Overall, Family Man is an essential, if atypical, part of the Black Flag canon and should appeal to fans of Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, or the New York "noise" scene as well.

tags: black flag, family man, 1984, flac,

Black Flag - What The... (2013)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore Punk
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© 2013 SST Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
Greg Ginn was the founder and lead guitarist of Black Flag, and the sole constant member during the band's tumultuous 1977-1986 history. Ginn started Black Flag, he ended it, and ultimately he can do as he pleases with the band's legacy, which is troubling because Ginn doesn't seem to understand what made his band memorable in the first place. At least that's how it feels after listening to What The..., the first album of new Black Flag material since In My Head in 1985. Ginn was seemingly prompted into action by the arrival of FLAG, a band of Black Flag alumni led by Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski that hit the road playing songs from the group's back catalog, and What The... finds Ginn reuniting with Ron Reyes (aka Chavo Pederast), who sang with Black Flag on the 1980 Jealous Again EP and appeared in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization during his brief tenure with the band. Reyes was never one of Black Flag's better vocalists, and he hasn't improved much after more than 30 years; his lumpen bray does little to enliven these songs, and his lyrics are mediocre, curious rants that don't add up to much and bear titles that sound like parodies of punk rock ("Shut Up," "Slow Your Ass Down," "You Gotta Be Joking," "It's So Absurd"). But it's Ginn who gives this project the stamp of authority, and he's the real problem with What The.... Ginn wrote the music and plays guitar, organ, Theremin, and bass here (the latter under the alias Dale Nixon), and he seems to be aiming for the brittle, urgent sound of the band's earliest recordings. But where Black Flag's first sides sounded feral in their intensity and precise in their attack, this music seems clumsy and half-hearted, and Ginn's interplay with new drummer Gregory Amoore feels sluggish and leaden at every turn. What The... isn't a blast of teenage rage like the "Nervous Breakdown" single, a furious call to arms like Damaged, or an exploration of the boundaries of heaviness like My War or Slip It In. Instead, What The... is a set of short, perfunctory punk rock tunes from a man whose interest in the form seems half-hearted at best. (In the spring of 2012, when booked to play Coachella, Ginn told a reporter his interests were "more oriented toward electronic things, I'm not excited about reunion stuff or alternative rock.") What The... runs in circles, briskly but without going anywhere, and it's only on the final tune, a purposefully sloppy bit of bluesy rock called "Off My Shoulders" that Ginn sounds like he's engaged or having fun. The existence of What The... shows that Greg Ginn can still do Black Flag if he pleases, but listening to it shows why he shouldn't.

tags: black flag, what the, 2013, flac,

Visage - Beat Boy (1984)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1984 Polygram Records Inc.
AllMusic Review by Dan LeRoy
The third and final album from new romantic icons Visage found foppish frontman Steve Strange and drummer Rusty Egan almost completely without most of the high-profile sidemen -- like Midge Ure, keyboardist Billy Currie and bassist Barry Adamson -- who'd played such a big role in crafting the group's lush, haunting synth pop. Undeterred, Strange and Egan recruited a new lineup that gave a prominent role to saxophonist Gary Barnacle. But the real shock to fans was the shrieking, metallic guitar that appeared on most cuts, an intrusion that seemed completely at odds with the suave, continental image suggested by past hits like "Fade to Grey" and "The Damned Don't Cry." In fact, the guitar muscle worked surprisingly well when simply overlaid atop the group's familiar dance pulse, as on the title track and "The Promise." But straight-up rockers like the endless "Only the Good (Die Young)" and "Casualty" featured a lethal combination of ham-handed riffs and dumb lyrics, thoroughly alienating the blitz kids who'd once packed the London discos Strange and Egan ran. Those fans made a club hit of the melodic "Love Glove," the closest thing here to Visage's classic sound, but ignored the rest, making Beat Boy a disappointing swan song for the group. Yet despite the uneven songwriting, hindsight showed that Strange's ear for the next big trend hadn't deserted him. The next year, the success of Duran Duran offshoot the Power Station had synth poppers on both sides of the Atlantic scurrying to rough up their dance tracks with heavy guitar. Perhaps in this case, the colorfully costumed Strange -- who later displayed his sartorial sense in a new band, Strange Cruise, before largely bowing out of the music biz -- was just too far in front of the fashion curve.

tags: visage, beat boy, 1984, flac,

Soft Cell - This Last Night In Sodom (1984)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1984 Vertigo Records
Review by AllMusic.com
For those whose exposure to Soft Cell has been limited to the glorious and inescapable "Tainted Love," the duo's 1984 swan song This Last Night in Sodom should feature a warning sticker. Singer Marc Almond and keyboardist Dave Ball don't attempt to recapture the Top 40 magic of that hit here. Instead, Almond completes his transformation into an electro-pop Scott Walker, operatically singing self-conscious and jaded songs like "Mr. Self-Destruct," "Little Rough Rhinestone," and "Meet Murder My Angel," while Ball's keyboards explore an icy, nearly Germanic abstraction (in the Kraftwerk/Neu! sense). Anyone intrigued by the prospect of faux-decadent torch songs in the Piaf/Brel tradition should be interested in this electronic hybrid of the style, but if you're looking for "Tainted Love, Pt. 2," it isn't here.

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Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears (2018)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Dream Pop, Synth Pop
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© 2018 Transgressive Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
I'm All Ears arrived almost exactly two years after Let's Eat Grandma's debut, I, Gemini, but the leap the duo makes on its second album feels like it should've taken much longer. In some ways, it did: Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth wrote and recorded most of I, Gemini when they were in their early teens. Though neither of them had hit the big 2-0 by the time of I'm All Ears' release, the changes they went through between albums couldn't help but be reflected in their music. On their second album, Hollingworth and Walton channel the free-flowing ideas and potential of their debut into more structured but still unpredictable songs that barely contain the sounds and emotions inside them. While I, Gemini sometimes seemed in danger of becoming too insular, on I'm All Ears, Let's Eat Grandma open their doors to a handful of well-chosen producers. SOPHIE's sugary synths and brass-knuckle beats are a perfect fit for the duo's exploration of the soft and tough sides of femininity on "Hot Pink." Later, David Wrench's work with Frank Ocean and Bat for Lashes informs "Falling into Me," which flits effortlessly between arpeggiated synths and acoustic guitars, and lyrics both surreal ("I pave the backstreet with the mist of my brain") and direct ("Wherever we go is the best place"). On these songs and the gorgeously unguarded "It's Not Just Me" -- where the vocal hook "I know you're feeling the same way" captures the blissful surprise of realizing a crush is mutual -- Let's Eat Grandma nod to Lorde and other purveyors of late-2010s synth pop without losing any of their own identity. This is even more apparent on the album's second half, when Walton and Hollingworth abruptly change gears with the swooning rock of "Snakes & Ladders." Their stylistic shifts never feel contrived, especially when the results are as stunning as "Cool & Collected." A proggy nine-minute epic, it weaves together unrequited love and yearning for self-assurance with an evolving rhyme scheme that's as engrossing as its unfurling guitars. By the time Let's Eat Grandma unite the album's different sounds on the exhilarating finale, "Donnie Darko," Hollingworth and Walton prove that a few more years under their collective belt haven't tamed their adventurous spirit -- if anything, the way they challenge expectations on I'm All Ears is more exciting than ever.

tags: lets eat grandma, im all ears, i'm, 2018, flac,

December 23, 2018

The Fixx - Elemental (1998)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1998 CMC International Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
For their comeback effort, Elemental -- released seven years after their final album, Ink -- the Fixx trimmed back their dance influences and returned to the punchy new wave sound that brought them to the top of the charts with Reach the Beach. Of course, new wave had passed into the history books years before Elemental was recorded, and the group was showing signs of age in 1998, but the album sounded surprisingly fresh. Nothing on the album matches such classics as "One Thing Leads to Another" and "Secret Separation," but there are moments showing that the Fixx is actually able to mature gracefully, which many naysayers would have hardly believed at the peak of their popularity.

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The Fixx - 1011 Woodland (1999)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Acoustic Rock
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                ***** 
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© 1999 CMC International Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
A year after launching an artistically successful comeback on CMC International with Elemental, the Fixx returned with 1011 Woodland. Disappointingly, the album followed a typical CMC blueprint -- it delivers a collection of 17 re-recordings. Even worse, these tunes are spread out over two discs when they could have easily fit onto one disc. To the band's credit, they balance the predictable hits ("One Thing Leads to Another," "Saved by Zero," "Secret Separation") with unusual selections from their catalog, and they also give committed performances. But no matter what they do, this is still a padded collection of re-recordings, which even hardcore fans might find a little difficult to accept.

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The Fixx - Want That Life (2003)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2003 Rainman
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee
For 20-something years, the Fixx have always been misunderstood. During the band's well-deserved brush with fame in the '80s, the band were often labeled 'synth pop', even though the main elements of the band's sound have always been Cy Curnin's emotive voice, and Jamie West-Oram's distinctive guitar. Rupert Greenall's keyboards have added atmosphere and feeling to the band's sound, but the Fixx are not (and have never been) a synth pop band. And when other '80s bands are reuniting for 'nostalgia's sake' (ie: big money), the Fixx have always been with us because it's what they love to do. Curnin, West-Oram, Greenall, and drummer Adam Woods started the band 25 years ago, and all four are still creating vital music together in 2003. The Fixx are one of the few bands that can maintain a distinct sound while maturing with every release. Want That Life is their first studio album since 1998's Elemental, and is the most consistent album they've released since the classic Reach the Beach in '83! With new bassist Gary Tibbs (Roxy Music, Code Blue, Adam & The Ants, Vibrators, etc), the band is as mesmerizing as ever. With songs structured around intimate grooves and Curnin's ageless voice, this is an album that draws the listener in, song by song. "Touch," "Are You Satisfied," "No Hollywood Ending," and "Straight 'Round The Bend" are filled with a warm and welcoming vibe (thanks to producer Martin Rex). "You Don't Have To Prove Yourself" and "Taking The Long Way Home" are uplifting slices of pop. The world music rhythms of "We Don't Own The World" only enhance Curnin's anti-war lyrics, creating a track that is both intelligent and infectious. Although there are no sure-fire 'hit singles' on this album, there are ten songs that prove that the Fixx are still an important band. If comparisons are in order, then this is their Avalon (Roxy Music). If you gave up on them years ago (shame on you!), then it's time to see what they are up to today.

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The Fixx - Beautiful Friction (2012) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2012 Kirtland Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
From the return of Dan K. Brown -- the bassist on all their classic efforts from Reach the Beach (1983) to Ink (1991) -- to its George Underwood cover art (the painter whose work adorned Reach the Beach and Phantoms), Beautiful Friction is a return to form for the Fixx, the synth-pop-but-almost-prog-rock group who made socially aware angst fly up the charts in the '80s with "Red Skies," "One Thing Leads to Another," and "Saved by Zero." This reunion effort is without a surefire hit like those, and at first listen, it is a bit light on hooks, but lead single "Anyone Else" is strong enough to beckon any longtime fan's return, and the skeletal, funky workout called "Girl with No Ceiling" brings to mind the Phantoms era -- kinetic in an "Are We Ourselves" style. While that’s all good news, the real surprise here is how Beautiful Friction builds, from the first half's set of politically minded, Occupy Movement-admiring prog for the people, to the second half's blast of the Fixx as quirky new wave attack unit, featuring a whip-smart guitarist (Jamie West-Oram), a keyboard whiz (Rupert Greenall), a propelling drummer (Adam Woods), and a reliable, Bill Wyman-esque bassist (Brown). From the whirlwind "Follow That Cab" to the slow-rolling, life-affirming closer "Small Thoughts," vocalist Cy Curnin leads the band on something akin to a mini-Fixx concert that's alive and familiar in feel, even when the material is new. Repeat listens make that initial uphill climb a richer, more purposeful experience, and with everything feeling vital past the halfway point, Beautiful Friction is a win-WIN for fans.

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December 22, 2018

GG Allin - Always Was, Is & Always Shall Be (1980)

*First pressing on CD. Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore Punk, Punk Rock
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© 1980-1995 Holycon Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
G.G. Allin's debut album is a raging, disturbingly sincere testament to misogyny; he puts on a virtual clinic demonstrating the word's definition. Allin views women as mindless instruments of gratification with irritating desires like interaction. (In "Automatic," he sings "Don't go playing with me emotionally/Or I will make you bleed internally"). His gender politics are discussed on nearly every track, which makes the mediocre girl group-style backing vocals on "Cheri Love Affair" seem all the more out of place. Allin is backed by a competent band playing Stooges-style riffs, and he himself is sometimes tuneful; this is enough to make the songs some of his best musical material. Amazingly enough, the violent hatred, sexual and psychological degradation, and staggering stupidity only hint at the heights (or depths) Allin would reach later.

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