Already adapted by such disparate acts as Squarepusher, Swans and Simple Minds to name just three that begin with the letter 'S', 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' would appear to have run its course of cover options. Or not. The proprietor of Icelandic label Thule Musik convinced his new home-country signings WORM IS GREEN that "a chillout version with female vocals" would make a fine addition to their debut album, Automagik - and he was right. Over a mournful electronic arrangement more akin to Joy Division's doom-laden follow-up single, 'Atmosphere,' Gudridur Ringsted's vocals turns Ian Curtis's most famous melody into a whispered ballad blowing gently in the late-night breeze.

Automagic is a fine album for all of us who love warm, home-grown electronica (Warp and Zen Records fans, take note) or who pine for the days of trip-hop (not for nothing does the press release name-check Portishead). There are several songs, like 'The Robot Has Got The Blues,' and a couple of instrumentals, that will grow on you over time, especially if you slip the album on late at night when you're ready to relax. It's just that none of them holds a candle to 'Love Will tear Us Apart.'

On the album Electrosexual (Hydrogen Dukebox), TECHNOVA reverses Worm Is Green's achievement, taking Joy Division's aforementioned 'Atmosphere,' dressing it in a simple synth-pop beat, setting it to a precise 120bpm rhythm and rendering it closer in intent to 'Love Will Tear Us Apart.' It's not quite a dance track, but nor is it the wrist-slashing, gut-wrenching ballad of old. It's become something else entirely – which is exactly what you look for from a cover.

Technova is the alter ego of David Harrow, who has been making electro music for so many years that I'm surprised Electrosexual descends into camp Electroclash clichés: opening track 'I Could Have Sex' and 'My Pussy Is A Cactus' may work on some dance floors, but they're a million miles removed from my kind of 'Atmosphere.' I'm more impressed by the vocodor'd synth-pulse-pop of 'Mamas Not Dead,' the Kraftwerk-influenced 'Mangina' and the Morel-like 'Can You Resist.' (What happened to Morel? Such a wonderful album, so widely ignored.) As with Worm Is Green, Harrow's problem is simple and insurmountable: he doesn't write songs as fine as Joy Division's.

Worm Is Green


Nouvelle Vague

And here comes 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' yet again, as opening track on NOUVELLE VAGUE's eponymous debut album. Given a tentative, Brazilian groove by Frenchmen Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, and sung in similar style by Rio-born, Paris-based chanteuse Eloisa, it is, much like the Worm Is Green treatment, slower and more reflective than the Joy Division original. Damn effective too. How do Nouvelle Vague avoid Joy Division's songs over-shadowing their own? By not recording any of their own. As per their name ("new wave" in French, "bossa nova" in Portugese), the thirteen song Nouvelle Vague album (Peacefrog)is entirely new wave cover versions, all performed in either bossa nova, lounge jazz or sixties pop style. And all interpreted by (several different) young French singers who, supposedly, "never heard the orginal versions."

Naturally, that makes Nouvelle Vague a novelty. But that doesn't mean it's a travesty. Nouvelle Vague take on three of my favorite pop songs in the world, and I'd be the first to complain if they butchered any. They don't. They revamp Depeche Mode's 'I Just Can't Get Enough' by replacing its famous synth melody with a subtle piano rhythm; they strip The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' of its drums but maintain the simplistic chord structure; and for Modern English's 'I Melt With You,' they take that gorgeous guitar line, slow it by half, and play it on the xylophone.

And they take on more than just the new wave pop songs. Primary singer Camille, who claims to have been "too young" to have heard the songs first time around (which of course, makes the rest of us feel "too old" for being so familiar with them) softens 'The Guns Of Brixton' to a ballad, partly because her partners drop the famous Clash bass line and replace it with a jazz feel; but she's so sweet she utterly fails to convince us she could ever be, as The Dead Kennedys once sang, 'Too Drunk To Fuck. The baker's dozen of versions occasionally tests an original new wave fan's patience, but Nouvelle Vague ends in truly inspired style when The Specials' 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' finally eschews the Brazilian beat for an arrangement that could easily have been the work of Black Box Recorder.


Restrained electronica with half-spoken jazzy vocals, a fascinating format for a brave new adaptation of Nirvana's 'Come As You Are.'
ERROR – ERROR (Epitaph)
'Electro-hardcore-punk' says the sticker. It should add: "Includes 300bpm cover of the 999 classic 'Homicide.'" But that would be assuming there are others out there who, like me, remember the south London punk band and still have 'Homicide' on 7".


Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are no slouches. They record, tour and DJ as Thievery Corporation, produce and administer for their label Eighteenth Street Lounge, which is itself named for their D.C. nightspot. And probably because they're smart enough to stay underground, concentrating on the music more than the marketing, they've yet to lose their creative age: The Outernational Sound is a stupendous journey through musical genres. There's easy listening (David Snell's 'International Flight'), 60s break beats (Big Boss Man's 'Sea Groove'), chilled bhangra (Indian Vibes' 'Mathar'), and some serious soul (Breakestra's 'Cramp Your Style'). And there's plenty cross-collateral promotion: a Thievery Corporation track ('Richest Man In Babylon'), one of their remixes (a crisp dub take on Boozoo Bajou's 'Under My Sensi') and several ESL artists (Thunderball's jazzy drum and bass, Karminsky Experience's techno-Afro). A journey round the world that keeps it close to the producers' financial home: that's how they stay on top.

WINE? It's easy-going summertime listening, ideal for picnics and outdoor relaxation. And it's got great artwork. Enjoy it with the Leitz 'Dragonstone' Riesling from Rüdesheim in Germany's Rheingau.


The finish line at the Escarpment Trail Run: no great crowds, but plenty personal satisfaction

A runner cools off in the lake afterwards. Holidaying kids ignore him.

On a Thursday in late July, my wife ran Nike's RunHitWonder through Central park, one of the more egregious recent examples of corporate power run amok. There was a pre-run concert, a post-run concert, a couple of bands playing en route, and compulsory wearing of Nike shirts. Three days later, on a Sunday morning, we made our way to a corner of a State park in the Catskills. There, a tiny tent with some fresh food and drink and a handful of family supporters provided the full extent of the administration for the Escarpment Trail Run, a 30 kilometer race up and down several mountain peaks, with elevation changes of nearly 10,000 feet. This is not a race just anyone can enter, nor that just anyone would want to. As the web site describes it, "a runner must expect to navigate over boulders, downed trees, gullies and hidden roots the entire distance… There are sections of the course that travel along cliffs. If you're not careful, you could fall to your death." (That has never happened, though there have been some serious injuries... and because the run is on a cross-country trail, vehicles can't get in or out.) This year the course record was broken by 29 year old Ben Nephew, the Lance Armstrong of the Escarpment, who came in at 2:45.20 to celebrate his fifth consecutive victory - and yet there was almost nobody there to honor his triumph. (As more runners emerged from the woods – two, three and four hours behind Nephew - at least there were other runners on hand to congratulate them.) There was no prize money, no big medal ceremony, no sponsors. Just the personal pride of achieving something few people even want to dare. As the runners slowly wandered down to the nearby lake to soak their weary, blood-soaked legs, local children frolicked in the water, blissfully unaware of the self-inflicted torture these adults had just put themselves through. And nobody seemed to want it any other way.



Should modern music be this mad? Absolutely, as long as it's this much fun. The alter ego of Canberra, Australia native Chris Colonna, Bumblebeez 81 initially saw his music released, as EPs entitled White Printz and Red Printz, by the Modular label, best known for finding Australia's leading hip-hop/electronica crew, The Avalanches. There are certainly similarities between the two acts, but whereas The Avalanches' Since I Left You epic was a carefully created collage of sound, The Printz is a deconstructionist free-for-all. It's a laptop generation's kid-in-a-candy-store pick'n'mix of hip-hop, punk, electro, left-field indie rock, and experimental electronica, and it's as astounding as it is disturbing. The Printz meshes genres, avoids melodies, eschews production values, and you can hardly dance to it. (Which makes its appearance in America on the Geffen label all the more surprising.)

Colonna's instrumentals are up there with Squarepusher's most abrasive extremica, and his barely sung vocals reveal an indie rock childhood. But it's when he throws himself into warped hip-hop that it all comes together. Try 'Brooklyn' – the result of Colonna's exchange year studying at the New York esteemed Pratt Institute of Art – for proof. And, especially, wig out when his kid sister Pia gets on the mike for in-your-face verbal assaults like 'Rappa' and 'Vila Attack.' Mad, bad and an album to have.

Dissociated breakbeats, dischordant keyboard lines, ethereal atmospherics, a half way point between glitch tech and experimental hip-hop… It's got be on Warp. The Team Shadetek duo are from downtown Manhattan, but such is the way with global techno that they could hail from any city with a vibrant DJ scene.
Love indie rock? Hate when people need to sub-categorize it? This Athens, GA band are for you. Macha's post—modern, vaguely ethnic, slightly funky, passive-aggressive music is vibrant proof that the spirit of adventure lives on in the former cradle of college rock.
Love indie rock? Feel a need to sub-categorize every band? This Los Angeles band are for you. Bedroom Walls come equipped with their own self-titled subgenre: romanticore. ('Elements include "thinking Velvet Goldmine was brilliant despite your better judgement."') They also come with suitably melancholy titles like 'There's Nothing To See In The Morning Light,' and arrangements like The Tindersticks making love to Mazzy Star.


Bedroom Walls

Gram Rabbit? Well, vocalists and instrumentalists Jessica Von Rabbit and Todd Rutherford first made beautiful music together while staying in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn, where Gram Parsons met his death back in 1973. Along with sample man Travis Cline, they then turned their initial ideas into this album of thoroughly modern and totally eclectic electronic country music, called themselves Gram Rabbit in celebration, and now play regularly at the Joshua Tree's Gram Fest. The album's highlight is, undoubtedly, the cinematic 'Kill A Man.'
Bands Reunited usually makes for fun gigs, weak albums. Mission Of Burma prove as welcome an exception to that rule as to every other accepted notion of rock that they did so much to shatter when they first emerged in the early 1980s. OnOffOn is abrasive in some parts ('Max Ernst's Dream'), commercial in others ('Nicotine Bomb'), and better than Sonic Youth's last several albums throughout.
Fifteen years as rock'n'roll runners-up on has failed to deter the fiercesome Athens trio from staying true to its original intent: emotive, honest, bold, melodic guitar music that emerges from left field and ends up (thankfully) just one step short of the mainstream. Front man Mike Mantione vents about death, drugs and divorce on songs like 'I Don't Give A Damn,' 'A Man Is A Pent Up Thing' and the nostalgic throwback to an Athens of old, 'I'm Still Around.'

The Scandinavians don't let up. Guitar rock that offers equal respect to psychedelia, punk, garage, grunge and metal without ever coming off as an imitation. The riff on 'Endless Factories' is pure inspiration, the vocal on 'To The Other Side' is straight outta Ride, and the overall effect is deliriously energizing.
Chicago's Ponys are so good at replicating the mid-Sixties rock'n'roll Wall of Sound that they occasionally come across as Scandinavians. 'Fall In,' for example, opens with the riff from 'Then He Kissed Me' riff (as once covered by The Hollywood Brats) before finally breaking into a different chord and becoming its own song. And the reverb-drowned guitars and cheesy organs of 'Trouble Trouble' could easily be the backing to '96 Tears' - as covered by Eddie & The Hot Rods. Throw lead singer Jared's very New York punk rock Richard Hell yelp, and it's clear where The Ponys are coming from, where they're going, and how much fun they're having while running on this well-worn musical spot.
For every fresh young sixties-influenced garage band like The Ponys riding the crest of newcomers' publicity, there's a Velvet Crush as reminder of how it can all go pear shaped. For Velvet Crush, the Creation Records deal, the Mitch Easter production, the effusive NME coverage, and even the members' shared hometown, are all in the past. Yet, bloodied though they may be by career downswings and recent personal problems (hence the album title), the founding duo of drummer/guitarist Ric Menck and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Paul Chastain remain unbowed, and with Stereo Blues, they expand their long-standing Big Star/Raspberries/Cheap Trick/Brian Wilson power pop into something closer to a classic Americana. ('The Connection' is particularly powerful.) And at least one person has stood by them throughout. Thirteen years after producing their debut In The Presence of Greatness, Matthew Sweet is not only taking Velvet Crush on tour this autumn, but playing guitar for them, too.


It's hardly proving to be the hottest summer on record, but still, when the sun comes out and the shirt comes off, it's more satisfying to sip a cold white wine than knock back a hot red one. I've been enjoying the Dragonstone Riesling from the esteemed Johannes Leitz in Germany, the Macari Sauvignon Blanc from Long Island here in New York, still working through the Santa Julia Torrontes from Argentina, continue to recommend the Kunde Sauvignon Blanc (with Semillon & Viognier in the mix) from California, and splashed out to enjoy a Saint Joseph from Domaine Vallet. Read about them all here.


Skip the album, buy the best for a buck on iTunes...

Come Alive – Burning Brides (from Leave No Ashes)
On an album that otherwise offers too much hard rock posturing as garage rock, 'Come Alive' is the best Oasis song we've heard in a long time.
The End Of The World/(I Don't Know What's Going) On - The Cure (from The Cure)
I have no real comment on The Cure reforming and recording again. It's just that I've always preferred the melodic pop band The Cure to the goth rock bad The Cure. So while I admire Bob Smith's ability to still sound so genuinely angst-ridden up after all these years, I'll rip the two pop songs and skip the rest.
DNA Of Alice - Vic Conrad & The Third (Hidden Agenda)
As per their name, this Adelaide, Australia act lacks immediate impact, most of the eponymous album being passable psychedelia, with the occasion excursion to twee land. But 'DNA Of Alice' is a haunting, largely ambient guitar instrumental, like a lengthy extension of the intro to The VU's 'All Tomorrow's Parties'.


The Clash: Return Of The Last Gang In Town - Marcus Gray (Amazon link)
A Riot Of Our Own - Johnny Green (Amazon link)
Club Zero-G - Douglas Rushkoff and Steph Dumais (Amazon link)
Brooklyn Noir - Akashic Books compendium (Amazon link)
Not Fade Away - Jim Dodge (Amazon link)


Dub is such a timeless genre that new albums can comprise old music and it barely matters. SEE THE LIGHT, the first album by SOFA SURFERS on the ESLMusic label, begins with a seven year old remix (by Richard Dorfmeister), ends with a brand new remix (by new label bosses Thievery Corporation) and features a dozen tracks from three different studio albums, yet the vibe is constant throughout. The Austrian quartet, whose individual identities seem of only marginal interest even to themselves, concoct thunderous bass-heavy grooves, largely topped here either by Jamaican dub vocals (DJ Collage toasting on 'Passing Thru') or left-field rappers (Oddatee taking control on '21st Century Army'). But Sofa Surfers also find room for Jeb Loy Nichols to deliver a lugubrious drawl on 'River Blues' and Dawna Lee to take the soulful high ground on 'Can I Get A Witness.' Myself, I'm happiest listening to the instrumentals, of which 'Long Bone' is the most immediately inviting – right up there in techno-paced territory and with a thunderous riff to rival the best of Leftfield and Renegade Soundwave.

The subtitle to COTTONBELLY's X Amounts Of Niceness - NYC Sessions 1993/2004 (Wrong)– makes clear that this is not an album of brand new music. Yet some of the freshest tracks here are oldest, notably the hard-core dub instrumentals, 'Edge Test 1,' 'Intense Dub,' 'Speechless' and 'Give Thanks And Praise,' all of which hail from the early 1990s. Elsewhere, Stuart Matthewman's presents Cottonbelly as remixer, in which guise he includes his mellow interpretations of hits by Gregory Isaacs, Ananda Project, Maxwell - and Sade, for whom he has long been guitarist, sax player and programmer. Track listing credits aside, the collective effect is not unlike Sofa Surfers' See The Light, with the different vocalists and toasters backed by consistent bass-heavy tones throughout.


Darker Than A Heart - DOWNTOWN (Coup De Grace)
Venus No. 17 - SQUAREPUSHER (Warp)
Hello? Is This Thing On? - !!! (Touch And Go)
I Need Your Love - THE RAPTURE (DFA)



A valuable lesson here. Morrissey's handlers kept a tight lid on You Are The Quarry to prevent file-sharing, but the plan backfired: I was so eager to hear the singer's first album in seven years that as release date approached, I downloaded whatever I could find. And I felt disappointed.

Part of this was understandable wariness, after waiting seven years for ultimately disappointing new albums by The The, The Proclaimers and Stereo MCs. Plus, Morrissey was hardly on top of his game when he bowed out of the limelight. But part of me was simply being inattentive and impatient. For once I got my own copy of You Are The Quarry, and began playing it from start to finish, I discovered that it may just be Morrissey's best solo album. Ever.

Some of the success is in the sequencing: Stephen Patrick disses America in the first song, England in the second, and Jesus in the third, suggesting that there's a method to his misanthropy. The clichés of 'Come Back To Camden' are excused by the joyous chorus, and both 'First Of The Gang To Die' and 'I Like You' are simply great pop songs. The mild disappointments – 'Let Me Kiss You' and the hilariously titled but otherwise lame Smiths throw-back waltz 'All The Lazy Dykes' – are exactly where they should be: near the end. And yet the album concludes with a vengeance, the chorus of 'You Know I Couldn't Last' ("CDs and t-shirts and promos and God knows") being Morrissey's best piece of singalongamusicbizmachinations since 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' on The Smiths' swan-song Strangeways, Here We Come. It's been said that he's bitching here at Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke which, if true, is unwarranted and mean-spirited: The Smiths rhythm section had every right to fight for their royalties and Morrissey should be man enough to keep his disputes private. But because he doesn't name names, I can enjoy the song without feeling forced to choose sides.

Kudos to Mozzer's "players" (as he calls them), Boz Boorer, Alan Whyte, Gary Day, and Dean Butterworth, and especially to producer Jerry Finn, for updating Morrissey's instantly recognizable singing and songwriting tones without pandering to current trends. But most of all, a reminder to myself that even in this day of throwaway singles and disposable MP3s, when those artists we've admired take time to make albums, we should listen to them. As albums.


ASTRAL GLAMOUR - THE HOMOSEXUALS (Hyped2Death) Read all about it here


EXHIBITIONIST - JEFF MILLS (Navarre) Read all about it here


When Compact Discs first came along, artists were so enamored by the shiny 5" silver discs' storage capacity that they felt duty bound to record ever longer albums - as if using up every one of the format's 75-odd available minutes represented increased value for money. It didn't: it signified ever more tedious albums. Fortunately, we're beyond that trend, to the point that many a CD album now comes in at a comfortably old-fashioned vinyl-like 40 minutes or less. (Franz Ferdinand = particularly pertinent.) But there's still a good use for all that extra time: the extended finale. With the conclusion to their new album Dead Girls Don't Cry(Hellcat) Danish psychobilly trio Nekromantix take the album's opening instrumental 'Black Wedding' and stretch it out to 31 minutes, endlessly repeating the same simplistic mournful riff augmented only by hymnal phonetic harmonized vocals and faint backward guitar. In the old days, such a hypnotic dirge would have required an entire, heavily compressed side of vinyl – and hence signified some kind of rip-off. But in the world of CDs, especially after 13 of the Nekromantix' furious punked-up anthems about drinking beer and movie monsters, it provides the perfect comedown - and an interest take on the proverbial 'waste of space'. Unfortunately, being a hidden track, it's not listed on iTunes.

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This page last updated
Wed, Jan 5, 2005 12:53 pm

HEDONISM Tony Fletcher's debut novel is available mail order in the USA from Barnes& It's available mail order in the UK from or
More info on Hedonism here.

REMARKS REMADE The first ever R.E.M. biography fully updated with ten new chapters covering Reveal and beyond. Available at UK bookstores, and musicroom. Available at select stores in the States and through

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