Posts Tagged ‘ali campbell’

Who? Howl Griff

Title: The Hum
Recordiau Dockrad
Tell me more:
Their debut, self-titled, album was recorded entirely in Welsh, something the likes of Super Furry animals have done. This one, though, is entirely in English, eliciting cries of ‘sell-out’ from Ynys Mon to Chepstow and in indie havens outwith the borders of Cymru.
The Lowdown:
Like the Super Furries, Howl Griff sound like they’ve listened to plenty of LSD-fuelled psychedelia from 1967, before catching an excerpt of the 1990s post-rave scene. It’s a curious mash-up when these interests collide, especially when fused with indie or rock. A single, Crash and Burn, is a cosmic outpouring of twee, delirious pop, reminiscent of a lovely Canadian bunch called Cinderpop and shares a sense of the surreal with The Coral. And, like those scousers, Howl Griff tell stories of real characters, such as a lady who “can help you in the dark of night and improve your memory”, on Jean’s Therapy. Meanwhile, on Uduhudu, spirits are raised from the dead in a spangly, manic and effervescent shanty. Glorious, bonkers stuff only the British can do, and the Welsh do best for some reason.



Who? Ali Campbell

Title: Great British Songs
Tell me more:
Wherein Campbell records standards by the Beatles and the Stones, the Kinks and the Hollies, Rod the Mod and Free, among others. Stop laughing at the back.
The Lowdown:
How can you go wrong with a release from the UB40 frontman? Well, in lots of ways actually. His previous solo album, Flying High, crash landed in a cesspit, and I described it as dazzlingly inept, although Phil Collins fans would like it.
So maybe I was up for another fight when this arrived. Campbell clearly loves these songs and adds a touch of reggae. This works best on Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug, although his deadpan vocal mannerism fails to convey the risque nature of the original. Nevertheless his versions of The Hollies’ Carrie Ann and Rod Stewart’s You Wear It Well are excellent, bringing a new viewpoint to the songs, in fact the version of the latter is vastly superior to Stewart’s. Great British Songs settles for the familiar (Beatles, Stones, Hollies et al) and is imbedded with a smug self-satisfaction, that of good production over heartfelt feeling but I also appreciated that he was given a fresh take on these songs, while many stars just go though the motions with covers.
Anything else? In 1980 Campbell sang a eulogy to civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King. In 2009, he recorded a Britney Spears song.


Who? Minuit

Title: Dance Music Will Tear Us Apart
Tell me more:
Their track record goes back to 1998 with the guitar-centric Sonic Experience EP, though their debut album, The 88, came out in 2003. The name is pronounced min-wee and is French for midnight.
The Lowdown:
Reviewing remix albums is like watching a film adaption of a classic novel: you’re approaching virtually from a blind spot. In this case, while I have not heard a Minuit album, I have heard some of their trip-folk on Kiwi FM. It sounds like a remix album, or rather a six-track mini-album, in that it has plenty of experimentation and ideas. The techo-heads have essentially stripped down the basic Minuit sound, and transported it onto a 1998 dancefloor. Ruth Carr has a highly evocative voice, but it is almost obsolete on say, Suicide. Carr’s vocal duties often elevates a Minuit track from drabness to beauty, and the remixers, Gimme a C! and Funknslocuts, generally realise this. The music is sometimes tantalisingly endearing, sometimes infuriatingly irrelevant, but Carr remains the focus.

Anything else? Gimme a C! and Funknslocuts are aka Paul Dodge and Ryan Beehre respectively, the other members of Minuit.


Who? Bilders

Title: Mean Time
Powertool Records
Tell me more:
Bilders (no honorific, and no U) IS Bill Direen, a Christchurch artist who has made countless albums over the years and has released this at the same time as another album, Mindful. From 1980 Bilders were a proto-punk band and although, like The Fall, many have come and gone, Direen remains it’s driver.
The Lowdown:
This is a kind of music that is both minimalist and satisfying. I’ve never viewed those words as compatible in an album, but, like John Cale when he relaunched his career in the early and mid-zeroes, this works. Direen has a beautifully languid voice which easily draws you in, like a grandfather telling a tale of ghosts and ghoulies. I Think We’ll Be All Right is essentially Direen talking, attempting to tell a story, even taking a second bite at the opening sentence. There isn’t a great deal to it but it nevertheless, leaves you wanting another chorus or two.

And, like Cale, Direen has a knack of formulating atmospheric and intelligent songs, notably so on Byron & Eve, six minutes of beauty, steeped in classical history,”The severed head of Orpheus/ floating down from Thrace/ The rest of his belongings/ on a sexless ass.” I may have overdone the Cale comparisons, but it’s an obvious one, with strains of the Velvet Underground, in such songs as Four Long Years, although Bilders are very much a distinct outfit with Direen’s vocals and ideas bleeding heavily into the make.
Anything else? Direen says Mean Time is a tribute to the characters and personalities of the emerging independent scene in Christchurch in the late 70s/ early 80s.

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Who? The New York Dolls

Title: ‘Cause I Sez So

Tell me more: They go into hibernation for 300 years then we get two albums in three years and Morrissey gets to cream his pants once more. The Dolls mattered in 1972/ 73, one of the few shining lights in a darkly-lit era. A couple of band members passed onto the great gig in the sky but David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain and Arthur Kane made a surprise comeback, in 2004, at Morrissey’s request.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Nothing will surpass 1973’s The New York Dolls, nor would you expect it to. But there’s sparks of ingenuity and re-ignited embers of talent, enthusiasm and pure rock und roll. There’s nothing too clever, nor experimental, on ‘Cause I Sez So, and at times it does sound laboured but the Dolls were too good to die and prove that there’s life in the old dogs yet.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? There is either a complete lack of competition around just now that this sounds pretty good, or we have to admit that 25 years out of the loop hasn’t diminished the Doll’s ability to keep the flame alive.

lowe 2


Who? Nick Lowe

Title: The Brentford Trilogy
Proper records

Tell me more: As you might be able to determine from the title, there are three albums, (The Impossible Bird, Dig My Mood and The Convincer) all enclosed in a case with a wee booklet. Released between 1994 and 2001, the period when Lowe’s hair began to fade to the now-famous white and the public had all but forgotten a chap who was on Stiff Records in the 1970s during the punk wars.

Why the fek should I listen to this? A couple of years ago, in one of those inumerable free CDs you get with the UK music mags that are sold for inflated prices overseas, was a track called In The Club from Lowe’s At My Age. The mag has long been recycled and the CD offloaded to a charity shop but I got hold of the album and it remains in the must-listen-to-this-when-I-can pile, for the simple fact it’s bloody good.

These three albums are of similar vein, songs about man’s naivety, of failed Christians, faithless lovers and other tales of human frailty. The Convincer is the best of the three.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Is that the sound of country and western I hear every now and again? Please say no.

Trivia: Some tracks were recorded in a community hall, others at a former cinema in Brentford, a nondescript suburb of south-west London. Curtis Stigers is a big fan, and covered You Inspire Me, from Dig My Mood.



Who? Ali Campbell

Title: Flying High
Guilty Party:

Tell me more: The former UB40 frontman’s third solo album. Are the Brummies still together? Does anyone care?

Should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? A solo career will either: a) let loose the inner creative fire long constrained by a corporate monolith or b) reveal who were the real talents in the band were. Campbell is out of his depth really. This is dazzlingly inept. But at least the record label issues a warning on the cover: “features Craig David, Shaggy, Sway, Lady Saw, Gentleman and Danny K.”

Or maybe I’ll like this: Hell, you might. You might also be one of those people who bought Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required.

Trivia: In 1980 Campbell sang a eulogy to civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King. In 2009, he’s doing a Britney Spears song.



Who? Kasabian

Title: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Tell me more: Kasabian provided, on their self-titled debut from 2004, just what the music industry needed: a clutch of songs that appeared to have lives of their own, the seeds of a sound that would once have been the basis of rave, centuries ago. It was a startling debut, of epic, neo-dancey tunes, that was eclipsed by follow-up Empire two years later. Since then … bugger all, even though West Ryder began to form in late 2007.

Why the fek should I listen to this? In an age when British music seems lost in a sea of its own importance, Kasabian are one of the highlights; like Doves or Super Furry Animals they are their own men, their albums distinctive. West Ryder is a tricky one, almost a concept album, the would-be soundtrack to a would-be film set in a 19th century asylum in the Yorkshire Moors. It’s entertained my ears just three times now. Enough to appreciate it’s artistic worth, but not enough to truly feel what it’s all really about.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Oh dear, some reviewers haven’t been too kind at all.

Trivia: The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding appears as a vampire in the video for Vlad the Impaler.




Attic Dweller

Icicle Works


Who? The Icicle Works

Title: The Icicle Works (1984)
Situation Two

Tell me more: Indie Scousers from the mid-80s. Mainly forgotten now but not by this old fucker. Ian McNabb, Chris Layhe and Chris Sharrock were the hardest-edged band since Killing Joke. Remastered and re-issued in October 2006 without any outtakes or b-sides to soil it. I may well have bought this on vinyl in a sale then got rid of it in a clear-out along with a Goodbye Mr MacKenzie album.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Listening to The Icicle Works once again makes me realise how stoopid I was do that, but hell, I probably needed to do a trade-in for a Charlatans cassette. I suspect that decision was partly down to my introduction to the band – the second album, For The Small Price of a Bicycle, released 18 months later, and one of the 80s hidden gems.

The debut contains Love Is A Wonderful Colour, which got into the top 20 of the UK charts, at a time those charts were a closed shop to the Gods of money and synths, with only the odd shabbily-dressed indie outfit being allowed through the hallowed doors to Top of the Pops and the Radio 1 playlist.

The Icicle Works shared a love of the Big Music, as the Waterboys called it, with bands like the Cult, the Bunnymen, et al, acts who took the three-minute pop song, and buried it in an avalanche of guitars and bass.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? You could, but make sure it’s made of marshmallow.

Trivia: Sharrock was later a member of The La’s.


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