Saturday, 29 June 2019

The Monochrome Set ‎– Eligible Bachelors (1982)

Style: Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Music-Box, Cherry Red

01.   The Jet Set Junta
02.   I'll Scry Instead
03.   On The 13th Day
04.   Cloud 10
05.   The Mating Game
06.   March Of The Eligible Bachelors
07.   The Devil Rides Out
08.   Fun For All The Family
09.   The Midas Touch
10.   The Ruling Class
11.   The Great Barrier Riff

Bass Guitar – Andrew Warren
Drums – Lexington Crane
Guitar – Bid
Lead Guitar, Keyboards – Lester Square
Lead Vocals – Bid
Backing Vocals – Andrew Warren, Lester Square, Lexington Crane
Producer – Tim Hart

Talking Heads ‎– Fear Of Music (2005 Remastered) (1979)

Style: New Wave, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sire, Waner Music

01.   I Zimbra
02.   Mind
03.   Paper
04.   Cities
05.   Life During Wartime
06.   Memories Can't Wait
07.   Air
08.   Heaven
09.   Animals
10.   Electric Guitar
11.   Drugs
12.   Dancing For Money (Unfinished Outtake)
13.   Life During Wartime (Alternative Version)
14.   Cities (Alternative Version)
15.   Mind (Alternative Version)

Producer – Brian Eno, Talking Heads
Written-By – David Byrne

By now, it’s almost a cliche to call 1979’s Fear of Music, Talking Heads’ third album, transitional. A quick Google search for <“Fear of Music” “Talking Heads” “transitional”> yields more than 7,000 hits (And yes, I’m aware of the irony that a world where you can search for anything immediately is a world that Fear of Music fears.) Of course, cliches become cliches by being true—it’s when they are worn by overuse, becoming a lazy writer’s way of actually doing work, that they turn dangerous. 
In Fear of Music’s case, the question often unanswered is transitioning from what to what. The easy answer is that Talking Heads’ music was moving from the tinker-toy minimalist art trio that captured the hearts of CBGB to the slinky, extended Afro-funk ensemble that became superstars. True, but facile. But the idea of what Talking Heads were was also changing. 
Four years removed from their formation, when they lived together in a loft on Chrystie Street, wore monochrome clothes and got haircuts at the same time—“so no one becomes a rock star,” bassist Tina Weymouth told me when I interviewed them on WNYU-FM in 1976. In that same interview, Tina passed on a piece of advice they received from Lou Reed: a band is like a fist, and labels, managers, producers, etc., want to pry open that fist, and make it easier to crack off one of the fingers and make them a star. Fear of Music, which peaked at #21 in Billboard, is the record on which it feels they had forgotten Reed’s advice. It’s the first step in David Byrne’s assumption of power, moving Talking Heads from a band to his band.

Not uncoincidentally, it was also the first album not drawn from the band’s CBGB repertoire, and the first on which Brian Eno was essentially a member of the band. Pointedly, Byrne and Eno would go to work on their own project, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, before rejoining the the band for the Heads’ next album, Remain in Light.

In a way, it allowed the band to sidestep the problem of how to follow-up on “Take Me to the River,” an Al Green cover that reached #26 on the Billboard singles chart. And nearly everything about Fear of Music feels engineered to deflect your interest. It gives you no time to get your bearings. The opener, “I Zimbra,” is a series of nonsense syllables by Dadaist poet Hugo Ball, chanted over a single-chord vamp, the guitars, basses, drums and percussion chattering back and forth at each other, changing shapes and stressed beats, speaking in a code as indecipherable as the lyrics.

Even the cover, black matte paper and embossed in the design used on the street-level metal doors that covered the entrances to New York City basements, gave the impression of something coming from underground. And it certainly sounded like nothing else. Hearing it today, the album’s mix of Motorik and Afrobeat sounds inevitable; in 1979 it was dance music that reflected the time: twitchy, nervous, unsure of the next step. 
Fear of Music is an album full of warnings: In nearly every song, Byrne breaks into the songs to deliver the bad news. “Don’t look so disappointed. It isn’t what you hoped for, is it?” he sings in the Bowie-esque “Memories Can’t Wait.”

“Never listen to electric guitar,” he demands in “Electric Guitar,” it’s “a crime against the state.” Even the most benign subjects are fraught with worry: “Air,” he sings, “can hurt you too,” while not even his own thoughts are safe.

“Everything seems to be up in the air at this time,” he frets in “Mind.” The album’s sense of sensory overload, the idea that Heaven is a place “where nothing ever happens,” is prescient, especially given that CNN is a year away, the internet bubble almost 20. But when the band decided to hold the album’s release party at the Mudd Club, dancing to “Life During Wartime” (with its famous “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco” refrain) you could think of yourself as very meta.

Fear of Music’s closest analog might be Radiohead’s OK Computer, also a third album, that saw them step away from being a big, post-Nirvana guitar band to something infinitely stranger and richer. While many see these albums as masterpieces, and some even wish they had stayed there, for both bands the albums are landing zones, a stretching of ambitions, gambles that would pay off grandly in the future. 
Steven Mirkin / Best Classic Bands

La Funk Mob ‎– The Bad Seeds 1993-1997 (2004)

Style: Breakbeat, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Lovesupreme

01.   21 Degrees
02.   357 Magnum Force
03.   This Is Life
04.   Motor Bass Get Phunked Up
05.   The Outlaw
06.   Wendepunkt
07.   Poem Of Darkness
08.   La Doctoresse
09.   Love Bendover
10.   Itsagirl
11.   Ravers Suck Our Sound
12.   Motor Bass Get Phunked Up (Ritchie Hawtin Electrophunk Remix)
13.   Window Working
14.   No Time For Hesitation
15.   Ravers Suck Our Sound (Carl Craig Remix)
16.   Call Me

Producer – Boombass, Zdar

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Mighty Bop Feat. La Funk Mob Et EJM ‎– La Vague (1995)

Style: Trip Hop, Abstract, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Quango Records

01.   Intro
02.   Clever Mind
03.   Sans Rémission
04.   Obscure
05.   Infrarouge
06.   Freestyle Linguistique
07.   Abstract Fever
08.   Le Voyage
09.   Brand New Day
10.   Muthaf***kin' Ghost

Arranged By, Programmed By – Mighty Bop
Scratches – DJ Cutee B

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Manuel Göttsching ‎– E2-E4 (1984)

Style: Minimal, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Inteam GmbH, Racket Records, MG.ART, Spalax

1a.   Ruhige Nervosität
1b.   Gemäßigter Aufbruch
1c.   … Und Mittelspiel
1d.   Ansatz
1e.   Damen-Eleganza
1f.   Ehrenvoller Kampf
1g.   Hoheit Weicht (Nicht Ohne Schwung…)
1h.   … Und Souveränität
1i.   Remis

Composed By, Recorded By, Producer – Manuel Göttsching
Guitar, Electronics – Manuel Göttsching

Some classic albums have origin stories that threaten to eclipse the music itself. My Bloody Valentine almost bankrupted Creation over Loveless. Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska was just a cassette demo that he carried around in his pocket before deciding to release it. Brian Wilson’s inability to finish SMiLE caused him a mental breakdown. Add to these E2-E4, the marvelous extended electronic work by Manuel Göttsching, former leader of the key krautrock band Ash Ra Tempel. 
After the dissolution of Ash Ra Tempel in the mid-’70s, Göttsching began working solo as Ashra, moving away from his earlier band’s wooly psychedelic rock and toward structures based on ambiance and his interest in Terry Riley-style minimalism. Both the trance-inducing repetition of 1975’s Inventions for Electric Guitar and the softer drones of 1976’s New Age of Earth showed his mastery of these forms, and he would build on them. In December 1981, having just returned from a tour with his friend Klaus Schulze, Göttsching was alone in his home studio and decided to create an improvised piece as an exercise, and also to give himself a tape to listen to on an upcoming trip. Moving between his battery of synthesizers and sequencing devices, he settled on a gentle two-chord vamp on his Prophet 10, to which he added an array of pinging electronic percussion and simple melodic figures. And over the second half of the piece, he laid down an extended guitar solo. Cut live without overdubs in a single hour, E2-E4 became, upon its eventual release in 1984, an electronic music landmark. 
E2-E4 has an elusive appeal, one that is mysterious even to its maker. In 1981 and ’82, Göttsching was partway through planning a new solo album—it was quite complicated, with different sections and laborious themes. He wasn’t sure what to do with this new music, which came so easily. By 1981, Göttsching had made many pieces at home on his own for many purposes, but this one was lightning in a bottle. Like the longjumper Bob Beamon—whose one perfect jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics set a world record that he never came close to reaching before or since—Göttsching puzzled over his flawless moment. He listened to his creation over and over, trying to figure out why it worked so well, looking for some reason it wasn’t as good as it seemed. But he was at a loss. There were no mistakes, no incomplete ideas. It wasn’t too loud or too soft or too derivative. For one magic hour, the perfectly realized music floats in space, inviting listeners to admire it from the outside and then dance within it.

There are two things to hear in E2-E4: what the music is, and what the ideas within it would become. It’s sublime as a present-moment listening experience, with beautiful textures and a glorious symmetry. E2-E4 is like one long pop song stretched over 60 minutes, which is to say it’s sort of like its own DJ set. It plays with pop structures, but on a much larger canvas—a change that might last for a few bars in a pop single might last, here, for four minutes. At the 23-minute mark, there’s a several-minutes-long section where Göttsching starts flanging the tones and it feels something like dub; it’s kind of like a bridge. At the 3:35 mark, a pinging melody first enters, and that feels like a verse. As with many pop songs, there is an instrumental break, and in this case, it’s a guitar solo that lasts for a full album side. Göttsching vibrates with his riff in harmony, winding out fluid lines in the middle register that function as a rhythmic counterpoint and shifting melody simultaneously. 
If three chords form the skeleton of punk, then two chords are the soul of techno, the minimum the music can move and still be changing. Göttsching’s guitar solo is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, with its clean but expressive tone that mixes a touch of jazz and blues with a more free-floating pointillist psychedelia. And Göttsching’s guitar work highlights one of E2-E4’s most appealing qualities: that the music sits precisely at the point where the human meets the machine. The great bulk of the music is synthesized and sequenced, a Rube Goldberg-like device that winds through pre-programmed sections, but when his guitar enters, we hear the touch of a musician brought up playing classical music on nylon strings. The human hand and the circuits also switch roles, though. If the warm tone of the machines can feel almost human, like an invitation—a friendly and welcoming sound perfect for the communion of the dancefloor—Göttsching’s tightly controlled guitar work sometimes has a mechanical quality, existing in clear relation to the sequencer’s grid. 
So that’s the music as it plays. But for those interested in the larger sweep of history, it’s impossible not to listen and hear how ahead of its time this record was. Simply put, E2-E4 sounds a great deal like techno would when it emerged roughly a decade later, and it came from someone with no interest in dance music. As he was contemplating releasing E2-E4, Göttsching visited Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Records, his then-current label, on Branson’s houseboat in order to play him the tape. In a beautifully told story from the liner notes of this reissue, Göttsching says that Branson was rocking his baby in his arms as the tape played, an apt image given the gentle undulations of the chords. “Manuel, you could make a fortune with this music,” Göttsching quotes Branson as saying, and indeed, a fortune would be made from the ideas found on E2-E4. But Göttsching wouldn’t be the one to collect it. Göttsching eventually issued E2-E4 in 1984 on Klaus Schulze’s label, and it didn’t sell well, moving only a few thousand copies. But a handful of those wound up in the right hands. 
E2-E4 is also the story of formats. When Göttsching first contemplated releasing it, he realized that its 58-minute length presented difficulties. It was conceived as a single flowing piece, but an hour was generally considered too long even for a single LP, if one wants it to sound good. A skilled disc cutter was able to get a 30+ minute side down in 1984, and thanks to the record’s popularity in clubs, it still feels like a vinyl artifact. Which is one reason this exceptionally well-done reissue is so welcome. Great care was taken in getting the cut right. The 31-minute side, though at a relatively low volume, is clean and clear, even in the inner grooves. One could argue that a seamless digital version of the piece is the “real” version, but if vinyl was good enough for Larry Levan—who, unbeknownst to Göttsching, made the record a regular part of his sets for a time at the Paradise Garage—it’s good enough for me. 
The music’s reputation in dance music circles reached a peak when three Italo producers approached him about re-working the tune for a dance music 12” in 1989. That record, released under the name “Sueño Latino,” turned out to be an international hit, and a 1992 remix from Detroit producer Derrick May brought the music full circle. Which gets back to one of E2-E4’s essential qualities: cut in a single hour, it wound its way across the world, morphing and changing with formats and remixes, finding new contexts, a music that is constantly in the process of becoming. 
Mark Richardson / Pitchfork

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‎– The Good Son (1990)

Style: Blues Rock, New Wave
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label : Mute, Elektra, Enigma Records

1.   Foi Na Cruz
2.   The Good Son
3.   Sorrow's Child
4.   The Weeping Song
5.   The Ship Song
6.   The Hammer Song
7.   Lament
8.   The Witness Song
9.   Lucy

Backing Vocals – Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey
Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vibraphone, Percussion – Mick Harvey
Cello – Braulio Marques Lima, Cristina Manescueti
Drums, Percussion – Thomas Wydler
Guitar – Blixa Bargeld, Kid Congo Powers
Viola – Akira Terazaki, Glauco Masahiru Imasato
Violin – Alexandre Ramirez, Altamir Téa Bueno Salinas, Helena Akiku Imasato, Léa Kalil Sadi
Vocals, Piano, Organ Hammond, Harmonica – Nick Cave
Conductor, Co-ordinator Of Strings & Singers – Cláudia Ferr
Written-By – Nick Cave
Arranged By – Billy McGee, Mick Harvey
Producer – The Bad Seeds

Monday, 24 June 2019

Vashti Bunyan ‎– Just Another Diamond Day (1970)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Strange Days Records, Philips, Spinney Records

01.   Diamond Day
02.   Glow Worms
03.   Lily Pond
04.   Timothy Grub
05.   Where I Like To Stand
06.   Swallow Song
07.   Window Over The Bay
08.   Rose Hip November
09.   Come Wind Come Rain
10.   Hebridean Sun
11.   Rainbow River
12.   Trawlerman's Song
13.   Jog Along Bess
14.   Iris's Song For Us
15.   Love Song (B-side of Train Song, 1966)
16.   I'd Like To Walk Around In Your Mind (unreleased acetate, 1967)
17.   Winter Is Blue (unreleased acetate, 1966)
18.   Iris's Song (Version Two, John Bunyan's tape, 1969)

Keyboards – John James
Piano, Organ – Christopher Sykes
Vocals, Guitar – Vashti Bunyan
Written-By – Vashti Bunyan
Producer – Joe Boyd

 One of the happiest by-products of the ongoing underground freak-folk explosion is the reemergence of British singer Vashti Bunyan. After spending more than three decades completely off the music industry's grid, the past couple years have seen the angel-voiced Bunyan duet with fan Devendra Banhart on Rejoicing in the Hands, gig with Stephen Malkmus, and collaborate with both Piano Magic and Animal Collective. And now, as if in response to those wondering what all the fuss might be about, the Dicristina Stair label has finally given Bunyan's lone solo album, Just Another Diamond Day, its first U.S. CD release. 
Produced in 1970 by the legendary Joe Boyd, Just Another Diamond Day has long been considered a holy grail for Brit-folk record collectors, with original copies of the album fetching over $1,000 at auction. It shouldn't take many listens to realize why it's so highly regarded; Just Another Diamond Day is, in its own humble way, nearly a thing of perfection. 
The album features contributions from such folk luminaries as The Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson, Fairport Convention's David Swarbrick and Simon Nicol, as well as string arrangements by Robert Kirby, who performed the same duties for Nick Drake. Boyd's production is impeccable, with the sound of each breath and string given an appropriate weight in the mix. This is crucial because of the almost impossible fragility of Bunyan's voice, an instrument as lovely and delicate as a dew-covered spider's web but one which could easily be drowned out by over-instrumentation.

Considering the deftness of its acoustic, percussion-less songs, Just Another Diamond Day seems at times like a sonic sibling to the Boyd-produced Nick Drake albums-- albeit one that chooses fresh air and sunlight over Drake's depressive shadows. Although Bunyan wrote all of the songs herself, the lyrics have an organic, out-of-time poetry that makes them feel more like traditional works. Her songs reference neither the politics of the time nor the psychedelically refracted medievalism so prevalent in the folk-rock of the era-- the simple quatrains of hypnotic songs like "Diamond Day", "Come Wind Come Rain", or "Where I Like to Stand" instead consist of uncomplicated lyrics ("Just another field to plough/ Just a grain of wheat/ Just a sack of seed to sow/ And the children eat") that could've been written virtually any time in the past few centuries. 
Some listeners find Bunyan's thematic emphasis on nature to be overly cloying and childlike-- especially on such bucolic tracks as "Lilly Pond" or "Glow Worms". But others find themselves captivated by the sincerity and purity of Bunyan's pastoral vision, particularly in the subtle way she's able to portray human activities corresponding perfectly with the rhythms of the natural world, as though the people she encounters are just another feature of the landscape. ("I'm counting the waves/ The men in the boats they wave/ To their wives and say/ I'm counting the hours in the day.") 
And the whimsical wordplay she weaves through songs like "Timothy Grub" or "Jog Along Bess" ("Jog along Bess/ Hop along May/ Squeak along Blue/ It's a walk along day") makes it easy to trace the influence she's exerted on contemporary artists like Banhart or Animal Collective. But even with her reputation re-established and her influence deservedly spreading, it's unlikely that you'll encounter another album as charming or transporting as Just Another Diamond Day any time soon. 
Matthew Murphy / Pitchfork

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Rodrigo Campos, Gui Amabis, Juçara Marçal ‎– Sambas Do Absurdo (2018)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: Vinyl
Label:  Goma Gringa Discos

A1. Absurdo #8
A2 Absurdo #7
A3.   Absurdo #6
A4. Absurdo #5
B1. Absurdo #4
B2. Absurdo #3
B3. Absurdo #2
B4. Absurdo #1

Lyrics By – Nuno Ramos
Keyboards, Programmed By, Voice, Producer – Gui Amabis
Music By, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Cavaquinho, Voice – Rodrigo Campos
Voice, Art Direction – Juçara Marçal

Mesmo na curta duração de seus atos, difícil não se surpreender pela força das canções e grandiosidade de Sambas do Absurdo (2017, YB). Produto da colaboração entre o cantor e compositor Rodrigo Campos, a cantora Juçara Marçal e o produtor Gui Amabis, o trabalho inspirado no ensaio O Mito de Sísifo (1942), obra do escritor franco-argelino Albert Camus, faz da lenta desconstrução do samba e de pequenos absurdos do cotidiano o principal estímulo para a composição dos versos. 
Dotado de uma poesia particular, resultado da parceria entre Campos e o colaborador de longa data, o artista plástico e escritor Nuno Ramos, também responsável pela imagem de capa do disco, Sambas do Absurdo se espalha sem pressa, detalhista e provocativo. Versos alimentados pelo uso de temas urbanos, reflexões existencialistas, sexo e conflitos diários. Caos orquestrado com leveza, ponto de partida para cada uma das oito faixas do disco, todas intituladas Absurdo e numeradas de trás para frente. 
Em essência orientado pela voz de Marçal, o trabalho encolhe e cresce a todo instante, mergulhando na formação de temas confessionais, vide Absurdo 3 (“Ter você, ter você / Ter areia / Ter você, ter você / Ter a lua“), e questionamentos intimistas, marca de Absurdo 7 (“O nosso algoz / Dentro de nós / Não tem polícia / Na minha voz“). Poemas curtos, rápidos, porém, imensos quando observados de forma atenta, dentro da pluralidade de histórias, cenas e conceitos explorados pelo trio. 
A mesma versatilidade na composição dos versos se reflete na costura dos arranjos que cobrem o disco. Na trilha do último registro de inéditas de Campos, o temático Conversas com Toshiro (2015), Sambas do Absurdo encontra no uso de melodias orquestrais um fino complemento ao samba arquitetado pelo grupo. Pinceladas acústicas que servem de complemento ao canto forte de Marçal, reflexo da polidez a atenção constante de Amabis, por vezes íntimo do autoral Ruivo em Sangue (2015). 
Entre instantes de pura suavidade, marca de faixas como Absurdo 4 e Absurdo 1, Sambas do Absurdo encanta pelos momentos de maior experimentação. É o caso de Absurdo 6. Em um intervalo de apenas três minutos, guitarras enevoadas se espalham em meio a ruídos, batidas sampleadas e passagens breves pelo samba. O mesmo cuidado se repete ainda em Absurdo 5 e Absurdo 3, canções envoltas em uma atmosfera quase claustrofóbica, sufocante. 
Conduzido com leveza, a parceria entre Campos, Marçal e Amabis segue de forma curiosa, brincando com as possibilidades a cada nova curva do registro. Difícil não lembrar do primeiro álbum de estúdio do Metá Metá, lançado em 2011, efeito da permanente sensação de descoberta que acompanha o ouvinte durante toda a audição do trabalho. Da imagem de capa aos arranjos e versos, Sambas do Absurdo encontra na perversão da normalidade o estímulo para a produção de uma obra dotada de identidade própria. 
Cleber Facchi / Miojo Indie

Metá Metá ‎– MM3 (2016)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Art Rock, Avant-garde Jazz, Jazz-Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Goma Gringa Discos, Jazz Village

1.   Três amigos
2.   Angoulême
3.   Imagem e amor
4.   Mano Légua
5.   Angolana
6.   Corpo vão
7.   Osanyin
8.   Toque certeiro
9.   Obá Koso

Bass – Marcelo Cabral
Drums – Sérgio Machadoá
Saxophone – Thiago França
Vocals – Juçara Marçal
Vocals, Guitar – Kiko Dinucci
Written-By – Juçara Marça, Kiko Dinucci, Rodrigo Campos, Siba, Sérgio Machado, Thiago França

With MM3, this Sao Paolo-based trio, active since 2008, are joined once again by a bassist and drummer for spastic, genre-defying blasts that place them in the center of a vibrant Brazilian music scene. The record skitters between post-punk, gruff, avant sax flutters, raw guitar pulsations, and an ability to shift tempo that's military precise. The Ex's more global excursions come briefly to mind, the back alley sonic-chases of Last Exit share some sort of distant genes, and UT's urgency at least flirts with some of this record's chugging intensity. But for those who hear Brazil and think samba, candomble, or Tropicalia's freakier moments, this record might come as a surprise. 
Sao Paolo has music to go with its infrastructure, poverty, and corruption. From experimental synth to Favela proibidao rap, Metá Metá, who initially stoked the fading fires of the country's traditions with free-jazz, are one more component of a scene that's at least partially a reaction to the chaos and breakdowns pervading their city. “Imagem do Amor,” also available live on video (see below) as part of their “no Cultural Livre” set, gets its strength from a narcotic, portending riff, where Jucara Marcal's voice nearly bursts at the seams before Thiago Franca's gravelly sax warbles dance over the fallout. 
And while this is a band intent on original material, this album's centerpiece is the nearly ten-minute remodeling given to the traditional Nigerian dance drama, “Oba Koso.” Kiko Dinucci's guitar enters in shards not unlike something heard on Sonic Youth's “Evol,” before being joined by the rest of the band for a subtle build on the riff. Dinucci chants the Yoruba lyrics over Franca's melodic underpinnings and croaks. Marcal finally appears moaning atop the chant for a performance building toward catharsis through noise and repetition. Finally, the dust starts to settle, and the band holds onto the tune's pulse as it ever so stealthily builds back up once again before slinking off into nothing. It's easily the album's most evocative track, and the band smartly saved it for last. 
Bruce Miller / Roots World

The Chameleons ‎– Strange Times (1986)

Style: New Wave, Indie Rock, Ethereal
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Geffen Records

01.   Mad Jack
02.   Caution
03.   Tears (Original Arrangement)
04.   Soul In Isolation
05.   Swamp Thing
06.   Time / The End Of Time
07.   Seriocity
08.   In Answer
09.   Childhood
10.   I'll Remember
        Limited Edition Free Bonus Album
11.   Tears (Full Arrangement)
12.   Paradiso
13.   Inside Out
14.   John, I'm Only Dancing
15.   Tomorrow Never Knows

Bass, Vocals – Birdy
Drums, Percussion – John
Guitar – Reg
Guitar, Strings – Dave
Piano – Beki
Producer – David M. Allen
Written-By – Fielding, Lever, Burgess, Smithies

Mark Burgess and his band, The Chameleons, are an anomaly. Despite endless pop-rock appeal, a Mancunian post-punk pedigree and three perfect LP’s, they’ve received relatively little commercial success. Nearly every song the band recorded was anthemic; the soaring guitars, driving rhythms and Burgess’ compelling vocals coming together to form a wall of the most beautiful noise you’ve probably never heard. While I could be reviewing any of the Chameleons’ albums (Script of the Bridge and What Does Anything Mean? Basically are equally brilliant) I’ve been tasked with a brief, “Classic” review of Strange Times. Here goes nothing... 
First, before you read on, go to the bottom of this review and listen to “Soul In Isolation”. When you’re back, having been freshly bathed in all that dark, atmospheric, brilliance, ask yourself: Why haven’t I heard this before? The answer is long and complicated and involves bad luck with labels, the death of their manager Tony Fletcher and ultimately an overall lack of exposure outside of the UK. It’s too bad because The Chameleons boast some really intricate, bizarrely-tuned, guitar work, courtesy of Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies, which one moment is a sonic wrecking ball, demolishing expectations with dense layers of reverb. The next moment the guitarists fall into a complicated lockstep interplay, riffing back and forth, almost like a game. Few of their contemporaries had these chops. 
Speaking of chops, John Lever’s drums sound almost machined in their flawless precision and silvery tone. Strange Times afford Lever the opportunity to create some complex rhythms (“Caution”), some massive beats (“Swamp Thing”) and to simply show-off his versatility (“Mad Jack”) as one of the best drummers in rock. Though Burgess’ bass playing is often overlooked due to his frontman role, he and Lever created a rhythm section that rivaled contemporaries like The Cure. 
As for Burgess, though his lyrics are (deceptively) simple, and his voice (beautifully) imperfect, what he is, unfailingly, is clear. Listeners always know where they stand with Mark Burgess because he is bellowing it out to them with all the paranoid honesty of biblical prophet or a prisoner facing his third week of panoptic solitary confinement… William Blake meets Michel Foucault. 
“Oh, when you think on it, when you think of it/ we’re all souls in isolation/ Alive in here, I'm alive in here, I'm alive in here…” – “Soul in Isolation” 
“Now the world is too much with me/ Please leave, just go away/ Before I lose my mind completely/ Just leave, please go now/ Now nothing's sacred anymore/ When the demon's breaking down your door/ You'll still be staring down at the floor” –“Swamp Thing” 
The Chameleons were incomparable and accordingly this review has given them short shrift. Do yourself a solid and seek out a copy of Strange Times, or honestly, any of their first three albums. If you like loud, gorgeous post-punk rock you will be so glad you did. 
Jon Burke / Soundblab

The Chameleons ‎– What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1985)

Style: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Statik Records, Virgin, Victoria

01.   Silence, Sea And Sky
02.   Perfume Garden
03.   Intrigue In Tangiers
04.   Return Of The Roughnecks
05.   Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In)
06.   On The Beach
07.   Looking Inwardly
08.   One Flesh
09.   Home Is Where The Heart Is
10.   P.S. Goodbye
11.   In Shreds
12.   Nostalgia

Bass, Strings, Vocals – Mark Burgess)
Drums – John Lever
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Reg Smithies
Electric Guitar, Strings – Dave Fielding
Producer – Colin Richardson, Steve Lillywhite, The Chameleons
Written-By, Arranged By, Performer – The Chameleons

The Chameleons have long been relegated to the position of footnote in the history of Manchester music, despite being the greatest band to ever emerge from Middleton.  They have become the Gaugin to the Stone Roses Van Gough, the Salieri to the Smiths Mozart.  With this reissue of the seminal 1985 album ‘What Does Anything Mean? Basically’ they attempt to re-establish their musical legacy.  The album is an amalgamation of all the classic 80s sounds.  If it were released for the first time this year you would call it an excellent pastiche. 
The twelve album tracks incorporate every meaningful band from the North West in the 1980s.  From Echo and the Bunnymen to the Smiths, Stone Roses and the Fall.  It even finds time to make a playful reference to the Beatles.  The albums fifty-one minutes are layered in synths, echoes, reverb and obtuse song titles such as ‘Intrigue in Tangiers’ and ‘Singing Rule Britannia (while the walls close in)’.  Lyrically the band even finds time to launch attacks on Thatcherism through the poetic verse.  It is perhaps apt that the final track on the album is titled nostalgia, almost as though it was written with the reissue in mind. 
The nine rough-cut demos found on disc two of the release are for devotees only, allegedly found on a C60 cassette in guitarist Dave Fielding’s garage, they serve only as an excuse to repackage the original album and place it in the forefront of record shop windows.  But that is no less than this album deserves. It is a historic album, both in terms of its quality and longevity.  Any album that has influenced the likes of Interpol, White Lies, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Editors and Spiritualized has earned a position in your record. 
Ian Snell / Silent Radio

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Hipsway ‎– Hipsway (1986)

Style: Pop Rock, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Mercury

01.   The Honeythief
02.   Ask The Lord
03.   Bad Thing Longing
04.   Upon A Thread
05.   Long White Car
06.   The Broken Years
07.   Tinder
08.   Forbidden
09.   Set This Day Apart
10.   The Honeythief (Galus Mix)
11.   Ask The Lord (Extended Version)
12.   The Broken Years (Extended Version)

Bass, Written-By – John McElhone
Drums, Written-By – Harry Travers
Guitar – Pim Jones
Vocals, Written-By – Graham Skinner
Written-By – McCleod

Hipsway should have been HUGE. Their unmistakable sound – a fusion between pop, funk, jazz and Indie guitar twang – had all the ingredients to make them massive, and they were close, so close. From the ashes of Altered Images, bassist Johnny McElhone roped in ex-Kites members Harry Travers and Grahame Skinner, and together with Pim Jones on guitar formed Hipsway and things it would seem started to happen quickly. A quick deal with Mercury saw them recoding their debut album and releasing singles both in the UK and in the USA to mixed responses. 
The band’s first two singles The Broken Years and Ask The Lord were chart fodder for 1985 if ever it was heard. Sadly they both climbed to just number 72 in the UK charts. Consistent yes, but not really what was expected. The sounds of The Broken Years were as immediate as immediate could get, it’s crystal clear opening guitar riff had the listener on edge within seconds and the vocals of Skinner, whilst reciting lyrics which were often avant garde to say the least, were strong and very Bowie-esque. Ask The Lord was catchy too and a couldn’t fail to have a foot tap, it’s chorus was strong and the production by Gary Langan (Spandau Ballet, ABC, Art Of Noise) was clinical and direct. 
Album opener, The Honey Thief provided the band with their only major chart success. Sneaking into the Top 20 at number 17 it also gave them a number 19 hit in the US Hot 100 and ensured their album also had some success. A hit in several countries worldwide it potentially marked the coming of a great band and, had their name at the time been Duran Duran would have probably ensured enormous success for them. As it was, the follow-up was a slightly misinformed release of an updated Ask The Lord where The Broken Years would maybe have been more suitable, the former stalling at number 50. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. 
A fourth single, Long White Car was produced by Paul Staveley O’Duffy (Swing Out Sister, Lisa Stansfield, Amy Winehouse), who also produced the remainder of the album, and his expertise helped maintain the high quality of sound throughout. Long White Car slows the pace somewhat and whilst it too was addictive enough, its ballad-type approach failed to capitalise on the success of The Honeythief. 
The success of Hipsway the album was not purely down to the singles, in fact the remaining five tracks were as equally impressive. McEwans Lager famously used Tinder on one of their TV adverts which undoubtedly helped maintain the albums impressive 23 week run in the UK chart. 
With many an anniversary release comes a bonus disc of material and Hipsway is no exception. It does differ somewhat in that there is no filler involved. Extended versions and remixes are joined by b-side and bonus tracks in the shape of the brilliant Pain Machine, Wild Sorrow, Are You Ready To Listen and Ring Out The Bell in an impressive fifteen track disc. The superb Galus Mix of The Honeythief also rubbing shoulders with various dance and ‘dub’ versions. The inclusion of the odd live track may have been nice given the bands reputation on the circuit which has seen them only last month perform two sold-out nights at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. 
For an album that is thirty years old it has aged surprisingly well with little sounding dated, in fact the production of Langan and O’Duffy still sounds crisp to this day making it a must have from the time. Containing twenty-five tracks it is testament to a great band who could have reached even greater heights given the smallest of breaks. As it is, it remains one of the best albums from the era. 
Paul Scott-Bates / Louder Than Bombs

Motorbass ‎– Pansoul (1996)

Style: House, Deep House
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Play It Again Sam, Labels, Virgin, Astralwerks

01.   Fabulous
02.   Ezio
03.   Flying Fingers
04.   Les Ondes
05.   Neptune
06.   Wan Dence
07.   Genius
08.   Pariscyde
09.   Bad Vibes (D.Mix)
10.   Off

Mastered By – Chab
Written-By, Mixed By, Producer – Etienne De Crécy, Philippe Zdar

The only album released by Motorbass is a solid LP of retro-disco with minimal grooves and no more than a short vocal sample or two to drive most tracks. This sort of thing was much easier to take before Daft Punk upped the ante with Homework, but the attention to detail on tracks like "Ezio" and "Fabulous" make it a solid album. 
Keith Farley / AllMusic

The Chameleons ‎– Script Of The Bridge (1983)

Style: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk
format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Statik Records, Virgin, Base Records

01.   Don't Fall
02.   Here Today
03.   Monkeyland
04.   Second Skin
05.   Up The Down Escalator
06.   Less Than Human
07.   Pleasure And Pain
08.   Thursday's Child
09.   As High As You Can Go
10.   A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days
11.   Paper Tigers
12.   View From A Hill

Bass – Mark
Drums – John
Guitar – Dave, Reg
Keyboards – Alister
Voice – Mark
Written-By – Fielding, Lever, Burgess, Smithies

Contrary to popular belief (and a plethora of late night Voxpop nostalgia shows featuring Mark Frith) the 1980s were an incredible era for music. No, really. It was the decade where U2, The Cure, and Echo & The Bunnymen released a flawless body of work throughout its entire ten years. Where electronic music took over the mainstream. Hip hop broke through. Club culture took over the airwaves. Heavy metal threatened world domination and genuine innovators of the future Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine honed their sound to perfection. And I haven't even mentioned The Smiths. Music television was at its finest. Both the UK and American underground punk scenes were thriving. The printed music press actually had something to say and when they didn't, fanzines came to the rescue. The eighties were great. Don't let anyone try and convince you otherwise, particularly those that weren't there. 
Another innovative and highly soon-to-be influential band to emerge from that period were The Chameleons, a four-piece hailing from the suburb of Middleton, just four-and-a-half miles outside the city of Manchester. Having formed in 1981, the band released their first 45 'In Shreds' on CBS Records the following year only to find themselves dropped after one single over alleged artistic differences between themselves and the label. While not exactly seen as the end of the world at the time - independent labels had been on the rise since the dawning of punk - for a band who'd already become firm favourites with Radio One DJ John Peel, there wasn't exactly a shortage of interest in signing them up. 
Nevertheless, such misfortune seemed to dog them throughout their short career as a creative force. Having been picked up by Statik soon after, the band recorded their debut album Script Of The Bridge over a six-week period in Rochdale. With Statik being an offshoot of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, it wasn't long before label interference got in the way once more, and after Statik put out a reduced version of the record for the US market (only eight of Script Of The Bridge's initial twelve tracks were included on this release), the band spent the next two years trying to get out of their contract, eventually doing so at the tail end of 1985 after long awaited second album What Does Anything Mean? finally came out. Unfortunately, by that point they'd missed the commercial gravy train enjoyed by many of their peers from back in the day, yet continued to make exceptionally flawless music until splitting in 1987 after former associate-cum-manager Tony Fletcher sadly passed away.

However, its on the aforementioned debut that The Chameleons really left their mark. Not just on a decade that was blessed with opportunist mavericks rallying against the impending rise of Thatcherism and catastrophic recession her reign bestowed upon the nation, but also in years to come, with many artists such as The National, Interpol, Slowdive, and Fews citing them as an influence on their own careers. Indeed, it's debatable whether Turn On The Bright Lights or Boxer would have existed in their present forms without this record. Released in August 1983, not only was Script Of The Bridge ahead of its time back then, it has also managed to remain fresh and relevant ever since. 
What's most distinguishable about The Chameleons is undoubtedly the dual layered guitar sound exerted so masterfully by Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies. As main songwriter, singer, and bassist Mark Burgess told DiS in April 2014, goth and what became the archetypal post-punk sound didn't exist at the time. Indeed its questionable that without The Chameleons it ever would have done. They were unique in every conceivable way, which probably didn't do them any favours from a commercial perspective. Certainly that and their ongoing battles with labels both old and new, and their reluctance to play the game in courting London, went some way towards alienating the more influential elements of the press who continually ignored them, choosing style over substance like capital based poseurs such as Blue Zoo instead. 
Opening with a sample of dialogue between actors Peter Lawford and Nella Walker taken from the 1946 comedy Two Sisters From Boston, that quickly gives way to the driving guitars and regimentally orchestrated rhythm accompaniment that would become The Chameleons signature sound. As introductions go - and for many this would be their first listening experience of the band - it doesn't get any more intense than 'Don't Fall', essentially four minutes of melodic fury, Burgess at one point enquiring "How did I come to be drowning in this mess?" Even today it stands as a blueprint for many guitar bands inspired by punk's aftermath, the point where the first wave's nihilism succumbed to textured melodies and thought provoking lyrics. 
'Here Today' follows a similar path with Fielding and Smithies increasingly familiar guitar work leading into a song that depicts melancholia and loss ("Somebody lost their mind tonight") albeit via a deceptively uplifting musical arrangement. Two epic pieces clocking in at a total of just over twelve minutes come next. Both 'Monkeyland' and 'Second Skin' became staples of the band's live set throughout their career (and still remain pivotal to Mark Burgess' Chameleons Vox shows); the former in the shape of its slow building verses and immediate chorus ("I have to know what is real and what is illusion"), the latter instantly recognisable thanks to its structural similarities to William Blake's 'Jerusalem' hymn. By this point only a third of the way into the record, The Chameleons have already demonstrated both a panache for complex songwriting yet also an immediacy at delivering their wares in an easily digestible format without resorting to pretence or unnecessarily glib references. 
Lead single 'Up The Down Escalator' and the pensive 'Less Than Human' wrap up the first side of the record. "I lost my direction while dodging the flack" sings Burgess as the record's most instantly accessible number bursts into life. Released as a 45 on New Year's Day 1983, it rivals U2's 'New Year's Day' or 'Fire' as one of the most anthemic rock songs of its time, yet unlike those or its predecessor 'In Shreds', failed to bother the official UK singles chart. 'Less Than Human' on the other hand finds Burgess in a more reflective mode, declaring "I must have died a thousand times" while Fieldin'sg and Smithie's accustomed layered interplay works its magic in the foreground.

Side two of the album opens with the lugubrious 'Pleasure And Pain' before 'Thursday's Child' takes the record back into more pastoral waters as guitars duel against a backdrop of John Lever's thundering drumbeats and inquisitive wordplay ("Where are we each and all?"). If the previous year's inaugural release 'In Shreds' became a prototype for the impending "goth" movement that followed, this demonstrated their ambitions were geared towards stadiums rather than dingy basement clubs. 'As High As You Can Go' and 'A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days' inject a more optimistic sheen into side two's overtly wistful core. Both were released as singles and, once again, although neither attained the commercial recognition they deserved, they remain shining examples of the foursome's seemingly effortless ability to write dizzying leftfield pop songs with consummate ease. 
'Paper Tigers' and 'View From A Hill' bring Script Of The Bridge to a desolate close. While despairingly bleak in lyrical content ("Feel myself falling to the ground / Solitary silence there's no sound") there's a distinctive feeling its creators' demons have been cast aside by the time 'View From A Hill' eventually subsides. Its mysterious and elongated ending segment opens the door to a brighter, braver new world which should have been theirs for the taking. That it wasn't can be put down to a catalogue of bad luck and being in the right place at the wrong time. 
Four years later, The Chameleons were no more, and after reforming in 2000 and even putting out a long-awaited fourth album (Why Call It Anything?) the following year, the acrimonious wounds of the past never properly healed resulting in 2003's inevitable parting of ways once more. Three of the band are still making music; Burgess with his Chameleons Vox line-up which, despite criticism from some of the band's diehard followers, are actually a tightly efficient musical unit and the nearest many of us will ever get to seeing The Chameleons of yore in action, while guitarist Dave Fielding and drummer John Lever released an album last year as The Red Sided Garter Snakes. 
While highly unlikely all four members will ever share a stage again, The Chameleons legacy remains firmly intact, and without Script Of The Bridge, those post-punk musical excursions might have followed an entirely different path altogether. 
Dom Gourlay / Drown In Sound

Friday, 21 June 2019

Revolting Cocks ‎– Live! You Goddamned Son Of A Bitch (1988)

Style: Industrial, Noise
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Wax Trax! Records, TVT Records

01.   You Goddamned Son Of A Bitch
02.   Cattle Grind
03.   We Shall Cleanse The World
04.   38
05.   In The Neck
06.   You Often Forget
07.   TV Mind
08.   Union Carbide
09.   Attack Ships On Fire
10.   No Devotion

Backing Vocals – The Revolting Pussies
Producer – Hypo Luxa & Hermes Pan
Recorded By – Tim Powell

Arriving two years after the debut Big Sexy Land, Revolting Cocks' You Goddamned Son of a Bitch wasn't so much a live album as a truer, sicker representation of the group's angrily mechanistic, claustrophobic industrial grunt. Joining ringleader Al Jourgensen were Luc Van Acker, Chris Connelly, Paul Barker, and Bill Rieflin; together, they energized the stark nihilism of the Big Sexy material with insulting stage banter, vocals, samples that hit with a more vicious edge, and relentless programming and electronic percussion that removed the human being's eventual need for a rest. The result was a grinding industrial endurance test. In addition to "TV Mind" and "We Shall Cleanse the World," Goddamned Son of a Bitch was highlighted by its title track and "In the Neck"." ("I'm a killing machine!," went the latter's less than subtle lyrics, and it wasn't hard to believe.) Rykodisc reissued the album in 2004, as part of a series celebrating the early part of Al Jourgensen's career. Newly mastered, the album was also expanded to two discs, and augmented with live versions of "Stainless Steel Providers" and P.I.L.'s "Public Image" from a 1990 12". 
Johnny Loftus  / AllMusic

Revolting Cocks ‎– Big Sexy Land (1986)

Style: Industrial, Noise
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Wax Trax! Records, Devotion

01.   38
02.   We Shall Cleanse The World
03.   Attack Ships On Fire
04.   Big Sexy Land
05.   Union Carbide (West Virginia)
06.   TV Mind
07.   You Often Forget (Malignant) From 12”
08.   No Devotion
09.   Union Carbide (Bhopal Mix)
10.   Attack Ships On Fire (From 12”)
11.   No Devotion (From 12”)
12.   TV Mind Remix (Alternative Mix)
13.   On Fire

Keyboards – Patrick Codenys
The Revolting Cocks Are – Alain Jourgensen, Luc Van Acker, Richard 23
Written-By, Instruments, Vocals – Revolting Cocks
Producer, Engineer – Alain Jourgensen

Helping to establish the Midwestern tradition of prolific industrial cross-pollination, Chicago industrial-dance supergroup Revolting Cocks released their debut Big Sexy Land appropriately enough on Wax Trax! in 1986. Featuring Ministry's Al Jourgensen and Chris Connelly (Fini Tribe/KMFDM) among others, the group produced an electronic grind that fans of Wax Trax! artists from this era will find very familiar. Plenty of slap bass and contorted samples abound on highlight cuts like "We Shall Cleanse the World," "No Devotions," and the most house-influenced track, "TV Mind." Fine dance music with plenty of cool synth and sample trickery, Big Sexy Land is a distinguished debut from a "side project" that occasionally surpasses the day-job work that its members became famous for. 
Vincent Jeffries / AllMusic

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Pi Ja Ma ‎– Nice To Meet U (2018)

Style: Indie Pop, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Bleepmachine, Cinq 7, Wagram Music, MPO

01.   Pixies, Sylphs And Fairies
02.   I Hate U
03.   Ponytail
04.   Vertigo
05.   By The River
06.   Radio Girl
07.   Tribulation
08.   I Oh I
09.   You And I
10.   Family
11.   Sugar Sugar

Strings  Conductor– Oleg Kontradenko
Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Programmed By – Axel Concato
Lyrics By, Music By – Axel Concato
Strings – F.A.M.E.'s Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra
Vocals – Pauline De Tarragon
Producer – Axel Concato

Parisian alt-pop lady Pi Ja Ma has racked up several million streams from her debut EP in 2017 and now with her debut album ‘Nice To Meet U’, her brand of French tinged pop-rock shines. 
As with many things Parisian there’s a timeless out of trend dreamy quality to Pi Ja Ma’s music. Opener ‘Pixies, Sylphs and Faeries’ encases this 60’s vibe with retro sounding drums, pointed country twanged guitars but with a modern day pop melody. It’s the mash up of these things trends that set the album apart from many others as Pi Ja Ma’s smooth voice croons over the top. ‘I Hate U’ pushes towards dramatic shoop-shoop pop with escalating guitar riffs and vintage string sections smothering vintage organs. It’s both catchy and full of life. ‘Ponytail’ mixes Caribbean beats with dance synths and 60’s rock strings. It’s outwardly joyous and bursting with smiles even if the lyrics themselves showcase a cleverly naive underlying panic. 
Vertigo’ moves towards the synth side of Pi Ja Ma’s sound spectrum as she plays a new wave / Tuneyards-esque cross over, whereas ‘Radio Girl’ plays with that rose-tinted 60’s surfer rock vibe with plenty of radio effects thrown in to do octopus dance moves to. Most of the album has a vibe to it which my mum refers to as ‘the ice cream lady at the cinema from the 70s charging around the isle music’. It’s part surfer rock in its guitar hooks and gritty feel, part Parisian rock in how everything has a watery flow to it (particularly the percussion which is always rolling and swaying) and restrained. 
A couple of tracks do pull away from the formula though. ‘By The River’ the token ballad on the album, although even that track builds up to a crescendo of rolling drums and guitar chords. The part instrumental ‘Family’ is like a bossa nova dance track made by Juana Molina. It’s really out there and full of creative sounds and mash ups – it’s my favourite track on the album. The closing track ‘Sugar Sugar’ is created like a mermaid paradise with lush flutes, layered backing vocals that remind me of Kadhja Bonet’s style of funky soul jazz and beautiful acoustic percussion that reminds me of fellow French songwriter Raoul Vignal. 
Pi Ja Ma’s mash up of vintage 60’s surfer rock, 80’s new wave tendencies and today’s pop and rock technology makes for an irresistibly heady concoction. As a completely new listener, I was hooked in immediately and found myself coming back to this album again and again – particularly when travelling. Highly recommended. 
Simon Smith / High Plain Music

The Waterboys ‎– Fisherman's Blues (1988)

Style: Folk Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ensign, Chrysalis

01.   Fisherman's Blues
02.   We Will Not Be Lovers
03.   Strange Boat
04.   World Party
05.   Sweet Thing
06.   And A Bang On The Ear
07.   Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?
08.   When Will We Be Married?
09.   When Ye Go Away
10.   Dunford's Fancy
11.   The Stolen Child

Credits: Producer – John Dunford, Mike Scott

Mike Scott had been pursuing his grandiose "big music" since he founded the Waterboys, so it came as a shock when he scaled back the group's sound for the Irish and English folk of Fisherman's Blues. Although the arena-rock influences have been toned down, Scott's vision is no less sweeping or romantic, making even the simplest songs on Fisherman's Blues feel like epics. Nevertheless, the album is the Waterboys' warmest and most rewarding record, boasting a handful of fine songs ("And a Bang on the Ear," the ominous "We Will Not Be Lovers," "Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?," and the title track), as well as a surprisingly successful cover of Van Morrison's breathtaking "Sweet Thing." [Fisherman's Blues was reissued in 2006 with a bonus disc containing fourteen outtakes, alternate versions and late-night studio jams. The re-mastered original included extended versions of "And a Bang on the Ear" and "World Party."] 
Stephen Thomas Erlewine / AllMusic