THE iJAMMING HITLIST:
MARCH 2003

I've kicked off this month's reviews with retrospectives. Four of my favorite bands in the world (and one continuation of those bands) have just been repackaged in one way or another this month, at least in the States, and I've been on something of a beautiful nostalgia trip while listening to them. Not that there's any shortage of great new music too, though this month more of it seems to be rock-based guitars and drums than electronic beats. (And some of it is simply too rock-based: I've no desire to return to the grunge days of the early 1990s.) Finally, though new acts rarely release 7" singles any more, the EP is making something of a comeback. The grading is from A+ down to C- for reference sake, and the links in brackets should mostly take you to artist sites rather than record company ones. It's all good....

5 COMPILATIONS


WE'RE A HAPPY FAMILY – TRIBUTE TO RAMONES

(DV8/Columbia)
Not the first Ramones tribute, but the one we've been waiting for. The featured acts' pulling power (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Metallica) speaks volumes for the Ramones' lasting influence, but the variety of the renditions speaks volumes more for the staying power of their songwriting. You can hear that endurance in U2's ultra-pop rendition of 'Beat on The Brat,' in The Pretenders' reworking of 'Something To Believe In' as a painful ballad, in Green Day's gleefully faithful 'The Outsider', in Rob Zombie's hardcore 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and in Kiss's sax-and-handclaps 'Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio?' Would that every tribute album was this faithful to the original spirit. The expletive-laden Stephen King sleeves notes provide one bonus; that part proceeds go to Lymphoma Research provide another. A


THE SOUND OF THE JAM (Polydor/Universal)

that this umpteenth Jam compilation, assembling assorted a-sides, b-sides and album tracks with a token collector's item, is essentially pointless. If you want something other than a Greatest Hits or Rarities collection, you don't need to this CD; you can rip and burn one from your own collection. (Newcomers to the Jam should start with Compact Snap and move on to the individual albums from there.) That said, every track here was a major part of my life, and I can never get enough of album tracks 'Away From The Numbers' and 'Thick As Thieves', nor b-sides 'The Butterfly Collector' and 'Liza Radley.' But I could do with something more informative than Dennis Munday's rehashed sleeve notes, and would have appreciated a greater sense of purpose. A+ for the music, C- for the point of it.



THE BEST OF THE STYLE COUNCIL
(Polydor/Universal Chronicles)
As noted on the same Daily Musing, the enduring quality of (most of) the Style Council's music came as a welcome surprise. The need to vary the sequencing from 1989's The Singular Adventures Of… might explain the absence of 'Solid Bond In Your Heart', but this is now the second American Style Council retrospective to ignore 'Headstart to Happiness,' which I find inexcusable. All said though, far more good memories than bad. And while I still hate 'It Didn’t Matter,' and think it's an atrocious introduction to an otherwise successful album, I now gather it was the Council's biggest hit in the States. There's clearly no accounting for taste! A-


THE ESSENTIAL CLASH (Epic )
Nobody would doubt that The Clash were essential. We might question the need for yet another Clash compilation given that some of us already own The Story of the Clash Volume 1, The Clash Singles and the Clash On Broadway box set. But credit where credit is due: The Essential Clash finally gets it right. Where The Story was limited to 28 tracks, The Essential… crams in 40. Where The Story was gleefully haphazard in its sequencing, The Essential is near enough chronological. But not quite: given the otherwise perfect presentation in historical order, the decision to place the singles 'Complete Control' and 'Clash City Rockers' ahead of eight debut album songs that preceded them is stupid and sloppy. Removing 'Remote Control' from the offical record books and replacing it with the Jones-less 'This Is England' (the one worthwhile song from 1985s 'Cut The Crap) may be more contentious with some, but sits far better with me. Finaly, the omission of a credit for the well-written liner notes must seriously rankle with their author. Pat Gilbert, sooner you than me. A+


THE VERY BEST OF THE STONE ROSES (Silvertone)
There's a temptation to say that the very best of the Stone Roses, every last note of it, can be found on their timeless, eponymous 1989 debut album – especially the U.S. version that added 'Fool's Gold' after it became a proper American hit. But this long overdue restrospective (as released in the UK in late '02) argues for expanding the glory years. It includes 1987's 'Sally Cinnamon', adds the 'Fool's Gold' b-side 'What The World Is Waiting For', the follow-up 'One Love' (though only in 7" format) and includes four songs from 1994's Second Coming. Of these, 'Ten Storey Love Song' was always a beaut, and 'Love Spreads' had its moments, but the overblown pair of 'Begging You' and 'Breaking Into Heaven' will never hold a candle to any of the songs from the 1989 debut omitted at their expense.

To some extent, that's semantics, but John McCready's exhausting sleeve notes (accompanied by the band's own memories, all the picture sleeves, and the lyrics too) invite such observations. "I get paid whether I write 50 or 50,000 words," he notes in his third paragraph, before setting off for the latter number. In doing so, he makes a valiant effort at getting to the point of all this pop musc; in a lengthy paragraph you should read for yourself, he concludes: "Unless music counts because it articulates a moment in time, in history, then all that can seriously be said is no more or less than this: I like it or I don’t." I agree.

McCready has the decency to admit that he ignored the Roses when they first revolutionized UK pop music, that only with what he calls "the bridge building hybrid that was 'Fool's Gold'" did they achieve anything like credibility with him and his self-described fellow house music "snobs". That might explain his retroactive deification of the band, but it doesn't justify rendering a personal perspective - that "we laugh at other groups (like) the Carpets" – as historical fact. Hey John, you may laugh at the Inspirals, but for me, they'll always be Cool As Fuck.

A final observation: the fact that it opens with 'I Wanna Be Adored' (as did their 1989 debut) and closes with 'This Is The One' and 'I Am The Resurrection' (ditto) goes some way towards proving my original hypothesis as presented in the opening sentence. But what a band. What a great fucking band. The superb packaging and historical perspective cancels out the couple of dubious musical inclusions. A+.

20 ALBUMS


THE ACTION – ROLLED GOLD (Reaction/Parasol)
Connoisseurs of the sixties mod era know that if The Creation were the band that could have, the Action were the band that simply didn't. Their lack of commercial success seems astounding when one listens to a-sides like 'I'll Keep On Holding On' and 'Never Ever'. But this is not that band. Rolled Gold is an album of demos that an altered line-up recorded in 1968, the year that British rock went missing. Some groups – like the Who and the Stones – emerged from the post-psychedelic period renewed, reinvented and reinvigorated. Others, like the Creation and the Action, simply couldn't progress beyond the solid R&B of the mid-sixties. SO while 'Something To Say' and 'In My Dream' sound like they could have been great singles given proper production, one can't completely blame the label for refusing to give the green light. One for the connoisseurs. B-

ALPINE STARS – WHITE NOISE (Astralwerks)
Second album by Manchester duo continues the retro synth obsession of their impressive debut b.a.s.i.c. but adds guitars, bass, drums and proper songs. Of the vocal tracks, check 'Carbon Kid' (featuring Placebo's Brian Molko) for some decidedly contemporary aggression, 'Burning Up' for a tender ballad and 'Smash It Up' for straight-up fun. B+

BURNSIDE PROJECTTHE NETWORKS, THE CIRCUITS, THE STREAMS, THE HARMONIES (Bar/None)
A veritable minefield of competing styles, Burnside is the brainchild of a mid-westerner indie rocker, resettled in New York, listening to and attempting to record left-field electronica, then teaming up with an Other Music employee and expert in all things oddball. The music is understandably all over the place – from mutant drum and bass and lo-fi techno to vaguely danceable post-rock. The Project often spends too much time staring at its navel (and singing out of tune) but 'Cue The Pulse To Begin' and 'Only Ordinary' both get the balance right between cinematic indie rock and straight up dance. Plus, my good pal Hub Moore sings with typically deft restraint on 'But I'm Alive.' B-

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS – NOCTURAMA
(Epitaph/Mute)
Twelve albums with the Bad Seeds and Cave shows no signs of giving up, letting up or letting us down. Surprising as much for its variety (the mellow ballad 'Still In Love' follows on directly from the riotous 'Dead Man In My Bed') as its consistency, Nocturama is the sound of a fired-up artist in full stride. B+

THE CORAL – THE CORAL (Columbia)
I've been slow on the uptake with this group of precocious young Merseysiders: the 'Skeleton Key' EP in particular was just a little too maverick for me. And I still find their gleefully adventurous nature – no style of music being considered unfair game - somewhat disconcerting. But on reflection, that can only be a good thing: breaking down the barriers and all that. So while The Coral (the album) offers few individual moments for which I feel compelled to return (though the Bunny-esque 'Goodbye' comes close), The Coral (the band) will undoubtedly merit further attention as they mature. There's a truly great album within their grasp. B+

THE DATSUNS – THE DATSUNS (V2)
I know they're not really meant to be taken seriously. Except that some people are doing just that. And that's not funny. Or is it? C


MAJOR SURPRISE

Ms. DYNAMITE – A LITTLE DEEPER (Interscope)


I've never been a fan of the whole UK garage/R&B/2-step scene and neither, I believe, are the iJamming! Readers. But those in the USA may now want to be informed of what the British market already knows: Ms. Dynamite breaks every stereotype and in her own entirely idiosyncratic manner, has made a debut album as vital and vivacious as that by The Streets. The production itself is not as revolutionary as Mike Skinner's Original Pirate Material, though it does form a much-needed bridge between underground hip-hop and garage pop. It's Dynamite's lyrics, and the presentation thereof, that makes A Little Deeper such a worthy Mercury Prize winner.

Again, British music fans will long ago have heard this crucial line from her debut hit 'It Takes More': "Who gives a damn about the ice on your hand? If it's not too complex tell me how many Africans died for the baguettes on your Rolex?" I only wish it could be surreptitiously broadcast into half the jeeps and SUVs of urban America. Likewise, the message to a single mum to 'Put Him Out' ("your little girl needs a daddy I agree but the fool is far from that") and the caustic chorus of 'Now U Want My Love', addressed at a boy for whom she wasn't good enough a few years back ("if you think you're going to get it you must be out your fuckin' mind"), offer some real Girl Power in an age where most 20-year old pop stars have yet to develop a brain. Unfortunately, A Little Deeper runs a little long, its excess material serving to reduce the complete package from a contemporary classic to something only approaching that status. Still, don't be narrow-minded about this. If you're into The Streets, nothing but prejudice should stop you loving Ms. Dynamite for the same reasons. A


DJ ICEY – DIFFERENT DAY (System)
This, his second studio album, only enhances my long-standing admiration for Florida-based Icey as a DJ and remixer. Icey is known as the King of the Funky Breaks, and for good reason: his mid-tempo house and techno comes with a bass-heavy dose of nu-skool beats. But by featuring (deliberately unknown) guest vocalists, he keeps his grooves varied, ranging from soul (Melanie Rev on 'Searching') to ragga (Marlon on 'Groove Lick'). As much as anything, though he's been honing his sound for almost a decade, Different Day is reassuringly contemporary. Nice one. B

ECHOBOY – GIRAFFE (Mute)
Richard Warren, aka Echoboy, is something of an unsung hero. In an ideal world, third album Giraffe would be the record to change that. With the assistance of renowned producer Flood, it finds Warren writing proper songs with a sense of urgency ('Comfort of The Hum'), wit ('Good On TV') and wisdom ('Nearly All The Time'). Giraffe's a great record, but it's too offbeat to be pop, too dark to be dance, and too electronic to be rock. Still, his refusal to fill other people's pigeonholes is their loss and our artistic gain. B+

THE GO-BETWEENS – BRIGHT YELLOW BRIGHT ORANGE (Jetset)
The Go-Betweens always had a certain middle-aged restraint to them such as made their reformation a few years back seem entirely natural. And singer-songwriters Grant McLellan and Robert Forster work better together than apart. Still, while Bright Yellow Bright Orange, their second album back together, is a welcome enough proposition, it's frustratingly short on surprises. To my ears, it's short on hooks too: 'Old Mexico' and 'Make Her Day' come late in the list to save the day. Best summed up as one for the faithful. B.


JOE JACKSON BAND – VOLUME 4 (Rykodisc) A Read full review

THE LIBERTINES – UP THE BRACKET (Rough Trade/Sanctuary)
That London would throw up its own version of the Strokes seemed as inevitable as it might be considered unnecessary. Where the Libertines get their imitation-as-flattery act right is by throwing some good old English music hall madness into their purposefully messy impersonation of the East Village nightmare. And while titles like 'Time For Heroes', and 'The Boy Looked At Johnny' suggest an unhealthy fascination with cliché, it's good dirty fun if you don't take it too serious. Plus, bonus b-side 'What A Waster' is worth sticking around for. B


MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT

MASSIVE ATTACK – 100th WINDOW (Virgin)
Subtlety has it strong points, as Massive Attack have proven thrice over, but 100th Window is not so much subtle as soporific, the sad sound of a once influential and vital group slowing to a halt. The disappointment is not a total surprise: Mushroom split after the last tour, and 3D (Robert del Naja) made this record more or less on his own while Daddy G went off to start a family. There are occasional signs of life here, especially when Sinead O'Connor sings 'A Prayer For England' and 'Special Cases', but they're not enough to suggest continued quality of life. The wispy pulse that closes out the album is surely the sound of Massive Attack disappearing into the ether. C+


THE MUSIC – THE MUSIC (Capitol)
There's a moment on the young Leeds' band's opening track, 'The Dance,' which lives up to its title: the song is jigged through a repetitive computerized effect and for a few seconds, their old-fashioned hard rock formula takes on a distinctly modern tone. But it's a rare occurrence on an album that otherwise sounds like The Music have heard very little music – at least in the last ten or twenty years. Not to be churlish, but there's a thin line between, say, Jane's Addiction (who The Music are reminiscent of, at their best) and The Cult (who ditto, at their worst). 'Turn Out The Light', for example, rocks like a hurricane, but the lyric - "hey little lady, see what you're missing, I can't get enough of your love," – suggests that The Music have some serious maturing to do before they can really rival their heroes. B-

THE NOTWIST – NEON GOLDEN (
Domino)
A startling transformation: I remember hearing albums by this German act in the mid-nineties that sounded nothing like the experimental, utterly melodic post-rock act they're hailed as today. Best described as a down-tempo accompaniment to Clinic's Walking With Thee (not least for its use of flutes, Kid A-like electronica and cool stereo separation), Neon Golden gets good and groovy on 'One With The Freaks' but is best exemplified by the banjo-driven single 'Trashing Days,' on which Markus Acher's voice restrained voice is at its most emotionally plaintive. B+

ERLEND ØYE – UNREST
(Astralwerks)
It's every singer-songwriter's dream project: travel round the world recording your music with different producers in different cities. Norwegian-based Kings of Convenience front man Erlend Øye left his erstwhile band-mate behind to team up with hipsters like New York's Morgan Gheist and Berlin's Schneider TM to give his conventional song structures a contemporary backing. Curiously, the resultant collection sounds like exactly the same people could have recorded it in exactly the same place. Whatever, Øye's voice (which also graced the Royksopp album) is a delight throughout. A-

TOBIN SPROUT – LOST PLANETS & PHANTOM VOICES (Recordhead)
Semi-acoustic whimsical psychedelia from Guided by Voices member Sprout. When it works, as on the effortlessly commercial 'Doctor #8,' 'As Lovely As You' and the finale 'Let Go Of My Beautiful Balloon,' it's truly delightful. But it's definitely inconsistent. B

TURIN BRAKES - ETHER SONG (Astralwerks)
The first Turin Brakes album somehow passed me by, in all the boredom of how "quiet is the new loud." Or maybe it was the Kings of Convenience I was listening to, and I just got confused. There's a lot of music around you know. But Ether Song is another matter entirely, an accomplished, affectionate and tremendously effective collection of semi-acoustic semi-ballads such as we once loved Travis for. (And such as bands like Budapest dream of writing.) And as song titles like 'Average Man,' 'Clear Blue Air' and 'Little Brother' suggest, it's an album for all of us. Influences are worn proudly: there's a touch of 'Knocking On Heaven's Door' in 'Stone Thrown' and more than a hint of the Isley Brothers on 'Pain Killer (Summer Rain)'. Overwrought at times, the sincerity has many merits: I love the Positive Energy vibe on the sleeve notes. B+

WEEKEND PLAYERS - PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (WSM)
A noble goal in these difficult times and a beautiful album in the process. Read live review . Read album summary. A-

THE WHITE STRIPES – ELEPHANT (V2)
As you'll know if you've heard the lead track 'Seven Nation Army,' the long-awaited follow-up to White Blood Cells kicks off with the unaccompanied sound of bass - something of a revolution for Jack and Meg, who've made their fame on the back of guitar-and-drums minimalism. It's a good indication of what's to come: throughout its fourteen songs, Elephant seems bigger, bolder, brasher; many of these songs, laden with guitar overdubs, pianos, harmonized backing vocals and, yes, bass, will be difficult to replicate live. But there's no doubt that Jack and Meg are on top of their game: the confidence oozes through the Zep-like 'Black Math', the choral 'There's No Room For You Here,' and the Loaded-like piano bliss of 'I Want To Be The Boy.' Humor holds its head high too, from the raise-the-roof rendition of Bacharach-David's 'I Just Don't Know what To Do With Myself' to the three-way finale 'It's True That We Love One Another.' Of course, some of it's way overblown, even in its apparent simplicity, and there's no instant singalong a la 'We're Going To Be Friends,' but there's everything here from tenderness to tenacity and almost all points inbetween. Expect it to be massive. A

5 EPS


This generally maligned format is back in vogue. And that's good news: if we can't be offered good old-fashioned 7" 45s during the interminable wait for 75-minute albums, we might as well have fun with CD Eps of anything between three and six songs.


…AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD – THE SECRET OF ELENA'S TOMB (Interscope)
This might be a new thing in the music world: the concept EP. Then again, it might just be five new fast and furious songs from the Hawaii by way of Texas quartet who, alongside Queens of the Stone Age (and, I suppose, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), have done so much to revive the stoner metal genre. 'Mach Schau' and 'All Saints Day' are what you'd expect from the Trail; 'Crowning Of A Heart' has the intense melody I love from this band; 'Counting Off The Days' dares to get a coustic' and 'Intelligence' quotes 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker', if you listen closely enough. Gloriously mad. A-

THE (INTERNATIONAL) NOISE CONSPIRACY – BIGGER CAGES, LONGER CHAINS (Epitaph)
The title track, hailing from '01's new Morning, Changing Weather album, is the only previously released song on this six-song EP, and is probably the weakest, which bodes well for the Swedish agit-rockers' future. 'Beautiful So Alone' and 'When Words Are Not Working' engage in a similarly angry post-punk funk as my fave New Yorkers Radio 4, the cover of N.E.R.D.'s 'Baby Doll' is a smart side-turn, while 'A Textbook Example,' buried as track 5, is probably the strongest of the lot – the Clash meets the Jam meets the Hives. The enhanced CD offers "all four T(I)NC videos" – oh, and, unnecessarily, an excerpt from a Noam Chomsky speech about American terrorism. Chomsky's an old man delivering tired slogans; T(I)NC are a young band with fired-up slogans. I know whose revolution I want to dance in. A-

MOUNTAINEERSMountaineers (Mute)
The name is inanely naff, but the music is not. Like former label-mates The Coral (and fellow Liverpudlians Gomez), Mountaineers have a charming off-center sensibility. Just don't expect too much by way of real songs – and though this EP is out on Mute, don't expect much by way of electronic grooves either. Plainly, daft, and maybe punk. B

ORANGE PARK – THE EXTENDED PLAY (OP)
Not so much an EP as two obvious radio-friendly power-pop a-sides - 'Make Up Your Mind' and 'Glass' – followed by two equally obvious b-sides, 'Brand New' and 'Life Is Better'. Fortunately the a-sides come first. Read live review. B+

THE SUN – LOVE & DEATH (Warner Brothers)
Where did all this new talent come from? The Sun come blazing (sorry!) out of Columbus, Ohio like they've been a part of the whole new old garage rock thing for five years or more. Opening track 'Fell So Hard' rocks like the hardest of the current crop of Swedes, 'Rockstop''s a funky little post-rock curiosity, 'Back In The Summer of '72' is punk garage at its most furious, and 'Eyelids Apart' is a valid, if not wholly successful, attempt at a Replacements style ballad. A name to watch and no mistake. B+


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2003




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This page last updated
Thu, Sep 30, 2004 11:18 pm)


THE MARCH HITLIST:
5 SUPERB COMPILATIONS
20 ALBUMS, 5 EPs

FEATURED ALBUM:
VOLUME 4 by THE JOE JACKSON BAND

FEATURED WINE:
HUGEL, Pinot Blanc Cuvee Amour 2000, Alsace

FEATURED MIX CD:
DJ-KICKS by TIGA

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
25 ALBUMS

2002: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Ten Major Memories and a number of lists

INTERPOL in concert

JOE STRUMMER: A TRIBUTE

THE DECEMBER HITLIST:
5 ALBUMS, EPs, MIX CDS, COMPILATIONS and SONGS

the iJamming! Book Review
WHY TERRORISM WORKS
by Alan Dershowitz

CABERNET FRANC
The 'Other' Cabernet Grape Takes Root In New York
Part 1: The Basics/Regions
Part 2: New York Wines
Part 3: Loire Wines
Part 4: Conclusions

THE NOVEMBER HITLIST
30 Albums 10 Songs

HOW MUCH WILL IT HURT?:
Tips for the marathon virgin.

From the Jamming! Archives:
THE JAM
Interviewed in 1979

The iJamming! Interview: UNDERWORLD
NOW WITH LIVE PHOTOS

Coming and Going
Chapter 3: THE PALACE

The iJamming! Interview
RICHARD BUTLER Part 2

From the Jamming! Archives:
ADAM ANT
Interviewed in 1978

REMARKS REMADE:
Available Now!
The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography is here.

A Decade In Dance
BT & BANCO DE GAIA
10 Years (Apiece)

2 MANY TASTINGS:
The iJamming! Wine Round Up October 2002, including:
Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay
Pinot Noir
Rhône Rangers
Southern France
Zinfandel

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT
The whole 1990s catalogue

From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978

The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX

GOLDEN SHOT hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour

HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online

From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.

iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA

The iJAMMING! interview:
DAVID SYLVIAN

From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .

The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song."

From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation

The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.

The full iJamming! Contents