You Can Die Your Hair... But Not Your Heart (kYMF)
Annalise are out to prove wrong the people who thought that all modern punk is just lightweight, with no originality or anything to rage about. This album, that compiles the band's first record and an early EP 'Fettered' is fierce in sound and angry lyrically. What I've found most suprising about 'You Can Die Your Hair...' are the grunge-style techniques used in songs like 'Disappear From View', which add variety to the tunes.
There is also more traditional punk on songs such as the opener 'Always 18' and 'Kid Who Felt A Fake'. The dynamics on these tracks are just right though, being fast enough to incite a moshpit, but docile enough for the listener at home to understand the bands raging and bitterness. Overall, I think this album is unsettling and hard to love, but strangely compelling and quite enjoyable.
Hope Is Important (Food)
Right from the opening screams of 'You've Lost Your Way' you can tell that 'Hope Is Important' is going to be a ferocious album. There are bitter, angry tracks such as 'A Film For The Future' which contrast with the celebratory rage of '4 People Do Good', which is about the bands rapid ascent to success. Along with the melodic, abrasive punk of the superb single 'Everyone Says That You're So Fragile' and the dark, feedback fuelled 'Low Light', these tracks carry straight on from the band's manic mini-album, 'Captain', released earlier this year.
Idlewild have however, injected some slower, more poignant songs into this album. The most notable of these are 'I'm Happy To Be Here Tonight' which is based around gentle, acoustic guitars and a piano, and 'Safe And Sound' which even features violins. While these songs aren't as inspiring as the faster tracks, they provide the tempo change lacking from 'Captain', Despite all this, I still only find 'Hope Is Important' a good album, and not an excellent one. I don't think there are enough quality melodies and ideas to lift this to greatness. However, it's still brutal in sound, fantastic to listen to loud and reflects much of the band's amazing live energy.
Welcome To Our World (MIR)
'Welcome To Our World' is eighteen slices of cheery punk-pop, featuring CJ who used to be in the Wildhearts. The band themselves don't take themselves too seriously, and pay homage to love, their vast array of pet animals and strawberry ice-cream in their songs. Some of the tracks are excellent examples of how to combine speed, melody and sugary vocals, particularly in the first half of the album. The best of the bunch are the single 'Feels Like Sunshine', a gorgeous summer anthem with sleigh bells in it, the harmonised tunefulness of 'Just A Love Song', the more gritty and downbeat 'Hang Up' and you just can't help loving 'Girl In My Pocket'.
The main criticism of this album is that there are too many songs! There are not enough original ideas or variety in here to sustain eighteen tracks. After half an hour the band's sound and temp begin to grate, and I think The Jellys would have been wiser to restrict themselves to a dozen songs. However, although there is possibly too much average material in 'Welcome To Our World', there are some gems too, which make this album worth having a listen to.
Vote The Pacifist Ticket Today (Chemical Underground)
'Vote The Pacifist Ticket Today' is a difficult album to review, mainly because the band's sound cannot be pin-pointed. It's sort of space-rock, but with definite elements of lo-fi and punk in their too. This is music which you are not used to listening to; even the more straight forward single 'Swiss Border Escape' has a strange spaced gloss over it all.
This sound does not work all the time, particularly in the middle of the album, where things wane slightly, but when it does, some of the songs can be exhilarating. There is the completely unstructured 'Acid Goldbar', which crescendos into a fit of punk noise. The drone effect used in 'Keep It Pure' makes it one of the most haunting tracks you'll hear. Singer Andrew Rayner's vocals are distorted all over the place in 'The Spectre Close In', which is typical of Magoo's experimental tendencies and production. After many listens, 'Vote The Pacifist Ticket Today' is one of my favourite records of the year, and if you like your indie-rock churned up and spat out into something completely different, I recommend it.
Deserter's Songs (V2)
Just a short mention for this because it has already received enough praise, what with being the NME album of the year and everything. No-one had overrated this album though; Mercury Rev have created a fascinating, haunting sound which, thankfully, refrains from being self-indulgent. Most of the album has a very lush, mystical feel to it, mainly due to singer Jonathan's frail voice, but Mercury Rev are also capable of creating a great pop song in the form of 'Goddess On A Hiway'. In this case. the music paper men are absolutely correct.
Messenger In The Camp (Fierce Panda)
Anyone who has seen Seafood live will know what they are capable of; frazzled white noise combined with melodic pop. Don't ask me how, but despite the mass of guitar and vocal sound on the singles 'Scorch Comfort' and 'Psychic Rainy Nights', the band have managed to create highly accessible tunes, which sound brilliant. In contrast to this, Seafood display their delicate side on the acoustic lullabies of 'Ukiah' and 'We Felt Maroon', which show the bands songwriting capbilities, despite a fragile sound. The harmonies are very atmospheric too.
Also included on this mini-album is one of the singles of the year; the magnificent 'Porchlight'. It's brutal, twisted and ferocious and if you haven't heard it, is worth buying 'Messenger In The Camp' for that song alone. Not that that should detract from the rest of the songs on the album - nearly all of this is wonderful stuff; hardrocking and poignant, often in the same song.
Songs For The Colour Yellow (hitBACK)
Over the last couple of years, Spearmint have released a stream of singles on their own 'hitBACK' label, which, a few glowing reviews from fanzines apart were largely ignored. I first became aware of the band at this year's Reading festival, and was immeadiately captivated by their delicate tunefulness. I wanted some of their material, and very fortunately this album became available soon after; a compilation of early singles and B-sides.
My favourite song from the album is 'Song For The Colour Yellow', a witty poem dealing with singer Shirley's fascination with his favourite colour, witha a gorgeous chorus and gentle guitar picking providing the accompaniment. It is a typical Spearmint track; interesting and amusing lyrics played alongside fragil, hook-filled musicianship. Other enjoyable songs are the stmospheric 'Slips Away' and the more bitter 'I Can't Sleep'. The poorer tracks on the album tend to be ones which are obvious B-side material; 'Do You Remember Me?' is particularly insubstantial. This is a fine collection however, with some classic tunes which should appeal especially to fans of lo-fi indie-pop (yes, I did just make that genre up). I can see the tunes getting even better for the proper debut album next year.
Seventh Inning Stretch (SD Records)
I first found out about Travis Cut on Snakebite City 7. Their contribution, 'Asmuchas' combined screwed up vocals, harmony and punk riffs in a roller coaster flurry, and was one of the standout tracks of the compilation. While I don't think there is anything on 'Seventh Inning Stretch' to match the aforementioned track, much of it is formed in the same mould, which is no bad thing. There are some genuinely exciting songs; 'My Idea Of Fun' is a frenzied opener and 'Save Me Now' is a fraction slower, but retains the all-important melody.
Some of the tracks are almost pure pop, particularly 'Back Of My Hand'. Others are set in a tougher style; 'Forget I Ever Met You' sounds like J Church. I have to give the band credit for this album; it may not be inspirational, and I know there are people out there who don't like their pun mixed with pop, but this is a record that as soon as you put on the turntable you know is going to be fun and full of tunes.
Issue 2 Contents
Issue 2 Spring '99 © Tim Bragger