Disintegration (Deluxe Issue)
On it's impending release I remember thinking of Disintegration as something of a sell out. A mainstream album on a major record label, which was getting the kind of promotion a new Kings of Leon record would get today. In hindsight, it is perhaps The Cure's darkest and most complete album - focussing their attention in a way that the singles-orientated band had not managed before, into what might as well be one, long brooding composition.
Which begs the immediate question of whether this 12 track masterpiece really needs an expanded, 44 song edition? The answer isn't exactly yes, but if taken as 'extras', this is a fantastic release, which honours the original beautifully. The first disc features a newly remastered version of the original album, making it easy to switch off when that finishes. If you're on a mission, disc two should perhaps be listened to first - as the variety of demos from different periods in the production really show the evolution of the album, without the dull repetition that so many deluxe issue succumb too. Songs evolve from Robert Smith's home demos, through band rehearsals, band demos and studio outtakes.
Delirious Night, Pirate Ships and Babble offer notable non-album tracks on this disc, perfect for mix-tapes - but the more up-beat nature and tempo of each makes it easy to see why they didn't make the cut for the sombre/uplifting final record.
Disc three features the entire album, live (from Wembley Arena! Sell out). Stick this one on last and the evolution of the record is complete, transporting you back to a packed concert as the alum is majestically and triumphantly performed.Read more 5 star reviews
So it's finally a reality, the album no one, least of all Dr. Pepper (that's not what a company needs in a credit crunch), thought would ever materialise. But it has and as expected it has brought with it the tidal wave of opinions that accompany every move Axl Rose makes. Listening to, and to a much greater extent, forming an opinion about Chinese Democracy is damn near impossible while employing your regular critical faculties. It's hard to compare it to previous Guns N' Roses material, seeing as their last studio album was 17 years ago and Axl is the only original member left. And Axl's dominating presence on the record is the only thing linking it to the previous work, as musically it is a different band all together and fiercely contemporary. It would be a different story if Axl had disappeared for 14 years and now reemerged with a comeback album in order to pay some bills, but as we all know that is not the case here. By all accounts he hasn't done anything else but make this record for 14 years, so to review it is like reviewing history and seeing as I am a long way from where I was 14 years ago it's hard to know if I'm disappointed in Chinese Democracy or if I lost interest in its concept a long time ago.
With this record Axl Rose reveals himself as the Colonel Kurtz of the rock world, or actually of the whole world. Lost long ago, way up the river of obsession and self-delusion, he works beyond the boundaries of reason endlessly creating things that mirror himself. In this likeness comes Chinese Democracy, drifting out of the mist from a place no man has gone, a bloated monstrosity so impressive in size and construction and displaying elements of genius but often swaying with uneasy insecurities. And like Joseph Conrad's character you stare back at him with awe, dazzled by the ambition but all the time filled with terror at the mind that could conceive of such a creation.
Excess has always followed Axl Rose both in his music and his lifestyle. Use Your Illusion was flawed, but few have managed to pull off the double album like he did back in 1991. It too was an over-ambitious project that was filled with fat, over-stuffed, gluttonous songs that aimed for the stars with every note. They often failed but it was hard to fault a band that had produced such perfect punk-rock ferocity in Appetite For Destruction only to set a rocket under all that and change forever what any fan had thought or appreciated about them before. All the signs were there that this was going to be a vastly out of proportion project. Axl has always tended towards the epic and with songs like November Rain and Estranged we saw his gigantic vision expressed, but then with songs like Coma we saw how it could all get out of hand. It's no surprise then that left to his own devices and devoid of the more direct guidance of Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan that Axl would be free to express his tendency to swell each song out of all proportion and cram as many elements into every second of his sound. This is the main critisism here but then it was always going to be.
Underneath the colossal weight of production you can hear some great songwriting. The title track opens the album with some force and with his Mr. Brownstone growl, Axl reinstates himself in our lives and it's good to have him back. As expected, Better is the high point of the album. It's a real powerhouse of a song and shows us how far this songwriter has brought his sound and yet at the same time shows glimpses of the feral energy that got us all hooked in the first place. It also shows how different the guitar playing is now compared to the melodic skyward playing of Slash. It's much harder on this record and the way the guitars chug with the force of a freight train on Better affirms that this is a totally different band than before. Shackler's Revenge sees the same guitar train chug but then unravels into an epileptic guitar solo the like of which this band have never provided in the past. Then there's the impressive Catcher In The Rye or the bewildering Street Of Dreams...enough...this has to stop. Having scratched the surface of what makes this record work I see before me, in my mental landscape, a vast chasm of points I feel the need to express, this must be what Axl lives with on a daily basis, and much like this records history any reviewer faces the same temptation to keep writing and writing. So with that in mind I move swiftly and brutally on to the concluding paragraph.
Ultimately, Chinese Democracy poses more questions on its arrival than it did as a myth. All the way through I find myself scratching my head in puzzlement at some of the bizarre twists and turns that Axl takes his band through. But I don't know if this confusion is down to the fact that I too am 14 years older. My formative years were spent with this band blasting in my ears and I can't say that I was chomping at the bit to get another taste. Few things on this earth are worth waiting such a long time for, except maybe actual Chinese Democracy, so now that it is here I can't say I am disappointed, all I can say is that I don't think I really like it but I do think that it's pretty good. The bright light that is Axl Rose has in no way dimmed as a result of this release, it hasn't tarnished the moments of perfection that soundtracked my younger days and all-in-all it's a very impressive event.Read more 3 star reviews
Colour It In
“Latchmere’s got a Wave Machine”.
Not only a statement of fact, but possibly the most brilliantly inane lyric of the summer and most definitely the only lyric in honour of the same South London sports centre where members of the Chimpomatic staff regularly re-write the 5-aside football rule book.
A song about a sports centre. And quite openly too: “Speedos speed by. Remember to stay in your lanes. No Heavy Petting.” just a sample of singer Orlando Weeks’ poetry on track 4 (Latchmere) from Colour It In, the debut album from this Clapham 5 piece (now relocated to Brighton).
The Maccabees cast a pretty narrow net lyrically; focusing on that period of late teens/early 20s (unsurprising considering they weigh in at an average age of 21) which with hindsight are glorious and carefree, but at the time can be overcast with trivial doubts and worries. Colour It In captures the energy, exuberance and innocence of this time, but is not a naïve album.
Whilst the hefty chip on my shoulder makes me naturally cautious of a band made up of an Orlando, Felix, Hugo, Rupert and a Robert Dylan Thomas, I’m a sucker for a dose of that post-Strokes, tight guitared-pop and Colour It In’s sheer enthusiasm chipped away at my cynicism after a couple of listens. They pad tracks 3 through 7 with the stronger single-ish songs All In Your Rows, Latchmere, About Your Dress (see a video clip here) and Precious Time - all of which got my feet tapping, so god knows how the less world-weary kids are keeping still, whilst the supporting songs hold their own and keep up the vibe.
The Maccabees may well go down the Razorlight route of wankerworm or they might dissapear without trace, but there is no denying that Colour It In is a confident and enjoyable debut, that will most likely be unavoidable this summer. It may not last the test of time, but like any good summer romance it’s the excitement of the now that matters. If you are too old to get to a wave machine for your summer kicks; a few beers, a spot of sun and Colour It In might just do the trick.
The Magic Position
Opening with a veritable cascade of drums that would put Collins to shame (Phil not Jackie) I thought I was about to witness hordes of screaming crazed Roundheads charging the Cavaliers in the opening of some period war film. Then in come the even more epic, but beautifully scored strings in what turns out to be a great opening track, Overture. Having not heard any Patrick Wolf before I found myself slightly miffed that I'd missed out. He's quite clever you know, apparently he built a Theremin when he was barely in his teens. Shame I couldn't spot any on this album (but then I'm deaf as a post so wouldn't anyway). Based a lot around the piano and some stirring string arrangements, the sound of this album benefits from lots of experimentation with dirty analogue sounds and the occasional senseless dark brain-bleeding noise. However with a strong voice that is often lacking up against such a distinct and full sound such as this the whole album comes together nicely. It certainly makes for a much better soundtrack to that new series with Ray Liotta on Channel Five.
At times the young 23 year old songwriter reminded me vocally of a cross between that bloke from Divine Comedy and Edwyn Collins but with more of a wryness about him. I'd certainly like to see how he gets his girl into The Magic Position whilst singing in the major key. I liked the one with the firework sounds, Bluebells and then hark, is that the voice of Marianne Faithfull I hear on the beautiful piano and violin piece that is Magpie? Holy Sheet what a coup, this guy obviously has some noteworthy fans, if you're interested, Edward Larrikin appears on Accident and Emergency.
It's not a dance floor filler but overall I enjoyed this album, despite Get Lost starting with the sound of my alarm clock going off before turning into a summery guitary, synthy, happy lets-go-have-some-carefree-fun number. I bet that Mika bloke would love to be as good as Patrick Wolf.
Conor Oberst and producer Mike Mogis have spent much of 2006 in the studio working on the follow up to 2005's breakthrough Bright Eyes albums "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" and "Digital Ash In A Digital Urn". Recording in such exotic locales as New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, OR and Lincoln, NE, the Bright Eyes line-up for the new record includes full-timers Conor, Mike and Nate Walcott. The album sessions include guest performances from M.Ward, Gillian Welch and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. Titled "Cassadaga", the album is due for release in the UK on 9th April 2007.
"We're really wanting to be experimental with this one. Sort of folky and trippy and hopefully a little more cosmic," says Conor. For a taste of what could be in store fans can download a new song "Endless Entertainment", taken from the album recording sessions, at www.thisisbrighteyes.com
Conor Oberst recently penned a deal with Polydor in the UK to release Bright Eyes records worldwide excluding N. America where Conor and co. remain on their hometown label Saddle Creek records in Omaha, Nebraska.
A single, "Four Winds" will be released prior to the album on 2nd April.