7/11/98

Product Overview

Overall rating:

OK

Product:

OK

MERCURY REV
Goddess On A Hiway
[I](V2)[/I]

A humble little ditty, of near artless construction: three verses, each comprising one line repeated, followed swiftly by a similarly unpretentious refrain. The title is a pun. “I got us on a hiway/I got us in a car/Got us going faster than we’ve ever gone before”, sings Jonathan Donahue in his tranquillised-Neil Young keen, before the music yanks him above the clouds and face to face with something close to an epiphany: “[I]And I know! It ain’t gonna last![/I]” At which point the Rev blaze into star-spangled oblivion, and naturally you want it to go on forever. Verse two bespeaks of a titanic love affair, while our “[I]goddess[/I]” finally makes her appearance in the third. It’s mighty, mythic stuff. The most plainly euphoric track from ‘Deserter’s Songs’, ‘Goddess On A Hiway’ isn’t saying anything particularly deep: life’s thrills are transitory, so savour them while they last. Which, when you think about it, is the essence of pop music.

SCUD & NOMEX
Total Destruction
[I](Maschinenbau)[/I]

DJ SCUD & CHRISTOPH FRINGELI
Bodysnatcher
[I](Ambush)[/I]

It’s not advisable to lend your copy of ‘Ragga! Ragga! Ragga! Vol 6’ to the Scud boy unless you don’t mind it getting a wee bit mucky. For the visionary behind Ambush – south London’s dark jungle epicentre – has only gorn and dun it again. His collaboration with Nomex features one peppy organ riff, one dancehall vibesmaster asserting that “[I]total destruction[/I]” is “[I]the only solution[/I]” and a whole lot of mental shit involving computers. Probably. See, the great thing about DJ Scud’s modus operandi is that mere mortals like us can scarcely imagine how this stuff gets made, as the beats chunder manically before apparently exploding all over the keyboard. The sleeve generously thanks one “John Ford Jnr for live skateboard noise”; that’ll be the screeching noise at the end, followed by the sickly silence – presumably dead skateboard noise. Brilliant, obnoxious, terrific fun. While ‘Total Destruction’ represents the pop corner of Scud’s splatterbreak cul de sac, ‘Bodysnatcher’ is the deathly dark alley. There’s nothing here to offer comfort, no catchy hooks to cling to amidst the dum-dum blizzard, simply dislocation, dystopia and waves of nauseous noise. Spiritual, inasmuch as the experience replicates the effects of downing a half-bottle of Grouse in five minutes, and in the lexicon of ‘hardcore’ it does rather put the limpid likes of Grooverider in proper perspective.

THE THIRD EYE FOUNDATION
Fear Of A Wack Planet
[I](Domino)[/I]

TEF man-who-can Matt Elliot’s new album is, without doubt, soundtrack album of the year: a scary, funny, downright smelly evocation of the urban mess some claim to recognise as Bristol. ‘Fear Of A Wack Planet’, cunningly, isn’t on it. So, in order to revel in its relatively chilly currents of disquiet, to marvel at the virtually tactile demeanour of the slippery beats and, most of all, shift nervously at the messed-with child’s voice, you’ll have to get this as well. The film promises to be amazing.

THE OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL
Hideaway
[I](V2)[/I]

Mentioning that The Olivia Tremor Control in full-on tune mode sound a bit like The Beach Boys is a little like saying James Brown is funky: true, but hardly a scoop. Still, on ‘Hideaway’ it has to be said The OTC sound inordinately like big Bri and bruvs when they woz fat and fab, with a sufficiently robust lysergic undertow and lashings of lyrical charm to allay accusations of pointlessness. Teetering on the verge of collapse throughout, despite its debt to significant others this has a handsome little heart all its own.

TANK
Gunnar (Alternative)
[I](Earworm)[/I]
ELECTRIC SOUND OF JOY
Food Of The Range
[I](Foundry)[/I]

No way have the people responsible for these records been listening to repetitive, spacey, instrumental, above all German music circa 1972-75. Oh no. Nein! Nein! Nein! Das ist nicht moglich! Ve are all Europeans neu, err, now. Ja? Oh aye. Tank are from Brest and part of the apparently burgeoning French Krautrock scene. And rock they certainly do, in a fetching, wobbly-drums-and-prodding-bass Neu! sort of way, with the additional bonus of an analogue synth freak-out. Whether by accident or design, Tank have captured the grainy, organic authenticity that goes some way to explaining how this music’s appeal has survived – indeed, intensified – over 20 years. Very cool. And not one mention of Panzer divisions, either. East Midlanders Electric Sound Of Joy used to have a singer, which could quite conceivably have veered their plangent, synth-dominated stoner-pop dangerously close to the realm of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. A thin line and all that. Possessed of generous reserves of floaty guile, this still sounds a little too effete for the good of ESOJ’s credit-rating down the local remaindered Moog outlet.

RICKY SPONTANE/ BAXENDALE
Hit The Town/ Battery Acid
[I](Full Strength)[/I]

Ricky Spontane are the Liverpudlian garage punk behemoths it’s OK to snog during your first date. Following the path of groovy excess paved by their album ‘Spontane Time’, ‘Hit The Town’ is a ramshackle declamatory ram raid on the best song Mark E Smith never got round to writing in 1982 – y’know, guitars by Jimi Hendrix and a bank clerk, glitterstomp drumming and a tart-as-Marmite vocal performance from a man called Richard who realises that the best pop choruses simply involve repeating the title over and over again. Such a perfectly formed chunk of slagpile wisdom, in fact, that we really ought to pass over Baxendale’s overcooked faux-Europop ironyfest on the flipside for fear of spoiling the genius aftertaste.

STEREOPHONICS
The Bartender And The Thief
[I](V2)[/I]

It sounds a bit like Bon Jovi. In fact, Bon Jovi would love to sound this raw and sprightly. Why anyone else under the age of 40 would wish to sound this lumpen and predictable, however, beggars belief.

THE PASTELS
Five Wild Moments
[I](Domino)[/I]

That most variable of audiographic feasts, the remix album, is about to be vindicated in the most rapturous style and under – for some, at any rate – the most unlikely circumstances. ‘Illuminati’, 16 tracks of Pastels music remixed by a dazzling array of left-field questors, is due later this month, but here’s an ultra-limited taster, featuring Stereolab, Cornelius and Kid Loco all scraping the pith from the originals before distilling the mulch into a beguiling new entity. All work exactly as these things ideally should: the remixer is provoked into doing something a little different than they might otherwise attempt with their own work, while preconceptions of the remixee are subverted. In the case of The Pastels, perhaps these islands’ most criminally marginalised group, a serious popular reappraisal must soon be in order. The Cornelius mix, for one, with Katrina Mitchell gurgling seductively over the new skittery backdrop, has crossover potential, or whatever these things are called. Who knows, Pastelisation of the nation might yet occur in our lifetime.

ROTHKO
Windows Doors And Other Openings
[I](Narwhal)[/I]

As you may or may not be aware, Rothko comprise three young men, all of whom play bass. And that’s it. You want drums? Singing? Thirty-piece string-sections? Piss off and listen to Embrace, sonny. Rothko are real and Rothko are mean. Rothko realise that the most emotive sound ever devised is that of three bass guitars, playing different notes, only – and here’s the clever bit! – at the same time. It’s nice. It’s noodly. It’s The Muppet Show. All basses covered, one is bound to conclude.

LOW/ PIANO MAGIC/ TRANSIENT WAVES
Sleep At The Bottom
[I](Rocket Girl)[/I]

It’s primarily Low’s show, as Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker merge voices and gender into their trademark formidable glacial croon. Transient Waves and Piano Magic provide additional guitar, click, whirr and funny stuff. As substantial and tantalising as a mirage.

THE BLUETONES
4-Day Weekend
[I](Superior Quality)[/I]

A decent band who, you suspect, need to restoke their fires somewhat, offer this close to superfluous item, proving if nothing else that (a) The Bluetones’ second album wanted for little apart from singles, and (b) they enjoy a giggle as much as the next bunch of better-than-average Brit-boy guitar huggers. The inducements to purchase number three: a cover of The Left Banke’s ‘Pretty Ballerina’, preceded by a larkmungous jazz mini-odyssey; some Manga video footage for those suitably equipped; and a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Mr Soul’ which, though nodding respectfully enough at the heroic ol’ buzzard of rock, rather palls in this reviewer’s mind when set next to Mercury Rev’s seismic trip through ‘Cortez The Killer’.

THE YOUNG OFFENDERS
Pink And Blue
[I](Columbia)[/I]

Everyone responsible with signing, recording, promoting, marketing, clothing, feeding and fucking this band deserves to stand shackled and naked in Trafalgar Square and be compelled to listen to ‘Pink And Blue’ at obscenely high volume until each is kicked to death by outraged passers-by. As the High Court judge said to the toilet attendant, I don’t know how young they are but they’re certainly offensive.