Wednesday, 10 February 2021

The Pogues ‎– Original Album Series (2010)

Genre: Rock, Folk, World, & Country
Format: 5xCD/Box Set
Rhino Records, WEA

Red Roses For Me (1984) 

01.   Transmetropolitan
02.   The Battle Of Brisbane
03.   The Auld Lang Triangle
04.   Waxie's Dargle
05.   Boys From The County Hell
06.   Sea Shanty
07.   Dark Streets Of London
08.   Streams Of Whiskey
09.   Poor Paddy
10.   Dingle Regatta
11.   Greenland Whale Fisheries
12.   Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go
13.   Kitty

What set the Pogues apart from any number of other energetic Irish traditional bands was the sheer physical force of their performances, the punky swagger of their personalities, and Shane MacGowan's considerable gifts as a songwriter. Unfortunately, none of these qualities comes through very clearly on their first album, Red Roses for Me. While the Pogues are in good form here, the production (by Stan Brennan) is thin and lacks the body or nuance to capture the finer details of the performances, robbing this recording of the fire the group would display on their later albums. And it's clear that MacGowan had not yet fully matured as a songwriter; there are a handful of superb songs here, such as "Transmetropolitan," "Streams of Whiskey," and "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go," but some of the others suggest MacGowan was still learning how to fit all his ideas into his songs. Red Roses for Me is good and rowdy fun, but on Rum Sodomy & the Lash and If I Should Fall from Grace with God, the Pogues would prove they were capable of a lot more than that.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1985)

01.   The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn
02.   The Old Main Drag
03.   Wild Cats Of Kilkenny
04.   I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day
05.   A Pair Of Brown Eyes
06.   Sally Maclennane
07.   A Pistol For Paddy Garcia
08.   Dirty Old Town
09.   Jesse James
10.   Navigator
11.   Billy's Bones
12.   The Gentleman Soldier
13.   The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
"I saw my task... was to capture them in their delapidated glory before some more professional producer f--ked them up," Elvis Costello wrote of his role behind the controls for the Pogues' second album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash. One spin of the album proves that Costello accomplished his mission; this album captures all the sweat, fire, and angry joy that was lost in the thin, disembodied recording of the band's debut, and the Pogues sound stronger and tighter without losing a bit of their edge in the process. Rum Sodomy & the Lash also found Shane MacGowan growing steadily as a songwriter; while the debut had its moments, the blazing and bitter roar of the opening track, "The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn," made it clear MacGowan had fused the intelligent anger of punk and the sly storytelling of Irish folk as no one had before, and the rent boys' serenade of "The Old Main Drag" and the dazzling, drunken character sketch of "A Pair of Brown Eyes" proved there were plenty of directions where he could take his gifts. And like any good folk group, the Pogues also had a great ear for other people's songs. Bassist Cait O'Riordan's haunting performance of "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" is simply superb (it must have especially impressed Costello, who would later marry her), and while Shane MacGowan may not have written "Dirty Old Town" or "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," his wrought, emotionally compelling vocals made them his from then on. Rum Sodomy & the Lash falls just a bit short of being the Pogues' best album, but was the first one to prove that they were a great band, and not just a great idea for a band.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

01.   If I Should Fall From Grace With God
02.   Turkish Song Of The Damned
03.   Bottle Of Smoke
04.   Fairytale Of New York
05.   Metropolis
06.   Thousands Are Sailing
07.   South Australia
08.   Fiesta
09.   Medley
10.   Streets Of Sorrow / Birmingham Six
11.   Lullaby Of London
12.   The Battle March Medley
13.   Sit Down By The Fire
14.   The Broad Majestic Shannon
15.   Worms
If Rum Sodomy & the Lash captured the Pogues on plastic in all their rough-and-tumble glory, If I Should Fall from Grace with God proved they could learn the rudiments of proper record making and still come up with an album that captured all the sharp edges of their musical personality. Producer Steve Lillywhite imposed a more disciplined approach in the studio than Elvis Costello had, but he had the good sense not to squeeze the life out of the band in the process; as a result, the Pogues sound tighter and more precise than ever, while still summoning up the glorious howling fury that made Rum Sodomy & the Lash so powerful. And Shane MacGowan continued to grow as a songwriter, as his lyrics and melodies captured with brilliant detail his obsession with the finer points of Anglo-Irish culture. "Fairytale of New York," a glorious sweet-and-sour duet with Kirsty MacColl, and "The Broad Majestic Shannon" were subtle in a way many of his previous work was not, "Birmingham Six" found him addressing political issues for the first time (and with all the expected venom), and "Fiesta" and "Turkish Song of the Damned" found him adding (respectively) faux-Spanish and Middle Eastern flavors into the Pogues' heady mix. And if you want to hear the Pogues blaze through some fast ones, "Bottle of Smoke" and the title song find them doing just what they've always done best. Brilliantly mixing passion, street smarts, and musical ambition, If I Should Fall from Grace with God is the best album the Pogues would ever make.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

Peace And Love (1989)

01.   Gridlock
02.   White City
03.   Young Ned Of The Hill
04.   Misty Morning, Albert Bridge
05.   Cotton Fields
06.   Blue Heaven
07.   Down All The Days
08.   USA
09.   Lorelai
10.   Gartloney Rats
11.   Boat Train
12.   Tombstone
13.   Night Train To Lorca
14.   London You're A Lady
Shane MacGowan's potent appetite for alcohol was evident from the time the Pogues cut their first album, but by the time they got to work on Peace and Love in 1989, it was evident that he'd gone far past the point of enjoying a few pints (or many pints) and had sunk deep into drug and alcohol dependence. The Pogues were always far more than just MacGowan's backing band, but with the group's principal songwriter and lead singer frequently unable to rise to the occasion, the recording of Peace and Love became a trying experience, with the rest of the band often scrambling to take up the slack for their down-for-the-count frontman. Given the circumstances, the Pogues deliver with greater strength than one might expect on Peace and Love; while MacGowan's vocals are often mush-mouthed and his songwriting is markedly beneath his previous standards, Terry Woods contributes two terrific traditional-style numbers ("Young Ned of the Hill" and "Gartloney Rats"), Philip Chevron's "Lorelei" is a superb tale of lost love (he and Darryl Hunt also teamed up for a fine bit of Celtic-calypso fusion on "Blue Heaven"), and Jem Finer brought along a trio of strong originals. Musically, Peace and Love found the band stretching their boundaries, adding accents of film noir jazz on "Gridlock," rockabilly on "Cotton Fields," straight-ahead rock on "USA," and power pop on "Lorelei," though the group's highly recognizable Celtic-trad-on-steroids style is never far beneath the surface. Peace and Love isn't as good as the two Pogues albums that preceded it (which represent the finest work of their career), but it does make clear that MacGowan was hardly the only talented songwriter in the band -- though the fact that the set's most memorable songs were written by others did not bode well for the group's future.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

Hell's Ditch (1990)

01.   The Sunnyside Of The Street
02.   Sayonara
03.   The Ghost Of A Smile
04.   Hell's Ditch
05.   Lorca's Novena
06.   Summer In Siam
07.   Rain Street
08.   Rainbow Man
09.   The Wake Of The Medusa
10.   House Of The Gods
11.   5 Green Queens AndJean
12.   Maidrin Rua
13.   Six To Go

After the embattled recording of the Pogues' Peace and Love, with Shane MacGowan clearly at odds with his bandmates and their musical direction while contributing little in the way of new songs, Hell's Ditch seemed at once like a step forward and a step back for the group. While Peace and Love suggested the Pogues had grown weary of the hot-rodded Celtic sounds that had been their trademark, Hell's Ditch found the band back in more familiar territory and sounding much refreshed; if there wasn't anything as manic as the high points of Rum Sodomy & the Lash or If I Should Fall from Grace with God, these sessions reveal the Pogues had found their feet and were sounding like a band again, and while a few of MacGowan's songs lead them through his fascination with Asian and Latin accents, the musicians were able to fuse them with their own trademark style rather than being subsumed by them; the Pogues rarely sounded as graceful or a comfortable as they do on Hell's Ditch. However, MacGowan's songwriting still hadn't regained the fire and acidity that made the group's first three albums so powerful, and Terry Woods and Jem Finer don't quite pick up the slack. More importantly, while Joe Strummer's production served the band well, he was seemingly too fond of MacGowan to tell him when his vocals were all but unintelligible, and many of the songs are all but sunk by Shane's sloppy, mush-mouthed, and booze-addled delivery, which is difficult to unravel even by his standards. While there are many pearly moments on Hell's Ditch that suggest the work of a happier and more unified band than on their previous albums, MacGowan's poorly focused performances are a handicap the Pogues couldn't overcome, and it seems appropriate this was the band's last studio album with their primary songwriter and frontman.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

Caribou ‎– Suddenly (2020)

Style: House, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Merge Records, Pancha, City Slang

01.   Sister
02.   You And I
03.   Sunny's Time
04.   New Jade
05.   Home
06.   Lime
07.   Never Come Back
08.   Filtered Grand Piano
09.   Like I Loved You
10.   Magpie
11.   Ravi
12.   Cloud Song

Mastered By – Matt Colton
Mixed By – David Wrench 
Producer, Recorded By, Written By – Dan Snaith

Some artists’ careers seem to progress according to a carefully calculated plan, and there are others whose career seems to progress as a result of happy accidents and unexpected outcomes. Dan Snaith, who records as Caribou and Daphni, belongs firmly in the latter category. In the early 00s, he started out making critically acclaimed electronica that variously tilted towards psychedelia, krautrock and the wistful techno of Boards of Canada; he did it while studying for a PhD in pure mathematics, which added to its cerebral, rarefied air. There were artists who seemed less likely than Snaith to release an Ibiza-approved dancefloor banger, but they largely resided in the realms of funeral doom metal and musique concrète.

This made it a surprise to everyone – including Snaith – when Sun, a track from 2010’s Swim, became an Ibiza-approved dancefloor banger. To compound his amazement further, Caribou unexpectedly went from being a live act who played small venues to audiences that seemed not unlike Snaith himself – a self-described “music nerdy-type person” – to a reliably festival-rousing draw. He described Swim’s follow-up, Our Love, as “mind-numbingly straightforward”. It was anything but – wildly unconventional and dealing in subtleties and weird juxtapositions, which didn’t stop it making the UK Top 10.

That was five years ago: Snaith’s return to the Caribou name comes accompanied by the suggestion that he’s moved away from what he considers commerciality. Well, perhaps.

Suddenly is obviously a very personal album. It sets out its lyrical stall with Sister, on which Snaith apologises to his sibling for some past transgression and promises to change (“You’ve heard broken promises, I know,” he adds, glumly), while a recording of his mother singing a nursery rhyme, taped during their childhood, weaves in and out of the twinkling electronic backdrop. There are umpteen stark references to loss and grief and struggle – “You can take your place up in the sky,” he sings on You and I, “I will find a way to get on down here” – the evident turbulence of recent years in Snaith’s family life tempered by professions of undying love.

Throughout, Suddenly pushes Snaith’s voice to the forefront, frequently without reverb or any of the other effects applied as standard to vocals: it feels like he’s singing directly into your ear. You could suggest that’s a risky strategy – Snaith’s voice is fragile, untutored and unshowy, the diametric opposite of the kind of melodramatic firework display that’s usually held to constitute Good Singing in 2020 – but it turns out remarkably impactful. You don’t realise how accustomed your ears have become to Auto-Tuned perfection until you hear someone who actually sounds like a human being rather than a cyborg programmed to perform vocal calisthenics: it hits you emotionally in a way that melismatic feats of strength and endurance simply don’t.

But Suddenly is also drenched in wonderful melodies – behind the bedroom-bound sonic boffin image, Snaith is a really good songwriter – and packed with moments more obviously pop-facing than anything previously released. The opening of Never Come Back sounds like something you might hear on Radio 1 sandwiched between Dua Lipa and Khalid. Like I Loved You might be the most straightforwardly beautiful song Snaith has ever written, while Ravi offers up uncomplicated, skippily joyous filter house.

The operative word here is moments. Suddenly is appropriately named: it’s an album that keeps unexpectedly changing course, often in the middle of a track. Like I Loved You swiftly succumbs to what might be Suddenly’s signature sound: letting the music – in this case an ornate, proggy guitar figure – warp out of time and pitch, as if someone’s pressing their finger down on a record as it plays. It’s disorientating and woozy and it happens again and again: to the sweet, tumbling piano figure that opens Sunny’s Time, to the arpeggiated synths that run through the closing Cloud Song and to the entire chorus of You and I, which shifts the song’s mood from cosseting warmth to uncertainty. Elsewhere, Lime sounds like three completely different songs cut-and-shunted into one, while New Jade starts out scattered and chaotic – looped samples of R&B vocals clashing with a mesh of off-key sounds – before pulling itself together into a beautiful chorus. The album’s highlight, Home, is built from samples of Gloria Barnes’s exquisite 1971 soul track of the same name, but they crash roughly against each other, turning the romantic ache of the original into something more uneasy. In its new context, Barnes’s profession of love – “Baby I’m home, I’m home” – sounds eerily like someone’s last words.

The overall effect is to continually pull the rug out from underneath the listener, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Snaith’s driving at: life has a habit of not turning out as you expect. Neither has his career, but as Suddenly underlines, it’s ended up somewhere exciting: in a niche of its own, where electronic auteur meets singer-songwriter, where an innate feel for pop music and the dancefloor co-exists with experimentation.
Alexis Petridis / The Guardian

Brigada Victor Jara ‎– Eito Fora (1977)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Farol, Mundo Novo

01.   Cantiga Da Ceifa
02.   Coro Das Maçadeiras
03.   Ao Romper Da Bela Aurora
04.   O Senhor Da Serra E Meu
05.   Cantiga Do Bombo
06.   Manolo Mio
07.   Pezinho Da Vila
08.   Senhora Do Almurtão
09.   O Anel Que Tu Me Deste
10.   Marião
11.   Baile Mandado

Flute – Jorge Seabra
Accordion – João Ferreira
Percussion – Jorge Santos, Jorge Seabra, Né Ladeiras, Zé Maria

Primeiro albúm da Brigada Victor Jara editado em 1977 pela Editora Mundo Novo. Oriundos de Coimbra a Brigada Victor Jara surge em finais de 1974, com inspiração na música tradicional portuguesa e na música de intervenção. O nome da banda era uma homenagem ao cantor chileno Victor Jara assassinado em 1973 pela ditadura de Pinochet. São imensos os concertos dados por esta banda tanto a nivel nacional como internacional. O seu primeiro concerto fora de portas foi na extinta União Soviética. Paises como França, Alemanha, Inglaterra, Canadá, Moçambique, Venezuela, foram entretanto alguns dos destinos onde actuaram e deram a conhecer um pouco dos ritmos e dos cantares portugueses. Um pouco para se darem a conhecer e a perceber o porquê do titulo do disco da Brigada, escrevem na contracapa: " Eito fora é fadiga Canseira de seguir sempre seara fora A eito Eito fora é de certeza de quem ajuda À espera de poder subir O degrau que falta." Formação principal da Brigada Victor Jara: Luis Nunes (guitarras tradicionais), Manuel Rocha (violino, bandolim e voz), Aurélio Malva (viola, sanfona e voz), Ricardo Dias (teclas, flautas e sanfona), João Tovim, (baixo eléctrico), Rui Curto (acordeão), Quiné (bateria) e Arnaldo Carvalho (percussões). Como curiosidade refira-se que nesta primeira formação fazia parte a cantora Né Ladeiras.
Francisco J. Fonseca / CDGO