Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review 16: Monkey in the moon – this one’s made for you

Alphaville_Salvation

Salvation
Alphaville
Nominated by Wess Hattingh

This tasty slice of synth pop almost made me miss my change on the tube. I was in the zone, bopping away, and things just got better – all the people crowding the carriage suddenly disappeared! A wave of surprised delight went through my mind, before I realised we were at Finsbury Park and I had to follow most of them quickly onto the Piccadilly Line.

Big in Japan is the only Alphaville song I’m familiar with, their classic dancing-round-the-handbags debut from 1984. Salvation seems quite different – less catchy, less formulaic and a lot weirder, in a nice way. It has a gently hypnotizing quality, with a mix of chilled synth music and earnest vocals that remind me of Brian Wilson (the former Beach Boy who went rogue).

And the lyrics are bizarre, while making a strange musical sense.

Monkey in the Moon is the best. I can’t work it out, but ‘it’s made for you’ and there’s a rabbit involved too.

Pandora’s Lullaby: ‘And when the subway brakes to preserve some suicidal bee
I stop to breathe for a while. Maybe it was me’. Maybe it was…

Salvation made me happily oblivious to Caledonian Road, Holloway Road and Arsenal. It is therefore great!

(Like the music, the cover art  is also great but inexplicably symbolic. The cross, I get, the red motif means something (or nothing) and the greyhound – faith, loyalty? Purple fabric? It’s the pile of plates on the inside cover that  stumps me.)

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Review 11: A bit of sweet relief

Searching For Sugar Man (Orange)

Searching for Sugar Man
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Nominated by Jackie O’Dea

Searching for Sugar Man did what music is meant to do, it distracted me when I couldn’t sleep last night. I put it on at 2am thinking (hoping) I’d nod off by the third track, but I heard it through to the end.

Though I didn’t concentrate enough, or check track titles, I can say Sixto Rodriguez, the Sugar Man of the title, is a very good down-to-earth singer of some very good down-to-earth songs. I think I can imagine why they appealed in South Africa, when they did. They’ve got some gravitas, but also always a catchy hook, a bit of melody that makes you sing along. A bit of joy in the darkness?

I want to see the film now.

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Review 10: Royal Blood – there’s only two of them!

Royal_Blood

Royal Blood
Royal Blood
Nominated by Ben Mellor

Tenth of September,  10th review, my 43rd birthday, and what a brilliant album to celebrate with. Pounding real rock with big beats, damn good guitar riffs, and a smouldering vocal.

Genre? Garage rock, grunge, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Nirvana, Muse? Just really good in their own right?

‘Nothing better to do
When I’m stuck on you
And still I’m here
Trying to figure it out’

And there’s only two of them pumping it out.  Bassist and singer Ben Kerr and drummer Mike Thatcher got together last year and were one of 15 bands on the BBC Sound of 2014 playlist. This was the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years and made it to number 1. There isn’t a weak track.

What can I say? Its my birthday, I had Prosecco with my breakfast, so I rock and so do Royal Blood. Buy, download, listen!

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Review 9: Murmurations

REM_Murmur

Murmur
R.E.M
Nominated by Martin Carroll

Another debut album, that’s the third this month. I don’t think I need to worry about being careful with R.E.M’s feelings though – this was where 85 million album sales began.

R.E.M take me back a bit further than Hunky Dory. My friend this time, at 6th form college, was considerably more fierce. She always wore the same jumper, albeit an expensive, designer jumper, and R.E.M were on her revisionist ‘must listen’ list of bands, along with Husker Du and Sonic Youth. She was so disappointed when the Georgia band hit the mainstream with Green.

Happily for this review, I’ve no memories of enforced appreciation of Murmur, and come to it fresh. And happily for me, I loved it.

It’s a great listen, with a range of interesting and mature songs. I need to accept that I can’t understand what Michael Stipe is singing. There’s the odd word that leaps out clearly – often the track’s title – Radio Free Europe… Catapult… ‘Standing too soon, shoulders high in the room’ … which I was really pleased I worked out (and what an awkward image that creates).

If you read the lyrics, they make wonderful clever sense, but I wonder how many times I’d need to listen to hear them.

But that really doesn’t matter – its a great soundscape, you get the feeling of the song and can just sing along, maybe with the wrong words. Has every R.E.M fan got a different version of each song? ‘But I thought it said…?’ It could come to blows.

But, debut or not, there’s no damning with faint praise for Murmur. An auspicious beginning for a great band.

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Review 7: Living on solid air

Solid_air

Solid Air
John Martyn
Nominated by Clive Featherstone

You shouldn’t listen to Solid Air while you’re doing the ironing. It demands your full attention, and it definitely improves after a glass of wine.

This folk-jazz album is one of the most critically acclaimed British records of the early 1970s and the guitar playing is fantastic, but I struggled to really enjoy it as a whole, even after the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Can I say it was good, but that I didn’t really like it?

Let’s be clear – it’s not him, it’s me. He’s an electrifying guitarist and singer, who blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues. The recorder was the peak of my musical accomplishment. What do I know?

I wanted to shout ‘stop mumbling!’.  I got annoyed when a well-formed song dissolved into a dubby free-form … something. I almost really enjoyed a lot of it – much of the music was brilliant – but the vocals kept tripping me up. Where are you going? Come back, that was good!

I always like to know where the exits are, and I guess I like to know where songs are going too. This album needs more time, and probably more red wine, to reveal its form and fire escapes to me. I’d recommend you try it.

As an aside, the album cover is an example of schlieren photography, which demonstrates the ‘solid’ nature of air. I think I can grasp that.

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