Lines In Wax

THIRTEEN YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

pop

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)

Rain Dogs comes in the middle of a trio of absolutely classic releases from Tom Waits. The man was, truly, on a roll with these studio albums. There’s something so magical and unique about these songs and the feelings that they conjure up. Rain Dogs is also a rare album where its remaster has caused me to appreciate it more, at least in regards to listening digitally.  Such a brilliant album.

New Order – True Faith (1987)

Another one of my absolute favourite songs of all time. I am, at heart, an album guy, but when it comes to strong singles there are a core few which have been with me for my whole life. “True Faith”, not so much it’s b-side “1963”, is one of these incredible songs. The cold, mechanical drum machines and synthesisers mesh with soft vocals and odd bass leads, making a concoction which shouldn’t really work but is just absolute musical bliss.

New Order – Blue Monday (1983)

One of the greatest singles of all time, which probably needs little to no introduction, let alone a review from me. I remember falling in love with this song as a kid, hearing it on the radio but having no idea who sang it. I loved the drum machines, the synths, the vocal delivery. It all felt so futuristic, so new, so fresh, yet also rather dark at the same time. Just absolutely brilliant.

John Maus – Love Is Real (2007)

John Maus – Love Is Real (2007)

I feel like I’ve heard a thousand records like this yet John Maus truly still stands alone. Such a minimal, nonchalant approach to electronic pop is delivered with a shrug and a post-punk indifferent style of vocal, but it is a delivery that Maus well and truly makes his own with this record. This things is backloaded in my opinion, with the best tracks coming in the final third, rounding out with one of my favourite songs in any genre, the effortless “Times Is Weird”.

Slayyyter – Starfucker (2023)

Slayyyter – Starfucker (2023)

Unfortunately nowhere near as suave or sophisticated as the album sleeve promises. I have heard a Slayyyter release in the past so I should have know what to expect here, alas I let the Roxy Music lookin ass cover lead me in under a false sense of security. Granted, she has matured musically from dreck such as a “Daddy AF” but this is still vapid nonsense. Cool if you’re into that. I’m not lol.

Dannii Minogue – Neon Nights (2003)

Dannii Minogue – Neon Nights (2003)

Pointless, vapid bubblegum pop that sounds soulless and modern yet tired and outdated all at the same time. Mind you, this thing is so inoffensive it’s hard to justify getting riled up enough to give it a stinker of a review. The producers have made a fair enough effort in all fairness but Minogue sounds like she really can’t be arsed to even be here on her own album.

Bryan Ferry – Bête Noire (1987)

Bryan Ferry – Bête Noire (1987)

Damn son this makes me want to stand on a street corner in a light drizzle outside some nondiscript cafe or bar in an anonymous western European city. I’ve just lit a cigarette and I’m watching the pretty girls walk by, huddled in their coats and black tights. Inside, the bar man is pouring aperitifs into small crystal glasses for me and my faceless date, who is also impossibly beautiful. Her face is cloaked in a low hanging cloud of smoke that hangs like unmovable fog inside the building. Once I finish my cigarette and head back inside (I came out to listen to the sounds of the city and feel the rain on my face) the title track of this record is playing softly over the stereo. My beautiful date speaks to me in fluent French, and I haven’t a fucking clue what she is saying. But it doesn’t matter. I’m here in this time and space, and that is all that matters. “Kiss and Tell” now plays over the speakers, and she takes my hand and demands that I take her for a dance. We are the only two people in the bar, and we dance in the smoke. The bar man, furiously polishing the inside of a bier glass with a soft rag, watches us with a smirk.

Au Revoir Simone – The Bird of Music (2007)

Au Revoir Simone – The Bird of Music (2007)

I’m sure there are many others out there just like me who have David Lynch to thank for including Au Revoir Simone’s music in Twin Peaks: The Return. Their “performances” were highlights of the somewhat dreary musical acts to appear in the returned TV show, and I made with haste to the very album from which those cuts originated. Unfortunately, I did not process this review with the same haste in which I visited the album initially lol. I listened to The Bird Of Music twice back-to-back last night so the timing is now right for me to come here and declare how much I love this album and to implore you to listen to it if you are on the fence or just lost and stumbling across random music on the internet. I haven’t heard any other records by this three piece but The Bird Of Music is a beautiful piece of work, full of subtle pop music built on top of hypnotic, droning synthesiser work. Songs are dreamy; unfolding with a treacle-like pace and consistency, but held together by sweet, tender vocals that stop the music veering too far off into the wilderness. If I had to pick standouts I would pick both “Lark” and “A Violent Yet Flammable World” only because these are the songs that made me fall in love with this thing in the first place.

Zheani – The Spiritual Meat Grinder (2023)

Zheani – The Spiritual Meat Grinder (2023)

I have absolutely no fucking idea how I stumbled onto Zheani’s music, but Spiritual Meat Grinder is something of an aural palate cleanser. Insane, headache-inducing electronics meet absolutely manic vocal performances from sweet singing, yelping, growling to auto-tuned warbling. It’s like witnessing some sort of aural overdose of sugar. 19 minutes later and I’m sat here like “WTF was that?” but for some reason I want to listen to it again.

OPM – Heaven Is A Half-Pipe (2001)

OPM – Heaven Is A Half-Pipe (2001)

Expanding on my recent comment, I figured I’d do a review as I owned the CD – This gets a 3 star because it was one of the first CD singles I ever bought. I wanted the album, because I knew a lot of OPM stuff had swears in it, and as an 11 year old, that was just the coolest shit ever. However, there was something about the absolute dogshit artwork on the album that stopped me from buying it, and I’ve never heard it, even to this day. Heaven Is A Half Pipe was EVERYWHERE in the UK. Realistically, its not that great of a song, but damn was it catchy. I remember buying this CD, putting it into my Walkman, and having my mind blown by the skating sounds going from left to right, right to left, like there was someone skating a pipe inside my head. That shit was cash. I listened to this track for the first time this month in 22 years. It really hasn’t aged well. For some reason the band re-recorded it in 2011, and this is much, much worse than the original. Weird.

Phantogram – Voices (2014)

Phantogram – Voices (2014)

I fell in love with Sarah Barthel after hearing the Big Grams album (a collab project between Phantogram and Big Boi from Outkast). The problem I have with Phantogram themselves however is a similar ailment that strikes me when I listen to The Chromatics (although perhaps not so much there, the problem is worse here with Phantogram). And the problem that I am talking about is… well, I could be listening to just about absolutely anyone. There is no identity here, nothing unique that is pulling me back and keeping me here. Is the music absolutely lovely? Yes. Are Sarah’s vocals fantastic? Yes. But Phantogram, specifically on Voices, do not jump out and grab me. This is all shades of generic, despite being well made, and that is just really, really sad. Oh, and the songs with the dude singing on them are dreadful, I’m sorry.

Kitten – Cut It Out (2012)

Kitten – Cut It Out (2012)

This isn’t usually my bag but I was drawn in by the incredible vocals. Ended up sticking around for the whole EP, which is at points as dark and weird as it is poppy – the songs are crackling and alive with the spark of youth (lol) and I’d be very excited to hear more from this group to find out where they ended up taking things.

Killing Joke – Outside The Gate (1988)

Killing Joke – Outside The Gate (1988)

This is arguably the catalyst for the initial destruction of the original run of the band in the 80s. I’ve seen it called a band unravelling, a misled attempt at a solo project, or also the work of intense vanity from certain members of the group. But how does it sound? To my knowledge, Geordie and Jaz go it alone on this effort, with a hired band of session musicians. It sounds… like a really super polished version of Night Time. To be fair, the songwriting is pretty good, and whilst this is easily the most wishy washy release the band ever did, the instrumentation and vocals are spot on for the kind of genre and atmosphere the record aims to create. The one place where Outside The Gate fails however, is it is missing that Killing Joke identity. Whatever style of music the band has put its hand to over the last several decades, it still sounds like Killing Joke. Outside The Gate does not. Sure, Jaz Coleman is unmistakable. But that’s it. And that’s a big deal. So, in conclusion, this isn’t anywhere near as bad as some people make out. I would however definitely start elsewhere if you are new to Killing Joke.

Killing Joke – Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (1986)

Killing Joke – Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (1986)

What I would define (if possible) as Killing Joke’s “poppy” period is probably my least favourite era. That being said, Night Time is a banging album, but Brighter Than A Thousand Suns continues in this vein, but with less urgency and with more sprinklings of New Romantic style pomp. That’s not to say the songs aren’t sprawling or lush or anything like that, but elementally, things just come together differently, and therefore hit differently, especially in this time period of releases.

Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)

Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)

I’ve never listened to Genesis before. Of course, their shit is all over the radio, but never to the point have I sat down and enjoyed one of their albums. I also can’t help but feel like Patrick Bateman listening to this shit. Anyways, it’s a very poppy, very synthesizer-heavy roundup of songs from Genesis. There’s some absolute bangers, and then there’s some tracks that just kinda blur on by with nothing to say for themselves. I’m not sure what I went into this expecting, but I found it quite pleasant, in most cases.

Etienne Daho – Pop Satori (1986)

Etienne Daho – Pop Satori (1986)

Since September 2019 I’ve had a private Telegram channel in which I keep track of everything that I listen to. Once I’ve done a piece on LIW for that particular release, I delete the entry from the Telegram channel. Etienne Daho’s Pop Satori has been on that list since September 2019 lol. In fact, I remember listening to it, headphones on whilst lying on the sofa, my girlfriend not long pregnant with our son. She’d gone to bed early so I stretched out and enjoyed this. I get Bete Noire / Taxi era Bryan Ferry vibes (perhaps this is the sort of thing that he sought to imitate?), and whilst some of these vibes and textures do tend to repeat themselves over the course of the album, it’s still an enjoyable listen. It’s on the gentler side of the 80s synthesizer and pop movements than I would usually partake in, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love (1985)

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love (1985)

This one has been on the list for a while. Always been a fan of Kate’s unusual voice and the kinda spiritual instrumentation used, even at the peak of 80s synthesizers. Hounds Of Love really shows off Kate’s intense and mesmerising vocal performances, and there are some very interesting twists in the song writing. Lovely stuff.

Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Ceasar (2017)

Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Ceasar (2017)

Is this a concept album? I should probably look it up but I can’t be bothered. Anyways, I love all eras of Ulver and its been a while since I’ve written about the later stuff so I decided to spin this up. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a toploader of an album, with all the good shit stacked at the front. It also doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in regards to Ulver’s ever-evolving musical journey, but it’s a lovely slice of dark pop none the less.

Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005)

Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005)

I was never that big a fan of Demon Days when it first came out. It seemed to lack the dub stylings of the Gorillaz self-titled album. It could not be argued however, that Demon Days is not packed with fantastic singles. From “Dirty Harry” to “Kids With Guns” to “Dare” or even all the way through to the abstract “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head”, Demon Days is loaded with low key banger after banger. Props to Damon Albarn et al for this fantastic sophomore record.

Boy Harsher – Lesser Man (2014)

Boy Harsher – Lesser Man (2014)

I love Boy Harsher. Both their album (Yr Body Is Nothing) and this original demo/EP/whatever are absolutely fantastic slices of dark electronica. Here on Lesser Man, themes and imagery of the dark industrial or noise worlds is used with warbling analogue synthesizer sounds and cold, sparse and tense vocals, to create a danceable yet thought-provoking series of compositions. One of the best!

Молчат Дома – Этажи (2018)

Молчат Дома – Этажи (2018)

Stunning, dreamy, nostalgic – these are a few words that spring to mind with this album playing. In fact this is so good I threw down on a copy of the cassette release off the strength of the first track alone. I can’t wait for it to arrive so I can listen to it again on an analogue format (dec 2021 update: it sounds amazing). Mixing the treacle-like haunted nostalgia vibes of vaporwave with morose 80s electronic pop, this record is steeped in soviet / fall of the iron curtain vibes. I’m unsure if that’s the intention, but the sound immediately throws me back to that era. Brilliant album.

Pulp – Different Class (1995)

Pulp – Different Class (1995)

Different Class is fucking great but I’m not sure if it has aged well. Jarvis Cocker’s sexually charged mumbles and whispers give him the air of some creepy-ass sex offender, especially when a few of these numbers have a sting in the tail (tale? Haha). He will get your Mrs. coked up, fuck her without johnny on, and then bail. But, he’ll write a song about it, so that makes it OK, apparently? Like I said, hasn’t aged well, despite this being a very well crafted record.

Robbie & Mona – EW (2021)

Robbie & Mona – EW (2021)

I found out about this Bristolian duo through the Instagram account @scvmrat. Turns out she had posed for this record cover and its voyeur / BDSM kinda vibe gave me industrial or power electronics vibes. I was even more curious when I found out the band played “dream pop”, and so added EW to my listen list. Dream pop is a pretty good way to describe this. The term generally makes me think of stuff like The Chromatics. But if The Chromatics are a pleasant dream, then Robbie & Mona’s debut record isn’t quite a nightmare, but one of those dreams that takes you on an inexplicable journey, one that twists and turns at every given moment. Good shit! A shame I missed the cassette drop, but that art would look pretty damn good on a 12″ sleeve anyways…

XTC – Drums And Wires (1979)

XTC – Drums And Wires (1979)

I got turned onto XTC when the song “Making Plans For Nigel” was used in the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch. I’d heard it before but something about hearing it again made it stick with me, and it wasn’t long before I got this album on the go. It’s a strange affair, a lot of mixed vibes and bizarre songs, the weirdest one has to be “Complicated Game”, which seems like a mix between Adam Ant and something that Korn’s Jonathan Davies would have done vocally in his earlier years. Drums And Wires is a bizarre album, I’ll just leave it at that.

Björk – Vulnicura (2015)

Björk – Vulnicura (2015)

I remember this record coming out as if it was yesterday. It marked a turn in direction for Björk, who I understand was going through a lot of personal stuff at the time. Not only is the tone and content darker, the songs are impenetrable and sprawling. Björk has released plenty of difficult or challenging records, but this album is almost painful an experience when listening from start to finish. I guess in some regards that is kind of the point, where the venom being extracted slowly and difficultly is in its own way a healing process. However that by no means makes it an easy experience for the listener. I think this is the most difficult and impenetrable Björk album to date.

Volenté – Is This Real (2021)

Volenté – Is This Real (2021)

My good friend and recent LIW contributor Gareth turned me onto Volenté when we were scouting for new artists for our Tape Co. label. I’m reminded immediately of Portishead, what with the ticking beats and low key unsettling instrumentation adorned with breezy, unique vocals. Some tracks are more traditionally structured, where others are more experimental or out-there. In parts I can draw comparisons to Enya or even Bowie, but maybe I’ve had too many whiskies.

Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (2013)

Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (2013)

If you put the memes aside, Lana Del Rey is actually a fantastic artist. I’ve been guilty of shitting on her myself (2021 edit: read that out loud mate, Jesus Christ) here on the site but off the back of surprisingly enjoying the “bonus” album Paradise (which I listened to first), I decided it would probably be best to check out the incredibly well received Born To Die. Born To Die is best listened to with big headphones, to let Lana’s incredible voice take you away for an hour. The production, is perhaps expectedly, gorgeous; everything hangs perfectly in the balance and does not interfere with Lana’s voice. I look forward to checking out some of her other albums.

Priest – Cyberhead (2020)

Priest – Cyberhead (2020)

I fell in love with Priest’s debut single, “The Pit”, and the album which followed it. Unfortunately, the kinship with their cold and awkward techno pop ends there. 2020’s sophomore effort lacks in just about every attribute that made the original so interesting, which is a true shame. I hear there may have been line up changes in the band? Either way, this is pretty disappointing, truth be told.

The Chromatics – Cherry  (2014)

The Chromatics – Cherry (2014)

Dreamy, otherworldly pop, which for all its ethereal atmosphere, is a touch devoid of originality. Once one track is done, I feel like I’ve scoped the vibe for the entire album. Every track is delivered with the same pace; that same valiumed-up-to-my-eyeballs vocal delivery, regardless of who is behind the mic. That being said there are some solid tunes here, including a great version of “Shadow” (in the online version) and the various iterations of the title track. How amazing are both versions of the album art, though?

Tyler, The Creator – Igor (2019)

Tyler, The Creator – Igor (2019)

Tyler has come a long way from Goblin, that much can be said. Igor didn’t exactly blow me away, but it is a decent collection of tracks. I’ve always seen Tyler as a producer first and a vocalist second, and now that rapping as been almost completely removed from his repertoire, that opinion is even more tilted. This record is glorious, and the beats have bells on, but that’s about it.

Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (2020)

Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (2020)

This is the debut solo release here from Hayley Williams of Paramore (despite other current members of Paramore actually having a part to play in the album at various points throughout). An unique and refreshing sound – and move away from Paramore – adapting a clever and dark sort of indie pop vibe. A fantastic selection of songs here, and a really tight bunch that fit perfectly together as an album and compliment each other well. This isn’t just a mismatched bunch of songs here, theres great mood, setting and flow to the album. I really enjoy this record personally, even if I wasn’t aware of her previous work I’d say I’d definitely enjoy this, and I think that would generally be the case too for people picking up on this who may otherwise be new to her as an artist. Released during the height of mass lockdowns and a global pandemic, I feel Hayley also really utilised her platform well and really took control of the whole releasing an album during these times process; a series of videos, as well as live home performances and stripped down versions of songs from the record, and staying really fresh and relevant throughout with the entire albums release process. When I first heard the track “Simmer” I was immediately captivated by it. It’s a refreshing, perfect sounding release with a great chorus, driving bass line, flow and great vocal hooks and delivery. “Leave It Alone” a slow and sad sounding slow groove number, and another showcasing track from the album. “Cinnamon” builds and builds into this sort of almost dance like number, such groove and flow in both music and vocal, totally taking the track to different places within itself, possibly my favourite track on the album. “Creepin’” is another highlight for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned there actually. Another album favourite for me is “Dead Horse” which if I’m allowed to say chorus wise at least actually reminds me a little of a sort of something No Doubt may do, and I’m not just comparing the next female fronted act I can think of, it just has that sort of style of sound going on. Overall a great album, and perfectly picked bunch of songs that make up a really solid debut release and break away release for the artist. 10/10.

Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue (2020)

Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue (2020)

Here we have Ellie Goulding’s fourth studio album, the number one selling Brightest Blue. So, I believe the premise of this record is that it is split into two sides; two parts – one being the very sort of sound we started seeing Ellie creep into around the time of her Halcyon record and the latter part a series of collabs with various sort of EDM artists (all of which I’d never heard of prior to which possibly makes me feel really old, I’m not sure). So, side one is the straight up album, Brightest Blue, where it seems the other half is referred to as Eg.O. The Brightest Blue and full fresh album side to this bunch of songs is great though, with as I say some quite Halcyon-era sounding tracks as well as some kind of slower numbers inside (such as “New Height”). It’s really enjoyable though, and I can’t help going back to the track “Love I’m Given”, with its powerful chorus and the cool sounding vocal melody that hides beneath it all. Some really stand out stuff here and “Love I’m Given” is definitely one, as is “How Deep Is Too Deep” and one of the albums leading tracks, “Power”. The other half I’ll be honest just generally isn’t really my thing, but that’s not to say it isn’t good however; “Hate Me” ft Juice WRLD perhaps being my favourite out of the bunch if I were to pick, I just sort of feel it just steers far off the usual sort of sound that I’ve come to enjoy from Ellie Goulding when it gets to these tracks, and I can’t really see myself revisiting this side to the record as I would the tracks before it, with respect. Maybe it would have been better as a completely separate release? I’m unsure, but then that aside though, you cannot argue that this artist isn’t dishing out the content here and providing a real full package. Overall though, positive vibes towards, and an enjoyable and welcome release.

Bryde – The Volume Of Things (2020)

Bryde – The Volume Of Things (2020)

Released right in the heart of national shutdown, I can honestly say this has without doubt been the soundtrack to my entire 2020 lockdown listening wise. This is the second full length release from Bryde, and a very welcome one at that; a wonderful selection of songs from catchy big chorus numbers like one of the albums singles “The Trouble Is” to the track “Flies”, with its big yet dark and haunting sound, and of course “Another World For Free” – such a big yet beautifully haunting sounding track which is quite possibly my favourite track off the album. Overall, a really fantastic album and a selection of songs that I can really only say good things about.

Haim – Women In Music Pt. III (2020)

Haim – Women In Music Pt. III (2020)

Here we have the latest and 3rd album from the Haim sisters. A straight up sixteen track offering too which is quite rare to often see. Certainly delivering the content here. The album kicks off with the laid back smooth jazz sound of “Los Angeles”. It’s difficult to quite label but it has a certain kind of smooth groove to it, with the horn/brass sounds that introduces the record, and with that really nice under-groove bass guitar sound (in fact the bass sound throughout the whole album is lovely). Overall, it’s quite an eclectic album with bits of different genres seeping through, from quite jazz sounding, to blues. The album has a different sound to the two previous Haim albums, yet whilst still sounding like a Haim album, if that makes sense. A really interesting mix of songs here often sounding multiple genre elements within the same track, so many different sounds coming through on this one. The album however closes on a very similar vibe to where it started however on the track “Summer Girl”, which brings it all back in nicely and closes the album perfectly. Overall a really enjoyable record, with plenty to offer.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

Random Access Memories is absolutely deserving of its Grammy win – not that I put much stock in such accolades, but it does show that “the system” sat up and clapped its collective hands. There was also a small backlash from certain long time Daft Punk fans at the time due to the direction of the record. This week marks the first time I’ve actually sat down and listened to the whole thing in one sitting rather than in dribs and drabs. And whilst parts of the record could be accused of being too sterile or rigid, or even flat, RAM is, for the most part, a gorgeously produced record featuring a whole host of phenomenal musicians. It has mass appeal, yet it also is dripping with class.

TT – LoveLaws (2018)

TT – LoveLaws (2018)

TT is a guise – or pseudonym if you will – of musician Theresa Wayman, who is known for being a member of the band Warpaint. I’ll first off admit that I discovered this album on the off chance of a bit of a CD browse and haul; a sort of musical gamble I suppose, having not heard any material from the album or the artist. I decided to take a chance on it, and what a fantastic impulse buy is was. I absolutely love it, and I only wish I’d discovered sooner. LoveLaws is a wonderful collection of downtempo, offbeat, borderline electronica. A dream-like, alternative bliss. Perfect stuff.

Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter (2020)

Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter (2020)

Laura Marling returns with her Mercury Prize nominated seventh studio album, “Song For Our Daughter”. This is a really nice album. It has a lot of soul to it; some beautiful melodies, harmonies and an overall big warm sound, and is a really good album to just pure chill out to, with it’s strong summer-esque, lazy day vibes and the odd sombre moments. There is fabulous songwriting and a captivating performance throughout that just takes you away to someplace else for a moment, with songs like “Held Down” and “Only The Strong” in particular.

Björk – Vespertine (2001)

Björk – Vespertine (2001)

Vespertine is another classic in the original run of stunning Björk albums, and a welcome return to form after the miss that was Selmasongs (unsure if that counts as canon, being a soundtrack album). Vespertine is looser, much more abstract and flowing than Homogenic that came before it, and I suppose you could say that initially it suffers, lacking direction, however this formula turns out to really work well for Björk, and many of the records that followed would employ this method of songwriting. Vespertine is considered a must by many Björk fans, but I’m not super hot on it myself. Its great, but its not incredible. What a terrible thing! 

The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed (2008)

The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed (2008)

I came to this world with nothing, and I leave with nothing but love. Everything Is Borrowed is a wildcard in The Streets’ canon, and absolutely one of my absolute favourites of theirs. The street-level rapped antics of the everyday pulse of the city is swapped in lieu of introspective philosophical musings and lyrics that are almost riddles. The scope of the sound is opened tenfold; gone are the banging garage beats, in are full band ensemble pieces, some tracks feature insane numbers of musicians. This is stunning, glorious and rewarding. It also still sounds like a bonafide Streets record. Brilliant album.

Bryan Ferry – Taxi (1992)

Bryan Ferry – Taxi (1992)

Taxi seems like the weaker young sibling to Ferry’s stunning Bete Noire album. Both came out around the same time, and both reach for that same dark yet lush 80s electronics vibe (even into the early 90s!), laden of course with brooding vocals. Where Bete Noire excels, Taxi fails to hit the mark, and comes across a bit half arsed, especially with the inclusion of several cover tracks.

Slayyyter – Slayyyter (2019)

Slayyyter – Slayyyter (2019)

She act like a sloot, she sing like a sloot, hell there’s a good chance she probably is a sloot (with all due respect – no offense intended, she’s owning that shit hahahah), but something tells me that Slayyyter and her fans love it. I mean all of this in the best possible way. Raunchy, if not a little uninspired, kinda like this review. It’s moments like this where I wonder where I’m going in life. Time to turn this one off, I think.

Björk – Homogenic (1997)

Björk – Homogenic (1997)

Homogenic is possibly the most consistent of all Björk records (perhaps the clue is in the name). After the meandering madness of styles on Post, our formidable musical heroine sticks to a classic electronic backbone for her songs on this album. The beats in particular are absolutely outstanding. The synth lines are stunning. The production possesses a clarity that could bring you to tears. I don’t have to tell you about Björk’s vocal performances. Every track here is absolutely spot on in every single way. It would be hard to say for definite, but if there is an argument for one definitive powerhouse Björk record, I’d say this would be a strong contender. 

The Prodigy – Their Law (2005)

The Prodigy – Their Law (2005)

I broke this out after the news of Keith Flint’s death began to trick into the media. The Prodigy, or more specifically “Firestarter”, was one of the first things I ever truly remember hearing or enjoying as a child. I never fully immersed myself in their music, but once this “best of” came out in 2005 it entered into a regular rotation. I regrettably never got to see The Prodigy live. 

A Flock Of Seagulls – A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)

A Flock Of Seagulls – A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)

I was inspired to listen to this by my mate Gareth, who has recently caught the group live in concert. Honestly, this record was way better than I expected. Some of the synth sounds are very unique, and the bass sound is fantastic. It is a bit poppy for my taste, but has a dark streak running through it. All in all, a decent listen.

Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle (1979)

Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle (1979)

There is something unusually uplifting about the rock band / synthesizer combination this record. I guess this is also what makes the album so enduring; the physical – or analog – world meeting the clinical and mechanical world of computers. Couple this with Numan’s bizarre but now trademark delivery and you have an all-round winning combination, that in all realities and existences, needs no introduction.  

Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)

Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)

There is a lot of hype around this lass right now, but spinning this up I can see that all of it is totally deserved. There is something incredibly special about this record. I guess, the genius starts with the production, which is done entirely by her brother, Finneas O’Connell. The songs really pop out of the speakers, the crisp, in your face tracks duck and dive from style to style, led by Billie’s pure and mesmerising vocals. The songs start to sprawl and become a bit more meandering towards the conclusion, but all in all, it isn’t a long record and is a fun listen. I really enjoyed.

Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland (1987)

Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland (1987)

I recently added “This Corrison” to a whopping playlist that I was working on, so was inspired to finally go back and check out the album that it came from. Some of the other tracks don’t seem to hold up so well compared to it, but “Lucretia My Reflection” and “Driven Like The Snow” are brooding goth classics. The drum sounds on “Never Land – A Fragment” are stunning too. I love the mysterious simplicity of these tunes; often there isn’t all that much going on (and I guess “This Corrison” doesn’t need to be 86094 minutes longer either) but – choir aside – less is truly more with this record (kinda like Patricia Morrison’s musical contributions amirite?)

Lana Del Rey – Paradise (2012)

Lana Del Rey – Paradise (2012)

I think my girlfriend saved this record to my Spotify playlist, because I can’t remember ever showing any interest in listening to it. But, in the interest of enjoying artists like Grimes or Nicole Dollenganger, I thought fuck it, let’s give Lana a spin. My first impression is that this is some kinda Adele with manic depression shit, but it soon clicked with me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I enjoyed this record. 

Die Antwoord – Ten$ion (2012)

Die Antwoord – Ten$ion (2012)

I’m not entirely sure what it is about Die Antwoord’s music that draws me to it. It embodies mostly everything that I hate, but it appears to be done in such a DIY and genuine way that I cannot help but be drawn to it. It may also be because its perfect music for the gym, or because Yolandi Visser is mint as fuck, but who knows. Ten$ion isn’t my favourite record but there are few stand-out tracks and the beatwork is on point.

David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)

David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)

Blackstar is a strange trip; a trip tinged by sadness, although that particular sadness was steeped in strength and ready to face what lay beyond. It isn’t everyday that you get to hear a record put out by a man who knew that he was dying (inb4 the general existential dread that comes with the knowledge that we are all slowly dying lol). This in itself should cut an interesting enough scenario, but things were made even more poignant, as two days after the album dropped (on the 8th January 2016, Bowie’s 69th birthday), the man himself passed away. Dealing with this alone was one thing, but him having left us this gift, mere hours before he passed on, is something truly special and unique in such a mournful time. Sure, I’m not saying Bowie planned to fucking die after dropping this record, but shit, that’s incredibly bad/good timing (delete as appropriate).

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (2014)

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (2014)

Azealia Banks keeps popping up in the media due her somewhat erratic and bizarre behaviour. Naturally, this led me to actually check out her music, remembering “212” from a few years ago being a bit of a banger, with rude lyrics and intense Euro-style techno instrumentation. Broke With Expensive Taste is a bit of a mixed bag, if I’m honest. It reminds me of Lady Gaga’s debut album, which was also desperate to try and cover the entire smorgasbord of genres that can easily accommodate a female pop lead. When it works, it works. When it doesn’t, it fucking stinks. Bad. The best track on this thing is easily “Wallace”, which combines Miss Banks’ frankly awesome, slurry-yet-smooth voice perfectly with the almost industrial-sounding clanking of a shuffling beat. Her flows are cheeky, confident and steamy; spat in that dreamy, slightly stoned yet boastful drawl. There is more in the way of dance-driven bangers, such as “Yung Rapunxel”, and there are some solid straight-up poppy tunes too, such as “Heavy Metal & Reflective” and “Ice Princess”. Unfortunately in the last few tracks the album falls off hard; “Chasing Time” is fucking tedious, coming on like a Lorde track but written by some faceless buffoon who put together the tracks on an early 2000s Atomic Kitten album, and “Nude Beach A-Go-Go” is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever heard in the history of music. “Miss Camaraderie” saves the record before it sinks completely but it does feel slightly too late and I’m past caring by this point. You could trim a lot of the shit out of this and make a decent EP, but as it stands, it is a bit tedious.

Tollund Men – Autoerotik (2016)

Tollund Men – Autoerotik (2016)

There is something about this release that I find very hypnotic and mesmerizing; there is definitely a sense of mystery here, which I absolutely love – it isn’t something you see all to often in these glory days of the information age! Couple the fact that this cassette release meanders within itself as much as it leads with hypnotic rhythms, and you have the perfect recipe for pulsating electronic work. The “cassette” quality sound of the sound make it hard to differentiate whether this has been composed on analogue or digital equipment, but the density of the tape sound really adds to the overall atmospheric. Beautiful stuff. If you can track down an original tape, I strongly recommend that you snap it up.

Faithless – Reverence (1995)

Faithless – Reverence (1995)

I can’t tell you how rare it is that I come across the perfect album, and I mean that in the sense of when on a record every single song is flawless; each piece contributing not only to the overall experience, but able to stand its own ground without just being needless filler. Faithless are not a band that I spin all that often anymore, but if I’m in the mood for this style of music, then I can accept no substitute. Faithless is a bizarre multi-genre affair mixing the work of the DJ Sister Bliss, producer Rollo (who is Dido’s brother) and MC Maxi Jazz. What we get, on Reverence at least, is a strange hybrid of dance, pop and indie. On later records the band’s style would become more sparse and less dance-orientated, but Reverence is 90s Britain to the absolute max. The opening title track mixes lazy, smooth hip hop with throbbing techno, whilst “Salva Mea” is a trip in lush, lucid house; “If Lovin’ You Is Wrong” is a raunchy, jazzy, almost theatrical pop explosion, and “Dirty Old Man” plays on the tropes of dub reggae in the most subtle way. On top of those you’ve got “Flowerstand Man” with Dido on the lead vocals, the life-lesson of “Baseball Cap” and the now legendary “Insomnia”, which catapulted Faithless to the top of the charts upon its release. The fact that “Insomnia” – probably one of the most memorable dance tunes of all time – is such a small part of this album really speaks volumes to the strength of the songwriting on display here. This nearly 9-minute epic is on the same record with ballads such as “Don’t Leave” and “Angeline”, which should be jarring and fractured, but somehow it all just flows perfectly. The audacity of it all, eh? Irregardless of where Faithless went with their sound after this record, I am genuinely strugglingly to think of a stronger debut album from any artist, in any genre.

Nicole Dollanganger ‎– Natural Born Losers (2015)

Nicole Dollanganger ‎– Natural Born Losers (2015)

I’m not sure if “angelic” is the correct word to use in regards to Nicole Dollenganger, but it is indeed the first thing that comes to mind whilst listening to this possibly troubled teen. I say that because there is something a lot more than just the voice of an angel here; there are many other faces, perhaps those of demons, bubbling beneath the surface. Her voice is fragile and delicate, yet powerful and mesmerising. On Natural Born Losers, Nicole combines ethereal, dreamy, almost non-structured synth work with an alternative pop vibe that for me evokes the work of Daisy Chainsaw / Queenadreena’s KatieJane Garside, Grimes, to an extent Lana Del Rey, or even Kate Bush. The music that accompanies her voice is akin to various shades of post rock, the experimental side of indie or even shoegaze.

Christine And The Queens – Chaleur Humaine (2014)

Christine And The Queens – Chaleur Humaine (2014)

Excellent, if not a bit too polished pop from France. Initially I suspected that this record suffered from “lead single syndrome”, and whilst to some degree that statement still stands, this is a subtly clever album that will grow on you over time. Well, unless you exclusively listen to shit like Hatebreed, then you’ll probably despise this, obviously. This was subject to one of those weird comeback-outta-nowhere scenarios; having originally being released in France back in 2014, yet marketed as an entirely new release here in the UK in 2016. In 2017, most idiots have forgotten about it already, which isn’t surprising really; some of the songs drag, I’ll have to be honest, but it is clinically executed, and Christine’s (real name Héloïse Letissier) delivery is a an astute homage to figureheads of pop both past and present. If you’ve got nothing else to do, click play. If you come here for the grindcore posts, I probably wouldn’t bother, though.

Craig Watkins – Earth (2017)

Craig Watkins – Earth (2017)

Here we have the Earth EP by South Wales based acoustic singer/song writer Craig Watkins; a well put together collection of soulful acoustic material, with lots of raw energy and passion coming through, with a very real sense coming off of it all as an artist (real in the sense of you can tell he’s passionate about what he’s playing and what he’s singing about, which is always great to hear). Production wise the EP also has a very DIY, rough and ready, what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of sound, and that’s not me criticising; it’s again more a sense of “very real”, with no fancy or shiny production values or effects taking that edge away. My favourite track off the EP is probably the song “Brother”, which Craig has also used as the lead track and single to promote the record. It is a song that starts off slow and gradually climbs into a big, powerful, heartfelt chorus. Another highlight is the EP opener “Corporate Love”, again with a nice big chorus. Also there’s “Missing Piece”, for that lovely acoustic sound with some nice vocal harmonies thrown in the mix. The EP as a whole has a very acoustic/alternative rock sound to it, with easily accessible little ballads that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio next to similar type acts. For fans of: Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

(I don’t have a cover with my copy, but here’s a cover anyway, because I’m too good to you. Happy new year!)As ridiculous as this sounds, this 7″ will always hold a special place in my record collection. I’ve been putting off writing this post for years, mainly due to Lines In Wax evolving away from just speaking about my physical vinyl records, but also due to not really being able to face writing about Queen; a band that, for the most part, I absolutely fucking despise. Realistically though, owning this 7″ has absolutely nothing to do with Queen at all. The reason I have this 7″ is because when I was a nipper my parents used to drink at a bar that was basically in the attic of the local leisure centre. My dad worked at the centre for many years and sometimes I would get taken along to said nights out. I will always remember the bar’s jukebox; a bizarre, circular affair that seemed pretty rare as far as jukebox shapes go. I used to like watching the records as they were taken from the stacks by the machine and played on the platter. Many, many years later when I would work at the centre myself for a few years, I was surprised to see the jukebox as it was wheeled from storage. We were due to move premises and we had to empty the building of absolutely everything. My colleagues got into the habit of plugging in the machine whilst on shifts and enjoying the shaky, crackly tunes as if it was 1992 all over again. I made many inquiries into what the fate of the jukebox was to be, and if it was somehow possible that I could purchase the jukebox for myself. The manager at the time told me that it was going to be taken for refurbishment and sold on to specialists for a profit. Sad, but I could live with that. A few months later I was finishing up a shift at the centre. I was dragging two black bags of rubbish out to the bins, and after I opened the fire doors, I looked up to see a sight that made my heart sink. In the skip where all the junk from the move had been thrown, was the jukebox, face up. Two builders who had been working on the new centre had pried the face off the thing and it was in pieces. To add insult to injury, they were stood over the broken machine, harvesting the 7″ records and flinging them across the river like frisbees. I was shaking with rage, but I managed to run over and save a bag-full of soaking wet 7″s (I must have looked a right nutter), most of which were damaged beyond any reasonable use. The three that survived and that I still have to this day include this copy of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “O Carolina” by Shaggy and Iron Maiden featuring Mr. Bean (yes! lol) covering Alice Cooper’s “Elected”. Popular Culture tells me that Bohemian Rhapsody is one of Queen’s most well known tunes. Personally, I fucking hate it, especially when people try to drunk-sing their way through it. But, I will never get rid of this single. Not a review as such, but a bit of Lines In Wax backstory as a change of pace. Normal service returns tomorrow!

Björk – Biophilia (2011)

Björk – Biophilia (2011)

I love Björk, I really do, but a lot of her later output leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. Case in point: this entire album. Despite the lead single “Crystalline” being one of my favourite Björk tracks, and “Mutual Core” being a fantastic, brooding ballad-meets-speedcore headfuck, the remainder of Biophilia is unfortunately a lazy wasteland of ploinky ploinky quirkiness that goes absolutely nowhere, which in a bizarre twist of fate is simultaneously Björk’s appeal as well as her undoing. It is hard to analyse a record that literally does the same thing over and over on every track (please give me the sweet release of harsh noise wall!), so I’ll just wind this up quickly. It doesn’t matter how weird or perplexing Björk’s lyrics are, when you’ve heard x number of icy synths or obscure percussion instruments being strummed/plonked/hit/keyed out of time for ten tracks in a row, the peculiarity loses its charm. For die-hard Björk fans only.

Big Grams – Big Grams (2015)

Big Grams – Big Grams (2015)

Big Grams is an extremely refreshing mash up of synth-drenched electronica pop and hip hop. Initially, I had a reaction of “holy shit, this sounds like Lorde collaborating with Run The Jewels!”, and rather ironically, considering how ridiculous that comparison is, Run The Jewels pop up on track six here. Anyway, Big Grams is actually New York dream pop duo Phantogram but fronted by Outkast nutter Big Boi. And, not to mince words, its fucking fantastic. First off, its decent pop music, before Big Boi is even involved. I need to get Phantogram wrapped around these ‘ere lugholes. But, with the super slick flow piled on top like thick honey over a perfect set of pancakes and bacon (yeah, I went there fam) the balance of rap and pop is achieved. It is almost the zen of collaborations in this style, and it shits on every single worthless chart-topper than throws a rapper in as nothing more than just something to make the middle eight pass a bit faster. The only real let down is the final track, which has fairly uninspired contributions from Skrillex, a project that really should have stayed in 2012.

Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2000)

Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2000)

The Gorillaz self-titled record was the first album that I ever owned. Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory (unfortunately) holds the title for first record ever bought, but Gorillaz was the first thing that I seriously jammed, and it was instrumental in developing my interest in music as a serious hobby. Back in the day I had this terrible transparent blue Aiwa tape walkman / radio combo, and I played the livin’ fuckin’ guts out of my crappy tape copy of this. Most people are surprised I love Gorillaz so much simply because I can’t fucking abide Blur. But, what drew me to Gorillaz first album was the thick dubby aspect underneath the pop sensibilities of the band’s songs; the thick spine of bass and chunky, dusty drum programming. The dirty, mechanical rumbling holding together the melancholic “Tomorrow Comes Today” is a perfect example of the grimey, almost-VHS-like vibe of the rhythm section on this album. Then there’s, obviously, “Clint Eastwood”, with all that bagged up sunshine, and the bizarre first appearance of Del Tha Funky Homosapien, the rabid “Punk”, the epic “Sound Check (Gravity)” and the downright fucking awful “Latin Simone”. From the raucious rock of “M1 A1” to the introspective, arcade machine tomfoolery of “Double Bass”, the whole thing is dripping in dirty dub vibes, a trend which unfortunately did not continue on later Gorillaz recordings (despite the fucking glorious Spacemonkeys spin-off dub remix album, Laika Come Home). Don’t forget, kids – it’s the music that we choose.

Bestial Mouths – Heartless (2016)

Bestial Mouths – Heartless (2016)

Heartless is the most recent offering from bizarre, dark and menacing electronica group Bestial Mouths. Expect “darkwave” (the YouTube comments section just had a triple bypass with the use of this word) meeting ethereal pop in a world of decay, pain and seemingly endless reverb. The tracks do sound kinda similar however in a bizarre twist this only seems to cement the record together as a solid whole, rather than drive boredom into the heart of the listener. Expect Florence & The Machine meeting 2004-onwards-era Gary Numan in an abandoned underground car park. At points, in certain passages the record harks back to an undeniable influence from 80s synth-pop flamboyance such as that performed by Kate Bush, or perhaps more subtly David Bowie (on the part of Bestial Mouths’ interpretation, of course). Bestial Mouths have that strange mid-level appeal; weird enough to play fringe and underground festivals around the world, deep in the pockets of the twiddly mustache and APA drinking crowd, whilst at the same time possessing the catchiness that could easily point to a more mainstream success. Saying that, if you thought Lady Gaga was weird, artistic and expressive, this is probably not for you.

HIM – Razorblade Romance (1999)

HIM – Razorblade Romance (1999)

I guess this is probably one thing you wouldn’t have expected me to cover, but I was chatting recently with LIW regular contributor Burra on many things musical, and somehow, somewhere along the highway HIM came up. Burra raised the quite valid point that Razorblade Romance was a solid album in any respect, and I had to agree with him, regardless of the band that released it, or what they would become. It is eternally bizarre to think that HIM started out as a Black Sabbath tribute band (I for one cannot image them playing any Sabbath tracks), as that would be far cry from the pop-dressed-as-metal that we have here. But, if you’re gonna do something, do it right. You have to understand here that this thing came out before HIM had any real international recognition; before Bam Margera forced this band into the playlist of every male with a beanie hat and a Jackass DVD; and most definitely before Ville Valo was wetting up goth teen panties on the other side of the pond. On top that, this thing isn’t going to win any awards for originality. The same lame-ass fucking drum beat carries every song, as does the muted chugging of the guitar riffs, which is used so often in verse structure that Mushroomhead started to draft up a cease and desist order. It’s almost offensive to musicians worldwide how simple this shit is. But it works. Throw in some lazy but effective keyboard playing to fill out the middle-ground and you’ve got the perfect backdrop for the man himself; His Infernal Majesty, Ville Valo. You gotta admit this guy has some pipes on him, and without a doubt helped carried this band to it’s success. This thing is loaded with hits that could easily top charts if backed with sickly electronica instead of distorted guitars; “Poison Girl”, “Right Here In These Arms”, and the, I gotta be honest, absolutely fucking fantastic cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. This is one of the closest instances where metal almost became pop music (anyone who raises me that fucking farce Babymetal loses 9000 internet points – that shit is a product, nothing more). HIM Trivia: The song “Join Me In Death” was blamed for a fan suicide and was re-titled “Join Me” for a while to avoid any further controversy. It now seems to be back as the original title, even on the band’s Vevo. Also, the band are supposed to go by the name HER in America, kinda like how Ghost is supposed to go as Ghost B.C. but never do.

Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like (2016)

Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like (2016)

It’s been a while since the last Gwen Stefani solo album, and being a No Doubt fan and enjoying the bands last release (Push and Shove), I was interested to hear how this new solo effort would sound, and mainly the vibe it’d have this time around. Opening track “Misery” is a great introduction to the album; and in regards to the route the album goes down, this album is an awful lot less R’n’B/hip hop-influenced than any previous Gwen Stefani solo releases (which may or may not be of preference for some listeners). However, I’d say this is a lot more closer to No Doubt’s latest sounds than that of the pop and R’n’B sounds Gwen has been known for as a solo artist. There’s a really good sound to this album overall; a bold production filled with strong tracks, and very little – if any – filler. You can actually hear the reggae/ska vibes coming through in parts too; the sounds that have so obviously influenced the No Doubt sound and there is one track that shows this absolutely perfectly – “Where Would I Be”, which has a very chilled out and laid back ska-influenced groove. Aside from that, there is a nice mix of great pop songs. I personally think this is the strongest record as a whole that Gwen has put out solo; her vocals shine throughout and we are presented with a very enjoyable solo comeback.

PVRIS – White Noise (2014)

PVRIS – White Noise (2014)

As debut albums go this one is certainly one Pvris can be proud of – what a remarkably strong album that could easily be a greatest hits album rather than that of a debut release, and from such a young band. Opening track “Smoke” is an incredibly good opener and one that shines through as a live set opener for the band too (which I can confirm after being lucky enough to catch them live). Some lovely sounding keys to kick off the album and a track that really shows off the power behind vocalist Lynn Gunn’s voice. It’s really hard to single out any tracks in particular from this release as it effortlessly fits and flows together as a piece so well, as also showcased in the way that the band’s videos from the release flow. However, personal favourites are “St. Patrick”, “My House”, and “Fire”. It really is the vocals that stand out on this record for me, especially the first time I heard it. It’s very easy to see from this release why this band have quickly built up a following. If Pvris can keep up with this level of quality upon future releases then they have a very successful career ahead of them.

Mr. Bungle – California (1999)

Mr. Bungle – California (1999)

What a trip! What a dream! I was busting to write about this a few months ago – on my first listen I absolutely fell in love with this smorgasbord of musical tomfoolery, but after every subsequent listen I’ve not been able to replicate my interest for it. That was until I realised that you have to give this album your complete attention; it works as background music but to truly appreciate what it is that’s going on here you really must give it everything. Take an hour out of your day (medicinal cigarette optional) and really wrap your head around this. Some people say that Mr. Bungle got softer with every passing album, and whilst this is true – sonically the recording is nowhere near as aurally terrifying as the self-titled or earlier demos – California possesses as much as or if not more creativity than the band did during their jazzy circus-vibe funk metal days. I feel as though I am slowly losing my mind in Vegas as “Sweet Charity” opens up this boggling musical journey. My favourite track though is “Pink Cigarette”, which aches (perhaps ironically) of love lost over a strained and lounged-out big band bombast. Give it time. All it asks in return is your sanity.

Lorde – Pure Heroine (2013)

Lorde – Pure Heroine (2013)

It’s not that often that I usually listen to shit like this, but I burned this album when it first came out and it’s just one of those things that’s been stuck in my car since. My stereo broke a few months ago when I tried to spin a leaked copy of Swans’ To Be Kind (that’s what I get for pirating music, folks!*) but when my car went in recently to get a new starter motor all the electronics were reset, and it freed the stuck Swans disc, allowing me to return to my awful car listening. I found this Lorde album lodged conspicuously behind a copy of Dr. Dre’s 2001, and all the memories and mediocre pop music came flooding back. The mirth! *I bought the 2xLP, and have nearly every other Swans record in existence, before you fucking judge me for doing illegals 😉 Most of you probably know Lorde for being a silly out-spoken 17-year-old who talks a lot of shit about stuff that she actually doesn’t know anything about (kinda like me, only I’m 25). Take away her daftly over-opinionated, sensationalist media-baiting crap, and she’s a fairly talented girl with, no doubt, a long future in music ahead of her. Pure Heroine is a fairly minimal pop record, led entirely by Lorde’s unusual vocal. It kinda sounds like if Lana Del Ray got her head outta her arse, stopped trying to sing like a man, and employed Gary Numan to do all her backing tracks. As is normally always the case with up-and-coming artists signed to major labels, one can’t help but speculate how different this would sound without massive boardroom pressure and a most-likely insanely huge production budget. And for that reason, the link below is of a live performance from Lorde, which I believe does her more justice than any of the tracks on this record. All in all, it’s not a bad CD, as far as mass produced pop goes, but it could be a lot worse. Favourite tracks: “Tennis Court”, “Glory & Gore”, “White Teeth Teens”.

Portishead – Portishead (1997)

Portishead – Portishead (1997)

I would probably have never listened to Portishead if it wasn’t for the fact that their first two albums were already on my old computer when I bought it, back in 2009. They always seemed like something my mother would listen to, what with their shit band name and music video circulations on the Sky ClassicFM music channel. It wasn’t until my appreciation for electronic music developed to such a degree that I could hear Portishead in a different way, and then, one day, with the iPod on random, I fell in love. This is so laid back and chilled, yet so epic at the same time it really is a bit of an enigma. How is that even possible? Well, Portishead managed it. Ticking, soft trip-hop beats and sparse instrumentation is pretty much all that’s going on here, complimented by one of the best female voices I’ve heard a long time. As a blue print for an entire record, this approach is extremely basic, but this self-titled record fails to bore me at any given moment. It is simply a magical record. The final track includes some fleeting male vocal contributions, but that’s about as far as breaking the template goes! I got this on vinyl for £12, from the Head chain in Bristol. Turn ting up!

Swans – Can’t Find My Way Home (1989)

Swans – Can’t Find My Way Home (1989)

Unfortunately, Can’t Find My Way Home is one of the weaker tracks off the somewhat-hated The Burning World album (and a cover song to boot), so this single doesn’t really do anything for me in that respect. It is merely a completists item for me, as I go on to collect at least one version of every release Swans have put out. I have the 7″ version here, although there is a 12″ version of this single in existence, which I believe possesses yet another extra track. The b-side here though, is a cripplingly-weak acoustic re-working of “(She’s A) Universal Emptiness”, which is one of my favourite tracks off The Burning World. This version, is for some godforsaken reason, sped up in tempo, and not only sounds rushed, but loses it’s depressive and brooding feeling. To briefly conclude; this release offers nothing to the Swans discography in any way, and is entirely a completists item. I do not recommend purchasing it to anyone, anywhere.

Björk – Post (1995)

Björk – Post (1995)

Where Björk’s Debut record gets off to a confusing yet almost “cute” start, her follow-up record Post really starts to push the boat out. Holy mother of fuck what is going on here? One has to simply compare album covers to get an idea of the difference. Debut was different in so many ways, but seemed to have one guiding theme. Post, on the other hand, seems to have not been planned out in any way shape or form. The record opens with “Army of Me”, which is fantastically heavy for a song comprised entirely from electronic instruments. “Hyperballad” follows, which is the best Björk song ever, in my opinion. By track three however, things start getting a bit weird. All of the free-form jazz up in this bitch! And on top of that, the song is about cars. The song tells the tale of cars that have existed since the dawn of time, and have been hiding in mountains because they were scared of the noises the dinosaurs made. Okay… And it’s all downhill from there, until track seven, “Isobel”, which is a world of awesome. Random snippet of info: money-grabbing sellout arseholes (2021 edit: a bit much? – Ed) Carcass performed a version of this song with Björk on vocals for the single CD release of “Hyperballad” or something. She hated it, which is entirely understandable. Anyway, Post lurches onward to it’s inevitable closure, and as someone who spent a large majority of ages 10 to 18 plugged into either a walkman, CD player or mp3 player, closer “Headphones” really strikes a nerve with me. Seriously, I feel a full-blown Björk obsession coming on here. It won’t be long before I paint myself up like Darth Maul and shoot myself in the fucking face.

Swans – Love Will Tear Us Apart (7″ UK Red Version) (1988)

Swans – Love Will Tear Us Apart (7″ UK Red Version) (1988)

This is probably the one release in Swans history that is looked down upon the most. As with The Burning World, Gira has retrospectively scorned this release, and insists that the cover was a mistake. Think what you will, but I think it’s pretty good. I’m not too fussed on the black version (sung by Jarboe) but the red version with Gira on vocals is a great cover of a fantastic song. I’m still gonna get the black version (only available on 12″) because I’m a Swans mega-fan and that version also includes an acoustic version of “New Mind”, which kills. Bitchin’. Now sit back and enjoy this video of the heaviest band in the world absolutely destroying their self image and credibility  In the 80s/early 90s I imagine Swans releasing a video for this raised a pretty fucking negative reaction.

Björk – Debut (1993)

Björk – Debut (1993)

Björk has always been one of those artists I’ve always been interested in but never got around to properly checking out. With my recent upgrade to Spotify Premium, I now have easy access to thousands of records I would otherwise overlook. Sure, I’ve always downloaded music, but typing “Björk” into Spotify and pressing play is easier than researching a band and then finding links to the “best” record, downloading the .rar, importing into iTunes, yadda yadda yadda. Hence Bjork happened, after like eight years of being put off. A few weeks ago my girlfriend Jo buggered off to New York for a week and left me in the house all alone. With absolutely nothing better to do with my time, I consumed my body weight in fried chicken and out-done my personal best in the consumption of bowls and blunts. One particular evening I smoked so much of “the good” that I pressed play on Björk’s Spotify page and let it run for five hours. What I did within that time I’m not entirely sure, but I imagine a large portion of it was spent staring at the wall. I decided soon after to buy some Björk records. Go figure. I started at the beginning, with Debut. It is no secret to most that Björk is absolutely fucking batshit insane, so by her standards, Debut is as tame as a fat Persian cat loaded to the gills on catnip. There isn’t any breakbeat here, or any enormously 90s dance vibes. There is a smattering of jazz and alternative instrumentation, even some dubby tracks and some with the old house feel. But what leads the whole circus is Björk’s somewhat retarded and Welsh-sounding – not to mention eternally mesmerising – voice. It literally sounds like the “special kid” has been given access to a million dollar budget and a high end studio crammed with all the musicians in the world. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. I might be a bit late to the party, but Björk, I think I’m in love with you.

Swans – The Burning World (1989)

Swans – The Burning World (1989)

(2020 edit: It’s worth mentioning that in the last 8 years since this review was written, I have grown up considerably, and now appreciate The Burning World for what it is. Either way, here’s the 2012 review in its original format, some of which is also a bit factually inaccurate, so please take it with a pinch of salt.) Hmmm, this is going to be a controversial one for me. I don’t know how I can write about this without being downright horrible about one of my favorite bands of all time. Hard Times. Fuck it, here it goes. The Burning World is Swans’ sixth album, and marked the final nail in the coffin for the early days of audible hell. Industrialists, grinders, arty hipsters and noise nerds dropped their support for this band in fucking droves the moment The Burning World hit the shelves, and it’s very easy to see why (2020 edit: There’s a brilliant bit in the book Sacrifice And Transcendence where Lydia Lunch accuses Gira of selling out with this record, and he really doesn’t like that one bit!). Even compared to the tamer-than-usual sound of fifth album Children of God, The Burning World is a hundred thousand miles away from anything Cop or Filth. Gone are the dirging bass rhythms, the relentless and pounding drums, the hellish and fucking loathsome lyrics! In are all the acoustic guitars in the world, a plethora of studio session musicians, a major label budget and THAT Johnny Cash crooning. Yikes! And thus began a period in the history of Swans that both Jarboe and Mr. Gira like to pretend didn’t happen (2020 edit: again, not strictly true). In retrospect, Gira admits to loathe The Burning World, and he even repressed the two albums to follow it on a compilation called Various Failures. You think he’s trying to tell us something? The fact that he didn’t repress The Burning World for fucking aeons also cements the fact that he hates this record, and even when he did so in the compilation form of Forever Burned, the pressing number was significantly lesser than all the other Swans re-issues. Following  Swans records White Light… and Love of Life went on to achieve something of a cult status (I personally think Love of Life is spectacular) but The Burning World sank like a stone and for the most part remains in the depths of the music world where nobody gives a shit about it. I’ve seen this and the CD version go for some ridiculous prices online so when I saw it for like £15 on Discogs I snapped it up, mainly because I am a massive Swans fan boy and simply must get every single record (I cringe at the day I have to fucking buy The Great Annihilator which is by far their worst output), and in all honesty, it started to grow on me. I don’t really know why, because it is a shameless, major label funded, Bill Laswell fueled try-hard attempt to break into the mainstream, but I gotta say, The Burning World has a few great songs. If the tribal drumming aspects of “Mona Lisa Mother Earth” aren’t good then I might as well be deaf, “(She’s A) Universal Emptiness” is far more impressive that similar-sounding depressed cunts The Smiths and “Saved” is the best song in the world for describing my life. I don’t deserve it, but I’m Saved. Until the disappointing chorus kicks in, “Jane Mary, Cry One Tear” builds and builds in such an epic fashion, with heart-wrenchingly depressing lyrics, and closer “God Damn The Sun” has gone on to become a Gira acoustic classic. It is the only track on this album that stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is purely one of the most goddamn fuckin’ miserable things I have ever heard. Even though Swans changed just about everything to do with their sound, the same themes remained. Okay, it’s not quite “push your ass up / cry / open your mouth / here’s your money / cry / this feels good” or “somebody weaker than you should rape you, bastard” but the lyrics still centre around demons, loss, death, depression and apparent incomprehensible self loathing. I think then, we can forgive the mighty Swans this one hiccup! Long live the crushing monster! 

The Big Pink – Dominos (2009)

The Big Pink – Dominos (2009)

Here’s a release that’s a bit unusual for my tastes; The Big Pink’s slightly well received single “Dominos”. Some of you may remember it from Xbox 360 adverts a few years back? Anyways, this 7″ was put out by 4AD in 2009. I can’t find any pressing information, but seeing as The Big Pink appealed to a lot of people I would assume that there was a lot made. After seeing these support Muse in Birmingham I decided to buy the 7″, it’s catchy as hell and the artwork is cool, but the b-side is a bit weak. I have their album but haven’t listened to it enough to come up with a conclusion on Big Pink’s sound. If you have an open mind check these out (you can listen to the song below – from today’s post I will be making a habit of including a YouTube link to one song from every release, if possible), but be warned, it’s very poppy.