Expectations can be a bitch. Following a two-year run of inspirational and influential singles wisely gathered here on a bonus CD James Murphy's band finally delivers its long-player. Sadly, it only confirms that the act's true forte is the 45rpm format. LCD opens strong with the now familiar 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,' a humorous floor-filling comment on cliques and scenes. And Murphy certainly can't be criticized for lack of variety, jumping from wry Fall-like verbal abuse ('Movement') to synth-driven electroclash ('Tribulations') to psychedelic ballads ('Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up') with almost hyperactive enthusiasm. Had this been released through DFA last year or better yet, in 2003 it would have been rightly received as an important missive from the future. But arriving in 2005 (via the major label push outside America) only confirms what Murphy/DFA/LCD Soundsystem had apparently sussed out years ago: that 'indie' music requires instant dissemination and not too much by way of expectation.
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If Some Cities is less grandiose than its two acclaimed predecessors, it's also dirtier think Catherine Wheel rather than Coldplay. The back-to-basics approach is amplified by a lyrical focus on the trio's northern roots: check 'Black And White Town' (with the same chord pattern as the Motown classic 'Heatwave') and 'Shadows of Salford' for a reminder of (sub)urban boredom. At a time when almost every other British act is aspiring to American crossover sales, Some Cities is a darkly confident step forward.
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Athlete, on the other hand, have taken the Keane route of overproduced ballads to the British number one spot. For the first few songs (especially the vaguely post-rock 'Half Light') the epic approach allows Joel Pott's lazily endearing voice to shine, but as Tourist progresses, the endless syrup turns to saccharine and indigestion results. 'Modern Mafia,' which promised so much for this album when revealed at the V Festival last summer, is one of the few songs both as quirky and as quick-paced as those on the group's debut Vehicles and Animals. What is it with British bands that they wimp out at first opportunity?
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The first new music to bear The Chills' name since 1996's Sunburst arrives tentatively, as a seven-song EP (with one bonus cut) recorded in late 2002 and early 2004. It's definitely a return to form, but also to formula: 'Liberty Or Love' and 'Little Boy' are such classically cheerful Chills organ(ic) pop songs, chocka full of optimistic love and lust, that they could easily have appeared on Brave Words of fifteen years ago. It's hard to speak badly of Martin Phillipps' evergreen songwriting, but his voice is now showing its age on the otherwise lyrically astute 'Falling Off Your Throne' and 'Bad Dancer.' Here's hoping for the impending album.
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(free with Mojo)
Why buy a £13 CD when you can get a classic compilation like this free with your monthly music mag? In fact, you can throw out Mojo unread and still consider this a bargain, what with fifteen tracks, by as many different artists, all recorded at the legendary Kingston Studio One. The most important? Probably 'I Want Justice' by Delroy Wilson if only to hear the man The Clash were singing about on '(White Man In) Hammersmith Palais.'
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DC duo raise themselves to Chemical Brothers' popularity level by pulling in familiar famous guests: The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne on the wonderful opening track 'Marching The Hate Machines', and Perry Farrell toasting like a dread rasta on 'Revolution Solution.' As The Cosmic Game unravels, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton dim the lights and settle into the lounge-like trip-hop groove that's served them so well and when they come up for air with David Byrne guesting on the buoyant 'The Heart's A Lonely Hunter,' you know they've got a hit album on their hands.
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We've talked in The Pub about Bill Nelson's seminal Seventies band, a vital link between glam rock, art rock and prog rock - who were promptly rendered irrelevant by the arrival punk. The music of Be Bop Deluxe is a major part of my childhood, especially 'Ships In The Night' and 'Blazing Apostles,' but this reissue sadly reveals just how dated it now sounds. A compilation best filed under 'retrospective.'
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On the other hand, this collection of self-recorded singles, demos and live cuts from a long-forgotten New Jersey band of the post-punk era holds up remarkably well. There's a connection, too: I met TV Toy drummer Steve Peer when interviewing Bill Nelson for Jamming! in 1979. (Peer was moonlighting for Nelson's new outfit, Red Noise; we've stayed friends without meeting again ever since!) While some of the live tracks suffer from appalling recording quality, fans of Pere Ubu, Essential Logic and Gang of Four alike will be impressed by the angular rock of the studio cuts 'Weekend' and 'Flesh Kingdom.'
My fellow New York-based South London expat, Palace fan and iJamming! Pub regular releases a second solo album of poetic, personal songs set to his mostly acoustic and always dexterous guitar work. There's middle Eastern and Romanic influences at work here in the impressive vocal ululating and guitar flourishes, but one song proves especially close to (our old) home: 'Gypsy Hill', complete with references to Anerley and Rosendale.
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Exuberant Kansas City quartet evidently influenced by Supergrass ('The Turning of The World'), T. Rex ('I'll Do Anything'), Dandy Warhols ('I'll Do Anything') and any number of other great pop groups who know that a good tune always sounds better with some glam thrown in the mix.
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The Long Island-raised duo Tabitha Tindale and Vinny Cafiso are hardly prolific: this is only their second album in six years. But they're worth waiting round for: like its eponymous predecessor, American Whip is full of weird and wired psychedelic surf ballads that offset Tabitha's eery voice with Vinny's minor chords, packaged in sinister titles like 'Drugs' and 'Alzheimers.' Though often too dark for comfort, on the Lush-via-Phil Spector stand-out 'Baby You Should Know,' Joy Zipper demonstrate that hit songs are not beyond their reach.
(Coup de Grace)
"It ain't easy being me
I'm such a sensitive MC" raps Miser on opening cut 'So Sensitive' and you take his point: half-white, half-Chinese, and clearly raised on the playful hip-hop of a lost generation, it would be pointless for Miser to play out some imagined gangsta credentials. That doesn't mean he ain't got street: both 'L Train To Brooklyn' and 'The Fall of Williamsburg' discuss the changing face of his home borough, while 'Table Scraps' and 'Final' reflect, respectively, his marginal career and romantic affairs with just the right combination of detachment and
Like Miser, Francis doesn't try and fake what he can't claim for real: he's from the decidedly non-urban State of Rhode Island, after all. But that doesn't mean he can't see modern life for the shitfest it is, and A Healthy Distrust is a political tour de force: a vital resuscitation of Public Enemy's lyrical power, Consolidated/MC 900 Ft. Jesus "we're white and not ashamed to rap it" industrial's hip-hop, and Linkin Park's musical rage. As with some of these influences, you may not agree with Sage's every lyric; you just have to feel that he believes them.
Forget for now the disappointing live show: Solarized is Brown's strongest solo album to date, from the warped beats of the opening 'Longsight M13' through the breezy brass of the US bonus cut finale 'Lovebug.' (And yes, seeing as you ask, his voice is as thoroughly in tune as it is instantly recognizable.) It's a relatively muted affair, Brown comfortably settling into ballads like the title tack and the Noel Gallagher-guested single '[Keep What Ya Got' as he encroaches upon middle age, but 'Kiss Ya Lips (No ID)' prove that he can return to the dance floor whenever he feels like it.
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There's not too much to add that transatlantic audiences haven't already determined: Leicester's Kasabian mine the baggy beats of Madchester's heyday to devastatingly reassuring results. But if the now ancient single 'Processed Beats' sounds so Happy Mondays it's already been effortlessly mashed to 'Step On''s piano riff, there's enough Primal Scream grit (in 'Club Foot' and 'Reason' among others) and contemporary urban anger to render Kasabian's repetitive beats socially relevant. American audiences seem to agree: March 18 finds Kasabian at an impressive #123 on the Amazon chart.
This one came to me via a contact in The Pub for which I'm extremely grateful. It's a split 12" (and CD) between two London-based acts, each equally determined to revive that glorious moment in the early 1980s when double dutchers danced in downtown Manhattan nightclubs, The Clash brought The Bronx to Britain and the colour of your skin was irrelevant as long as you felt the funk. Punks Jump Up's delirious 'Be You' is the better song, and far stronger in its 'Dub Disco' mix. But The Springtime Disaster's 'Immaturity' especially as remixed by Punks Jump Up themselves is no slouch either. Already proven a winner on a crossover New York dance floor, this is revivalism so powerful as to make you want to go to church.