Looks like the e-gremlins got to the MMR yesterday afternoon and ate most of it. We're taking a guess they don't like Aled Jones or perhaps they started at the bottom and never quite made it to Rachel. So we've cobbled together what remained undigested and re-posted this morning. As to what you've missed, well you'll just have to guess but we did have a pop at Charlotte Church. Three reviewers, three albums of the week and two of them are obvioulsy wrong...
Rachel Stevens – Come And Get It (Polydor)
Rachel Stevens may not be at the forefront of your minds when determining which of this week’s new releases will find it’s way into your shopping basket, but cast aside pop snobberies. See this album for what it is, a brilliant collection of sophisticated dancefloor songs and quite frankly, one of the most stunning albums of the year.
Straight from the demise of teen favourites S Club, Rachel was rushed into the studio and produced the dismal debut solo album Funky Dory. While initially raising hopes of a new pop princess with Sweet Dreams (My LA Ex), these were swiftly quashed by the amount of mediocre filler tracks the album contained.
Come and Get It comes from a totally different world. Since the Goldfrapp-sounding and Richard X produced ‘Some Girls’ Rachel has been banging out some brilliant singles (yes just let’s forget ‘More More More’ shall we?) all of which are included on this album. From the straight talking Negotiate with Love, the 90s raving So Good and latest slutty stomper I Said Never Again (But Here We Are), she effortlessly produces pop brilliance across a range of styles.
Richard X appears for the 2nd time on the album on the brooding Crazy Boys which although not as lyrically suggestive as Some Girls certainly does not disappoint. There are hints of Kylie on the twinkly I Will Be There, and the sophisticated final track Dumb Dumb(sadly wasted as ISNA’s b-side) shows quite how far Rachel has come in the last 2 years.
Nearly every track on the album could be a single, with Secret Garden and the Cure sampling All About Me standing as probably the weakest tracks. Come and Get It is, however, what pop music should sound like in 2005. Single sales haven’t so far lived up to expectations, but those who are casting Rachel off as uninteresting and mediocre are shooting themselves in the foot by missing out on one of the best pop albums of recent times. (TK)
The Eighteenth Day of May - The Eighteenth Day of May (Hannibal)
The strongest contenders in the (for want of a better term) 'new folk revival' scene, The Eighteenth Day of May follow their excellent double-A single with an album that proves that the musical dexterity demonstrated on that gorgeous slice of vinyl was no fluke.
The Highest Tree and Sir Casey Jones both make it onto the eponymous debut and do a good job of typifying the Day's sound; this is undeniably a folksy album but the melodies and instrumental backing betray a wider range of reference. Lady Margaret, for example, follows a familiar folk template with a oft-repeated melody which could have easily fallen into torpor were it not for the deft way the May pick up the song throughout its near seven minutes length, culminating in some backwards tracking that, along with the use of the sitar, recall The Beatles. (Final track The Mandrake Screams repeats the trick more overtly, just in case you weren't paying attention.) The sitar makes an appearance on a couple of other tracks, suggesting that the May aren't just using it as a novelty instrument, a neat reflection of the way that the May, whilst acknowledging roots in the folk canon, aren't just experimenting with incorporating other influences.
Allison Brice's vocals are a constant delight. As we've mentioned before, there's more than a hint of Kirsty MacColl in the delivery; possessing a sweet softness, our only complaint would be that her voice is sometimes too shy in the mix. On Deed I Do, Brice's voice and the song's melody bring to mind Madder Rose. Ben Phillipson's lead vocals on the excellent Monday Morning's No Good Coming Down, the most 'country' track here, and Flowers of the Forest provides a neat contrast, as does Richard Olson's on the still insanely-catchy Sir Casey Jones, a song that had taken months to eradicate from 'earworm' status until this album popped through our letterbox and put it straight back in there.
By turns indie, poppy and psychedelic, and obviously folk in influence, this is probably a time to forget labels and genres and just revel in the fact that The Eighteenth Day of May have made an engaging album that is the sound of an excellent band we expect to get even better. An album to remind us that there's more to life than the XFM playlist and a well-deserved Londonist Album of the Week. (K)
The Eighteenth Day will also be special surprise (oops) guests at tomorrow night's Health And Happiness at the Social on Little Portland Street, with Glasgow's Lucky Luke also appearing. It would be a good thing if you went.
My Morning Jacket - Z BMG
It was 2003's It Still Moves that brought Jim James's band of bearded desperados, My Morning Jacket, to greater public acclaim, showcasing the Kentucky band's solid grasp of psychadelic Americana. Two years on they've not just raised the bar but gone and built themselves a whole new ballpark at which the likes of The Bees, The Stills and The Earlies can lay dutiful reverence.
One of the first things that hits you about this record is that it's loud. Even listening to Z on NME's new fangled and really annoying media player it's rattling our little lap top speakers like they were Marshalls. This is Mount Rushmore huge production, lovingly bombastic echoes full of James's effects driven soulful vocals and huge 70s guitar riffs. Damn, The Darkness should be taking notes from these guys.
Building from the Neil Young on serious mushrooms bedrock of previous albums they've woven a host of influences into their songs to create a special brand of tripped out stoner madness, standing them alongside The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Grandaddy as pioneers of perverse soundscapes, a fusion of classic country tinted rock and the digital age. Hence you have the fuzzy Hammond funk of opener Wordless Chorus, the Radiohead prog of It Beats For You, or the surf ska of Off The Record.
But it's when MMJ let fly that we jump out of our chair and start throwing shapes around the bedroom. There's the almost Beta Band-esque layers of Gideon piling on the guitars into an almighty crescendo of six string salvation. What A Wonderful Man's distorted garage band gospel hits the ground running, as upbeat and uplifting as any song we've heard this year. Then there's Anytime which is no more, no less than a giant RAWK boulder hurtling at you on the back of a Supertramp keyboard riff, laying waste to stadiums and mullet headed lumberjacks in its path. Awesome.
For this Londonista it's the album of the week and as good a reason as any to grow an enormous beard and go play with the bears. (MM)
The Cardigans – Super Extra Gravity (Universal)
Returning with their 5th studio album, it’s been a long and varied journey for our favourite Swedes since staring out way back in the early 90s with Emmerdale. Although best known for their albatross Lovefool and the stunning electronic rock of Gran Turismo, Super Extra Gravity keeps the folky adult-oriented sound of the last album and re-energises it.
Lead single (and surely winner of best song title of the year) I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need To Be Nicer finds Nina self assured and snarling as she orders her lover to sit like a good dog. In the moody and crunchy Godspell, Nina’s vox turns into a distorted wail as she bemoans the idiocy of religion calling it a great big swindle… (she) read about it in a book. Good Morning Joan is a breezy, melodic hymn to perseverance and depending on your friends, while brilliant bonus track (why separated as a bonus?) Give Me Your Eyes is a hip shaking anthem suggestive of open roads and the need for speed.
Fans may be surprised to see the title of track number 11 And Then You Kissed Me II. And Then You Kissed Me was a deeply moving dark tale of destructive love from Long Gone Before Daylight. This is a sequel track full of the same chords, reusing some of the same lyrics, but produces an eerie sense of deja-vu as it twists away from the original confusing the mind of any fan of the original track.
So in essence, the album is great, but don’t expect anything radically different from the last one.
Also excitingly when we spoke to the band last week they said they will be touring in 2006! Hurrah! (TK)
V/A - Fruit Machine: 26 Seeds From The London Underground (Blang)
So where does all the new stuff come from? After a couple of years of putting on gig nights at the 12 Bar Club Blang have decided to form themselves a record label and send out 26 mini mission statements on their debut release. Yup, that's 26 bands you may never have heard, from the quirky and quixotic through the esoteric to the downright just plain weird (and a couple just plain stoopid). If there's still reason needed to feel that our music is alive and well and kicking up a fuss then this is it.
Although drawing heavily on that which they call the anti-folk movement (mixing country/folk stylings with a more punk ethos) there's still a pleasing mixture of styles to be had throughout. It's good to know that not every new band out there are trying to be either the Specials, Joy Division or The Gang Of Four. In fact there's so much on offer the album benefits more from a pick'n'mix approach rather than a direct one session listen. And whilst it doesn't hit the mark every time there's still enough here for pretty much any discerning listener to discover something pleasing within.
To our minds Milk Kan's wilful fusion of Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues and Nacy Sinatra's These Boots Were Made For Walking with a sarf Lundurn bite proves that the SW has much more to offer than the still over-rated Hard-Fi. Londonist UK Americana faves The Broken Family Band put in a welcome appearance with their dark natured country on Wherever You Go. Sergeant Buzfuz's tale of trying to remove the memory of an ex through multiple substance abuse wins the prize for the funniest lyric we've heard for a long time: I was crawling around on my knees, that's when I found the miniature brandies.... Timothy Victor's Fight blends roots Americana with a Blur harmonised chorus and promptly disappears for the manic fuzzed up guitars of The Adams. Ricky Spontane blast through Hey You's boisterous grunged up rockabilly next to The Teenbeat's distinctly disturbing under age love song, Urina. The Mink Troubador Kamikaze Squadron's Pyhon-esque Underpants just worries, and Misterlee get away with adding a kazoo to Natural Born Blonde along with a mouth harp, xylophone and harmonica. The Dirty Pins play dirty punked up rock'n'roll whilst Katy Carr looks back to classic Kate Bush with Ray Of Light era Madonna. Now surely that's enough for you?
You can buy Fruit Machine direct from the Blang site or through the Rough Trade shop. (MM)
Also out this week:
The Prodigy - Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005
Boards Of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel
Starsailor - On The Outside
We Are Scientists - With Love And Squalor
El Presidente - El Presidente
Dolly Parton - Those Were The Days
Various - John Peel: A Tribute