A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Friday, September 19, 2003

Some capsule reviews of recent purchases:

Elbow/Cast Of Thousands (V2 Records): I've been waiting a while for this..ever since getting Asleep In The Back, and their uber-indie EP for Any Day Now. Sure, the sound is about the same..but that's about what I expected (secretly--I was hoping they'd go even more prog, and break out mellotrons and lengthy solos..ah well..). Ribcage, the opening track, is as good as anything they've done..and Not A Job also excels. A couple tracks drag for a bit--tempo-wise, but that's a small complaint. See them live, and everything will fall into place. They survive the sophomore slump admirably!

Ween/qUEBEC (Sanctuary Records): Deaner and Gener are back..after the somewhat disappointing "White Pepper", released in 2000. Andrew Weiss, the producer behind "God Ween Satan", "The Pod" and "The Mollusk" joins the madness again...and the result sounds like....well, Ween. Zoloft is an instant classic ("Give me that Z-o-loft..suckin' 'em down, I'm a happy man..")..Among His Tribe features a droney, psychedelic jam that could be a Floyd out-take from "Obscured By Clouds"--if you were positive they weren't goofing around, which I'm not, but it's Ween after all. Maybe being freed from their major-label contract gave them the courage to get really weird again. I'm not sure what it was, but listening to "qUEBEC" is like meeting up with a friend you haven't seen in a while--a bit awkward at first, but leaving you with a good feeling.

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci/Sleep/Holiday (Sanctuary Records) The Welsh pop-folksters have also moved to Sanctuary, from Beggars Banquet/Mantra. Their first album for the label sounds...pretty much like the last three or four. Not that I'm complaining *too* much, mind you...but the breezy folk-rock is starting to become a bit boring. I keep hoping for a little of the old psych weirdness to pop back in (as on "Hair Like Monkey, Teeth Like Dog" on "Spanish Dance Troupe"), but it's just Euros Childs' love laments and the rest of the group providing their usual solid backup (especially Megan Childs' fiddle-playing and vocals). I guess John Lawrence was the key instigator for the prog/psych side of the group--and his leaving left the band open to evolve into Childs' folkie pastoral vision. They're still better than most groups out there--but "Sleep/Holiday" leaves something to be desired.

Shack/Here's Tom With The Weather (North Records) I was surprised to see this in the shop in Oxford. I was thinking Shack had split for good, since their last full-length was "H.M.S. Fable" in 1999--perhaps amongst rumours of heroin addcition. But no, these Liverpudlian janglers have a new album out and everything. The band's nucleus is still brothers John and Michael Head, and they're still serving up nice jangle-pop melodies which anchor the darkness in their lyrics. They've also moved to a small label--since the majors seem to be pre-occupied with boy/girl bubblegum bands and singers, or crap-metal garbage. It's good to have these boys back..I hope it isn't another four years between records for them.

Mike Oldfield/Tubular 2003 (Warner Brothers UK) You're probably amongst the skeptical (like My Dearest Pixie) who're thinking "Again?" and I wouldn't blame you...not that much, anyway. If you're an Oldfield freek, though...you knew this was coming. I didn't, until I was in England--and saw it in the shop. Oldfield returns to his bread and butter...the record that put him on the map, way back in 1973. It is the closest to the original "Bells" than either "..Bells 2" (1992)..or "Bells III" (1998). He basically hunkered down in his studio and, using the most state-of-the-art gear, re-recorded the two suites that comprise the album. For the "narrator" role toward the end of "Tubular Bells--Part One"..the honour is given this time to John Cleese (of Monty Python and "Fawlty Towers" fame), who bites into the role with dramatic aplomb. I can't say it's an improvement on the original, but the music achieves a high sheen, which I bet Oldfield was hoping for at The Manor all those years ago.