Saturday, July 02, 2005

Album Review Compendium

Dead Kenny's May/June purchases dissected. Short and bitter, just like the man himself.

Axes by Electrelane.

There's nothing on this Brighton band's third album that quite lives up to 'The Valleys' the standout on its' predecessor The Power Out, and there's a partial return to the instrumental noodling of their debut record, but taken as a whole (this was recorded in almost one take under the production of Steve Albini) this feels like their most coherent and inherently satisfying output to date. Plus there's some great freight train noises. There should be more freight train noises on records, in Dead Kenny's view. Whoo-whoo!

Three Fingers by The Rogers Sisters.

From freight trains to 'Freight Elevator', the opening track on this mini-album from didactic dance-punks The Rogers Sisters, which represents a huge step-up in production values from their frustrating debut 'Purely Evil'. It's sometimes difficult to take their po-faced personal politics seriously ('wearing glasses/doesn't make you happy' Jennifer Rogers advises on 'Fantasies Are Nice', try telling that to someone with a -9.5 prescription, Jenny!) but for the most part the music is lively and dynamic fun.

Waiting For The Sirens' Call by New Order.

As with all NO records, the quality seems a little uneven, but there's a handful of modern classics on here that stand scrutiny against the band's very best work (the title track, the achingly beautiful 'Turn', 'Guilt Is A Useless Emotion' as well as the two singles 'Krafty' and the undervalued 'Jetstream'). But then, after the inevitable repeated plays, the songs that first seemed like filler start to kill you softly with their love.

Face The Truth by Stephen Malkmus.

The former Pavement frontman's third solo record is like a surprise midnight feast following the pork scratchings of 'Pig Lib', liberally topped-up with memorable tunes, witty lyrics and mellow reverie to make for the best record Malkmus has been associated with since 'Wowee Zowee' (though, in truth, it has more of the flavour of 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain').

Cuts Across The Land by The Duke Spirit.

Liela Moss & Co. have been a semi-permanent feature on the UK gigging circuit for the last eighteen months, and with their debut full-length featuring all of their previous singles plus a re-working of 'Red Weather' from their mini-LP 'roll, SPIRIT, roll', it's tempting to take this record for granted. This would be a mistake, however, as this is a viciously potent rock'n' roll brew, laced with just about the right amount of attitude, and no-one can argue that Moss doesn't have a great set of pipes. New tracks like 'Stubborn Stitches' and 'Lovetones' prove capable of holding their own against the more familiar material, so go reap or your record collection will be so-so.

Everything Ecstatic by Four Tet.

Not sure about this one as yet, with Keiran Hebden's fourth release under the Four Tet moniker making for a pleasant and occasionally diverting listen without ever quite grabbing you by the lapels. It's not that it isn't without its' moments (beatific single 'Smile Around The Face' and the striking 'Sleep Eat Food, Have Visions' stand out) but it isn't as consistently arresting as 'Dialogue' or 'Rounds'. A bit more random danger in Hebden's MDMA mix wouldn't have gone amiss.

Peddlin' Dreams by Maria McKee.

Unusually rapid follow-up (by the artist standards) to 2003's 'High Dive' has such a similar sound, mood and feel to its' predecessor you'd be forgiven for thinking these are out-takes from the same recording sessions. If you think as much of 'High Dive' as Dead Kenny, however, you'll no doubt concur this is no bad thing, with 'Sullen Soul'; 'Everyone's Got A Story' and a piano-led cover of Neil Young's 'Barstool Blues' chief amongst its' notable moments.

The Woods by Sleater-Kinney.

Dead Kenny really enjoyed S-K's last effort 'One Beat' but the record sold poorly and didn't even get a proper distribution deal in the UK. The fiesty rockers have since hitched themselves to SubPop and wheeled in Lips/Rev producer Dave Fridmann, equal parts inspiration and desperation leading to a sound that's more dense metal than heavy metal, a blanket of guitar sound that the band's pop suss and subtle hooks stuggle to penetrate. It does get better with further listens, but as yet I can't agree with those critics proclaiming this the group's best record yet.

The Heartlight Set by Joy Zipper.

Like The Raveonettes, Joy Zipper have toned down their MBV guitar fuzz stylings for a stripped-down sound that highlights the pristine pop perfection of their beatific and bittersweet melodies. Remodellings of 3 tracks from 2003's mini-LP 'The Stereo And The God' (1, 2 Dreams I Had, Window) glide effortlessly alongside the propulsive 'You're So Good'; shoe-gazy 'Rockdove' and the nicely sleazy 'For Lenny's Own Pleasure' for a summery pop confection where the slightly sour and contrary lyrical sentiments stop things from getting too sickly sweet.

Dirty Words by The Departure.

Perhaps it's because they come from Northampton that there's a vague air of naffness that bedevils The Departure that big-city broodpop brethren like Editors and Apartment have thus far avoided. Let's hope that Parlophone stick with them, though, as bruising tunes like 'Lump In My Throat'; 'Only Human' and 'Arms Around Me' have a vulnerable charm that more than compensates for a perceived lack of terminal hipness. Cuss, I love you.

Man-Made by Teenage Fanclub.

Aside from their under-regarded collaboration with Jad Fair in 2002, this is the Fannies' first collection of songs since we said hello to 'Howdy!' five years ago. Released under their own Pema imprint, Man-Made is clearly a labour of love, beautiful songs crafted with delicate harmonies and emotional intelligence producing a rich, timeless and ultimately moving artefact, their best work since masterpiece 'Songs From Northern Britain'.

This Parallax View feature, as always, has been sponsored by Dead Kenny's long-suffering credit cards. We can only dream it accumulates as much interest as our favourite pieces of ubiquitous plastic.


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