When I Argue I See Shapes
Naysayers who doubt Idlewild's versatility need look no further for the band's most accomplished rebuttal. All the qualities that set Idlewild apart from the sprog-punk masses are here: a sonic vocabulary culled from early-'80s American hardcore prototypes, tempered with a refined sense of melody and a pervasive, jagged antagonism. And, as in every Idlewild song, there's something in the cadence and repetition of Roddy Woomble's deceptively simplistic lyrics and tortured Tourette's delivery that allows a raw emotional impact to creep in through the cracks. Frequently it's only a nuance, buried deep beneath shards of crashing guitars and riotous cacophony. But it's always there, somewhere.
Idlewild's peculiar duality is exemplified in the deft movement from the spasmodically intense 'When I Argue I See Shapes' to the serene, piano-led B-sides. The first, 'Palace Flophouse', is a Peeps Into Fairyland cover done in the style of 'Chronic Town'-era REM, with scratchy vocals surfacing through waves of melancholic interference. The second is a reinterpretation of 'Chandelier' - Idlewild's thrashtastic second single - as an ivory-tickling ballad, transforming its initially-conceived blast of cathartic punk angst into a masterwork of minimal, quiet beauty. If a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs can sound like this, I'm stacking my staircases and calling in the demolition team.
I Can See You/Your Back Again
Whether named after the panda or the New York prison, Sing-Sing seems a suitably pretty moniker for ex-Lush guitarist Emma Anderson's new residence, suggestive of lilting melodies and flowery, shoegazey atmospherics.
Rightly so. Still, there are darker forces at work here. An electronic, trip-hoppy vibe pervades, as Lisa O'Neill's crystalline voice leads us, siren-like, into the twilit netherworld where The Carpenters commune with Portishead. It's a deceptively sweet, disquieting thing. Like a cherub-faced toddler wielding a very sharp knife.
The Linoleum flipside finds them more dynamic than when they disappeared from our radar in late-'97. A gauzy guitar whirlwind, the peculiarly spelled 'Your Back Again' is largely cherishable for the way in which it creepily evokes the addictive, obsessive nature of physical attraction ("I'll keep your legs entwined in mine/Even if the night should break in two") whilst sounding like a miniature carousel in a music box. Beautiful.
[url=http://22.214.171.124:7070/ramgen/nme/stinaare.ra] STINA NORDENSTAM
People Are Strange
Yes, it's that 'People Are Strange', only it bears as much resemblance to the original as a Volvo does to an aardvark.
For the UNKLE radio edit, the ambidextrous hands of James Lavelle have given mad Swede Stina's cover of The Doors' classic a spectral twist by submerging her ethereal vocals under sheets of crackly interference until any reminder of its prototype has all but evaporated, leaving only the dewy dewdrops of the beat, and the vocal melody - distilled, as it were, into a frosty, poisonous vapour.
The UNKLE-free album version is no less spooky, with Stina's disembodied voice sounding like it is coming from deep within an air-conditioning shaft. "When you're strange..." (echo echo) "... Faces come out of the rain..." (echo echo). Brrrrr! Possibly, more chilling than the thought of Monica Lewinsky naked.
[url=http://126.96.36.199:7070/ramgen/nme/revstomp.ra] MERCURY REV
Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp
As the final song on the universally salivated-over 'Deserter's Songs', 'Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp' is the Rev's triumphant valediction, the moment when - having taken us on a moonlit journey through America's wide open spaces - they board a little Huckleberry Finn raft and shove off into dawn-drenched southern delta waters without us, "waving goodbye... not saying hello". Decontextualised as a single, the track loses its narrative angle but - no longer tempered by the album's tapestry of moods - takes on a happy, dancey, celebratory vibe further bolstered by a euphoric Chemical Brothers remix B-side.
"Haven't time to settle, sharks infest the waters/Kicking up the dust, constructing new ideals", Jonathan Donahue intones in his terrific weaselly whine like a mantra of perpetual motion, underpinned by the sort of jaunty keyboard melody Primal Scream might gladly shake their booties to. Aptly. For what are Mercury Rev doing but moving on up, out of the darkness? A beacon of hope in troubled times.
We've already rubber-stamped Delakota as a groovy, rhythm-ridden beast, loose of limb, Beck-like of beat, and prone to furtive saxophone abuse. Which is pretty cool. Now here they come with '555', wielding maracas, gospelish backing vocals, and a shimmy so infectious the world's knees must surely genuflect in blissful submission.
And there's more. Check the B-sides: 'All Over The World' is delirious cocktail jazz, 'I Will Krush You' a funked-up '70s cop show theme tune. And acest of all ace things is the Adam & Eve remix of 'Show Me The Door'. Why is it so great? Because behind the misleading biblical alias lurk none other than the mighty Royal Trux, who have injected a scuzzy, dirty, guitar-twangy rifferama straight into the song's central nervous system, causing it to quake with a most agreeable palsy. Right on. As they probably don't say.
The Aeroplane Song
"Have supported Gomez and Space!" Straw's press release cheerfully reports, and we shudder with trepidation. However, 'The Aeroplane Song' comes on like Blur doing a Lufthansa advert, with a tickly, 'Penny Lane' piano bit and more hooks than a meat locker. A charming, if cloud-fluffy effort, and preposterously daft to boot. There's even a strange interlude in which vocalist Mattie Bennett displays linguistic versatility uncommon to largely inconsequential guitar bands from Bristol by singing in German.
Respect, if for no other reason than that they have a man named Duck playing keyboards.
Sunday Under Glass
Turn back now if you harbour an aversion to sleigh bells or trombones. Is anyone still there? Oh.
Beulah are from San Francisco, and have previously released an album on the Elephant 6 label, owned by The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Not surprising, then, that 'Sunday Under Glass' drifts past with lysergic Beach Boys dreaminess like a string-drenched Tremor Control sonic Photofit.
A Quarter To Three/Burn Don't Freeze
If there were any justice, or taste, in the world, Sleater-Kinney would be the biggest, most well-loved girl band ever. As it is, they're a relatively little-known trio from Olympia, Washington, that a lot of people find extremely annoying. This, because of Corin Tucker's Belinda Carlisle-on-helium vocals, and the hectic, ungainly nature of most of S-K's output. However, for those of us unhinged enough to listen to their records over and over and over again, a certain, scintillating genius begins to shine through, smoothing out the abrasive angles and giving Tucker's vibrato squeal a haunting beauty.
Meditating briefly on both sides of the Sleater-Kinney coin, this double A-side tears flesh from bone with 'Burn Don't Freeze' - boasting the interlacing guitar licks and frantically twitchy vocals that made their 'Dig Me Out' LP such a potent expression of unbridled punk grrrl angst - then collapses sweetly, begging forgiveness in 'A Quarter To Three', which finds S-K in a more introspective mood, toying with pop melodicism.
Not impressed? You just don't know what you're missing.
[url=http://188.8.131.52:7070/ramgen/nme/donsmarg.ra] DONS OF QUIXOTE
Innocently thinking it to be the doing of literary-minded indie types, we put 'Water Margin' on the hi-fi and find ourselves, four minutes later, plastered to the wall halfway down the hall, feeling gravely unwell. Yet curiously invigorated. Like one might feel after receiving a spontaneous full-body massage from a strange fat lady in a supermarket queue.
Imagine, if you will, a sort of industrial techno disco metal. Think furiously fast breakbeats, syncopated by the mwooooargh sound of a light saber, and tinny vocals tinged with frantic desperation - like the last human on earth crying for help as the 'droids roll in with machinery. Indeed, 'Water Margin' is straight out of William Gibson - cold, cold steel where its soul should be, circuitry behind its stare. Sancho Panza is definitely not in the house.
At the end, a voice laughs maniacally, saying, "Too many cop films". Too many drugs, more like.
Nice Girls Don't Play Rock'n'Roll
Things we know about Snap-Her: they are from California and they are girls. As they have taken it upon themselves to spruce up their seven-inch sleeve with a photocopied image of mohican-sporting punk chicks (Snap-Her themselves, perhaps? If so, worry), we assume they have no mates in the graphic design field. Their threat-letter-style lyric sheet ("IS THAT your PoRn MaG, JoHNny? You'vE BeEN HidInG FroM YoUR MoMMy...") tells us one thing more: they like the Sex Pistols.
A quick listen to the songs ('Crackpipe Johnny', 'Methadone Mary' and, yes, 'Nice Girls Don't Play Rock'n'Roll') and we find Snap-Her to be graduates of the punk rock'n'roll high school that grants A-levels in Ramones riffs and classic punk stop/start dynamics. They have a vocalist who growls like a tracheotomised Joan Jett, and they are, in truth, rather ace. Conclusion? Snap-Her are not nice girls.
A Little Communication
Here's an idea! Take a man with a three-and-a-half octave voice - whose larynx could shatter glass from 50 paces, cause birds to drop from the sky mid-flight, send underwater sonar messages to whales or, at the very least, cause Danny McNamara's hair to stand rather amusingly on end - and (wait for it!) turn him into Luther Vandross. Those responsible should be taken out and shot.
Not, unfortunately, due to any resemblance to Suggs and co's "nuttiest sound around". No. This lump of inane, diabolically irritating bubblepop is a 'madness thing' because in order to endure hearing it more than once you have to possess a loopiness quotient greater than Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy's combined. Times ten.
If, in fact, you are not only able to listen to, but like it, you are seriously sick, and should seek help. Pronto.
A summary: pipsqueak laydee named Leilani chirps, "When your boobies are too small/When your boyfriend is too tall/Don't you just hate the madness of it all", to a cloyingly tinny 'hip-hop' beat. An 'MC' runs through a hundred words that rhyme with 'madness', then wee Leilani 'seductively' warbles, "Touch me with your madness thing/Touch me touch me/Make me swing".
At which point we think, "Swing. Yes. Noose. Good. Euuuchhhhh..."
This, funketeers, is the rapturous sound of P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins joining forces with chart phenomenon, DJ wiz and unassailable remix master Norman Cook. The original track actually dates back to Bootsy's 1997 'Fresh Outta 'P' University' LP, but Norman's given it a facelift, which means now it'll break the Top Ten. It also means squelchy elastic-band bass action, platform shoes the size of skyscrapers, and the sort of jiggly groove thing that will have you seriously considering the Afro as a viable hairstyling option.
So what if it sounds just like pretty much everything Bootsy's done since 1970? It's got saucy ladies cooing, "Nice and thick and chocolate/Put it in my mouth", while the |ber-lord of funk demands, "Who's gonna get on down?" Remember, this is a man known, in his day, to appear onstage in a cape, a spandex suit with tassels, sunglasses the size of Manhattan and customised kneepads. Oh, and a star-shaped guitar. One can only pray for a revival.
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