Monday, 27 April 2015

REVIEW: Blur - 'The Magic Whip' (Parlophone Record‏s)

Its not everyday I get to review an album quite like this one. When the band that changed my life release their first album in 16 years, this becomes more than just a record, a life event in fact. 

A lot of groups fade out after the creative rot sets in, things have to come to a natural end, and the members move onto other things in the hope that they can reinvent themselves. This was not the case with Blur. In the late 90s, their last two albums as a four piece saw them on a creative high which cemented their reputation as legends. The magic was still there, and there could have been plenty of it to come, as proved by the tantalising non-album single 'Music Is My Radar'. None of us knew it at the time, but behind the scenes there was major turmoil tearing these four friends apart. Strained relationships and high tensions within the band led to Graham Coxon's exit in 2001. Blur were weakened, and one of music's greatest relationships was cut short. Who knows what they could have accomplished had they stayed intact...

The Coxon-less Blur hobbled on and re-emerged in 2003 with the patchy 'Think Tank', an album that was clearly missing something. The void became even more apparent when the band went out on tour and with Damon Albarn feeling more inspired by his other projects, activity within Blur gradually ceased as they all embarked on their individual lives. Without Blur, British music dried up as the noughties went on and many of us were feeling their absence by the time we'd realised it had been six years since their last appearance.

In 2009 it was hugely exciting to hear that Graham and the rest of the group had put their differences aside and were playing together again, leading to a triumphant and emotional return at Glastonbury that year. With their hits now all-time classics and their albums regarded as seminal works, the prospect of new material seemed somewhat unimaginable. What would Blur sound like after so many years away and could it ever be as good as it was the first time round? Rather than striving for a grand comeback hit, in 2010 they surprised us with the limited edition single 'Fools Day', a subtle, low-key reconnection, and more of a "hello again, how's it going?" rather than a sensational return. What was obvious was that 'Fool's Day' was a comma that suggested unfinished business, but with Albarn constantly distracting himself with other musical endeavours, it seemed that the four of them only had time to get together and bash out the old hits. To coincide with a series of brilliant shows in 2012, the band released two more new songs, and although I described 'Under The Westway' and 'The Puritan' as "wonderful", in retrospect they sound somewhat subdued, and again more of a hint that this was just them warming up for bigger events.



Myself and many other fans longed for a fully active Blur to return with a new album, and were certainly frustrated as the years produced nothing but "it might happen one day" replies from band members and rumours of "brilliant" recording sessions being halted. Fans cried out a hopeful cheer as news came in 2013 that the band had started making an album during a week's break from touring in Hong Kong, but our hopes were again extinguished. "I just haven’t got the time,” said Damon when questioned about making a new Blur album, adding that the other members were “just all doing other stuff” and that he couldn't "foresee us in the near future being in a position to finish" the material. In July 2014 he claimed that the album "may just be one of those records that never comes out", blaming the Hong Kong heat for the band returning home before work could be finished on the album. “If I’d been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we’d have finished the record,” he said. “I like making records in short periods of time… Sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates…”



Damon's successful solo album 'Everyday Robots' and subsequent tour kept him busy throughout 2014, and with a musical in the pipeline as well as talk of new material from Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad And The Queen, up until a few months ago it seemed unlikely that we'd hear from Blur anytime soon. Then on one morning in February 2015 came rumours that the band were set to announce a new album, and all of a sudden years of waiting finally came to an end as 'The Magic Whip''s existence was revealed to the world. Determined that there would be a new album, Graham Coxon returned to the recordings that were started during the five days spent in Hong Kong and reunited with producer Stephen Street to shape hours of elongated jams into structured compositions. "It was something we did off our own backs," Coxon explained. "It was quite an overwhelming project. There was jamming and sonic landscaping. I said, 'Damon, can I have a little chat? I said, 'Do you mind if I have a look at this music and see if there's anything worth pursuing. Id compare it to someone's notes, scrawling all over the page. We slung it over to Stephen and he looked through bits of it." After Alex James and Dave Rowntree laid down additional parts, Damon and Graham returned to the studio in December to write lyrics and complete the record. “They did some editing and some production work and sent around the initial tracks and we all realised we’d done something quite special there,” said drummer Rowntree. “There was 18 months [in-between recording the songs] which allowed us to have a bit of perspective on it. When they played it back, that was the time everyone got very excited.” Since the album’s completion last year, the band kept information about the new record under wraps. “We had a blood pact between us about who we were allowed to tell and who we weren’t..." said Rowntree. 



While fans were thrilled, a few pessimistic voices on social media posed questions such as "What's the point in Blur coming back with new stuff? Damon's solo work was getting really interesting, why resort to nostalgia?". Which was missing the point entirely, since the new music was made to escape being trapped entirely in the past. I myself was a bit cynical, but not about the reunion or the release of a new album. Instead, as a fan I was concerned that the way the record was put together might not lead to what I'd hoped for. I was both excited and very nervous about what 'The Magic Whip' would sound like. This is the band that soundtracked my youth, and because of that it seemed inevitable that nothing was ever going to live up to the songs they released during those years: "Although I have longed for a new Blur record for years, the last thing I'd want would be for them to record songs because they felt forced." I wrote in a blog post. "To make a great record, you often need to be inspired. I just hope that this album is more than a load of recordings made under pressure. It's also a bit odd that this seminal band are releasing a comeback album comprised of songs that have been put together in such an unorthodox and non-organic way..."

The fact that they decided not to continue with the recording sessions suggested that their hearts just weren't in it. It also looked like some of the band were more desperate to make a new record than others, and editing down a load of studio jams was "the only way it was going to happen". I've wanted a new Blur album more than anything, but not a half-arsed one that they felt pressured to make. Talk of these songs made from "anything we could salvage' didn't exactly fill me with confidence. However, it turns out that working in such a way may have actually resulted in their most natural record. 'The Magic Whip' is everything I wanted in a new Blur album and more.




As the album begins we are taken to a familiar scene as 'Lonesome Street' revisits the sound of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and 'The Great Escape'. Re-establishing the connection perfectly, it's like finding yourself in a vibrant place after a long absence and being greeted by some old mates who take you down various different streets, filling you in on all that has changed and the things that remain. With lyrical imagery involving things like "the 514 to East Grinstead", you might initially be fooled into thinking that the once forward-thinking Blur have taken a backwards step until Damon's pastoral shades, chord changes and Coxon's odd Syd Barrett-esque bridge pull you down unpredictable avenues, leaving you in no doubt that this is the beginning of an eventful and thrilling journey. After being transported from the backdrop of London in the mid 90s, the setting of the majestic 'New World Towers' is a very different one indeed, fast forwarding to the technologically connected and emotionally disconnected climate of 2015. Continuing on from the sensual melancholic atmospheres of Albarn's 'Everyday Robots' LP, its ghostly emotional impact and graceful, meditative beauty are achieved via an intricate, spacious arrangement. "I wanted that song to be a sort of science-fiction 'Greensleeves', so I was putting my energy into making it sound very English, but in a slightly off-kilter way" says Graham. "It's a bit like that weird cylindrical planet at the end of Interstellar – I loved that image from the film, so I was trying to write some chord sequences that sounded quite traditional, but putting these 1970s-sounding futuristic effects on top of them."

For an album shaped so heavily by Graham, there aren't as many distorted guitars as you'd expect. Maybe that's because most of them are crammed into the awesomely noisy Go Out.
Underlining their versatility as a unit, Coxon unleashes a torrent of stinging guitars against the thick wallop of the rhythm section before Damon's foghorn chorus vocal accompanies the blazing noise to lift the whole thing forcefully off the ground. It's exactly the sort of gloriously abrasive racket that we've been in dire need of since '13'. Close your eyes, turn it up loud and listen to everything Coxon does across the track's broodingly raucous 4 minutes and 40 minutes. The darkly playful melodies and the fat slinky groove of 'Ice Cream Man' prove to be a most infectious combination, reminiscent of what 'Think Tank' might have been like had Graham been involved. It's ominous vibes and sing-along verses won't take long to dig their way into the listener's conscious, but the following 'Thought I Was A Spaceman' is much less of an instant gratifier. A deep and substantial piece where a sad tranquility gathers instensity throughout, it requires a patient and attentive ear to absorb its layers of intricacies. It also finds the band continuing to evolve, with a cleverly executed Planet Of The Apes-style lyrical concept set to stratospheric atmospheres, with the patter of drum machines and shady, jazzy chords gradually leading to a mass of guitar noise taking off like a rocket as it builds to a climax. A psych-rock epic is the last thing you'd expect from an album that begins with a song like 'Lonesome Street', but such is this album's urgently eclectic and adventurously vitalised nature.



The quirky pogo punk romp 'I Broadcast' returns to far more familiar territory and comes loaded with driving Coxon riffs. Evoking the hectic nature of the place it was recorded in, it brings to mind a 21 year old lovechild spawned by 'Tracy Jacks' and 'Jubilee'. Its boisterous chant-along chorus will no doubt reawaken something inside many listeners, and its lively character is perfectly placed on the album to break up the more introspective moments. One such moment arrives in the form of the hauntingly fragile tearjerker 'My Terracotta Heart', a song that will strongly resonate with anyone experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, whether it be a musical partner, friend, family member or lover. Casting a poignant spell with its achingly soulful vocal lines, weeping guitars and mournful harmonies, again it's more reminiscent of Albarn's more recent musical territory. Lyrically it sees the frontman laying his heart bare once again as he laments the damage that his friendship with Graham has suffered over previous years. “I knew it was going to be an incredibly sad song, which is why I put that crying guitar on there,” says Coxon. “What I didn’t know at the time was that the lyrics would turn out to be about Damon and I, our long friendship and the ups and downs we’ve had.” 



The darkness at the heart of this album is displayed further with the magnificent 'There Are Too Many Of Us', one of the most surprising things here, where striking synth strings and military snares lead to a groove evoking the sound of a dangerously overpopulated human race marching towards their own doom. Growing in stature throughout, much like the overcrowded tower blocks that it conjures up images of, its apocalyptic cosmic disco sound isn't a million miles away from 'Magic Fly' by 70's outfit Space. Utilising qualities perfected during Damon's years spent working on the Gorillaz records, it's hard not to shed a tear of joy during the gloriously laid back 'Ghost Ship', a glistening glimpse into heaven where sumptuous notes, and a wondrous arrangement distract you from the fact that a Britpop band playing reggae really shouldn't sound this sensational. After that particular ship sails happily off into the sunset, gathering spells of darkness lay straight ahead as the heavy, claustrophobic moods of the creeping 'Pyongyang' rise to the surface. Yet somehow, glorious rays of sun burst through the clouds during a high reaching chorus that sits somewhere between 'This Is A Low' and 'To The End' while arriving from another previously unexplored place.

After such intense stuff, the ultimate helping of light relief arrives as the triumphant, celebratory singalong 'Ong Ong' captures the heart and the memory with immediate and joyous effect. Quite simply one of the most brilliantly direct pop songs Albarn has ever penned, its humble sweetness and instinctive hooks are impossible to resist, as is the noisy guitar that joins in for the last couple of bars. A classic. 
Again visiting a completely different territory, the powerful cinematic finale 'Mirrorball' moves slowly, slipping away mysteriously into the night with its shadowy guitar figures and a subtle breeze of darkly elegant strings.
 
Staying cool under pressure and delivering an effortlessly superb piece of work, Blur use the things that made them great in the past, combine them with the things they've learned since, and emerged revitalised to create something that feels familiar yet fresh. It has a sense of space not present on the previous albums, as well as a sense of alienation that stems from 'The Magic Whip' sounding appropriately very much like a British band making a record in Hong Kong. In places it's brighter and more anthemic than much of '13' and 1997's 'Blur', yet darker and more introspective than 'Parklife' and 'The Great Escape'. It's more focused and far more consistent than 'Think Tank' and more eclectic than 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and 'Leisure'. It remembers how the world was the last time they met with us, and how things have changed since, while embracing being all grown up in the present day with a newfound sense of purpose. And like any great Blur record, it sees them evolving and exploring new ground. 



I was worried that a new album wouldn't live up to the ones that these four men released during my teen years. As it turns out, these new songs give me back the buzz I had in my youth and make me feel like a teenager all over again. If this does turn out to be the last time we ever hear from Blur, then what a brilliant way to end things on a high. However, music this great suggests a recharged unit who still have plenty of this sort of brilliance left in them, and 'The Magic Whip' could be just the start of another chapter in the story of this remarkable band.

The most complete and astonishing album that anyone has produced in years. And trust Blur to be the ones that made it. Thank you for not letting us down. 9.9/10






Saturday, 18 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Blur - 'My Terracotta Heart'

With the release of 'The Magic Whip' just over a week away, Blur have unveiled another new song song from the upcoming album. The stunning 'My Terracotta Heart' is perhaps the album's most brutally sincere and heartbreakingly fragile moment, especially when you hear the story behind the lyrics. Graham Coxon said: "I knew it was going to be an incredibly sad song, which is why I put the crying guitar on there. What I didn't know at the time was that the lyrics would turn out to be about Damon and I, our long-term friendship and the ups and downs we’ve had."

"Damon and I have an increased respect for each other because of this record, and we're not ashamed to let each other know about that increased respect. But what we also have a lot of history, and our friendship – like any friendship between two people in a band together – has had to go through a lot. It’s been put to the test, and we’ve often let each other down. This record was a way of saying, ‘Sorry for being such a pain in the arse for the last 20 years.'"

Meanwhile, fans in Los Angeles were able to hear 'The Magic Whip' in its entirety today (April 18) as an ice cream van rportedly travelled to various record stores in the city. People who have purchased a record (presumably meaning pre-ordered 'The Magic Whip') will be given free ice cream while anyone using the secret code 'THE MAGIC WHIP' will receive a flexi-disc featuring 'Lonesome Street' on it. 'The Magic Whip' is out on April 27, and is the first proper Blur album since 1999's '13'.



Friday, 17 April 2015

REWIND: Gat Decor - 'Passion (Naked Mix)'

The weekend is here, and it's time for the Friday Banger. Originally released in 1992 on Effective Records, the original version of Gat Decor's pivotal progressive house classic 'Passion' (The Naked Mix) was an immediate success and eventually became a hit on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 29. A few years later a vocal version of 'Passion' became an even bigger chart hit, but is a vastly inferior track. Since the 90s, the song has gone on to feature on countless compilations and in many DJ sets. Many different remixes and mash-up versions of the track have been made down the years too. Gat Decor were a house music production team who featured Simon Slater, Lawrence Nelson and Simon HansonAlthough the outfit released a number of remixes for various acts in the early 90s, Gat Decor only released two singles, the other being 1996's 'In The Head'.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

REWIND: Add N To (X) - Metal Fingers In My Body

From the year 1999, the brilliant and now sadly defunct Add N To (X) and a song about having sex with a robot. 

I remember buying this from Replay Records in Bath, back when it came out as a single on 12" vinyl. I played my copy for the first time in ages the other week and it still sounds fantastic. 

Check out the utterly obscene promo video below (if YouTube haven't made it unavailable in your country).

The song was taken from the band's third album 'Avant Hard', which was released on Mute Records.




Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - 'Riverman'

21 years after setting British music alight, the legend that is Noel Gallagher continues to produce the goods, as his superb second solo album 'Chasing Yesterday' sits at the top of Amazon's best selling albums of 2015 list. It's also the fastest selling album of the year so far. The record's opening track 'Riverman' will be released as the next single on May 11th. There is a limited edition coloured 7" vinyl available to pre-order here: http://po.st/RVMAN7 featuring the B-Side 'Leave My Guitar Alone', alternatively get the download here: http://po.st/vSSRrv.

While the album title 'Chasing Yesterday' may suggest an exercise in nostalgia and returning to the sound of the glory days, the relaxed, acoustic-driven 'Riverman' immediately reveals that (at times) a rather different path lies ahead, conjuring up images of smoky rooms, and even stepping into space-jazz territory with a wild saxophone solo near the end. Read the full album review HERE.



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

REWIND: The Bluetones - 'Cut Some Rug'

Only four years after going their separate ways, 90s indie legends The Bluetones are getting back together for some gigs this September. The news was announced today via the band's Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with a list of tour dates that can be seen HERE. The shows are to mark the much-loved group's 20th anniversary, and will no doubt feature all of the brilliant and massively underrated hit singles that the four-piece delivered over their career. One such piece of magic is this from the 1996 debut album 'Expecting To Fly', and a song that I purchased on cassette single from a Woolworths bargain bin. A bargain indeed. Reaching number 7 in the charts. 'Cut Some Rug' was one of thirteen Top 40 singles that the band enjoyed.

With the band reunited, I hope that frontman Mark Morriss continues with his solo career. His solo album 'A Flash Of Darkness' from last year is a superb piece of work, and is reviewed HERE. Give it a listen!



Track Of The Day: East India Youth - 'Turn Away'

I didn't think it would be easy for William Doyle aka East India Youth to follow-up his Mercury Prize nominated debut album 'Total Strife Forever', and yet the new 'Culture Of Volume' has exceeded the quality. A truly essential record for those who like electronica, indie, and techno mixed with a generous dose of 80s pop, the album was released via XL Recordings last week on Easter Monday (April 6). From it, here is the beautifully melodic, elegantly arranged 'Turn Away'.

'Total Strife Forever' was named as one of RW/FF's Albums Of 2015 HERE and a full review of it can be found HERE.




Sunday, 12 April 2015

REWIND: Air ft. Neil Hannon - 'Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping'

Unbelievably I only discovered this song for the first time today, despite being a longterm fan of The Divine Comedy and having a healthy interest in Air's work. 

This track from the French duo's 2007 album 'Pocket Symphony' features Divine Comedy vocalist Neil Hannon lending his warming tones to the lush, haunting melancholy that comes delivered in a magnificently elegant arrangement. 

I actually found out about this track after reading an article on Pulp, whose mainman Jarvis Cocker also features on two of 'Pocket Symphony''s other tracks.


https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Divine-Comedy/288798654027

Track Of The Day: The Maccabees - 'Marks To Prove It'

This vitalized burst of indie-rock fury is the new single from London five-piece The Maccabees. The band have just finished recording their fourth album, which will be their first since 2012's 'Given To The Wild'

Directed by Joseph Connor, the video intersperses time-lapse clips of London streets, Underground trains and construction sites with footage of the band playing in a rehearsal room. Felix White from the band told NME that the three year gap between new material was to ensure quality. "It just had to be good enough. We thought it was going to be finished a year ago, but it just wasn't quite there and now I think it's magic, so it's done." Hugo White added: "These new songs are a reminder of why we started the band. With the enthusiasm to play music that’s exciting and makes us excited."



Saturday, 11 April 2015

REWIND: Teenage Fanclub - 'Mellow Doubt'

It's that time again where every week I pick my favourite song from those that entered the UK singles chart 20 years ago in 1995. This chart is from April 2 1995 and can be seen in full HEREEvery week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.

At number 40, 'Spirit Inside' by Spirits is a soulful piano house track that's uplifting yet slightly let down by uninspired lyrics and overcooked vocal delivery... It has qualities that many will enjoy, but it's not for me... Featuring a video that sometimes looks like a poor remake of Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy', Mica Paris's pale trip hop cover of U2's 'One' does not impress, coming in at number 29. Taken from the tastelessly named album 'Vibrator* (*Batteries Included)' and mixing AOR with horn-decorated soul, Terence Trent D'Arby's number 22 'Holding On To You' isn't an easy thing to love, although it does demonstrate the diversity present in 1995's charts.

The week's finest intro has to be the spoken word opening to Barry White's number 36 entry, which was sadly his last UK Top 40 hit during his lifetime... The seductive mellow funk of 'I Only Want To Be With You' is Barry at his best, featuring lines like "I don't make the kind of love that's only for a minute, I'll be inside of you as long as you want me in it". Meanwhile at 33, 'Vegas' was the fourth and final single to be released from their debut album Smart in March 1994 (see 1994 in British music). Addressing conspiracy theories about Elvis Presley's death, the single version is a completely re-recorded version of the song originally featured on their debut album 'Smart'. This was the fourth and final single to be released from that album, and features saxophone credited to "Morgan C. Hoax"- an anagram of Graham Coxon from Blur, who recorded his contribution after Sleeper supported Blur on tour. Filmed at Southend Airport, the video features singer Louise Wener as an air steward attending to a plane full of Elvis impersonators. 

Coming in at 27, and topped with some unfortunate keyboard trumpets, Birmingham-based UB40 associate Bitty McLean's 'Over The River' is an infectious Carribbean singalong, although it does pale in comparison to the 1964 original by ska outfit Justin Hinds And The Dominoes. But it's a respectable 90s pop update of the track that brought this obscure gem to a slightly wider audience. Another Brummy reggae man linked with UB40 makes an appearance at number 25, and after featuring on lots of other (mostly white) artists' songs in the 90s, Pato Banton gets a starring role in the catchy 'Bubblin' Hot' which features The Beat's Ranking Roger. A partial update of Peter Tosh's 'Comin' In Hot', the song comes with a terrible video featuring the pair as chefs cooking up some soup. The moody 'Hypnotised' provides Simple Minds with one of their last UK Top 40 hits, in fact the number 18 song isn't one of their worst moments. 

Italian dance collective Corona's energetic 'Baby Baby' delivers an infectious bit of Euro dance, and again is another great song that actually sounds less great after discovering the original version for the first time, in this case a 1991 house track from Joy And Joyce called 'Babe Babe'. After further research it turns out that Joy And Joyce was a previous alias of Corona member Francesco Bontempi (AKA Lee Marrow). Although I couldn't stand Take That, I've never been able to argue with the undeniably touching 'Back For Good', which remains by far the best thing Gary Barlow ever penned, and a very rare example of good quality boyband pop. Its quality gave it a wide appeal that led to the song going straight in at number 1.

For the first time, my decision has resulted in joint winners of my single of the week prize. Firstly, a classic floorfiller released on the legendary Perfecto Records. Grace were a dance act formed to showcase the skills of DJs/producers Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne. Their magnificent number 8 single 'Not Over Yet' remains a landmark trance anthem and a fine bit of songwriting that has stood the test of time down the years. But since I'm going to save this song to publish as next weekend's 'Friday Banger', for today's 'Rewind' selection, I'm going for the single makng the number 34 spot yet deserving a much higher place. Teenage Fanclub's lovely 'Mellow Doubt' is one of those songs where the title perfectly sums up the sound. This laid back helping of acoustic-driven beauty was taken from their acclaimed album 'Grand Prix'. Teenage Fanclub are due to release a new album this year, the first since 2010's 'Shadows'.



Friday, 10 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Stephen Jones - 'To Live It Again'

Stephen Jones, the brains behind Babybird is known for his prolific workrate, but hadn't released an album of "words and music" in over three years. Now, three come along within the same month.

Following on from the magnificent 'Meloncholy' (which is reviewed HERE) and last week's 'Outsider', 'No Message' is the final installment of the trilogy, written, recorded and released in the space of a week. After spells with Echo Records in the 90s and American label Unison Music, Jones now finds himself working as a 100% DIY artist and can see that the fast pace of the internet age means that a lot of music has a "short lifespan". From 'No Message', the glorious 'To Live It Again' plays at the other end of the extreme, providing a moment of sensual melancholic bliss. It's hard not to be touched when Jones sings the words "life, i don't wanna live it again, I'm fine with the way that it is". Humble, sincere musical majesty from the man who rejected pop stardom in favour of creativity and musical invention. Like much of 'No Message', it effortlessly demonstrates that gift for coining melodies that ring with such clarity, that you're sure you've heard them somewhere before. 

Read the full album review HERE.


REWIND: Strike - 'U Sure Do'

Another week has come to an end, and another weekend arrives, along with the traditional RW/FF Friday Banger. Like most of the recent Friday Bangers, this one is from 1995 and entered (or should I say re-entered) the UK singles chart just over 20 years ago in 1995. What a glorious and brilliantly diverse year for music. Dance music in particular was on a real high, as proved by this superb disco-house floorfiller from Strike. This is one of my favourite dance tunes from the 90s, and brings back great memories. On its original 1994 release, the song reached number 31 in the UK charts, but after receiving regular play in clubs throughout 1994/1995, it was re-released and landed at number 4. 

Strike formed in 1994 and consisted of Matt Cantor, Andy Gardner and the vocalist Victoria Newton. They scored three more UK Top 40 hits, and released an album 'I Saw the Future' in 1997. Regarded as a 90s dance classic, the insanely infectious 'U Sure Do' samples Donna Allen's "Serious" for the vocal on the chorus, and Cubic 22's "Night in Motion" for the main synth, but in terms of the verses and the structure, this is a fine example of how quality songwriting in the dance music world was often overlooked.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Leftfield - 'Universal Everything'

The first new Leftfield album in nearly 16 years will arrive in June 2015, and will be titled 'Alternative Light Source'. 

As with previous Leftfield albums, the LP will feature a number of guest vocalists, including Channy Leaneagh (Poliça), Ofei, Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio) and Sleaford Mods. From it here is the fine 'Universal Everything'.

Following the seminal 1995 LP 'Leftism' and its 1999 follow-up 'Rhythm And Stealth', the duo of Matt Barnes and Paul Daley went their separate ways in 2002, but Barnes revived Leftfield in 2010 and after touring the globe, began work on a new set of Leftfield tracks. The album's release comes two decades after 'Leftism'.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

REWIND: Portishead - 'Glory Box'

Because I review the charts from 1995 every week, I've been posting a lot of 'Rewind' entries that charted 20 years ago. This one made the Top 40 in January 1995 and is taken from Portishead's debut album 'Dummy', which was released the previous year in 1994. The song samples "Ike's Rap II" by Isaac Hayes, as does Tricky's 'Hell Is Around The Corner',another song from a Bristol-based act released the same year. Apparently, the main repeating melody of the song is sampled from the theme tune to 1960s TV series The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. As soon as I've finished wrting this article, I'm going to be comparing the two pieces of music...

Geoff Barrow has recently hinted at plans for the band's long awaited follow-up to 2008's 'Third', which itself followed on from 1997's self-titled release. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Barrow said: "I am calibrating my brain to Portishead mode and got some ideas of what I want to do there — at long last." Adrian Utley revealed last year that "We're clearing our schedules so we can get on with it, otherwise it will be another 10 years," he commented, referencing how busy individual members are with other projects. Utley added that he had recently discussed plans for a new LP with Barrow. "We were both really enthusiastic, and enthusiasm counts for a lot in Portishead world," he said. 


Track Of The Day: 8:58 - 'Please' (ft Robert Smith and Lianne Hall)

After the legendary electronic duo Orbital called it a day for a second time last year in 2014, Paul Hartnoll announced the beginning of a new project 8:58, and a self titled album, which was released last week on March 30. As well as bearing the bright, lively trademark Orbital sound, this standout track also features vocals from The Cure's Robert Smith and Lianne Hall. “I’ve always been interested in time,” says Hartnoll, “I’ve always had a thing for clocks, and for time as a powerful force — but also the way time oppresses you. It’s one of those things I keep coming back to. Orbital had stopped working properly.” Paul explains. “We’d had a great four years since getting back together in 2008, but it was time to move on.” 

“For me, 8:58 is a moment of choice,” Paul explains. “It’s almost 9 o’clock. Are you going to school? Are you going in to this job that you hate? Everybody faces that decision now and again. 8:58 am is when you’ve got to make up your mind. Doing this music was an 8:58 moment for me too. Am I going to be truthful to myself? Do I keep battling on with Orbital or do I make a break and try something new? It was decision time.” 

“The album’s a development of where I was going with Orbital. Our last album ‘Wonky’ was designed to be played live. But I wanted to do something more collaborative, more of a film soundtrack or a concept album. There are plenty of beats,” he adds, “But I wanted to exercise my more compositional side too, and bring in a witchy, ‘Wicker Man’ aspect.” 



Monday, 6 April 2015

REWIND: The Stone Roses - 'Ten Storey Love Song'

When you end up recording the perfect album, where do you go from there? The Stone Roses found following their seminal 1989 debut a bit of a problem, taking 5 years to record 'Second Coming'. The album wasn't as bad as the critics initially made it out to be, and rather sensibly they decided to explore different avenues rather than rehashing the first album. While a lot of people wish that the band had continued where they left off with the funk sound of 'Fools Gold' and 'One Love', the second LP took on a more riff-heavy approach. The beautiful yet weary-sounding 'Ten Storey Love Song' was one of the rare moments where they reprised their melodic, Byrds-inspired sound of old. I'm also featuring this because it reached the UK singles chart just over 20 years ago last month, in March 1995. Reaching number 11, it was the second single from 'Second Coming', and the B-sides 'Moses' and 'Ride On' were (at the time of writing) the last new songs that the band released. 



Track Of The Day: False-Heads -'Wrap Up'

False-Heads are a trio based in East London, who consist of Luke Griffiths (vocals/guitar), Jake Elliott (bass) and Daniel Delgaty (drums). This month, the psych-rock three piece return with their new EP, ‘Wear and Tear’, released on April 13 via Hi4Head Records.

Their lead single, ‘Wrap Up’ opens this four track release in dynamic fashion, mixing a thumping combination of bass and drums with an uproar of guitars during the riff-heavy chorus.




Sunday, 5 April 2015

RW/FF With Ben Scott #58

The latest RW/FF round-up features another fine new album from prolific former Babybird cult legend Stephen Jones, as well as new tracks from Blur, Paul Weller, Django Django, The Fall, Mr. C, Hysterical Injury, Squarepusher, The Lucid Dream, Run The Jewels, The Prodigy, Muse, The Slow Readers Club, The Phantoms, and Horse Party. The 'Rewind' part of the round-up features Leftfield, The Prodigy (again) and Massive Attack, as well as a look at all of the singles entering the Top 40 twenty years ago in 1995...

In order to keep on top of things, here is the new "musical routine" that I have planned for myself: Each day I will listen to as much music as I can from my "new songs to listen to" list, as well as listen to either an album or a playlist of favourite songs from whatever band/artist is due to feature in the '1 To Z' selections that feature on the RW/FF website. Not only will I spend every day of each week listening to my picks of the week's new albums, but also a selection of albums that were released 20 years ago that week (if there are any that take my fancy of course). Plus, once a week I will look at the UK singles chart from 20 years ago and listen to all the new entries before picking out the good, the bad and my favourite. Therefore, the new albums I've been enjoying include The Lucid Dream's self titled second album, The Prodigy's new 'The Day Is My Enemy', the eponymous debut from 8:58 (Paul Hartnoll, formerly of Orbital), 'For All My Sisters' by The Cribs, and best of all the glorious 'Lease Of Life' by Scottish electronic trio Errors. A review can be found HERE on God Is In The TV. In terms of the 1995 albums, I've been listening to Gene's sublime 'Olympian', The Orb's 'Orbus Terrarum' and seminal drum n bass LP 'Secret Black Technology' by A Guy Called Gerald. My round-up of the new entries making the singles chart in '95 will come later. First, another new album that's been keeping me busy...


Describing your own album as "an undiscovered gem" may seem a bit egotistical in some people's eyes, but at least Stephen Jones isn't lying. The brains behind Babybird is known for his prolific workrate, but hadn't released an album of "words and music" in over three years. Now, three come along within the same month.

Following on from the magnificent 'Meloncholy' (which is reviewed HERE) and last week's 'Outsider', 'No Message' is the final installment of the trilogy, written, recorded and released in the space of a week. After spells with Echo Records in the 90s and American label Unison Music, Jones now finds himself working as a 100% DIY artist and can see that the fast pace of the internet age means that a lot of music has a "short lifespan". 

The opening 'Now Is So Yesterday' is like a more spacious relative of the glorious 2000 single 'Out Of Sight', while the pretty 'That Love' showcases a major strength for heartbreakingly sweet piano ballads and 'First Boyfriend' pairs ominous sadness with sharp spells of humour and charms as Jones's voice cracks vulnerably on the chorus. While the excellent 'Anchor' is a sinister, unsettling thing built on seedy hip hop beats and bleak piano, the glorious 'To Live It Again' plays at the other end of the extreme, providing a moment of sensual melancholic bliss. It's hard not to be touched when Jones sings the words "life, i don't wanna live it again, I'm fine with the way that it is". Humble, sincere musical majesty from the man who rejected pop stardom in favour of creativity and musical invention. Like much of 'No Message', it effortlessly demonstrates that gift for coining melodies that ring with such clarity, that you're sure you've heard them somewhere before.

The haunting title track makes you wonder whether Jones is playing with us or not when he sings that "there is no message in the words", while the infectious 'Zombie Song' brings up more twisted, dark humour and delivers another highlight. The gorgeous 'Wrong Place' wraps the listener in the soft glow of elegantly crafted melodies, enchanting with its soaring chorus and lovely, downplayed arrangement. Another one of his finest moments. The shadowy, foreboding 'I Forgot To Enjoy My Life' evokes memories of Babybird's finest album, the underrated 1998 masterpiece 'There's Something Going On', and is the product of similarly high quality songwriting, while the ghostly ambience of the closing 'Too Late' evokes a cinematic feel that brings to mind a full-bodied relative of the atmospheric instrumental music Jones has released under his Black Reindeer alias.

Built largely on piano and subtle loops, it's an album that in terms of instrumentation, lets the songs breathe and allows the vocal melodies to fully captivate. Being completely in control of your artistic output is certainly a blessing, but it also means that exposure and promotion are limited mainly to Jones' social media accounts. Perhaps he should hold back from releasing any more music for a little while, in order to give this album (and its two predecessors) time to grow. Because it certainly deserves to be heard far and wide. 8.3/10



Blur have unveiled the third song to be taken from their upcoming eighth studio album 'The Magic Whip'. The album opener 'Lonesome Street' may have been conceived in Hong Kong, but it's as British as it gets. It's characterised by three different elements: a jaunty, insanely catchy verse that harks back to the days of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', brief spells of melancholy that carry on from Damon's 'Everyday Robots' LP from last year, and a Graham-sung bit of cockney-psychedelica highly reminiscent of legendary loon Syd Barrett singing something written by Madness.

Considering the way these new songs were recorded, I had doubts about the new album and was worried that it wouldn't live up to my massively high expectations. You can read my thoughts on that HERE. But now, having the band playing the album in full at a secret gig on Friday night (March 20) I can already tell that 'The Magic Whip' is going to be a very special treat indeed. Bringing familiar elements from their past into the 21st century and often utilizing a greater sense of space, this may very well be the greatest comeback record of all time, and that is not an exaggeration. What can be more exciting that your favourite band returning with their first proper album in 16 years? 

'The Magic Whip' is released on April 27.


Unlike the previous 'Go Out', the dark, mournful grower 'There Are Too Many Of Us' proves that Blur aren't simply replicating their old sound. Kicking off with military snares and symphonic keyboards, it's an odd an unexpected intro which begins to grow as soon as the guitar enters along with Damon Albarn's enchantingly melancholic vocal and a well arranged musical backdrop. Moody and atmospherically cloudy, it suggests that the new LP will be a rather eclectic piece of work






This soulfully psychedelic offering is perhaps the most intriguing track of the three that Paul Weller has so far revealed from his upcoming 'Saturns Pattern' album. Released on May 11. It will be his 12th studio album and the first since 2012's 'Sonik Kicks'. 

"I think it's one of the best things I've done. And it's been a pleasure doing it. There's been no headaches," Weller said. "I can't compare it to any of my other albums. I think it's different not just for me, but different from what else is around. It's been pretty quick, really. We did a bit of work before the summer, then I took a break because I was out on the road. We started back in October. It's taken us a couple of months, maybe." Weller has said that the album is "certainly progressive in the literal sense of the word. It's defiantly 21st Century music." 


Being a kid in the 90s was fantastic, since it was a time when a group like psychedelic ravers The Shamen could have a number one hit. Those who remember the mischievous classic 'Ebeneezer Goode' will no doubt remember the group's no-nonsense London-born rapper/keyboardist Mr. C, who is back with a new EP entitled 'Illusion'. Since The Shamen came to an end in 1999, Mr. C (real name Richard West) has led a career as a house DJ and became the owner of the The End club. He also runs the label Superfreq Records. 

The 'Illusion' EP can be heard at his Soundcloud page HERE, and features this superb acid house version of the track as well as three other remixes and the original version.





This new track from Carlisle-based four piece The Lucid Dream is taken from their rather diverse eponymous second album 'The Lucid Dream', which was released last week on 30th March 2015 via Holy Are You Recordings, and as a limited coloured vinyl edition via The Great Pop Supplement. 

Formed in Carlisle, Cumbria, in 2008, their debut long player ‘Songs Of Lies and Deceit’ was released in August 2013 to critical acclaim. ‘The Lucid Dream’ demonstrates the band covering new areas, as always is the ethos of band. ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Cold Killer’ channel the influence of German geniuses Can and Neu!, through to the free-form jazz/noise freak-out that is ‘Darkest Day’/’Head Musik’. The success of ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Unchained’ has already shown the ability to have appeal across the board, whilst ‘Unchained Dub’ (already a live favourite) expresses the love of King Tubby/Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, already noted by fans and critics alike that The Lucid Dream are the only band of their ilk touching across so many areas. ‘Morning Breeze’, throughout its 7 minutes displays feedback experiments in the vein of Sonic Youth, through to the spaced-out bliss demonstrated by Verve. The album closes with ‘You + I’, a nod to early 60s pop, meets Mazzy Star, meets Spiritualized circa ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’.



Genre blending Scottish four piece Django Django produced one of the finest debut albums of the modern age back in 2012, and in May they are releasing the long awaited follow-up. Titled 'Born Under Saturn' and released on May 4, the album was recorded at Netil House in east London and Angelic Studios in Banbury and was produced by drummer Dave Maclean. "When we were writing the lyrics there were lots of references to rebirth, turning a new page and starting something again," Maclean said of the record. "I guess that’s something we all felt." After treating us to the album's fantastic first single 'First Light', a second taste has been granted to us in the form of the excellent 'Reflections'. You can read a review of their superb self titled album from 2012 HERE, and you can read a review of their set from the NME Awards Tour in 2013 at the Bristol Academy HERE. Go HERE to see a selection of photos taken from that show.





The Prodigy have returned this week with their sixth studio album 'The Day Is My Enemy', a record that's loud, ferocious and up for a fight. Annoyed with electronic music being hijacked by pop stars and fakers, they're back with what could very well be their strongest work since the seminal 'Fat Of The Land' nearly 18 years ago. "It's our job to come up with a rebel soundtrack" said Liam Howlett when he spoke to Steve Lamacq on BBC 6Music this afternoon. Away from the urgent pace of much of the record, the penultimate 'Invisible Sun' delves into something hypnotic, intense and unlike anything The Prodigy have ever done before, creeping along with something that's oddly close to a Depeche Mode vibe... If you're hankering for some vintage Prodigy, there'll be some coming sooner than you think, in the 'Rewind' part of this round-up...





Following on from the storming 'Psycho', Muse have unveiled another track from their upcoming new album 'Drones'. 

Matt Bellamy explains the new song 'Dead Inside', where alongside the guitars, something of a Visage-meets-Bowie feel creates a creeping sense of unease: "This is where the story of the album begins, where the protagonist loses hope and becomes 'Dead Inside', therefore vulnerable to the dark forces introduced in 'Psycho' and which ensue over the next few songs on the album, before eventually defecting, revolting and overcoming these dark forces later in the story." 'Drones' will be released on June 8 and is co-produced by Muse and Robert John 'Mutt' Lange. 





A fat chunk of modern day hip hop makes RW/FF's Track Of The Day today, a rare thing since I only feature hip hop that is of the very best quality. The second album from American duo Run The Jewels was definitely the finest hip hop record that reached my ears last year in 2014, and now they are releasing one of its best tracks as a single. The storming 'Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)' also features the added bonus of Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha, and comes with a powerful black and white video depicting police brutality. "This video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system," said Killer Mike from RTJ "There is no neat solution at the end because there is no neat solution in the real world. However, there is an opportunity to dialogue and change the way communities are policed in this country." His musical partner El-P added: "This is a vision of a seemingly never-ending struggle whose participants are pitted against each other by forces originating outside of themselves."

The video's director AG Rojas said: "We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It's provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity."

"Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it..." 





The Slow Readers Club release their highly anticipated second album 'Cavalcade' on Monday April 14th. It will feature the band's lovely new single 'I Saw a Ghost'. The Manchester based four piece produce brooding and mesmeric indie electro, which has drawn comparisons with Interpol, The Killers and The National and their new single is one of their most powerful offerings yet.  

Vocalist Aaron Starkie wrote the song about depression. He explains "It's about appearing to have a normal happy life but carrying something with you that can descend at any moment and make everything appear bleak." The band's previous four singles have enjoyed extensive airplay on BBC 6 Music and the band have played support slots for the likes of Catfish And The Bottlemen, The Struts, Reverend and the Makers and The Sunshine Underground. The band will be touring 'Cavalcade' throughout April 2015.


 


This highly pleasing recent track from Suffolk-based trio Horse Party sees them taking their infectious sound up a notch, and makes up one side of a double A side single. Last year the band released their debut album 'Cover Your Eyes', which an RW/FF review described as "a treat for those who like ragged guitars, sultry vocals and bags of attitude". Read the full review HERE

'Out Of Sight' and it's equally brilliant flipside 'Receiver' are available from Horse Party's Bandcamp page HERE, as a 7" that is strictly limited to 300 copies. This single will not be available via iTunes/Spotify etc. Each copy comes with a lyric insert, badge and fanzine. Plus unlimited streaming of Out Of Sight/Receiver - 7" single via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.





Just in case you've lost count of the amount of studio albums The Fall have released, it's officially 30. The total will increase to 31 on May 11 2015 when Mark E. Smith and his ever-evolving group of musicians release their new album 'Sub-Lingual Tablet'. From it (and featuring an introduction from MES himself) is the new track 'First One Today', which premiered on BBC 6Music a few weeks ago. The band's label Cherry Red claims that the new LP features Wall the trademarks of a great Fall record" and comprises 11 tracks. It will be released on CD and a limited edition vinyl, which features different mixes.

The Fall is noted for its prolific output: in addition to the studio albums they have released more than triple that, counting live albums and other compilations.   

Founded by its only constant member, Mark E. Smith, The Fall formed in Manchester in 1976 and has existed ever since. Musically, there may have been several stylistic changes over the years, but it is often characterised by an abrasive guitar-driven sound and frequent use of repetition, always underpinned by Smith's distinctive vocals and often cryptic lyrics. The current Fall line-up is as follows: Peter Greenway, Keiron Melling, Elena Poulou, Mark E. Smith, Daren Garratt (the band's recently recruited second drummer) and David Spurr.

Tracklisting: 

Venice With The Girls 
Black Root 
Dedication Not Medication 
First One Today 
Junger Cloth 
Stout Man 
Auto Chip 2014-2016 
Pledge 
  Snazzy 
Fibre Book Troll 
Quit iPhone 





Consisting of drummer Tom Gardiner and bassist-vocalist Annie Gardiner, brilliantly dynamic Bath-based duo Hysterical Injury have just released a new EP entitled 'Blood Burst', their first new material since their 2012 debut album 'Dead Wolf Situation'. The EP is available now as a limited edition CD or digital download from their Bandcamp page HERE. While lead track 'Under Milk Wood' kicks up a storm, the following 'Blood On The Daisy' is somewhat playful in comparison, until its noisy chorus rises up from the darkness. But it's the excellent 'Woken With A Warning' that shifts the EP into a new gear, building up the suspense throughout while twisting into tangled rhythms and building throughout before a blast of mayhem ensues towards the end. Closing the EP, 'Ready To Burst' broods and creeps during the verses and spins into a striking bout of rage as it nears its end, perhaps pulling off the best trick across the course of the four tracks.

The brother and sister duo, known for their highly energetic noise pop, joined up with producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor) who brought a cosmic touch to recording the new EP. Like 'Dead Wolf Situation', it was recorded in Bristol at JandJ studios, assisted by Oliver Baldwin and studio owner Jim Barr (Portishead, Get the Blessing). Hysterical Injury have been circling the music scene like the rings of Saturn since 2007. Previous releases include The Hysterical Injury EP (2008), and Our Lives Are A Futuristic Nightmare EP (2009). Since the release of 2012 album Dead Wolf Situation, the band embarked on a headline tour of UK and Ireland and have continued to play all over the UK with the likes of Mike Watt, The Primitives and others.



An absolutely rampant new offering from electronic maverick Squarepusher

Taken from new album 'Damogen Furies', ‘Stor Eiglass’ explores the harsher, more diverse realisation of Squarepusher’s work. The album is a fusion of his ability to meld and mold his unique breed of pioneering electronic composition and boundary-warping drum n’ bass which has become synonymous with his cult legacy. 'Damogen Furies', released on 20th April, is a record that has the brutal energy and vivaciousness of a debut. It sees the peak and confluence of the preoccupations that have emerged throughout Squarepusher’s career, approached with the antagonism and audacity of an artist who still believes in the power of intervention. “Through this record I aim to explore as forcefully as possible the hallucinatory, the nightmarish and the brutally visceral capacities of electronic music" says Squarepusher (aka Tom Jemkinson) of his upcoming LP. 






This brand new track from Scottish four piece The Phantoms is a great little tune with a simple yet anthemic chorus. The band are made up of Colin Simpson (Vocals, rhythm guitar) Colin McKillop (Lead guitar) Peter Stewart (Bass, backing vocals) and Blair Cullen (Drums), who hail from Broxburn, West Lothian. The band formed in March 2012 and their gradual rise has seen them support the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen. 

Described as sounding like "Oasis if they had listened to The Doors instead of The Beatles", to my ears 'Wasting Time' is more like a refreshing hybrid of The Cribs and New Order, with an added twist of Britpop. Melodic with an edge, this definite grower is available now as a digital single.




Rewind

It's time once again for me to pick my favourite song from those that entered the UK singles chart 20 years ago in 1995. This week's chart is from March 12 1995 and can be seen in full HEREEvery week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.

Which means that every week I am faced with bad music and good music. This week's bad stuff: Prince's 'Purple Medley' is nothing more than a reductive splicing of hits, yet it still makes the number 33, while Janet Jackson's carefree yet annoying 'Whoops Now' comes in at number 10. American "hip house" duo The Outhere Brothers are possibly partly to blame for a future trend in dance/hip hop combinations with lyrics about "booties", and for that reason alone, hearing it will always irritate me.

A rather ill fitting combination of Neneh Cherry, Chrissie Hynde and Cher teamed up with Eric Clapton for the the overbaked emotion of 'Love Can Build A Bridge', which landed a number 5 position. It's not a terrible song, and the sentiment is nice, but the harder it tries to be an anthem, the flatter it falls. Even though hearing it so often annoyed me a lot at the time, Freak Power's 'Turn On Tune In Cop Out brings back great memories and lays on a pretty lazed groove. On the other hand I've never rated it as a song. The project was formed by trombonist Ashley Slater and Norman Cook, who contributed a house-flavoured remix of the track under his Pizzaman alias. The single gained a lot of exposure after being featured on a Levi's advert, and is this week's highest new entry at number 3.

The songs that did strike a positive chord with me begin with BT's wonderfully euphoric progressive house masterpiece 'Embrace The Sunshine' at 34, which comes with a magnificent 13 minute mix from Sasha. A version of the track can be found on BT's album 'Ima'. 49ers Feat Ann Marie Smith's number 31 club hit 'Rockin' My Body' was led by a very of-its-time mix by Capella, while on an American punk tip, Green Day's mischievious wanking anthem 'Longview' enters at 30. 10cc scored a number 29 entry with an acoustic rerecording of their classic 'I'm Not In Love', while Terrorvision's number 22 entry 'Some People Say' was one of the band's more reflective moments, and was lifted from the previous year's album 'How To Make Friends And Influence People'. I can actually remember buying a cassette copy of The Human League's sweet electro ballad 'One Man In My Heart', which comes in at number 18.

But the prize for new entry of the week goes to The Prodigy's vicious number 15 entry 'Poison', which has lost none of its brutal power two decades later. It was the fourth single from their awesome second album, 1994's 'Music for the Jilted Generation'. The drums on this track are samples from "It's a New Day" by Skull Snaps, "Amen Brother" by The Winstons, "Heavy Soul Slinger" by Bernard Purdie, and "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught" by Incredible Bongo Band. Fast forward to the present day, and The Prodigy's long awaited new album 'The Day Is My Enemy' comes out in just over a week's time on March 30...




The next week's chart is from March 19 1995 and can be seen in full HERE

Among the songs that made up the worst of the bunch included Alysha Warren's forgettable RnB effort 'I Thought I Meant The World To You' which entered at 40, and despite the fact that I loved most of Apollo 440's work, their number 35 cover of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' is something that I've never been keen on. Meanwhile, rapper Warren G is someone who I've also never been keen on, and tracks such as the number 29 entry 'Do You See' have never struck a chord with me. Despite a couple of wonderful hits in the early 90s, Duran Duran continued a bad run of form with their slightly altered 90s line up and a weak cover of Lou Reed's untouchable 'Perfect Day', which the British public liked enough to take it to number 28. Award for the week's most dreadful entry goes to EastEnders actor Sean Maguire and his woeful 'Suddenly', which goes in at number 20. One of the most diabolical singles I ever owned entered the charts at number 11, and I purchased it to play at the DJ sets I did on the weekends at the club my Dad managed in Corsham... It was hillbilly dance act Rednex with the follow-up to 'Cotton Eye Joe', which had only been in the charts the previous week, and deleted to make way for the release of the equally ridiculous and almost identical 'Old Pop In An Oak'. The week's highest new entry comes from serial chart botherers Wet Wet Wet, whose dull Beatles pastiche 'Julia Says' lands at number 6.

Compared to some of the previous weeks in 1995, it's not the strongest set of new entries this week, but there was still a generous helping of of good stuff though: dutch Euro-house vocalist CB Milton's 'It's A Loving Thing' is a rather catchy thing that goes in at number 34, while Ned's Atomic Dustbin win a number 33 position with the pounding 'All I Ask Of Myself Is That I Hold Together', and Amos scores a number 31 entry with 'Let Love Shine'. The leading Clubzone Mix of the latter song takes on a slightly faster and more Euro-styled flavour than the brilliantly housey Cleveland City mixes that also featured on the 12". At number 22, the infectious 'Here I Go' provides Dutch dance duo 2 Unlimited with one of the ir finest moments, and even though I'm not fond of their subsequent singles, Tin Tin Out's update of 'Always Something There To Remind Me' brings back nostalgic memories and has a sound that is very of its time. With a sound that's like a bargain basement version of The Shamen in places, East 17's number 11 entry 'Let It Rain' was pretty hardcore for a boyband and is possibly one of their best songs. I probably thought it was shite at the time, but it's rather pleasing now. 

But the week's most dazzling new entry is the powerfully mysterious 'Original' by Leftfield, featuring vocals from Curve singer Toni Halliday. The song was taken from their seminal debut album 'Leftism' and entered the charts at number 18. It would take them four years to release its follow-up 'Rhythm And Stealth', before the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley went their separate ways in 2002. A few years later Barnes decided to revive Leftfield without the involvement of Daley, and has just announced the release of a brand new album which will be called 'Alternative Light Source'...






This week's chart is from March 26 1995 and can be seen HERE.

Landing in the number 40 slot are American rockers Queensryche with the sub-Bon Jovi dirge 'Bridge'... I can remember my Mum being particularly fond of one Queensryche song and buying it on CD single, but I cannot recall if it was 'Bridge' or not. The song certainly doesn't ring a bell. After only scoring a chart entry about 8 weeks previously with 'Do You Wanna Party', DJ Scott featuring Lorna B score a second Top 40 hit with 'Sweet Dreams', which goes in at 37 and sounds a lot more dated than the Eurythmics original. Van Halen pile on the soft rock cheese with the lukewarm number 33 entry 'Can't Stop Lovin' You', while awful RnB kiddy boyband Ultimate Kaos were no doubt aiming for a higher chart placing than number 24 for their hideous 'Show A Little Love'. Having just this second done an internet search to find out more info about them, I'm further sickened by the fact that they were put together by future murderer of popular music Simon Cowell. Even during the golden mid 90s, the Grim Reaper was lurking in wait... I can actually remember having a cassette copy of the 'Get Wild' by The NPG, which I found in the Woolworths bargain bin for 29p and took a chance on. The NPG were in fact Prince (then in his 'Symbol' phase) and his backing group the New Power Generation, who indulged in a harder, funkier sound that that of Prince's solo work. 'Get Wild' went in at number 19, but it's pretty generic stuff. The week's highest new entry is technically a re-entry, and goes to the annoying Bobby Brown and a remix of his grating 'Two Can Play That Game', which comes in at number 5.


Anticapella's hyped-up Euro dance number 'Express Your Freedom' is a dated but fun number 31 entry, while Reel 2 Real's number 27 entry 'Conway' is a fine bit of ragga-infused house that has less instant commercial appeal than some of their other Top 40 hits during the decade. Fusing hip hop, house and hardcore, the London duo Shut Up And Dance found their way to number 25 with the impressive Duran Duran-sampling 'Save It Till The Mourning After'. The slick RnB that came out of the USA during the 90s was usually repulsive, but Brownstone's funky number 21 entry 'If You Love Me' was a definite exception, and rang a rather positive bell with me after hearing it again many years after its release. Dance act Snap! made a return to the charts with the number 20 'The First The Last Eternity', which was their final UK Top 40 hit, aside from future re-releases and remixes of their previous hits. UK producer/DJ Jake Williams scored five UK Top 40 hits as JX, and the second was the excellent floorfiller 'You Belong To Me' which featured vocalist Shèna and went to number 17. 1995 was the year that I became obsessed with The Beatles, although the BBC session version of the early track 'Baby It's You' didn't exactly rock my world too much at the time, and went into the charts at number 7. It didn't wow me, but quietly charmed me instead. I remember being given a 7" jukebox copy by my dad, who ran a club/bar in Corsham, and who had to take the least popular records out of the jukebox to make room for new ones. In a week of fine dance tracks, one of my favourite 90s club hits enters the charts at number 6, but since Strike's 'U Sure Do' is technically a re-entry, I can't vote for it as my favourite new entry of the week. But what a tune, and a fine example of how great songwriting in 90s dance music was often overlooked.

My chosen track of the week is 'Karmacoma' from Bristol trip hop legends Massive Attack, which entered at number 29, three places below Ultimate fucking Kaos yet a song that has truly stood the test of time. It was taken from their second album 'Protection', released the previous year in 1994. I first got into this track in the late 90s after buying a copy of the 'Help' charity compilation, which featured an alternative version of the track. After that, it wasn't long until I picked up a copy of the 'Protection' album as well...


Back in a week or two with more essential music new and old. Bye for now.

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