You are viewing an archive of rage magazine from 1995-96 All copyright belongs to rage magazine. Email All copyright belongs to rage magazine. Email

Album Reviews

Pulp - Different Class - Island

While Blur and Oasis have had their noisy media battles Pulp have been quietly advancing their own case. Admittedly they have had a ten year start on Blur and by now Pulp must have paid enough dues to be entitled to quite a hefty pension, should Jarvis ever retire. It is only recently that the acquisition of a tambourine was one of their career high points. While it cannot be denied that the instrument was star shaped and purple, the between song banter that heralded it's arrival gave the impression that we were witnessing the discovery of the Holy Grail.

These were the days when Pulp attracted audiences of less than 200. Most groups attracting audiences of this size would give up after six months or so. Pulp, in one guise or another had existed for ten years. Their small crowds were lovingly nurtured. Each performance was unique. There was a Pulp fanclub. Members were sent large badges, an amusing magazine and, on one occasion, limited edition pieces of an old pair of Jarvis' trousers. When Pulp started to release good records too, the crowds quickly increased by word of mouth. After a career which was five years longer than the Beatles, overnight they became everyone's favourite band.

Now Pulp have reached the bigtime. Over the course of the last year they've headlined Glastonbury, released their single at the same time as Michael Jackson and won (though two members of Eastenders prevented them from reaching that all important number one spot.) They even made the front page in one of the tabloids when "Sorted For E's And Whizz" was released. The fact that the song promotes drugs as being a waste of time, rather than vital to youth credibility, was not seen as relevant to the article. Pulp are now so big that the newspapers are trying to manufacture stories in order to put them on the front page. Recently, a fourteen year old offered some speed to Russell Senior who turned it down. Just as well, because the tabloid journalist who had provided the child with the drugs was waiting in the wings with a camera. ( If the child had run off with the drugs, it is doubtful that the paper would have printed a story claiming to be the paper that gives drugs to children.)

And so to the album. Much as the tabloids would have you think drugs was the main Pulp agenda, the songs are mainly about sex and love or more often just sex. Pencil Skirt shows how far Jarvis' confidence has developed since stardom arrived. five years ago he was singing Legendary Girlfriend, a song about an imaginary partner. Three years later, Babies, and it's Jarvis the voyeur, at least seeing what sex was about be it from a wardrobe. Now he's reached the big time and here he is singing about stealing someone's fiancee while their back is turned. "Oh I know that you're engaged to him. 0h but I know that you want something to play with baby I'll be around when he's not in town." Underwear finds Jarvis in the middle of what appears to be another love triangle in which he is the extra part. "He's standing far too near. How the hell did you get here? Semi-naked in someone else's room". On I Spy Jarvis claims that he's been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen years. A huge advance for someone who was inventing his girlfriends five years ago.

Different Class is a collection of thirteen well crafted songs featuring the full range of Pulp's musical styles. In amongst the hit singles, Common People and Sorted For Es And Whizz are such gems as I Spy, a song which is similar to Sheffield Sex City. Jarvis half whispers and half sings over a quiet tune waiting for the violins to burst in. Monday Morning is a far more bouncy affair with lots of the noises that Jarvis tends to gyrate to when on the stage. Close your eyes while you listen to it and you'll have no problem visualising every jerk of a finger or kick of a leg. The final track, Bar Italia a slower introspective song which contrasting the lively feel of most of the other tracks and demonstrating the wide range of musical styles that Pulp use to great success.

Different Class is a solid catchy album which doesn't lose it's way as previous Pulp albums have. It shows that Pulp have developed and are now far more than just a singles band. It will be interesting to see how the band evolves in the future now superstardom is imminent. It will also be interesting to see where Jarvis advances to with his sex life if maintains this type progress I'm sure that he'll overtake Prince's position as Mr Sex.


Electrafixion - Burned - WEA

When Ian McCulloch left Echo and the Bunnymen in the late eighties a Liverpool institution ended. The remaining (non Crucial) three continued with the name but nobody took them seriously. Ian McCulloch embarked on a solo career which also failed to catapult him to the heights that many expected. Like Morrissey and Marr the most impressive points of their careers happened when they were working as a partnership. Now, seven years after the split, McCulloch and Sergeant are back together with Electrafixion.

The first fruits of their new partnership was Zephyr, released last year to great critical acclaim from those who could put Ian McCulloch's solo career out of their mind. If a Camden band had released it we'd doubtless find them on the front of every musical tabloid. After Zepher's release there was a long quiet period. Pre album anticipation was increased by their Reading appearance, though disappointing soundwise, the potency for a great album was there.

Burned starts with Feel My Pulse, a powerful tune which is reminiscent of the pre-split Bunnymen era. McCulloch voice rises and falls over the edgy guitar and powerful beat, the song twisting and turning at every opportunity. The album continues in this dynamic vein with Sister Pain and Timebomb. Zepher, the fifth track, is also by far the best, whoever picks out the singles for WEA knows what they're doing. Or so I thought. Their next single will be Never which is untypical of their work, sounding rather too much like The Sisters Of Mercy for comfort.

Burned never really gets back into the groove after Never tending to drift towards tracks which have nothing which sustains any interest. We are left with an album of two halves. The first, lively and entertaining even though some of the tracks are rather alike and the second far less inspired. Maybe Electrafixion should have waited a little longer after all.


Frank Zappa - Strictly Commercial The Very Best Of Frank Zappa -Rycodisc

Frank Zappa, for those of you that don't already know, recorded over sixty albums during his musical lifetime. And it's those of you who don't know that this album is aimed at. While barely scratching the surface of his tremendous output it is still an excellent introduction to the creative genius of Zappa.

Relentlessly experimental during his expansive career, he has released albums which could be categorised under a variety of headings including rock, ska ,reggae, jazz or even classical. Many of his tracks define categorisation, beginning as jazz and turning into rock or starting as a narratives and becoming guitar instrumentals. Lyrically, Zappa would sing about anything and everything, Eskimos, discos and sex all feature on this album . Obviously with the rate of output that Zappa was working at a number of tracks were rather obscure. This album though, is only concerned with his most accessible works and they are selected from various parts of his entire career.

The songs which stand out on the first listen are those which are narratively driven. Don't Eat The Yellow Snow is the hilarious tale of life as an Eskimo and warns of the perils of not being aware of the locations of huskies' urine emissions. Valley Girls takes on the simple stereotyping of girls who sound naive because they come from out of town. As Zappa plays away his daughter, Moon, can be heard, speaking with that valley girl drawl. 'Awesome, barf me out, gross, totally, gag me with a spoon' Disco Boy has the subject running to the toilet to check his hair for dandruff. Unusually for novelty songs, the music behind them is not the obvious, uninspired trash that this type of track tends to feature but sharp lively music that lends itself to repeated listens. Remember, this album only contains Zappa's finest work.

Also selected for this album are the rock out My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama, the infectious Dancing Fool, and a live version of Muffin Man which features Captain Beefheart on vocals.

The Very Best Of Frank Zappa is a splendid introduction to a musical genius, immediately engaging yet completely enduring. The legend is set to live for sometime to come.


Blur - The Great Escape - Food

There was a time when Blur were an irrelevant little band from Colchester on the verge of being dropped by their label, Food. They had made a promising start with their early singles, She's So High and There's No Other Way but by the time they released their debut album Leisure, the bubble had burst and it failed to make the expected impact. The single Popscene was released seven months later. It marked a new direction featuring a clever, less obvious tune and would have been hailed as the future of rock and roll if it had been released by someone else. Blur had been written off by most of the music press though and the single was duly ignored. Rumours flew around that Blur were to be dropped by Food. The singles that followed came and went without anyone paying any real attention to them. Their second album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, spent just three weeks in the top 75. Blur, themselves, came close to calling it a day. However, they decided to carry on and the rest is history. Girls And Boys caught the public imagination, Parklife arrived close on it's heels to huge media adoration and the general public went Blur crazy. Their first two albums have spent more time in the charts since Parklife's release than they did before. At the time of writing all three albums are in the chart.

The Great Escape is, apparently, the final part of a trilogy which consists of this and the two previous albums. There will have been numerous times since Modern Life was released that they must have thought that they would never get as far as releasing another single let alone an album with pre-release sales of tens of thousands.

The album credits all of the songs to Damon and they are, as ever, filled with descriptions of everyday life in London. It begins with Stereotype, a bouncy song, which tells of an older, sexually frustrated, suburban woman meeting her lover. This is followed by their number 1 single Country House, were the grass on the other side of city life fails to be greener. Other high points include Best Times, a slower, more evocative number which sees Damon trying to convince someone that this is as good as life is going to get. Charmless Man is a more upbeat number which tend to be a better vehicle for Damon's pretty rhyming couplets. Despite this, The Universal, another slower thought provoking song, still manages to sound fresh after repeated listens. It is due to be their next single so doubtless we'll have the chance to test this theory fully. Ernold Same is another memorable song. It tells of a dull commuter who's life is run by the clock. It features the voice of Labour MP Ken Livingstone who, fitting in to the London theme of the album, was once the leader of the GLC.

The Great Escape does not contain many surprises. It is distinctively Blur which is exactly what their legions of fans will want to hear. The album and the singles it will spawn will keep Blur in the media spotlight for the foreseeable future. Labelling it the last of a trilogy was to answer the anticipated 'just another Parklife' jibes that they felt it would attract. They have, however, set up their stall for the next album which has to be, by their own definition, a new and fresh sound. So we can all sit back and wait for the much anticipated follow up. Blur meanwhile can have another shot at the American audience knowing, that for the time being, England is theirs.

Colin Hamilton

Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - Virgin

Gogol. Now there was a man who knew about melancholy, and he wasn't afraid to spell it correctly either. All right, he ended up living on pickled cabbage and getting buried alive, but there's still time something interesting to happen to Billy 'spent-a-lot-of-time-alone-in-his-room-as-a-teenager' Corgan. This triple (yes, triple) album is either the Pumpkins attempt to lose the part of their following that doesn't take them seriously enough, or just what happens to bands when they reach a level of success where no one can say no to them. Whatever, Mellon Collie etc (probably a ploy to get US teenagers to pronounce a four syllable word correctly, he suggests kindly) is an odd sprawl, and by no means unlistenable, even if the lyrics are unreadable. Corgan's horrendous whine is fairly restrained here, only appearing in its full horror on the balls-out metal numbers, which as ever, demonstrate this bands facility at making a superficially impressive racket. But under all the bombast and bits that sound like Queen and other extinct dinosaurs there is some touching and interesting music here- the lovely 'Galapagos' (sic) and 'Cupid de Locke', guitarist James Iha's 'Take Me Down', the downbeat climax of 'Lily', 'By Starlight' and 'Farewell and Goodnight'. Enough to make you wonder whether they could have made a good single record at least. As ever though, the Pumpkins sound is based so much on detail it's as if they forget to envisage the overall effect. Which makes this an interesting failure, I guess. But listening to the lot in one go could well leave you cataleptic, and at risk of being buried alive, which is where we came in....


Rocket from the crypt - Hot Charity - Elemental

An album of the year already! San Diego's much tipped Rocket finally come up with not one, but two sequels to their excellent 'Circa: Now' album of a couple of years back. 'Scream Dracula Scream' will get a full UK release in the New Year, but while we wait for that disc's apparently more expansive sound we'll just have to enjoy this ferocious rock'n'roll classic. Instrumental opener 'Pushed' is what you get if the Memphis Horns jam with AC/DC, 'Poison Eye' is a belated, and very welcome response to the Stooges 'TV Eye', and 'My Arrow's Aim' stomps like the greatest rock band you ever imagined. 'Cloud Over Branson' is everything the likes of Urge Overkill are cracked up to be, and aren't. All life is here, from Chuck Berry thru' the Stones, even a truly wired E Street Band, all topped off with lashings of Punk Rock attitude, man. The Next Big Thing or the public is stupid...again.


Lordz of Brooklyn - All In The Family -American

Well, the title comes from the US rewrite of Alf Garnett, much of the look comes from the films of Martin Scorsese and this rap crew comes from Brooklyn, as we find out repeatedly, but whether the men in hats have it in them to sustain an entire album remains open to question. Single 'Saturday Nite Fever' is a hit in my book, make no mistake, with its loping groove and reliance on good old fashioned physical violence mano a mano. But the essential gimmick seems to wear off after a while as if it's aimed at the younger members of raphood. I mean, you could imagine a wrestler belting out the likes of 'American Made'. Still, points for using the inevitable metal riff on a song called 'White Trash'. Entertaining at times, but hardly classic stuff.


Air Miami - Me Me Me - 4 AD

Sounds riveting, doesn't it. Ex-Unrest ( US underground 'legends', in fact sounded like the Wedding Present ) get a new band together and bring us this moderately intriguing album. The formula is no more than shaken around a little, but a focused production adds punch. And who'd expect a song called 'I Hate Milk' to have a chorus that goes 'Please, please someone kill me soon.'. 'World Cup Fever' sadly fails to live up to its excellent title, but 'Seabird' and 'Special Angel' genuinely transcend their limitations, reviving pleasant memories of lost bands like the Feelies. This definitely gets better with more exposure. A pleasant discovery.


Rub Ultra - Liquid Boots and Boiled Sweets - Hi Rise

One of the great things about compact discs (apart from putting one on and getting in the bath for an hour- you can't do that with vinyl) is the clock counting time down so you know just how long there is to go. And rarely does time seem to slow down so much as while listening to this unnecessarily fidgety debut from Rub Ultra, veterans of some kind of crusty scene. It's not so much bad as just utterly bemusing, endlessly twisting and turning as if they have no confidence in their ability to find a groove and stick to it. There are nice touches here, especially the dub steals, but they can go their way and I'll go mine, and fuck it. Let's leave the hippies to their funny time change twaddle. The clock is counting backwards.


Tuscadero - The Pink Album /Step into my Wiggle Room -both Teenbeat/ Matador

Named after a character from Happy Days , Pinkie Tuscadero the Fonz's cousin as played by Suzi Quatro in fact, and that's Suzi Quatro as in Sherilyn Fenn's aunt...where was I ? Oh, yeah. This two girl, two boy Washington DC quartet sound exactly as you might expect. Primitive, somewhat twee, clever without being mature. All the good stuff in fact, especially for those who remain fascinated that young Americans should persist in a sound long washed away in its spiritual home of England. The Pink Album is a reissue of last years debut, a serious John Peel favourite, and a cut above the norm with a genuine ropy but rocking feel and some amusing songs like 'Dime A Dozen' and 'Leather Idol'. Wiggle Room is a new 8 track EP, and a positive step forward. The songs are more consistent and the sound is better. 'Holidays R Hell' 'Angel in a Half Shirt' and the exquisitely tagged 'Sonic Yogurt' open new vistas in well, indie pop. In Britain worse bands are hyped into the top 20 weekly. Nice. Not important, but nice.


The Amps - Pacer - 4 AD

Rock goddess Kim Deal returns with her latest band, and one things for certain. She isn't maturing with age. Recorded rather than produced, this murky sounding collection of songs comes across at times as a set of demos for the next Breeders album, if there'll ever be such a thing. Unsurprising really, seeing as she's written all the songs and her usual drummer has tagged along. But the addition of a couple of friends from the hardly world-conquering Dayton, Ohio scene has really loosened up the whole thing, and the more you listen, the more there is to discover.. The content of top titles like 'Mom's Drunk' and 'Bragging Party' as yet eludes me, and the likes of 'Pacer' and 'Tipp City' sound like they're being played for the first time, but the essential naiveté is appealing. The cheap effects of 'Breaking the Split Screen Barrier' are genuinely effective and the only exception is 'Empty Glasses' which really did sound more exciting in rough demo form. Ask me again in six months. I'll still be listening to this.


Sonic Youth - Washing Machine - Geffen

The grandfathers of alt.rock.usa return with their ooh, fifteenth album, and though it's easy to dismiss them as an irrelevancy they're still very good at it. This almost bass-free album creeps around your head in the usual way, endless patterns moving, the nearest thing to fractals ever got out of guitars. And if that's not exactly news, so what. I'd hardly expect surprises from them now. 'Little Trouble Girl' (guest vocals form Kim Deal) is as sweet as the Shangrilas, as twisted as Phil Spector, 'No Queen Blues' (another Courtney reference?) somewhere between sleazy and folky, and the ironic 'Skip Tracer' fully aware of their own inevitable contradictions. Best of all is the twenty minute closer (and single!) 'The Diamond Sea' which just swells back and forth as its title suggests. Sonic Youth have been more important in the past, but I'm just glad they're still around.


Various Artists - A Means to an End-The Music of Joy Division - Hut

Joy Division were indisputably one of the great lost bands of all time. Their potential was frightening, their talent already completely formed, and singer Ian Curtis' untimely suicide certainly robbed us of a great talent. And no amount of amiable disco records for science undergraduates by New Order has ever filled that gap. So why a gang of no mark Americans think they're paying tribute with this set of massacres is beyond me. Girls Against Boys fidgety 'She's Lost Control' not bad enough for you? Well try 'Day of the Lords' by a couple of Chilli Peppers and some geezer who can't sing. Or the abysmal half paced take on 'Transmission' by Low, or Codeine's feeble 'Atmosphere', or Stanton-Miranda's helium voiced 'Love Will tear Us Apart', or Billy Corgan and a portable sequencer killing 'Isolation'. Jesus! Therapy? did it better than this. Note to all concerned- Ian Curtis had a great voice. You do not. Do not attempt to copy him. Come to think of it GvsB probably had the best attempt. Wow! That bad!


Whipping Boy - Heartworm - Columbia

Only a few years ago Dublin's Whipping Boy were a seriously sub-Joy Division collection of gloommeisters, notable only for their frontman Feargal McKee's deranged onstage antics and their music's stubborn refusal to match the depth of its subject matter. Now signed to a major, with name producer Warne Livesey on board the opposite is true. Any subtlety left in the songs is swamped under a hard as nails, state-of-the-art circa 1988 production. So interesting ideas like opener 'Twinkle', with its neat string arrangement, and the unsettling possessive love song 'We Don't Need Nobody Else' go unexplored, as the Whipping Boy work only as a competent rock band in the vein of House of Love and other late eighties traditionalists. Closer 'A Natural' with its matter of fact tale of everyday schizophrenia rewards curiosity, but you can't help but wish the music had the imagination of the words. McKee's probably got a great book in him, but I'm afraid that this powerful sounding and carefully assembled record will remain unappreciated if respected.


AC/DC - Ballbreaker - EastWest

Wow, Grrr, Let Us Rawk etc etc. In fact when the AC/DC brought a huge wrecking ball into the centre of London recently to promote this excellent collection of AC/DC songs, their original plans to block Piccadilly with it were scuppered when it broke, after hitting a post. What with it only being made of papier mache see... There's nothing fake about this excellent monstrosity though, it's pomposity matched only by it's heaviosity etc. Bluntly this is the best album from the Australian midgets (and one Geordie) in years. Producer Rick Rubin has apparently got them playing hard together in the studio, and just like the old days they never play ten notes when one will do. The rhythm section is superhuman, Brian Johnson's voice is only moderately painful, and the Young brothers, those Kylie sized pieces of Aussiehood, complement each other like they've been playing together all their lives, which they of course have. The ace single 'Hard as a Rock' opens ('Her hot potatoes will elevate ya'- what do they mean?) but the ace 'Cover You In Oil' (self descriptive) and the momentous 'Hail Caesar' are at least its match. Angus does a top solo on 'The Furor' and there's a song called 'Caught With Your Pants Down'. What more could you want? Blood? Jurassic-tastic.


You are viewing an archive of rage magazine from 1995-96 All copyright belongs to rage magazine. Email All copyright belongs to rage magazine. Email