The big ‘indie’ release this week is Garbage‘s Bleed Like Me and after a major PR assault, with ‘not too threateningly sexy sex symbol for geeks’ Shirley Manson even doing a photoshoot disguised as an interview (geeks can keep the kleenex in the box, there’s no pictures in the online article) for The Guardian’s fashion pages, Garbage are clearly hoping to raise their profile back to the level it was in those heady early days.
The Independent describes the situation in a somewhat more negative manner: “One suspects this is crunch time for Garbage, the group’s continued existence probably dependent on the performance of Bleed Like Me.” Alas, mediocre reviews abound, with The Independent starting off positively enough – “Manson turns on the perverse charm that initially set her apart, playing up to her distinctive, slightly dangerous appeal” – but then giving a 3 star review.
Gigwise.com from general impressions, like to be positive if at all possible, so when they say the album is “safe if unspectacular” (3 stars) it almost comes across as “this is an absolute steaming pile of turd”. But they probably really just meant to give an average review so we’ll take it at face value.
The Guardian is complimentary about the delivery but not the material: “While Manson’s changeling vocals are always worth listening to, Garbage’s songs often aren’t.” Yet another 3 stars to add to the scoreboard.
Oh, but what’s this? A review that awards more than the seemingly-obligatory 3 stars? “There’s always room for a good band with a good album, and that’s exactly what Garbage have produced,” says
This Is Fake DIY. Sounds great, what mark do you give it? Wait for it, it’s… 3.5 stars. Tsk. Enough with the half-marks. Either move to a marks-out-of-ten system or stick to integers, you indecisive indolents.
To use the blogging vernacular, ‘after the jump’, we tell you about reactions to Fischerspooner and Do Me Bad Things.
Here’s the template for a review of Fischerspooner‘s Odyssey. Simply mention:
1. difficult second album (‘sophomore’ is also acceptable, indeed encouraged)
2. weight of expectation, both previously and now
3. underperforming debut album
4. previous position as saviours of electronic pop
5. Scissor Sisters sneaking past them on the blindside to claim mainstream success.
This Is Fake DIY likes Odyssey, awarding 4 stars in a review that may or may not end in deliberate innuendo: “If the second album is the hardest, this is one band who have played a blinder. Whether anyone will actually notice remains to be seen, but we can’t imagine Fischerspooner going down quietly.”
Playlouder‘s review reads as if the author has partaken in some sort of wager involving cramming as many cliches as possible into the text. “This is the most difficult Difficult Second Album ever,” is followed by “an electro-pop pairing par excellence, and it’s this quality more than any other that overwhelms their sophomore endeavour,” which is then followed by a marvellously unwieldy and unnecessary reference to ‘slightly edgy’ comedy: “Don’t leave them to the Nathan Barleys of the world”. Oh, it’s so easy to mock. So we will. Oh, Playlouder’s overall opinion is that the album is “A wondrous re-emergence” and gives 4.5 out of 5. Which in whole numbers is 9 out of 10. Or 90% (which used to equate to a ‘Gold Medal’ in ancient Commodore 64 game-reviewing mag, Zzap!64).
Drowned In Sound are less enthusiastic than the previous two sites mentioned and decide to get on our tits too, with a 3.5 out of 5 review. “Their debut was generally acknowledged to contain several complete duffers, but Odyssey has no such problem”
The Observer is always a favourite with us. They eschew number ratings altogether in their reviews, which we think is great, because we happen to think giving a rating to music is tantamount to saying it can be objectively measured as if reviewing was a science. Jumping off our high horse we can tell you that The Observer thought: “Odyssey, then, is a better album than Number 1. The latter’s anorexic fuck-you digitals have been replaced by lusher sounds, including real instruments and analogue synthesisers.” For those of you put off by Old Fischerspooner’s memorable-if-hatstand appearances on Top of the Pops or their electronic heart (or lack of it) The Observer reckons that “there is now a heart beating audibly beneath Fischerspooner’s mirror-play of surfaces, and a lot more going on with them than mere costume drama.”
Sister paper The Guardian takes a negative view, though. “Fischerspooner’s transition from cocky, wig-wearing provocateurs has a price. Their first album, more art than pop, had an admirable conceptual purity. Now that they’re a proper band after all, they turn out to be a rather ordinary one.” They give a rating, but at least it’s a whole number (and it’s a magic one, too): 3.
And for those of you who didn’t quite understand that unwieldy description, Playlouder handily explains: “Historians of rock journalism will know that the NME’s Charles Shaar Murray once famously reviewed the album ‘Yes’ by the crap hippy band Yes with just one word – “No.” So I suppose I could have reviewed this with just ‘yes’. Fuck, I wish I thought of that 909 words back.” Anyone else who read the preceding 909 words of that Playlouder review will feel the same. Of course, we’ve given you the link to the review, but it’s not a great review (in terms of reading pleasure rather than rating for DMBT) and we urge you to spend some precious seconds of your life doing something more useful, like poking your eyes out with a stick. Oh, the record gets 3.5. Goddammit, another half-measure.
The Guardian describes the eclectic nature of the album as “rifling through genres like a burglar goes through drawers.” (we can’t help thinking the Croydon connection has played at least a subliminal role in that simile) and decides that “The speed of their metamorphoses – at times they try out a new genre every three seconds – makes for baffling listening”. 2 stars.
Gigwise.com don’t do any favours to DMBT with their review, not in our eyes anyway. “With their debut Album ‘Yes!’ this oddball South London collective have encapsulated the glam of David Bowie, the fun of The Darkness and the funk of Jamiroquai.” Gigwise, you had us at David Bowie… then lost us with The Darkness and had us sprinting away at Jamiroquai. Those comparisons notwithstanding, the review concludes that this is “a blinder of a debut which is loud, impressive, sometimes sexy and most of all, fun.” in awarding 4 out of 5.
And finally, brief mentions for VHS or Beta – Night On Fire and I Am Kloot – Gods and Monsters. We couldn’t find any (interesting) reviews for the latter, and only dug up this last one for the former:
Gigwise.com – “VHS Or Beta won’t be to everyone’s taste but this is a band that should be heard because they offer up something different and have the confidence to do so.” 3 stars