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Popular Music - Part 30 - February, 2000

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"One Two Blow"

Various Artists

25 Records; 25FO23

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

25 Records are back on track with their latest offering, showcasing 18 young new acts appearing on "One Two Blow". I had listened well past the mid-point and thought, "There hasn't been a bad track yet". Any album with 10 or more decent tracks has to be a well-put-together piece of work.

At a first playing of the album, the standard of singing is way ahead of that on "Olive's Army", the previous selection from 25 Records. Getting deeper into it, and gaining some familiarity with the songs, I can tell that they are also well written and produced. I have a particular favorite track in number 12 by The Hamptons: "She Couldn't Make The Stretch Marks Tan". With a reference to 20-somethings 'problems', the light-hearted treatment comes somewhere between The Beach Boys and Dire Straits (remember "Twisting By The Pool"?). It sounds very authentic too.

A couple of tracks earned the 'skip' command on my player: Idiot Bear with "Easter Island" started off promisingly but was let down by over-ambitious drumming, and The Marked with "Evolver" had no appeal for me. It was altogether too rough and unstructured. Both of these tracks are towards the end of the album, but what a pick-up we get from track 19, "Now Is The Time" by Malice In Wonderland. A slight sound of the sadly missed Thin Lizzie about them, but it is still fresh and enjoyable. On this track, I can take the slightly disjointed drumming. It all just shows what a multi-faceted issue it is putting together a good track - or indeed a whole album. "One Two Blow" represents some of the best indie-rock I've heard recently.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Blaze: Prey For Me

2. Osmosis: Lifeline

3. Firedaze: End Of The Light

4. Stoker: Girl In A Flower Shop

5. Stoker: Galaxy Base Spaziale

6. Addano: I Haven't Told Her Yet

7. Red Ash & The Love Commandos: Build

8. Smiler: Love Me Always

9. Dan-T's Inferno: Eyelinerrefinery

10. Plastik: Blow-up

11. Deckchair: What Did I Do To You?

12. The Hamptons: She Couldn't Make The Stretch Marks Tan

13. Jeg: You'll Never Be Mine

14. Jeg: Home Alone

15. Idiot Bear: Easter Island

16. Round Wound: Cosy

17. The Marked: Evolver

18. Drowning Boats: Absolute Bliss

19. Malice In Wonderland: Now Is The Time

20. Parkstone Dub Foundation: Ducking And Diving

- GV -

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"Terror Twilight"

Pavement

Domino; WIGCD66

Performance: Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

To say I am disappointed with "Terror Twilight" by Pavement would be an understatement. Not only (or should I say "No' only" - see later) was the expectation high, based upon comments from others who had already sampled the album, but also I can tell it could have been so much better. What a waste.

There are many well-executed good ideas on the CD, and the instrumentation has, in general, a clean edge which could well be adopted by their contemporaries. Little use is made of the fuzz effect. This of course exposes the players to close scrutiny by the listeners and is found to be wanting in certain areas. Can a musician really start a studio session with a guitar noticeably out of tune? Apparently so.

With a wall of sound and vocals set back in the mix, there is plenty of scope for disguising inadequacies in the diction. Maybe even build the lyric from throw-away meaningless lines. But Pavement has not adopted this approach and one must assume that the vocals sound exactly as they have planned. To that I have to say, "'Oh dear.". Just because part of the album was recorded in London does not necessitate the use of the local dialect - dropping the letter 't' at the end of a word when the next starts with a vowel. Not only is this an annoying trait, it also destroys the flow in the vocal and distracts too much from the meaning in the songs.

I heard enough in the album to want more. Not from the current offering, no. But I shall keep an open mind and open eyes for a subsequent release in the hope that improvements will have been made such that I can make a recommendation to buy. Sadly, not with this one.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Spit On A Stranger

2. Folk Jam

3. You Are A Light

4. Cream Of Gold

5. Major Leagues

6. Platform Blues

7. Ann Don't Cry

8. Billie

9. Speak, See, Remember

10. The Hexx

- GV -

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"Into the Red"

Paul McNulty

Chartstuff; CSA 02

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

I sometimes need a 'system reset' after a few sessions of CD reviewing. "Out Of The Blue" by the Electric Light Orchestra is often the chosen work to clear my head in preparation for the next batch of new releases. So when I heard that an 'unknown' (to me), Paul McNulty, had cut his own version of said album, I just had to get a copy.

The songs have been stripped-down in their instrumentation but enhanced, if anything, in the vocals. By voice multi-tracking, Paul has managed to capture not only all the vocal harmonies of the original ELO version, but also many of the instrumental themes otherwise missed by only using, say, an acoustic guitar or piano.

The ultimate target for this treatment is "Across The Border". Paul has noted and enlarged upon the similarities that exist between this track and "Heroes And Villains" by the Beach Boys - one of my own favorite tracks by them. The close-harmony treatment works extremely well, and the results of the hard work are evident. Some of the high notes are a bit of a stretch for Paul. This disappointed me at a first hearing, but later on, I found it hardly mattered. I did feel, though, that the album was rather running out of stream from the end of "Steppin' Out". Now that track shows a very brave start. It's a single a capella vocal, joined later by a simple harmonium accompaniment that really works well. The "Concerto For A Rainy Day", tracks 11, 12, 13 and 14, are not made much of - in fact not even labeled as such. And it's from about this point that Paul sounded like he was getting tired; he was running out of ideas.

But then "The Whale" blasts in with a 'layered' version - just like playing the mixer desk as a musical instrument with faders instead of keys. It serves as almost a summary of the entire album. It is done with wit, and with respect for the originals. But then again, it just goes to show how excellent songs stand up to being given a different treatment. What's next, Paul? "Dark Side Of The Moon"? - You think I'm joking . . . .

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Into The Red

2. Turn To Stone

3. It's Over

4. Sweet Talking Woman

5. Across The Borde

6. Night In The City

7. Starlight

8. Jungle

9. Believe Me Now

10. Steppin' Out

11. Standin' In The Rain

12. Big Wheels

13. Summer And Lightning

14. Mr. Blue Sky

15. Sweet Is The Night

16. The Whale

17. Birmingham Blues

18. Wild West Hero

 - GV -



Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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