Music reviews from the pages of Think Magazine...
This is Hardcore (Island Records)
On Pulp's latest 'This is Hardcore', the candy - coated kitchen sink drama rolls on, with Jarvis Cocker bending your ear about how unnerving it is to be a pop star and 33 years old. It's pretty amusing in a David Bowie (circa Diamond Dogs) meets Marc Almond on a rainy bad hair day.
On 'Help the Aged', the chorus hysterically reminds you that nothing lasts forever, while reminding us that our grandparents were once like 'you, drinking, smoking cigs, and sniffing glue.' On the title track, a perfectly sultry strip - theme, breaks out into an expansive description of the pure seduction, Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) meets Neil Diamond style, bottoming out with the question, 'It's a hell of a show, but what I want to know (is) what exactly do you do for an encore?'
It took Pulp and Cocker ten years to finally find the spotlight they so desired, and it appears that fame has given them a better grip themselves, even if the 'fear' that they describe here is somewhat justified given the weakness of their 80's work.
I heard a funny quote the other day, "How can you tell an English band from an American one. They can change guitarists and still sound the same." Still miles ahead of Oasis and step for step with Suede. - Keith Kirchner
The World of Tomorrow (Mute Records)
A person or group that gives us little clue to their identity, and completely rips off or mocks the music of German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk.
It's definitely of English origin, the interplay of the melodies is just slightly overstated and it's high kitsch value give it away. The Kraftwerk they use is basically from the Man - Machine and Computer World.
It's wonderful to hear that 70's industrial futurism with all its lush oriental arpeggios, and wobbly bass burps. The biggest difference between this revival oriented record and the original is the way it adds a little tiny bit of soul to the rhythm tracks, slight reggae flourishes on 'Looking Down on London', and some heavy break fills on the the hauntingly titled 'Bill Gates'.
The space - walking dub, 'Terminus Interminus', with its megaphonic description of people wandering around an airport, and a hilarious repetition of Loverboy's loser - anthem 'Turn me Loose' repeated over the top. After 8 songs it becomes great background music but not as gravity defying as the original. A completely pot - modern experience, unless you are under the age of 25. - Keith Kirchner
City Delirious (BMG)
DJ Justin Robertson's Lionrock, which in the past have explored the sparse and moody parts of the dance floor and the uncharted waters of vocal techno, have fully loosened up and created one of the most friendly releases so far this year.
The electrified funk of 'Push button Cocktail' is like a warm - up exercise for the ska infused skank and strut 'Rude Boy Rock' and it's alternate chant of 'here we go again', and 'people, wake up.'
The beat shifts dramatically on every track, and the samples are all fresh and moving in tangential directions from one another. Every third or fourth track, some spoken rap lyrics fill in the human element of the proceedings. The conscious raising is strictly on the order of keeping cool, in these psychically challenging times.
The last track 'Amazing New Product', and its waves of buzzing sine waves and boppy, hand clap beat is the frosting on the cake. 'Overdue or overdone, before we can crawl we try to run, that's not all we try to reach, before we learn, we try to teach. The machine is up and running, assemble pieces of the new kid craze.'
Tiny little samples from other planet reprogram the subconscious in 2 second intervals between the bobs of your head. - Keith Kirchner
Erotic Terrorism (Nation Records)
'Your brain is an instrument of torture or protest!' proclaims the cover of this Fun'da'mental release. So no light reading here.
The highly conflicting propaganda machine of the UK's finest purveyors of Marxist liberation rhetoric, searches for weary pulse of the masses once again.
The first single 'Demonized Soul', harks back to the delicious chaos of 'Fear of a Black Planet' Public Enemy, but with this completely possessed gruff, howling screaming. At once playing on western fears of Muslim fundamentalism, and using harrowing militaristic beats against collective blindness to call for individual deliverance from ignorance.
Much like Laibach, Fun'da'mental can use the symbols of struggle and mayhem to disturb the conscious to react. In the past they've been a magnet for controversy not shying away from targeting European racism in the press, in particular the British. The resistance they've inspired speaks to the effectiveness of their message.
Amnesty International's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is included for your pleasure. If you like Ministry, breakbeats, and know that anything coming out of Nation records these days has been excellent, this will definitely be your cup of tea. - Keith Kirchner
Impossible Princess (BMG)
Australian singer Kylie Minogue has been able to transform herself over and over again in much the same way the 'material girl' has over the past ten years.
Where Madonna started at the fringes of the New Wave movement and slipped into the mainstream, Kylie was as soft as snow, and started moving into more experimental territory.
Working with other artists, including Nick Cave, seems to have given Kylie the confidence to experiment more. The album opens with a heavy breather and a piano driven drum and bass track which works well.
The single 'Some Kind of Bliss,' is almost a Rolling Stones rip off, and could have been written in the 70's, along with most of the up beat songs. The darker tracks are fun in a real 'trauma' queen, I'm helpless kind of way, and the housey numbers (there are two of them) fall flat because the music is just too simplistic and old school to cover up her vocal deficiencies.
'Jump' is a sultry addition to my 'songs named jump' compilation, and explains the benefits of jumping into the future. The lyrics seem to border on the unbelievable most of the CD, but only rarely send you into fits of laughter. There's some thing here. - Keith Kirchner
Ray of Light (Warner Music)
A lot of artists struggle to harness their angst early in their careers, and eventually graduate to commercially as they tire of the business. Madonna seems to experienced this phenomena in reverse.
Upon reading the early review for 'Ray of Light,' I experienced a reverse rebellion of my own, and found myself coming to her defense, especially since the last two records had redeeming qualities. Although corny lines like 'changing my mind is my religion' started popping up early on the first track, I was encouraged by the grooves and the production on the first few songs.
'Ray of light,' a thumping electronic swirl, is a worthwhile single, while the muted bass driven, mildly psychedelic 'Candy Perfume Girl' keeps the optimism. What follows in the middle part of the disc is pretty lightweight both musically and lyrically.
William Orbit, who produced lots of great New Wave records seems to let Madonna off the hook, leaving her too much room for her mystical meanderings like, 'why do all the things I say, sound like the stupid things I said before.' She's begging for direction but she's been calling the shots for so long, everyone's afraid to get involved. It's like Citizen Kane in a way, but all this is immaterial in this case, poor girl. - Keith Kirchner
Every Kind of Mood (Warner Music)
Her voice is full of soul, and she can deliver a chorus with gusto, but like most vocalists who are at the mercy of their arrangers and songwriters, she's only as good as what's given to her.
When there's material to work with like on the Seal inspired 'Breaking Down', The introspective 'Living in Silence', and the Hammond organ blues of 'Honey for my Honey', Crawford gets it right, offering the 'Honey to her honey, underneath her coconut tree.'
The lighter ballads do not have enough gospel in them to redeem the arrangements, but don't undermine the whole since they are spread across the CD's length. If you need a new soul singer in your life, then Randy might be the thing for you, there was enough immediacy here to believe the ballads will grow on you. - Keith Kirchner
All Saints (London)
Taking over the boy - toy fantasy throne from the Spice Girls is no tall order. You figure they would have to have a better gimmick, lower standards even, or sing naked.
The primary benefit of having four members (besides splitting the money fewer ways) is to make it easier to choose my favorite, except that they didn't write the names under the faces. Their music attempts to be more like TLC or En Vogue than that old 'Spice' sound.
They exposed the lameness of the 'Chili Peppers' on the hit 'Under the Bridge', in which they sampled the entire song for what price we can only wonder. They have more unique visual appeal as well, like little music bar tattoos and black outfits that make them look more like a group, or a gang.
They just look like they're from humbler backgrounds and are following the rules; thanking mom and dad first, and feeling relieved that all the hard work they've put in this past year has paid off. All of us who have ever struggled for a year can share in the All Saints success, I never felt that the Spicettes ever struggled enough. - Keith Kirchner
A few years back, I wouldn't have felt qualified to review this record. On the other hand, I've seen quite a few car commercials in the last few years, and have familiarized myself with the genre.
A lot of people would like to throw 'BMW' music in with the rest of musak, but as this incredibly successful French outfit shows us on their debut(?) it has far more selling power than the stuff you hear in elevators.
The hysterical combination of cheap 'world' music styles, and 'Phil Collins as Benedictine Choir' like chanting, have been fused together in an incredibly seamless assault on what low standards of taste, we've already come to accept as the lowest common denominator.
The wandering heavy metal solos that parade around the insipid monks, only contribute to the sense of desperation the listener accepts, when out of nowhere a few seconds of almost listenable faux Dead Can Dance' style blather suggests salvation. I wonder if the folks responsible have ever heard Jimi Hendrix before, have they ever been off their yachts?
The brutal fact that this is the best selling record in the country, reminding us just how many, tasteless folks are out there on our streets and freeways. - Keith Kirchner
Unfinished Monkey Business (Polydor)
Former Stone Rose, Ian Brown is back, tearing up the charts in the UK, getting slagged on for slagging off drugs, and making some of his album credits in Arabic.
Actually the music has the same circular motion of his previous work, of which he also produced. Jangly, reverberating guitars hover over the hit 'My Star', a hummable but forgettable Britpop anthem, which doesn't reflect the more interesting ideas that follow.
I always heard a little Mick Jones (The Clash) in his delivery and it really comes out on 'Ice Cold Cube', which has a recurring guitar lead which elevates its bumpy Moody Blues influenced garage sound, to gutter sleeping heights. 'Sunshine' is the long shadow of the Beach Boys, post Sonic Youth, and 'Corpses in Their Mouths' is a byte out of a 'Love and Rockets' song, with a little Syd Barrett standing on his shoulder egging him on.
Brown takes time out to sort out his old mates who 'only wanted a 60 dollar bag, and big limousine for your 'Deep Pile Dream', and finishes his exorcism with with a moody organ and drum machine instrumental, with a wicked samba beat. - Keith Kirchner
It's interesting how electro and other break - dancing beats have become hip again. Up - tempo 808 drum patterns, silky synth - lines and spacy bass are in the mix, too bad none of it's anywhere near as funky as the original jams.
Chocolate Weasel's Marc Royal (aka junglist T - Power) and Chris Stevens turn to the old skool beats on their latest EP and album, but their unsophisticated approach turns these spirited sounds into a nostalgic joke. Music For Body Lockers is more like a music for bodily unlocking. It doesn't inspire moves at all.
But it makes a humorous sound track to an '80s spy film set in outer space; the dub and reprise versions on the EP extrapolate the themes for scenes following the chase. The electro - fixations are less dominant on Spaghettification, where the duo indulges in murky breakbeats and psychedelically - warped sound - bites. Soft harmonic ringing, crisp beats and the Moog - muted warblings on 'Flying Saucers' paint the journey of a peaceful, alien abduction.
At some points, they sound - clash a preacher's call for submissions on insanity with rants on global environmentalism over a bed of jazz or else indulge in the organization of chaos and noise into a dissonant funk, similar to that of Autechre, but with an organic texture of samples and found - sound.
Then sometimes they go completely insane, like the animated drama of a child being attacked by a killer weasel, but for the most part, Chocolate Weasel is on a mindless excursion into sonic oblivion. - Prasad Bidaye
Timber (Ninja Tune / Outside)
This jam - packed, CD single - priced release contains seven mixes and five CD - ROM videos based on Coldcut's stand - out chain saw and world music - sampling track from the Let Us Play CD.
These very good mixes by producers like Journeyman and As One's Kirk DeGiorgio boost the rhythms while maintaining a moody underpinning of sadness related to the environmental theme directed against the clear - cutting BC logging industry.
Darren Knott's "DK Recut" mix is particularly emotional, as his hard jazzy drums and funk bass line build up quite monumentally with strings and the original's backing synths. The complete scenario is supplied by the CD - ROM tracks, which feature Hex's amazing synchronised sound/video - sampling clip and two 'video remixes' by U2's fave media terrorists Emergency Broadcast Network and the Swedish cut - up collective Lucky People Centre. - Chris Twomey
PRESIDENTS OF THE USA
Pure Frosting (Columbia)
The most unlikely of Seattle bands to become king, the President's clowning have decided to call it a day on their own terms. What they are leaving for us is a compilation of b - side, they had eight singles in three years, and outtakes, that while highlighting their absurd view of modern life, don't really add or subtract to what you know about them already.
'Love Delicatessen' takes a page out Chuck D's rhyme book, a cubistic description of a lustful dude, in search of a 'bun', and as is usually the case, is a very good track. They give their age away on 'Video Killed the Radio Star,' the haunting Buggles song that hailed the changing of an era, back in 1981.
Kinda feel good in a Phish kinda way, with a certain ironic sense of humor, which invites the cynical toe - tappers in as well. Old man on the 'Back porch', could be faster version of a Neil Young rant, and even rip off an old Nirvana riff on their police (Sting?) - paranoia, declaration of human rights on 'Man (opposable thumb).'
All around nice guys, they give the fans exactly what they want, and this disc is no different ending with a live version of their smash hit 'Lump,' the catchy, offbeat, stomp rocker that launched their firecracker of a career. - Keith Kirchner
Best of Extreme (A &M)
At their best they could muster a half decent Queen impression, and at worst they were a third rate Bon Jovi imitation. People keep telling me that this is an American group, but I suspect at least two of the band members must be Canadian, or at least the children of draft dodgers.
Songs like 'Rest in Peace' with a refrain of 'Make love not war,' and the horrible snare pounding, generic jamming of 'Get the Funk Out,' really scream 'great white north'. It's remarkable how huge they are, and that no one I know has ever heard of them is an affirmation of my lifestyle for last decade.
Don't get me wrong, they're shlock - metal is first rate, if you like Aerosmith, this will sound better than Rush to you, but if you have no tolerance for lengthy guitar solos, and sappy anthems, then this will be an 'extremely' annoying purchase. The huge hit 'More Than Words' sounds like the Gypsy Kings, could fool you into buying this metalfest. - Keith Kirchner
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Mute Records)
Short on liner notes, and lacking even a photo of the distinguished old crooner, this low - key collection of his contribution to urban blues seems poised to be a on more than a few bars jukeboxes these next few months.
It's always curious to see the artist looking back on his own work, and how it compares to the opinion of hardcore fans. 'Red Right Hand', 'Tupelo', 'The Mercy Seat', and 'From Her To Eternity', were all there, as they should be.
It was the ballads that made me a little nervous, but given the right context 'The Weeping Song', and 'Nobody's Baby Now' feel smoother than their original release. Cave has always managed his career thoughtfully, and now that most of his new fans have never even heard of The Birthday Party, enough water has flowed under the bridge not to include any of his pre - 87 work.
'Do You Love Me?', the grinding repetitive drone about the old ball and chain, or at least his relation to the feminine, shows off his talent for soul baring. "She has a heartful of love and devotion, She had a mindful of tyranny and terror, Well, I try, I do, I really try, But I just err, baby, I do, I error." - Keith Kirchner
Home Truths from Abroad (Polydor)
A band of 17 and 18 year old kids who moved to the states from England to make it big, that's novel. Other than the story, there not much new here, although the fellas themselves put some energy into their power punk, Green Day meets the Kinks.
Those face forward vocals are hard to pull off, you can never be as hard as Henry Rollins, or as earnest as The Buzzcocks were, or as political as the Clash, and you could only dream of being as hard as Chuck D was.
The supporting cast provides a steady diet of jagged edges and sonic washes, for singer Clive Powell to tell about the wisdom he's acquired in the last few years. The cutesy CD jacket, with it's implication that they are some kind of lost waifs, with only their toothbrush and teddy bears to give them comfort, smacks of another Backstreet Boys conspiracy. Rhymes with wet blanket. They're actually not that bad, on a scale of 1 to 10 they still shutout Hanson. - Keith Kirchner
SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
Hot (Mammoth Records)
This refreshing introduction to the retro swing movement, should provide plenty of entertainment for the whole family, even as it makes us all feel a little under dressed. Throwing out decades of antiseptic elegance, the six zippers bend over backwards to make you feel their sweat.
The single 'Hell' is not only very funny, but catchy in the manner of the Violent Femmes classic 'Blister in the Sun'. Check out the lyrics, 'In the afterlife, you will be headed for the serious strife, now you make the scene all day, but tomorrow will be hell to pay!'
The call and response, and jazzy interludes will not rival those of roaring 20's, but there is something in the way of punk spirit thrown between the string arrangements and trombones for good measure. It seems as if because the music we listen to today is louder, bassier, more distorted and contorted, the energy contained in it is always a reflection of the hands, and hearts at the controls. And some folks, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, just swing. - Keith Kirchner
Return to the Last Chance Saloon (Polygram)
The new Cure, I mean not in sound or attitude, but with the ability to move a wide range of ears in their direction, if not generate some devotion.
They sold out their first American and Japanese tours off of their debut album, and have stayed at the top of the charts in the UK on their own terms, able to play where and when they want to, far away from industry pressure.
Like the Cure they have a very good ear for both melody and rhythm, and a way of conveying imagery that distracts you from the otherwise oblique lyrics. Unlike them they have not made a star out of singer Mark Morriss, the color blue the dominant element of their live shows.
They once played a gig that was free to get in, but you had to pay to get out. Anyway, this guitar driven four piece bands music does have a way of undermining your senses, the new 'Saloon' record is full of desert flavored brit - pop, with an ability to take you on a little trip on each track.
They once said "We'd rather be loved by a hundred people than quite liked by a 1000." Their music reflects that. - Keith Kirchner
Generation EFX (EastWest)
The long awaited return of the rats was worth the wait. The Brooklyn crew joined forces with Parrish from EPMD to set the standard, at least until the next Tribe Called Quest bomb drops.
Some truly excellent samples like the bassline from 'Egyptian Lover', some Shalimar, and that sweet, dreamy keyboard riff from 'Strawberry Letter 23,' as well as a completely fucked up usage of 'The Eye of the Tiger,' on the title track, and the 'Dazz' keyboard tone that Ice Cube used when he was king.
Everybody from Redman, EPMD, to Miss Jones get up and give it up for Das, who have not gotten the respect they deserved since their debut single 'They want EFX' four years ago.
Of all the NY crews, Das has the most west coast style in their flavor, the way the voices double over one another until you are surrounded and the stream of boasts and challenges. Even if they play down the glamour of it all like a typical New York crew.
The six tracks produced by Parrish exclusively are dense with sonic information and the most interesting musically, although the texture throughout heavy on reference, and musicality. Dope. - Keith Kirchner
Trent Reznor gets together with Rob Halford of Judas Priest as the two voyeurs, and instead of competing for time, get along just fine. The music deviates from Nine Inch Nails in that it's a lot more metal flavored, and not as 'Ooh, aren't we scary'.
In fact, besides it's industrial electronic elements, it could have been born in Seattle ( I know a great place for voyeurs in the Emerald city if anyone wants to know).
Lot's of headbanging and Soundgarden influenced distorted mayhem. Reznor, who's family used to manufacture industrial heaters, never fails to push the envelope.
Halford, on the other hand, sounds like he's a free man at last. While not expected to fill every negative space with a hoot or a howl, and not afraid to sound like Perry Farrell (Wake Up) on an extremely bent day.
Gallows humor rules the day, 'There's a hole deep in the ground, and I can be found diggin' it deeper, if you want, you can come down, look around, cause you'll fit right in.' When the toys are broken, some one still has to play with them I guess. Don't be afraid, this is the new heavy metal, and it rocks. - Keith Kirchner