Tag Archive | "The Pixies"

The Amps – Pacer

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The Amps – Pacer

Posted on 08 December 2013 by Dorian

The Amps album, Pacer, is not viewed as an equal among the work of Kim Deal. Her albums with the Pixies are some of the best loved American alternative albums ever and after the critical success of Pod and the commercial success of Last Splash she had firmly made her name as the face of the Breeders. Taking some time off from her main act, originally to record the album solo, it is seen as somewhat of a stop-gap release, and is certainly no way near as commercial as her previous album, with nothing to bother MTV in the way that ‘Cannonball’ did.

If you look at the album on its own merits, it is equal to any of her work with the Breeders and deserves to be recognised as a significant mid-90s release and true exemplar of Deal’s unique songwriting.

The Amps

In essence it is Kim Deal’s Guided By Voices moment. The album was recorded using studio time originally booked for GBV, Jim McPherson and Nate Farley (drums and guitars respectively) would later be GBV members and it contains a cover of a GBV track. It also has the loose immediacy that makes Guided By Voices records so enjoyable. After the slick production of Last Splash that may be one of the reasons why it is not rated so highly (although interestingly the original US chart position for Pacer was higher that its predecessor).

The album is fuzzy, rough and ready with some pretty loose playing on show but it is actually a very consistent and enjoyable record. The 12 songs clock in only just over the half hour mark, it is a pretty classic pop album with a lot of personality.

There are no real duff tracks on the album and a handful are classics that should be included on any Kim Deal compilation cassette. ‘Tipp City’, ‘Bragging Party’ and ‘Full On Idle’ (later included on the Breeders Title TK album) would be my three picks for a desert island. Although perhaps my favourite track is ‘I Am Decided’ a version of a Guided By Voices song that bears little resemblance musically or lyrically to the original. (Listen to them  and play spot the similarities).

The Amps – I Am Decided

Guided By Voices – I Am Decided

By Dorian Rogers


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Top 10 Disappointing Follow-Ups

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Top 10 Disappointing Follow-Ups

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Dorian

The Godfather Part Two is one of the finest films ever made, even better than the excellent first film in the series. The Godfather Part Three is not a terrible film, but after seeing the first two films in the series it is a pretty miserable way to spend more than two and a half hours of your life. In music hearing a bad album is no big deal, you put it aside and forget about it, but hearing a favourite act follow up a classic album with a bad one is a dispiriting experience.

Here we present our Top 10 Disappointing follow-ups.

10. Pavement – Terror Twilight

Pavement Terror Twilight

Up until this point Pavement had a pretty much blemish free copybook, a set of challenging singles and four brilliant albums to their name. Brighten The Corners in 1997 was as good a set of off-kilter indie guitar pop as any released in the decade and looked close to breaking the band to a bigger audience.  The quirky charms of ‘Carrot Rope’ two years later raised my hopes for the follow-up, sadly these were dashed on hearing the full product, Terror Twilight. There are good songs on the album, notably the singles ‘Spit On A Stranger’ and ‘Major leagues’ but it is a strangely flat record. The production by Nigel Godrich is cold and lifeless, something that can be said about the majority of the songs here. Spiral Stairs never wrote songs as great as Malkmus, but the lack of any of his songs here is another missing piece of the Pavement puzzle. The band would break up after touring this album, but they had started to give up even before it was recorded.

9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder

Some Loud Thunder

In 2005 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah looked like they could be a real band to watch. Their self-titled debut was over hyped but it contained some brilliant songs and was one of the most promising debuts of the year. Two years later they released Some Loud Thunder and proceeded to rain on the musical parade. The album was produced by Dave Fridmann and it is hard to tell if it is his fault or the bands for the first song on offer, which is pretty much impossible to listen to. I tolerate a lot of difficult production from a band, but the remaining songs on the album, whilst perfectly well produced, are just not very good at all. The band play around musically all over the place, but they seem to have forgotten that a good song needs to be the basis of their instrumental indulgences. The band wisely retreated after this and it would be another four years before they released another album.

8. The Strokes – Room On Fire

The Strokes - Room On Fire

How do you follow up an album that throws you on the cover of every music magazine and spawns half a dozen instant indie-disco classics? The answer The Strokes had for this question seems to be producing the same album again, but with worse songs and the vocals mixed absurdly low in the mix. There are a couple of half decent singles on Room On Fire, but beyond that I can’t think of one interesting thing to say about it.

7. The Pixies – Bossanova

The Pixies - Bossanova

Including the Pixies in this chart is going to seem like sacrilege to some readers, this is after all one of the most beloved of all the 1990s acts. The thing is, I love the Pixies and even love a number of the songs that are featured on this album. The surf-rock instrumental stuff is cool, ‘Dig For Fire’ is a great single and several of the other tracks are as interesting and exciting as anything else that was released that year. The thing is though that this album followed Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, two of the best records ever released. In that context it couldn’t fail to disappoint, it is just nowhere near as good a record as either of its predecessors. It also differs from these two classic albums in that it is quite dull in parts, it just feels a bit flat and lacking in the excitement I’d come to expect from this most singular of bands. Trompe Le Monde would step things up a bit a year later and (without any sign of a new album) Bossanova remains the worst record in their back catalogue.

6. Elastica – The Menace

Elastica The Menace

The five years Elastica took to release The Menace was longer than the post-punk period they thrived to emulate and marked them as millennium’s first has beens. Their album Elastica was the fastest selling debut ever, spearheading a savvy guitar pop which oozed suave lo-fi and visceral sophistication. It was urban and reinvigorating, an essential classic. The Menace, however, is drowned in the fug of brown sugar, banker talc, scrapped recordings and litigation.  When it’s not pandering to Casio bedsit clichés Justine Frischmann rejects angsty vocals for shouting “Your Arse My Place”, relying on Mark E Smith to add oral quality. It’s a disjointed album, much of which had already appeared on an EP, from a one trick band sacrificed to drugs, arguments and time.

5. Blur – The Great Escape

Blur The Great Escape

Parklife was a brilliant era defining guitar pop record, a huge leap forward for a band that had started life as an identikit baggy outfit. It was witty, melodic, and despite being heavily influenced by classic British pop (XTC, The Kinks, Madness and Julian Cope all spring to mind) it was a record that was very of its time. If you were to have described the album to a set of suited music executives and asked them to reproduce the record what they would have come up with would be The Great Escape. The same ground is covered, the same style of songs are featured and the same tricks are trotted out, but in all cases they are not as successful. On Parklife Phil Daniels provides guest vocals, on The Great Escape it is Ken Livingstone. On Parklife the videos are colourful and fun, on The Great Escape the colourful video for ‘Country House’ is embarrassing (Graham Coxon looks filled with self-loathing in that one). Albarn is too good a songwriter to produce a total stinker, and there are some good songs on here, but on the whole it is a pretty charmless record.

4. REM – Monster

REM - Monster

REM are one of the most important bands ever, it is as simple as that. They enabled many alternative acts to make the popular crossover and  produced music that influenced more bands than almost any other act. In 1994 they were at their commercial and critical peak, thir last album, Automatic For The People, was their most popular yet and the reviews were uniformly positive. Two years later their response to this was to produce their worst album to date, an album of murky rock that failed to play to any of their musical strengths. ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’ was a brilliant lead-off single, but a misleading example of the overall quality to expect. The album as a whole is murky, underwhelming and seldom rises above being ordinary. People may listen to the album and wonder why I’m making a fuss, it is a decent set of melodic alt-rock right? But to me it was the sound of a band moving from essential to irrelevant in the space of twelve songs.

3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver


For Emma, Forever Ago was a good album with an interesting back-story. Frustrated love-lorn musician Justin Vernon retreats to a cabin and records a sparse, haunting and subtle album with beautiful yet simple arrangements. The critics went wild for it and a new hero of American music was born. It seems that the critics were so enamoured that when it came to reviewing Vernon’s self titled second album they chose to ignore what a bad album it was, perhaps they had written the reviews in advance of receiving the album. These same critics were clearly too embarrassed to admit their mistake and forced to include Bon Iver high up in their end of year charts. Our review of the album damns it with faint praise and comparisons to Toto and Enya are accurate, this is an album that is overproduced and uninteresting.

2. Primal Scream – Give Out, But Don’t Give Up

Primal Scream

When Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream released Screamadelica it shocked the critics by not just being a great album but by perfectly marrying rock and dance music in a way that no other artists had managed to achieve up to that point. So, how best to follow up this feat? A by-the-numbers rock and roll album that is the aural equivalent of a pasty faced man in leather trousers dancing out of rhythm. The playing is fine, the music passable with some pretty terrible lyrics and vocals all adding up to a truly mediocre album. You are left wondering whether the success of Screamadelica was really down to Primal Scream at all or more to do with the various DJs and producers who peppered the album. A subsequent career veering between the average and the un-listenable has done little to quell this notion.

1. Stone Roses – The Second Coming

Listen up and listen good Stone Roses fans. Your adored band are crap. There I’ve said it. Yes of course their debut, self titled album (one of our top ten indie/alt albums of all time ) was remarkable. But that is less to do with The Stone Roses and more down to the direction of producer John Leckie (our top alternative music producer of all time) , who expertly mixed the band’s ballsy Mancunian live style with a 1960s experimental feel, some great tunes and wonderful guitar arrangements.  Under Leckie the band’s  major deficiencies were also masked, most notably singer Ian Brown being complete pants and  chief song writer and guitarist John Squire being some kind of megalomaniac, guitar riffing version of Mr G from Summer Heights High. On Second Coming, their atrocious second and final album, they parted company with Leckie and with it any sense of direction. All they were left with were their glaring deficiencies.  Ten Storey Love Song is probably the only track that emerges with any credit. Love Spreads, with its depressingly long guitar intro sounds like the kind of tired rock U2 were churning out on  Rattle and Hum. Begging You sounds a little like U2 Achtung Baby era but a whole lot more like Bobby Davro doing a bad impression of Primal Scream.

by Dorian Rogers, David Newbury and Joe Lepper


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Top 100 Albums (30-21)

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Top 100 Albums (30-21)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this latest instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

30. Sonic Youth – Sister

Most critics site Daydream Nation as the best Sonic Youth album but Sister is just as good and marks the point where the band made the shift from being a cult act to being alt-rock superstars. ‘Scizophrenia’ opens the album in dour claustrophobic style and perfectly sets the mood. Second track ‘Catholic Block’ is full throttle thumping drums and full-on guitar riffing. One of the real strengths of the album is the way that it moves between slow, noisy, catchy, formless and rocky with such natural ease. This is the sound of a great band at the height of their powers and represents the best set of songs that they’ve (as yet) put on record. Sonic Youth are such a part of the alternative rock furniture now that it is sometimes easy to forget how influential and significant they were, listening to Sister is a perfect way to remember.

29.  Cotton Mather – Kon Tiki

Austin, Texas, band Cotton Mather sounded like Squeeze, wrote songs like The Beatles and in front-man Robert Harrison had a lead singer who sounded like John Lennon. It’s little wonder the bulk of their critical acclaim came from the UK. Kon Tiki, from 1997, is our pick of their albums. You’d never know it was largely recorded on a four track as it takes in lush psychedelic rock, Beatles-esque harmonies and some of the best power pop of the day. Among our favourite tracks are ‘Vegetable Row’, ‘Spin My Wheels’ and ‘My Before and After’. So what became of the band that the NME once said was the best “guitar pop band since Supergrass” and Noel Gallagher invited to tour with Oasis in 1998? After failing to convert their critical success into commercial appeal they drifted apart and finally split in 2003. Thankfully Harrison continues to write and record with Future Clouds and Radar. Like Cotton Mather  his new band has achieved similar critical success, but has so far failed to garner the commercial appeal Harrison’s talents so richly deserve.

28. Lambchop – Nixon

Nashville country-soul ensemble Lambchop had released six albums over a six year period when Nixon came out in 2000, but it was the first album that sold well enough (and got enough attention) to justify main-man Kurt Wagner giving up his day job. Through the albums ten tracks we are treated to Wagner’s best songwriting, lyrics that make sense but sound oblique all at once and a unique ear for melody.The instrumental arrangements and the playing are superb throughout with strings and horns supplementing the standard country rock instrumentation. The slightly odd production style and the use of atmospheric noise and textures also lift the album above standard alt-country fare. ‘Up With People’ is the best known song on the album, and it is a brilliant slice of pop perfection that builds beautifully and is genuinely uplifting. The other songs may be quieter in the most part, but they are subtle and brooding and brilliant.

27. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

California punks Dead Kennedys weren’t just great musicians with a message, they were funny too.   With his tongue firmly in his punk cheek charismatic lead singer Jello Biafra sets out to expose injustice and hypocrisy wherever he saw it on this the band’s 1980 debut. Whether it was the increasingly right wing policies in California (California Uber Alles) or US foreign police in Asia (Holiday in Cambodia) political song writing has rarely sounded better.  They even find time to power out a storming version of the Elvis hit ‘Viva Las Vegas’.

26. Camper Van Beethoven – Key Lime Pie

To some people this would seem an odd choice to pick from the Camper Van Beethoven discography; it is their most conventional album, and doesn’t feature founding member Jonathan Segal. However, it marks the greatest point of evolution in the bands songs and is their most satisfying album. With four albums behind them the band is a remarkably slick unit (especially considering their slacker origins) and David Lowery has never sounded more confident a vocalist than he does here. The songwriting is consistently strong, a set of vignettes showcasing a very literary, amusing and frequently touching lyrical style. ‘Sweethearts’ and ‘All Her Favorite Fruit’ stand up as among the best songs of their career and a cover of Status Quo’s ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’ was a surprise MTV hit. Read more about Camper Van Beethoven here.

25. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

Listening to this 2006 album from The Hold Steady is exhausting stuff as the self proclaimed Number one bar band in America, lead by wordy lead singer Craig Finn, take you on their travels through gigs and parties across America. It’s a world of drugs and booze, some sadness, some madness and a whole bunch of  interesting characters on an album that deservedly brought them to mainstream attention.  From the killer opening guitar riff on ‘Stuck Between Stations’ through to final tracks ‘Chillout Tent’ and ‘Southtown Girls’ this is a fine example of how a band can really relate to the listener; it’s as if they are enjoying the album with you.  For us this remains their best album, especially now as multi-instrumentalist and cheesy keyboard supremo Franz Nicolay has sadly left the band.

24. Julian Cope – Peggy Suicide

Julian Cope deserves better than to be remembered as a drug-addled crazy, sat atop a microphone stand spouting on about standing stones. He is one of pop music’s true eccentrics and his legend is fueled by his own stories and his musical retreat from popular songwriting. However, it would be a real shame to forget what a fantastic songwriter and performer he is, and Peggy Suicide is the best realised album in his back catalogue. Following on from his over-polished late 80s albums and the eccentric  Skellington and Droolian it serves up a double album of tracks that combine the best of both eras. The 18 tracks flow perfectly from one to the next, managing to cover a breadth of musical ground without losing a coherent feel. Cope is in superb voice, his voice a much stronger instrument than he has been given credit for, and his band play the songs with a real verve. It is hard to pick out highlights from such a consistent set, but anyone who can hear ‘Beautiful Love’ and not feel happier for it must be in a pretty bad place.

23. The Sundays -Reading Writing Arithmetic

One of the most striking aspects of this 1990 debut from English band The Sundays is its simplicity. Just simple bass and drums allowing Harriet Wheeler’s wondrous vocals and the guitar work of her future husband David Gavurin to shine. You can almost tell they are a couple even on here as the vocals and guitars blend perfectly. This is guitar based indie pop music as it should be played and features some fine, typically English lyrics too. “England my country the home of the free…such miserable weather,” is among our favourites. The album’s singles ‘Here’s Where the Story Ends’  and ‘Can’t Be Sure’ are among many highlights, but as with many of the albums in our Top 100 it is as a complete product that make this a stand out slice of indie pop. The band went on to further success with their next two albums Blind and Static and Silence but decided to call it a day in 1997. Wheeler and Gavurin, as far as we know did not continue in the music business. A sad loss.

22. The Pixies – Doolittle

The Pixies stand as one of the most important bands of the late 1980s, their sound helping to define the alternative music scene through the early 1990s. Doolittle is an album where everything just works perfectly, adding a pop perfection to the abrasive sonic elements that they had already displayed on their previous album Surfer Rosa. It kicks off with ‘Debaser’ which, along with the timeless pop of ‘Here Comes Your Man’, would be the soundtrack to many an indie disco for years to come. The album showcases just how many styles of music that lead singer Black Francis and co. were comfortable with, and it never becomes predictable or formulaic. ‘Dead’ is all evil sounds and erratic guitar, ‘Hey’ is the closest thing that the band released to a standard love song, and lyrically it strays far from any romantic formula. ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ may well be the best single of the band’s career, and shows what an interesting lyricist Black had become. Two albums later it was all over (until the inevitable reunion), but in 1989 this remarkable album was the sound of a band at the peak of their powers.

21. New Order – Power Corruption Lies

1981’s Movement may have been New Order’s first album, but it wasn’t until 1983 with the release of the single Blue Monday and their second album Power Corruption Lies that they successfully stepped out of the shadow of Joy Division. With Power Corruption Lies there were still nods to the downbeat electronic direction that Joy Division was heading in before the death of enigmatic front man Ian Curtis and they became New Order.  ‘We All Stand’ and ‘586’ certainly follow this path. But the bulk of the album is upbeat and pop savvy, showing the dance influences that would shape the band’s music for much of the decade to come. ‘Age of Consent’ and ‘The Village’ are among the most beautiful guitar and synth pop tracks you will ever hear and among our highlights on this great introduction to the Manchester band.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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