Friday, July 29, 2011

Chapterhouse-Whirlpool (2006 Remastered Edition)

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/9/08.

Formed in 1987, Chapterhouse was a British shoegazing band from Reading, England. Led by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Sherriff and guitarist/vocalist Stephen Patman, the band also included bassist Jon Curtis, guitarist Simon Rowe, and drummer Ashley Bates. Curtis left the band in 1991 just before the band was to sign a deal with Dedicated Records. Russell Barrett filled in Curtis' role as in 1991, the band released their full-length debut entitled Whirlpool. Produced by Ralph Jezzard and Jim Warren, Whirlpool is a dreamy, evocative, and blistering album that is considered to be one of the definitive albums of the shoegazing genre. With a 2006 reissue that included seven bonus tracks from the band's first three EPs released in 1991. Whirlpool is one of the most unsung and often overlooked albums of the British indie music scene.

The album opener Breather is an upbeat, rollicking track led by Ashley Bates' pounding drums, washy and arpeggio guitars from the trio of Andrew Sherriff, Stephen Patman, and Simon Rowe. With Russell Barrett's bouncy bass line, Sherriff sings in a dream-like high-pitch vocal range with layers of arpeggio and washy guitar riffs in the background. The single Pearl, featuring Slowdive vocalist Rachel Goswell on backing vocals, is a smooth, mid-tempo track filled with shimmering, washy guitars and arpeggio layers. With a dance-like rhythmic track in the background, it's one of the band's standout cuts with Sherriff's vocals singing in a lower octave. With its dreamy lyrics and presentation, the track includes an instrumental break of beats similar to Siouxsie & the Banshees' Kiss Them For Me. Autosleeper is a washy, shimmering song led by its guitars and Sherriff's evocative vocals as he's joined by Patman on backing vocals. The song presents itself mostly as a slow, dreamy wash track with an instrumental break of fast, pounding noises.

Treasure is a smooth, upbeat track with an excellent downbeat and growling guitar washes as Sherriff sings the song with grinding, noisy guitars are in the background. Another standout cut, the song is true to the sound its genre expects with its mix of dream-like atmosphere and grinding guitar noises. Falling Down is a rhythmic, funky track that's in tune with the Madchester music scene of the time as Sherriff sings through looped, warbling production with blazing guitar swirls popping up. Then the song shifts into a smoother tempo and then going back and forth from rhythmic to smooth, dream-like noise sound. April is a slower yet grinding track with shimmering guitars and pounding rhythms as Sherriff sings through his evocative vocals with swirls of riffs and droning arpeggios.

Guilt is an upbeat song with rich, arpeggio chimes and crashing rhythms led by Russell Barrett's bouncy bass and the triple guitar work of Sherriff, Patman, and Rowe. With its blistering guitars and slow, intense rhythms with Ashley Bates' pounding drums and Sherriff's dream-like vocals. If You Want Me is a slow ballad with opening, arpeggio chimes and dream-like guitar washes as Sherriff sings softly before the song becomes a full-band sound with swift-pounding drums and crisp production. With a chorus that's accompanied by chainsaw-like guitars, it becomes a more blistering track in its second half. The album closer in its original form is Something More. Led by its swirling guitars and slow, pounding rhythms, the song starts off dreamy with Sherriff's vocals before going into a blazing instrumental break with its guitars. With a guitar solo near its coda, it becomes a grinding, shoegaze-inspired track that is a fitting close to the album.

The seven bonus tracks in the 2006 reissue are compiled from the band's first three EPs. First is Need (Somebody) that is a fast, bass-pounding track that is filled with distorted vocals and punk-inspired energy for about a minute and twenty seconds. Then it slows down a bit for a more blazing, guitar-driven track before going back to its punk-rock style intensity that's a bit overbearing. Inside Of Me is an upbeat, rocking track that's reminiscent of early My Bloody Valentine with its fast-hitting beats, washy guitars, and pounding bass as Sherriff sings through a reverb, vocal production as it's a standout cut. Sixteen Years is a ballad with a loopy bass line by Russell Barrett and slow beats as it's driven by washy guitars and indistinct vocals by Sherriff that's barely audible in its production. Then the song goes into rock mode with its blazing guitar noises and fast-hitting beats before going back into its ballad-like tempo.

Satin Safe is an upbeat track with a menacing, blazing guitar solo that plays through the band's hard-hitting beats and Sherriff's evocative vocals. Then the song changes tempo a bit for something slower as the guitars play in a grinding style as it moves back and forth. Feel The Same is a track filled with swift, dance rhythms and a throbbing bass line as it's a simple, swift pop song that's in tune with the style of Madchester. With Sherriff's soft vocals, it's a memorable song that features a break of shimmering guitars and a melodic solo that plays through in the background.

Come Heaven is an eerie ballad with a shimmering guitar background and an arpeggio-riff being played at the same time. With its smooth, throbbing rhythm, the dream-like song is one of the band's finest tracks though at times, it does drag a bit with nothing really spectacular happening. The final track is In My Arms, which is a mid-tempo yet bouncy track with washy guitars, loopy bass lines, and swift beats as Sheriff sings softly. Yet, despite its presentation, it's another track that doesn't really do anything and ends up being a bit boring.

Following its release in 1991, the album was a hit with people in the shoegaze scene though success through the British indie scene proved to be minimal. In America, they were another obscure act as they failed to breakthrough. Yet, as British music continued to change, Chapterhouse tried to keep up with the times where their sophomore release Blood Music was a change in direction. Yet, the album wasn't a hit and things got worse due to an issues with samples of other material as the album was withdrawn from the public. After releasing a compilation of singles, B-sides, and rarities in 1996, Chapterhouse called it quits. The various members formed other projects while Simon Rowe ended up being a guitarist for Mojave 3, an offshoot of another famed shoegaze band, Slowdive. In 2008, a year after the release of a best-of compilation, Chapterhouse reunited for a few dates in British music festivals.

While Whirlpool doesn't reach the heights of the recordings of other shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, and Slowdive. It's still an excellent album from Chapterhouse and essentially, the one to get outside of compilation records. Though the album is hard to find through retail stores, it's an album that can be easily found with its bonus tracks through peer-to-peer sharing files. In the end, Whirlpool is a dreamy, evocative album from one of shoegaze's premier bands.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Originally Written and Posted at on 5/29/08

The French group M83 consisting of Anthony Gonzalez and former member Nicolas Fromageau, who left the band in 2003 after a tour, are one of electronic music's most beloved and acclaimed outfits. After 2003's Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts, the group eventually became Gonzalez's own project with various musicians where in 2005, the group's third album Before the Dawn Heals Us became the outfit's breakthrough. Thanks to singles like Don't Save Us From The Flames and Teen Angst being used in commercials and film trailers, M83 was exposed to a big audience raising their cult status. Known for their blend of melodic synth-pop meshed with dreamy, shoegaze-inspired textures, M83 also delved into ambient music where in 2007, the outfit released Digital Shades Vol. 1. A year later, Gonzalez along with his brother Yann returned with their fifth full-length release Saturdays=Youth.

Produced by Ken Thomas and Ewan Pearson, Saturdays=Youth is an album that explores M83's dream-like electronic sound. Stripping away the noisy, shoegaze sound of previous albums, the album is a more accessible record focusing on song structures and melodies harkening to the sounds of early 80s synth pop as well as exploring elements of ambient music. Featuring contributions from vocalist Morgan Kibby of the Romanovs, Saturdays=Youth is a brilliant, hypnotic album from Anthony Gonzalez and company.

The album opener You Appearing arrives with a smooth, melodic piano track with swirls of synthesizers as Anthony Gonzalez sings in a falsetto vocal style for this moody yet haunting ballad that features ominous yet powerful synthesizer accompaniment. The more upbeat Kim & Jesse with thumping beats, washy guitars, and bouncy, melodic synthesizer as Gonzalez sings the song that is reminiscent of 80s synth-pop as he's joined by Morgan Kibby. With its beats and soft yet dreamy synthesizers, it's a wonderful mix of 80s electro-pop and dream-pop. Skin Of The Night is an ominous track with slow yet dissonant piano melodies and harrowing synthesizers as sputtering electronic beats emerge. With Morgan Kibby singing, she brings her soft, dream-like vocals to this great song filled with haunting, dark lyrics as her high-pitch vocals is a highlight in this brilliant song.

The album's second and current single Graveyard Girl is an upbeat number with fast-hitting drums and washy, dream-like guitars that is led by Anthony Gonzalez as he sings the song with its dreamy, moody lyrics. With his cool vocals, it's a fantastic single with swooning synthesizers, an upbeat rhythm, and a dreamy tone that defines the M83 sound. The first single Couleurs is an eerie, synthesizer-laden track with ominous arrangements and eerie melodies that becomes more upbeat with its rhythms and another, melodic synthesizer accompaniment. With a guitar track in the background, the track includes numerous percussions and beats playing in the background as it intensifies throughout its eight-and-a-half minute running time with soft vocals playing in the coda.

Up! is a bouncy, synthesizer-driven track with Morgan Kibby's lovely, hypnotic high-pitch vocals leading the way. With its ode to moody, 80s synth-pop, it's a wonderful, smooth mid-tempo track that includes a great, bouncy intro that returns for its bridge as it shows the complex arrangements that Anthony Gonzalez has created. We Own The Sky is a heavy, synthesizer-driven track with droning synthesizers leading the way for this ominous yet dreamy track that features Gonzalez singing in his smooth, dream-like vocals. With Yann Gonzalez's arrangements and contribution, it's another standout track that emphasizes on the group's unique sound. Highway Of Endless Dreams is a return to the group's shoegaze-inspired sound that includes washy guitars and bouncy, dreamy synthesizers as pounding beats start to emerge for this track. With the vocals coming by Anthony Gonzalez, it comes in at the last minute as the song opened with film dialogue.

Too Late is a simple, piano-led ballad with Gonzalez's soft, dreamy vocals as he plays the piano. With a synthesizer accompanying in the background, the track maintains its smooth, dream-like ballad presentation with the piano leading the song. Dark Moves Of Love is a hypnotic,dream-like cut with smooth, shimmering synthesizer that later becomes a more rhythmic, guitar-driven track that is also more shoegaze than electronic. With its swirling guitars and pounding drums, the track features a mix of vocals by Gonzalez and Morgan Kibby as it starts to fade and segue into the next track. The album closer is the eleven-minute, ambient-instrumental piece Midnight Souls Still Remain that is led mostly by its hypnotic, dreamy synthesizer track. With a soft, synthesizer melody playing through the background, it's mostly led by its main track as it maintains its smooth, ambient vibe.

Though it's more accessible than any its previous albums with more pop melodies and also, superb, atmospheric production by Ken Thomas and Ewan Pearson. Saturdays=Youth is still an amazing, dreamy, and certainly enjoyable album from M83. Though not as brilliant as 2005's Before the Dawn Heals Us, Saturdays=Youth is still an album that shows Anthony Gonzalez growing as a songwriter and musician as he takes new risks while delving into different genres to expand M83's sound. In the end, Saturdays=Youth is a fantastic album that shows a newfound sense of maturity and growth into the unique sound that is M83.

M83 Albums: (M83) - (Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts) - (Before the Dawn Heals Us) - (Digital Shades Vol. 1) - (Hurry Up, We're Dreaming)

(C) thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Originally Written and Posted at on 9/28/08

After the release of 1993's Souvlaki, Slowdive reached a peak into the career both creatively and critically. Though the shoegaze genre they were apart of was in decline, the band kept the genre alive through its devoted followers. After a problematic U.S. tour due to distribution trouble from SBK Records, longtime drummer Simon Scott left the band due to creative tension. Replaced by Ian McCutcheon, the band consisting of vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead, vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell, guitarist Christian Savill, and bassist Nick Chaplin forged ahead with their next record. Yet, the band's label Creation Records was already in the midst of moving ahead towards pop music after just signing Oasis to the label. Tension between the label and Neil Halstead over the band's next record emerged as Halstead went ahead to record the band's third and final album entitled Pygmalion.

Produced by Chris Hufford with seven of the nine songs written by Neil Halstead with the other two co-written with Rachel Goswell. Pygmalion is an album that marks as a huge departure from Slowdive. Moving further away from the shoegaze sound of their two previous album in favor of ambient textures, organic presentation, and minimalist arrangements. The album is a moody exploration into the ambient music genre as it's less pop-driven than previous records. Though fans of the band's earlier work might feel a bit baffled by the genre exploration. The result is a wonderful, dream-like farewell from Slowdive.

The ten-minute album opener Rutti is a ballad filled with just soft, washy guitar flourishes and Neil Halstead's haunting vocals. After two minutes of just vocal and guitar playing, shaking percussions and arpeggio-laden chimes join in along with soft drum tracks. Halstead's haunting vocals and moody lyrics set up the tone for what is to come for the entire album in its tone. Crazy For You is another ballad-driven track filled with soothing, arpeggio-guitar chimes accompanied by swift guitar washes and flourishing ambient textures. With Halstead going into a dream-like vocal range filled with imagery-laden lyrics, his vocals is filled with echo effects by its production as soft, mid-tempo drums are played along with spurts of guitar feedback. Miranda is an eerie, acoustic track filled with ambient guitar swirls in the background as a melodic acoustic guitar track plays through. With Rachel Goswell singing through her ethereal vocals, the song features loops of chants and such as Goswell sings esoteric lyrics in this ambient-drone track.

Trellisaze is an eerie, down-tempo track with warbling, tribal beats, echo-laden vocals, and shimmering guitar washes and arpeggio melodies. With eerie atmosphere tracks in the background with its shimmering guitar drones and warbling vocals, it's definitely one of the most haunting cuts on the record. Cello is a brooding yet eerie instrumental track led by ambient-laden guitar drones that plays through with sparse arrangements under a minute and forty-five seconds. J's Heaven arrives with its vibrato guitar shimmers and acoustic-like washes as Rachel Goswell sings through indistinct lyrics and ethereal, dream-like vocals. With droning guitar backgrounds and minimalist arrangements that include an array of percussion tracks, it's definitely one of the band's best songs.

Visions Of La is a short, acoustic ballad led by Rachel Goswell as she sings in a haunting vocal delivery filled with her melancholic lyrics with Neil Halstead accompanying her on an acoustic guitar. Blue Skied an' Clear is a six-minute, fifty-four second track with a smooth bass line, soft percussion beats, vibrato guitars, and Halstead's haunting, ethereal vocals filled with echo effects and somber lyrics. With its vibrato, arpeggio section in the chorus, Halstead's dream-like vocals is accompanied by an ethereal vocal background as it is laden with its ambient textures and arrangements. The song is clearly one of the band's most defining moments in terms of creating dream-like atmosphere mixed in with ambient music. The album closer All Of Us is an acoustic ballad led by its slow, plucking acoustic style accompanied by soft, droning guitar background and Halstead's haunting vocals. With a cello playing in the background, it's a fitting closer to the entire album as it ends on a soothing note.

When it was released in February of 1995, the album was met with very little reaction as it was released with no promotion or anticipation. A week after its release, Slowdive was dropped by Creation Records along with fellow shoegaze band Swervedriver. Slowdive immediately disbanded as Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Ian McCutcheon formed Mojave 3 with ex-Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe. The rest of the band formed various projects in the wake of Slowdive's dissolution. Pygmalion came and went as copies for the album at the time of its release were scarce while remained unreleased in the U.S. In 2005, just as Sanctuary Records reissued the band's two previous albums, Pygmalion was also reissued but unlike its predecessors, came with no extra material.

Despite only releasing three albums in a short period of time, Slowdive however proved to be influential. Tribute albums and covers by 4AD label outfit The Hope Blister were made while controversial Asian-American film director Gregg Araki put the band's music in his films. In 2004, a two-disc compilation entitled Catch the Breeze was released just as the band was being discovered. A year later when their albums were reissued, it's clear that Slowdive is finding an audience again though Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell are still continuing their various solo projects as well as Mojave 3.

While Pygmalion may not have the diversity or melodic-pop flourishes of its predecessor, Souvlaki. The album is still a brilliant record from Slowdive in its exploration of ambient music. Fans of the band will be happy that it's out though not in big music-selling chains while it's easily available through peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Though shoegaze purists might lean toward the band's previous two albums, they will find satisfaction into the band's exploration into a genre that is not very mainstream. In the end, for something sparse, to-the-point, esoteric, and experimental, Slowdive's Pygmalion is the album to get.

Slowdive Albums: Just for a Day - Souvlaki

(C) thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Slowdive-Souvlaki (Deluxe Edition)

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/27/08.

Following the release of Just For a Day, Slowdive were becoming the darlings of the British indie music scene and the shoegaze genre just as it was reaching its peak in the fall of 1991. When their record was released a year later in the U.S., they got attention from the American indie scene as they toured with fellow shoegaze act Ride where two released a 7" split single. With the genre suddenly in decline with the attention towards the American grunge scene and the upcoming arrival of Brit-pop, Slowdive continued to move forward as they also got the attention of the legendary Brian Eno. The former Roxy Music keyboardist who created ambient music as well as producing works for such artists as David Bowie, Talking Heads, and U2.

Produced by Chris Hufford and Martin Nichols, Souvlaki is an album that takes Slowdive's dreamy, shoegaze sound and expand it with more music styles such as reggae dub, country, and ambient music. With Brian Eno making contributions for two tracks, the album features many songs written by its leader/vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead while vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell co-writes a song with him. Along with guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Simon Scott, Slowdive would create an album that isn't just considered their best work. It is said to be one of the last great records of the shoegaze genre.

The album opens with its leading single Alison with its bouncy, mid-tempo rhythm courtesy of Simon Scott's drums and Nick Chaplin's bass with accompaniment from the triple-guitar work of Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Christian Savill with its drones and arpeggio melodies. With Halstead's dreamy, swooning vocals filled with dream-like lyrics, Goswell joins him on the chorus along with wailing guitar drones that shimmer through the song. Machine Gun is a smoother yet mid-tempo number led by shimmering guitar chimes, bouncy bass line, and Goswell's ethereal vocals. Halstead joins in for a verse as he's accompanying himself with a washy, rhythmic acoustic guitar as it warbles with its arpeggio chimes and drones as it moves back and forth in structure. 40 Days is an up tempo, thumping number with its driving beats and droning guitars as Halstead sings a more bass-like vocal style reminiscent of the vocal style of the Jesus & Mary Chain. With Goswell accompanying on vocals, it's esoteric lyrics and wailing guitars reveal the band delving into something diverse in its dream-pop style.

Next is Sing, a song written by the band along with Brian Eno on keyboards, a brooding, mid-tempo track with shimmering guitars, ambient-style keyboards, and a smooth, pounding drum fill. The song is led by Rachel Goswell's eerie, haunting vocals filled with dark lyrics as Eno's keyboards accompany the song that explores elements of ambient music. Eno appears again in Here She Comes, a ballad filled with arpeggio-laden riffs and soft, tribal percussions as Halstead sings the song with his descriptive, harrowing lyrics. Souvlaki Space Station is a mid-tempo track with heavy bass lines, ominous drum fills, washy guitar shimmers, and droning guitar swoons. With Goswell leading through indistinct, dream-like vocals, the song is filled with warbling rhythms and droning guitar sirens. When The Sun Hits is a swooning, mid-tempo track with washy guitar rhythms filled with arpeggio chimes and Halstead's smooth vocals. With snare fills coming in for a mid-tempo rhythm and droning guitar accompaniments, Halstead's imagery-laden lyrics lead the way as the song moves back and forth from atmosphere to more rhythmic-driven.

Altogether is an atmospheric, ethereal ballad filled with swooning guitars, slow rhythms, and Halstead's smooth, engaging vocals. With Goswell singing backup, the song is filled with dream-like lyrics and swirling guitar spurts as it's a moody ballad that plays up to the band's dream-pop stature. Melon Yellow is another ballad that's more haunting and has an ominous rhythm with Halstead singing in an atmospheric, eerie vocal style. With its swooning, droning guitars and melodic arpeggio accompaniment, it's the band delving into darker territory. The album closer is Dagger, an acoustic ballad with Halstead leading the way as he sings haunting lyrics with his smooth vocals. With Goswell joining in for the second verse, the song is accompanied by soft, swirling guitars as it continues to its acoustic presentation.

In the original U.S. single-disc version of the album released in 1994 include four bonus tracks that also appears in the 2005 deluxe reissue from Sanctuary as part of the album's second disc. First is a cover of the Lee Hazelwood-Nancy Sinatra duet Some Velvet Morning. With its smooth, driving presentation of mid-tempo drums, bouncy bass, and shimmering guitar drones, Neil Halstead sings the song's cosmic lyrics as it includes tempo changes to something slower and dreamier with Rachel Goswell's vocals. Good Day Sunshine, not a cover of the Beatles song, is a throbbing, experimental instrumental track with sputtering beats and ambient, arpeggio-laden guitar melodies. With atmospheric production and guitar flourishes playing through, it's the band experimenting with ambient music that would continue further with their next album.

Missing You is another instrumental track that continues to explore electronic music with its throbbing, thumping beats, swooning guitars swirls, and hypnotic ambient overtones. With its ambient guitar drones and warbling beats and electronic shutter rhythms, it's the band going further into the world of electronic music. The final bonus track is Country Rain, written by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell that explores the band's interest in country music. Though the track is mostly electronic driven with its ambient overtones of electronic beats and Goswell's ethereal vocals, it's the ringing guitar work that adds an element of country music to the mix. The track also serves as a template for what Halstead and Goswell would do years later with their own band, Mojave 3.

Five tracks appearing in the second disc deluxe version of the 2005 reissue of the album include three additional tracks and two remixes. First is So Tired, a slow yet mid-tempo number with loud, washy guitar riffs, an ominous rhythm, and Rachel Goswell's haunting, dream-like vocals. With its hazy lyrics and washy, rhythm guitars with spurts of feedback drones as Neil Halstead joins in for the third verse. Moussaka Chaos is a near six-and-a-half minute instrumental suite filled with swirling, atmospheric guitar drones, chugging ambient backgrounds, and a pounding bass beat. With the guitars continuing to shimmer and drone, the track intensifies with its beats and a bouncy bass line by Nick Chaplin. In Mind is another electronic-driven track with its driving, thumping electronic beats and swooning synthesizer background. With its sputtering, wall-to-wall snare beats, Goswell sings the song with her ethereal, soothing vocals as it delves into electronic and ambient music with an array of beats as Goswell's vocals are the highlight.

Two remixes of In Mind appear in the record that continues the band's exploration into ambient music. The first is an eight-minute remix by Bandulu, filled with Goswell's vocals and swooning synthesizer backgrounds that's driven by its fast, sputtering electro-beats. With breaks of soothing, ambient swirls and soft bass beats, it's a strange yet soothing remix. The second remix by Reload, a moniker of Global Communication act Mark Pritchard, is a ten-minute, twenty-five second remix. With its sputtering, metallic, tribal-like beats and swirling layers of electronic sequences, the ambient-driven track filled with soothing synthesizers and bass-heavy beats. With Goswell's vocals popping up, it's remix is a testament to the exploration of ambient techno with spurts of noisy electronics and vocal swirls. Though its length might test more mainstream listeners, fans of esoteric music might enjoy it.

When the album was released in summer of 1993, it was immediately hailed by critics and fans of the declining shoegaze genre as a landmark album. Often considered by fans and critics as their best album, Slowdive were riding high in the U.K. despite the decline in the shoegaze genre. Yet, their attempts to breakthrough in the U.S. proved to be troubling as distribution troubles with their U.S. label SBK Records who released the album in February of 1994 with four extra tracks. Things got worse during the band's American tour to promote the album that got cut halfway short due to funding as the band continued to tour with their own funding. After the tour, creative tension emerged as Simon Scott left the group as he was replaced by Ian McCutcheon.

Souvlaki is a brilliant, hypnotic, and versatile album from Slowdive. Fans of the shoegaze genre and Slowdive must have this record as it's one of the genre's finest moments. Anyone interested in Slowdive outside of compilation releases must pick this record up though on retail, it's very hard to find. Thanks to contributions from Brian Eno and the band's exploration beyond the genre towards ambient, dub reggae, and country music. It's definitely the band's best album. In the end, for a record that's soothing, noisy, and willing to sooth you down, Souvlaki is the album to get from Slowdive.

Slowdive Albums: Just for a Day - Pygmalion

(C) thevoid99 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Slowdive-Just for a Day (Deluxe Edition)

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/25/08

Of the bands that came out of the shoegaze genre in the U.K., Slowdive was the band that stood more than anyone. Even against the much-beloved, widely-acclaimed My Bloody Valentine. Formed in 1989 by vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead and vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell along with guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Adrian Sell. The Reading, England quintet were already fans of the burgeoning shoegaze scene. When Sell left the band in 1990 and replaced by Simon Scott, the band released an EP that helped get them a deal with the famed indie label Creation Records. Two more recordings led the band to record their full-length debut album entitled Just For a Day.

Produced by Chris Hufford with songs written by Neil Halstead, Just For a Day is an album that features the band's unique approach to the shoegaze sound. Filled with dreamy melodies, the atmospheric vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, and rich guitar work. More dream-pop than My Bloody Valentine, less rockier than Ride, and less melodic-driven than Lush. Slowdive has a unique sound that stands them out against their contemporaries as the result isn't just a great debut, but one of the best records of the shoegaze genre.

The album opener Spanish Air is a slow, bass-pounding track with Nick Chaplin's wobbly bass line, Simon Scott's soft, thundering beats, and the shimmering, dream-like, triple-guitar work of Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Christian Savill. Halstead sings the song through his atmospheric, enchanting vocals with Goswell doing backing vocals. With a washy, droning riff popping up by Savill, Halstead and Goswell's vocals take shape through the harmonies in this dream-like opener that included an instrumental coda of acoustic guitar and cello accompaniments. Celia's Dream is another slow number led by its smooth, wobbly rhythm and chime-wash guitar tracks as Halstead sings in his ethereal, vocal style with a soft, wail in the guitars. Halstead's vocals match the song's dream-like imagery in his lyrics as it's filled with intense, moody guitar tracks and rhythms for its tone with flourishes of arpeggio chimes and drones.

Catch The Breeze is a slow but more rhythmic-driven track with its rumbling beats and bass lines as Halstead and Goswell sing through the soft, shimmering guitar tracks in the background. With its distorted drones and ethereal presentation, the song is filled with psychedelic-laden lyrics as it features layers of guitar tracks with wailing solos and washy, drone riffs. Ballad Of Sister Sue is a chime-laden track awash with guitar flourishes, a smooth bass line, and Goswell's haunting yet soothing vocals. With drums starting to emerge, Halstead joins in on vocals as they sing dark, haunting lyrics as the guitar washes and chimes continue to drive the song. Erik's Song is an instrumental track with just a shimmering guitar drone and a piano accompaniment as soft vocals are heard through the production.

Waves is a mid-tempo number with washy, arpeggio-laden guitar tracks and bouncy bass line spurred by its smooth snare fill. Halstead and Goswell both sing through their gorgeous harmonies with Halstead's imagery-laden lyrics. With the song's tempo picking up and the guitars shimmering through, it's definitely a standout cut. Brighter is another mid-tempo track with a more melodic bass accompaniment and pounding drums led by its dream-like guitar washes and Goswell's ethereal vocals. With Halstead singing the chorus, the song is filled with guitar flourishes ranging from dream-like washes to droning backgrounds.

The Sadman arrives with an arpeggio guitar riff and a washy guitar background as soft, tribal beats play in the background. Rachel Goswell starts to sing as wailing guitar drones start to pop up during the chorus that's heightend by its production. The album closer Primal is a slow, mid-tempo number with a smooth, bouncy rhythm and arpeggio guitar chimes flourishing as Halstead and Goswell sing. With the rhythm picking up and the guitars getting more intense, so does Halstead's vocals in the song's dream-like lyrics as the guitars start to shimmer with its drone for the coda.

The 2005 reissue of Just For a Day includes a second disc filled with 12 extra tracks from the band's early EPs including 3 songs from a radio session with John Peel recorded on 4/21/91. The bonus disc opens a song named after the band, not a cover of the Siouxsie & the Banshees song. The upbeat, mid-tempo song with thumping rhythms, droning guitar wails, and Neil Halstead's breathy, ethereal vocals. The song is more shoegaze in comparison to their more dreamier material as Rachel Goswell joins Halstead in the vocals during the second verse. Avalyn 1 is a slow yet dream-like cut with smooth, thundering beats, wobbly bass lines, and droning guitars that features spurts of feedback. With Goswell singing through indistinct lyrics and atmospheric vocals as the song continues to display its drone-like presentation. Avalyn 2 is a continuation of the previous song that is expanded as an instrumental track with arpeggio chimes played in the background.

Morningrise is a mid-tempo, bass-driven track led by its thumping rhythms, droning guitar noises, and Halstead's haunting vocals. With its dream-like, cosmic lyrics, Halstead leads the song as Goswell joins him on vocals on some parts that includes wailing guitar solos that shimmers through the song. She Calls arrives with its smooth, rumbling beats, droning guitar swirls, and Goswell's eerie yet ethereal vocals. Then the song becomes a more rhythmic track with Halstead singing lead with Goswell joining him as the guitars continue to drone as the song moves back and forth in its structure. Losing Today is a slow yet haunting track with rumbles in the background as the dreamy guitar washes and chimes lead the way with Halstead's vocals. With its swooning tone and shimmering guitars, the atmospheric vocals of Halstead and Goswell play through the song's production.

Next is a cover of Syd Barrett's Golden Hair as Slowdive brings a haunting version to Barrett's classic, that includes excerpts from the work of James Joyce. With Rachel Goswell singing Barrett's disturbing yet fragile lyrics, the song is filled with guitar shimmers and soft, background distortions. With its instrumental coda filled with guitar drones, loopy bass lines, and soft beats, the song is a unique interpretation of a song created by one of the co-founders of Pink Floyd. Shine arrives with its swooning guitar drones and wobbly bass lines as Rachel Goswell sings the song with indistinct lyrics filled with her amazing vocals. With washy guitar chimes leading the way and a smooth, mid-tempo beat, it's a standout cut from the bonus disc. Albatross is an ethereal, rumble of a song with droning guitar shimmers, Halstead's vocals and pounding bass drums. With Halstead singing softly, the song intensify with its drums and guitar drones as it moves back and forth in structure.

The last three tracks come from the John Peel session for the BBC on April 21, 1991 with Catch The Breeze as the first. The song features louder guitars in the coda and more atmospheric vocals from Halstead on lead and Goswell on backing vocals. Shine includes a louder snare fill and more evocative vocals from Goswell. The final track is their cover of Syd Barrett's Golden Hair that has Halstead singing lead instead of Goswell. With its droning, shimmering guitars, it's a fitting closer to the album in its deluxe edition.

Released in the fall of 1991 in the U.K. by Creation Records, the album was a hit in the U.K. music scene just as the shoegaze genre was about to reach its peak two months later with the release of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. After getting some attention through American college radio and alternative stations, the album was released through SBK label a year later but sales in the U.S. weren't impressive. Still, Slowdive managed to gain critical acclaim despite the shoegaze genre's decline with the U.K. press focusing on the burgeoning American grunge music scene.

Despite the repetitive sound of the album, Just For a Day is still a fascinating debut release from Slowdive. Its deluxe edition is something hardcore fans must have since it contains several unreleased tracks and rarities. For enthusiasts of the shoegaze scene, it's one of the essential records of the genre. In the end, Just For a Day is a dreamy, evocative debut release from Slowdive.

Slowdive Albums: Souvlaki - Pygmalion

(C) thevoid99 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Cure-Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea

Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a best-of compilation album from the Cure that chronicles their 17 singles from 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys to 1985’s The Head on the Door. While it’s not the first compilation the band released as it was preceded with 1983’s Japanese Whispers that chronicled the band’s three non-LP singles and five B-sides from November of 1982 to November of 1983. Standing on a Beach does however contain those three singles plus the fourteen tracks that were released as promotional releases that captured the band’s journey from a post-punk trio to a whimsical Goth-pop band towards the mid-1980s. The result is a stellar yet rich best-of album from the Cure.

The first four tracks are from the Three Imaginary Boys period that consists of three non-LP singles. The first is the controversial Killing An Arab that is led by a bopping tempo with Robert Smith’s swooning, Arabian-style guitar as he sings lyrics about a man arriving into a world where he kills an Arab man. The lyrics are inspired by Albert Camus’ The Stranger though it isn’t an anti-Arab song as it’s one of the band’s key singles. 10:15 Saturday Night from Three Imaginary Boys is a mid-tempo track with washy guitars and eerie lyrics from Smith. The non-LP singles in the upbeat melancholia of Boys Don’t Cry and the fast-driving yet abstract Jumping Someone Else’s Train follow presenting the band in their early post-punk sound.

The next six tracks are from the band’s early Gothic period of the albums Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography plus the non-LP single Charlotte Sometimes. From Seventeen Seconds is a shortened version of A Forest, that appears with its dark lyrics and swirling synthesizers, and the bass-driven yet rhythmic snarl of Play For Today. From Faith, there’s the high-octane yet chilling drive of Primary and the haunting mid-tempo song Other Voices that furthers the Cure’s sound into Goth. The non-LP single Charlotte Sometimes is an electronic-driven piece with somber lyrics that shows the band evolving in terms of production. From Pornography is The Hanging Garden with its pummeling beat and angry lyrics that shows the band at the peak of their Gothic period.

The next three tracks are non-LP singles from late 1982 to late 1983 that would be compiled for the mini-compilation release Japanese Whispers. The first is Let’s Go to Bed, a song that is in the vein of the new wave with melodic synthesizers, thumping rhythms, and Smith’s biting lyrics that is one of the band’s defining singles. The Walk is a fast, pulsating synthesizer-driven song with wailing melodies and driving bass lines as Smith sings morose yet esoteric lyrics. The Lovecats is a jazz-inspired track with thumping bass lines, striking pianos, and wailing synthesizers that features quirky yet playful lyrics inspired by the works of Australian novelist Patrick White.

From 1984’s The Top is the abstract yet acoustic-driven The Caterpillar that shows the Cure going into pop with different instruments and ideas while maintaining a bit of melancholia to their sound. The last three tracks on album are from 1985’s The Head on the Door that includes the upbeat anguish of Inbetween Days and a remixed version of the playful fear of Close to Me that features a brass section for this album. The last track of the compilation is the somber yet heavy drive of A Night Like This that features a wailing saxophone for the song.

Released on May 6, 1986, the album was released in different formats as the CD version was called Staring at the Sea while the vinyl was called Standing on a Beach. While the CD and VHS release containing all of the singles plus four extra tracks that weren’t released as singles but featured music videos for these songs. The VHS version featured a new vocal mix for Boys Don’t Cry that doesn’t appear in any recorded format. The vinyl and cassette version featured all thirteen singles though the cassette version also featured twelve B-sides on its B-side. The record would prove to be a major hit as it helped increase the Cure’s audience in the U.S. at that time.

Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a superb best-of compilation of the Cure. While all of the songs, with the exception of Killing An Arab, appear in remastered versions in the 2001 Greatest Hits album plus reissues from 2004 to 2006. This record still has an exceptional quality to the music while it is also a great introduction to people new to the band that wants an in-depth look into their early period of 1979-1985. In the end, Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a glorious best-of album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Cure-The Head on the Door (Deluxe Edition)

The 1983 non-LP singles compilation album Japanese Whispers and 1984’s The Top both marked a change in the musical direction for the Cure leading the band away from its Goth-rock sound. With singer/guitarist Robert Smith taking charge, the band suddenly gained a worldwide following though the tour for The Top was troubled. Drummer Andy Anderson’s firing and bassist Phil Thornalley’s departure left spots vacant for the band that featured Smith, keyboardist Lol Tolhurst, and guitarist Porl Thompson. Boris Williams eventually filled in Anderson’s spot though it would take some work for Smith to bring back Simon Gallup back to the fold after his departure from the band after the tour for Pornography. Gallup’s return prompted Smith to record a new album that would be one of their defining moments with The Head on the Door.

Written by Robert Smith and produced by Smith and David M. Allen, The Head on the Door is an album where the Cure would go full-fledge pop while featuring bits of their early Goth sound into something more direct. With a more stable line-up that includes Smith, guitarist/keyboardist Porl Thompson, bassist Simon Gallup, keyboardist Lol Tolhurst, and drummer Boris Williams, it’s an album that sounds fuller and richer than The Top showcasing that it’s a band playing instead of Smith taking charge. With lyrics showing some more upbeat elements meshed in with the band’s melancholic tone, the result is one of the Cure’s best albums of their career.

Opening the album is the first single Inbetween Days with Boris Williams’ upbeat yet steady drums with Simon Gallup’s melodic bass line and brimming acoustic guitars from Porl Thompson and Robert Smith. Featuring Lol Tolhurst’s soothing synthesizer, Smith sings the song’s morose lyrics that is filled with anguish as it’s one of the band’s best singles. Kyoto Song is a mid-tempo song with slow but hollow beats and Japanese-style string melodies that is carried by Gallup’s low bass and soft guitars. Smith sings in his wailing vocals through the song’s harrowing yet surreal lyrics of death as the song is supported by David M. Allen’s wondrous production.

The Blood is led by swift, Spanish-style guitar washes with bopping rhythms and percussions along with Tolhurst’s soothing keyboards. Smith sings in a calm vocal style with stark imagery relating to heartbreak and faith as it includes a wonderful flamenco solo from Thompson. Six Different Ways is a quirky upbeat song with rumbling yet sparse beats to a mid-tempo rhythm and layers of scintillating synthesizers acting as strings and flutes along melodic piano swirls. Smith sings the song’s abstract lyrics of longing as it’s filled with eccentric lines playing to Smith’s strange sense of humor. Push is led by driving guitar riffs and Williams’ pummeling drums to a powerful, upbeat track with Gallup’s sturdy bass and Tolhurst’s soft keyboards. Smith wails through the song with his vocals filled with multi-tracked mixes on his vocals as it’s filled with lyrics of longing.

The Baby Screams is a bopping mid-tempo track that is driven by Gallup’s warbling bass and clap-like beats that is followed by droning keyboards and shimmering piano melodies. Smith sings the song’s haunting lyrics with his broad vocals as he is supporting by swirling guitar solos and Allen’s hypnotic production. Close to Me is a mid-tempo track with soft, hammering beats and melodic-tingling keyboards as Smith sings in a soothing vocal style to the song’s fearful lyrics of longing. With its simple presentation, it is one of the band’s best songs. A Night Like This is led by driving guitars, hard-hitting drums, heavy bass, and soft keyboards in a mid-tempo track that features Smith singing desperate yet somber lyrics. The song includes a saxophone solo from Ron Howe of Fools Dance to add a dramatic flair in another of the Cure’s best songs.

Screw opens with Gallup’s droning bass line that includes hollow, tick-tock-laden keyboards and steady beats with Smith’s calm vocals. Featuring lyrics of self-harm with some dark humor, it is one of the Cure’s menacing songs as it includes a swirling guitar solo and a layered yet textured production by David M. Allen. The album closer is Sinking is a smooth, mid-tempo track with driving bass and guitars, hammering beats, swooning keyboards, and a melodic piano that is carried through its rich production. Smith’s vocals are quaint and soothing as he sings melancholic lyrics filled with despaired imagery as it’s a wonderful way to close the album.

The 2006 deluxe edition of the album features the original album remastered under the supervision of Robert Smith along with a second disc of additional material. Included in the second disc are demos of songs from the album including B-sides and some unheard rarities.

The first four tracks are instrumental home demos to Inbetween Days and Push along with two rarities in Inwood and Innsbrook. The demos for Inbetween Days and Push are presented in rough versions with a drum machine and different instruments each in their respective tempos. Inwood is a track with sputtering, mid-tempo drum machine beats, swirling guitars, and wailing synthesizers while Innsbrook is a slower track with eerie bass lines and guitar melodies to soft, rumbling beats.

The next eleven tracks on the album are studio demos for many of the songs on the album plus B-sides and a couple of rarities Mansolidgone and Lime Time. The demos for Mansolidgone is a smooth, mid-tempo track with slow jazz rhythms and Smith’s yelping vocals singing nonsensical lyrics as the track has a similar song structure to the B-side A Man Inside My Mouth. The demo for the rarity Lime Time is an upbeat track with swooning synthesizer melodies and thumping rhythms with Smith singing in a calm vocal style as it‘s a wonderful rarity.

The demos for the songs Screw, Kyoto Song, Six Different Ways, A Night Like This, and Close to Me are each presented in rough versions as the instrumentations are the same with some louder synthesizers in some spots plus more saxophone in A Night Like This and a drum machine for Close to Me. The demos for the B-sides Stop Dead, A Few Hours After This…, A Man Inside My Mouth, and The Exploding Boy are among the highlights with Stop Dead being a wobbly, bass-driven track and A Few Hours After This… having a T-Rex inspired drive. A Man Inside My Mouth is presented with a more driving, up-tempo rhythm with buzzing synthesizer swirls and snarling vocals while The Exploding Boy features brimming guitars and wailing synthesizers to walloping beats.

The last three tracks are live bootleg versions of the songs The Baby Screams, The Blood, and Sinking. The performances for the songs are very lively and energetic with the mixing for all of the instruments to be very balanced along with Smith’s vocals and the roar of the audience.

Released in August 26, 1985, the album proved to be a major hit for the band as it peaked at #7 in the U.K. charts and reached #59 in the U.S. album charts. The album also helped increase the band’s worldwide audience while their American audience that consisted of college radio listeners and Goth kids began to increase. The advent of MTV with their videos that were directed by longtime collaborator Tim Pope helped increase their audience helping the band to become one of the key alternative acts of the 1980s.

The Head on the Door is a magnificent yet enjoyable album from the Cure as it among one of their best recordings in par with other classics like Disintegration, Pornography, and Faith. Thanks in part to David M. Allen’s rich production and the whimsical performance of the band, it is truly an album that is intoxicating from start to finish. The deluxe version also has some great moments showing how these songs were made before coming into its final version. In the end, The Head on the Door is a superb yet enchanting album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cure-Concert: The Cure Live

Concert: The Cure Live is a live album from the Goth-rock band the Cure perform live for shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in London May 1984 and at Oxford that same month during the band’s tour for The Top. Produced by Robert Smith and David M. Allen, the live album is the band’s first in their career consisting material from the band’s first five albums. With the line-up of singer/guitarist Robert Smith, guitarist/keyboardist Porl Thompson, bassist Phil Thornalley, keyboardist Lol Tolhurst, and drummer Andy Anderson. The result is a good though inconsistent live album from the Cure.

Opening the live album is Shake Dog Shake with its mid-tempo presentation and swirling guitars with Smith singing the song’s angry lyrics. While the performance of the song is really good, the mixing is a bit rough as Phil Thornalley’s bass isn’t heard as it’s overshadowed by the guitars, drums, and Smith’s vocals. Primary is driven by its driving bass and guitars along with Andy Anderson’s pummeling drum fills as Smith the song’s morose lyrics with his wailing vocals as it’s one of the highlights of the record. Charlotte Sometimes is another highlight with its swooning keyboards from Porl Thompson and Lol Tolhurst and Smith’s strumming guitars as he calmly sings the song’s melancholic lyrics.

The Hanging Garden is led by Anderson’s pounding bass drum fills with Thornalley’s rumbling bass lines and swirling guitars from Smith and Thompson. Smith sings the song with its harrowing lyrics as his vocals are a highlight of the song with its broad yet menacing performance. Give Me It is a raucous song with fast-hammering drums and Thompson blaring on a saxophone to charging guitars with Smith’s wailing vocals. Despite the performance, the song sounds rough with its low mix on bass and keyboards in the song. The Walk is one of the Cure’s great songs as Anderson brings some amazing drum fills with Thornalley’s bass but the keyboards from Tolhurst and Thompson don’t sound so great in its mix despite Smith’s calm vocal performances and ringing guitar.

One Hundred Years is presented with its harrowing, steady mid-tempo rhythm with swirling guitars and Smith’s nihilistic lyrics as it’s one of the band’s best songs. Unfortunately, Thornalley’s bass isn’t properly mixed as it’s barely heard in the song along Tolhurst’s keyboards in the song. A Forest is another highlight thanks in part to the driving bass lines from Phil Thornalley along with Anderson’s upbeat drums and the dual synthesizers of Tolhurst and Thompson. With Smith on guitar and singing, it’s one of the songs that is properly mixed.

10:15 Saturday Night is led by Anderson’s hard-hitting drums with the driving guitars of Smith and Thompson as Smith sings the song’s dark lyrics. While the performance is great, the mix for the song overall is a bit of mess with the guitars sounding rough and the bass is barely heard in the track. The album closer is Killing An Arab that is led by its bopping rhythm and Smith’s screaming vocals as he plays swirling guitars to the song’s dark lyrics. While the performance is swift, the mix is an issue as there’s some spots in the song that is a bit rough though it provides a nice close to the album.

Released on October 22, 1984, the album was released in different formats where the cassette version included additional material from 1977 to 1984 filled with live rarities that appeared on its B-side. Over the years, the material from the cassette version of Concert became rare until 2004 when all of the material would finally appear through the deluxe reissues for the Cure’s early albums from Three Imaginary Boys to The Top.

Concert: The Cure Live is a pretty stellar live album that has some great moments to give fans an idea of what the band sounded like back in 1984. Yet, like a lot of live recordings, it’s rough in spots where some of the mixing isn’t very good in varied places. It’s a record that hardcore fans of the Cure will want to have though it’s not really one of their essential albums as the live records they make later on would have superior mixing and performances. In the end, Concert: The Cure Live is a pretty good record with some moments that fans of the Cure will enjoy.

Live Albums: Show - Paris

© thevoid99 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Cure-The Top (Deluxe Edition)

1982’s Pornography may have given the Cure their biggest commercial success to date despite its extremely dark tone. The band nearly imploded following a tour that led to Simon Gallup’s departure from the group for a couple of years. With vocalist/guitarist Robert Smith deciding to work with Siouxsie & the Banshees where he formed a side project with Banshees bassist Steve Severin called the Glove. Many in the band’s label Fiction wondered if the Cure was done until late 1982 when Smith and drummer Lol Tolhurst released the non-LP single Let’s Go To Bed. The song marked a new direction for the band as Tolhurst switched drums to play keyboards marking a more pop direction for the band.

Two more non-LP singles in The Walk and The Lovecats came in during 1983 to mark the band’s new direction that featured new wave and pop as Smith and Tolhurst worked on different projects. It was in the Glove side project that Smith decided to make a change for the Cure’s sound entirely that was away from Goth and into something much different. With Tolhurst on board along with new drummer Andy Anderson, Smith created an album that meshed with small bits of the band’s Goth sound with new wave and psychedelic rock for the album called The Top.

Performed by the Cure with the majority of the songs written by Robert Smith and three co-written with Lol Tolhurst. The Top is an album where the Cure taking a major departure from their early Goth sound. Produced by Robert Smith along with Chris Parry, the album also marks the first collaboration with David M. Allen who would become one of the band’s key figures for several years. Featuring a mix of new wave, psychedelic, and Goth with upbeat rhythms and different array of instruments. The album also has Smith taking a step back lyrically to explore different ideas of themes he had explored years earlier. The result is a fascinating though messy album from the Cure.

Opening the album is the song Shake Dog Shake that is led by blaring sounds of guitars and warbling keyboards with Andy Anderson’s slow but heavy drums. Robert Smith sings in a snarling vocal style filled with angry lyrics of heartbreak as it is surrounded by this broad but layered production. Birdmad Girl is an upbeat yet mid-tempo track that features a steady rhythm along with flourishing keyboards from Lol Tolhurst. Smith sings in a calm vocal style as his lyrics about a girl in despair with Smith playing someone who watches this girl go mad. Wailing Wall is a stark ballad filled with low bass lines and bass-pounding drums to complement its eerie tone as Smith sings haunting lyrics about a city of death with immense imagery and wailing vocal noises in the background.

Give Me It is a powerful, upbeat track with hard-pounding beats and blaring guitars that includes a wailing saxophone from Porl Thompson. Smith’s vocals are filled with snarling wails as he sings chaotic lyrics filled with death in its most nihilistic description. Dressing Up is led by melodic-swirling keyboards in its mid-tempo rhythm that includes a steady beat and a flute accompanying the song. With Smith playing a soft, chiming guitar, he sings dark yet humorous lyrics as he is getting ready for a party. The single for The Caterpillar is an upbeat song with vibrant percussions, washy acoustic guitars, screeching violins, and de-tuned piano flourishes. Smith sings abstract lyrics about a girl who loves caterpillars that has an aura of psychedelia. Piggy In The Mirror is a mid-tempo track with washy guitars and steady rhythms with a Spanish-guitar solo and swooning keyboards. Smith sings in a low vocal style to esoteric lyrics that continues Smith’s fascination with psychedelia.

The Empty World is led by a cadence-drum fill with a wobbly bass line and a swooning flute solo. Smith sings about a girl talking about a world that is filled with dystopian lyrics despite its weird sense of humor. Bananafishbones is a mid-tempo track with pummeling beats and blaring harmonicas that is accompanied by loud keyboards. Smith sings in a fast and wailing vocal style with strange yet quirky lyrics about death and despair. The closing track is the near-seven minute title track with chilling keyboards, a slow but powerful drum fill, and an eerie production. Smith sings in his wailing vocal style to lyrics of despair set in a harrowing world as it’s a wonderful cut that closes the album.

The 2006 deluxe edition of the album features the original album remastered under Robert Smith’s supervision to complement its layered yet atmospheric production. The second disc of the record is filled with live rarities plus studio demos and alternate takes plus unreleased demos from Smith that would feature early versions of songs for the next album The Head on the Door.

The first four tracks are demos made by Robert Smith for the tracks You Stayed…, Ariel, A Hand Inside My Mouth, and Sadacic where the first three tracks features lyrics to future songs like Inbetween Days and Six Different Ways. You Stayed… is a strange track with swirling guitar and keyboards that has Smith singing quietly during the song. Ariel is a mid-tempo track with a rough keyboard melody as it’s accompanied by a drum machine with Smith singing in a warbling sound. A Hand Inside My Mouth is presented with a wobbly jazz bass line and blaring trumpets as Smith sings in a rough vocal style. Sadacic is a track with noisy, blaring guitars and Smith’s screaming vocals to pounding beats that includes a bass line that is similar to the one later used in Prayers for Rain from Disintegration.

The next seven tracks are studio demos for many of the songs that would appear on the album along with two demos for the B-sides Throw Your Foot and Happy the Man. Demos for Shake Dog Shake, Piggy In the Mirror, Birdmad Girl, Give Me It, and The Caterpillar are each presented in simplified versions with drum or drum machines plus keyboards and Smith’s vocals as they lack the broad production the songs would have. Yet, the demo for The Caterpillar is the most interesting as Smith sings the song with different lyrics and less flourishing rhythms the final song would have. The demos for the B-sides Throw Your Foot and Happy the Man are presented in similar forms as the former is an upbeat track while the latter is a more down-tempo track with melodic, Asian-style string plucks. The next two tracks are alternate studio mixes for the songs Dressing Up and The Wailing Wall are each presented with rough vocal mixes and less polish on some of the instrumental tracks.

The last four tracks are live bootlegs of songs from the tour for The Top that features Pornography producer Phil Thornalley on bass and Porl Thompson, who was part of an early incarnation of the Cure, on guitars and varied instruments. The three tracks for The Empty World, Bananafishbones, and The Top are wonderfully mixed with the audience cheering after each song as all the instruments are properly heard along with Smith’s vocals. The last track of the second disc is a live rarity for the song Forever (Version) which is a song with eerie lyrics as Smith plays guitar with Porl Thompson playing a screeching saxophone to the harrowing song.

Released on April 30, 1984, the album drew mixed reviews with critics and fans who were baffled by the change in the Cure’s sound. While it would later be considered one of the band’s more underrated albums of their career, The Top provided the transition that Smith needed in his attempt to move away from the heavy-Goth sound of Pornography. Smith with Lol Tolhurst, Andy Anderson, Porl Thompson, and Phil Thornalley went on tour where the band was gaining a worldwide audience in Japan, Australia, and the U.S. as The Top became the band’s first album to reach the U.S. album charts. Despite the success, the live line-up Smith had wouldn’t last as Anderson was fired following an incident in a hotel and Thornalley left due to the road experience.

While it may be the weakest record among the recordings the Cure made from 1979 to 1985, The Top is still a very exciting album from the band thanks in large part to some wonderful production and crazy experiments Robert Smith took to revamp their sound. While it’s more of a transitional record that would the Cure go into full-fledge Goth-pop for 1985’s The Head on the Door, there is also a bit of the dark elements that has made the Cure so revered in the Goth scene. Despite the fact that it’s a bit all over the place, The Top is still an excellent album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ghost World OST

The soundtrack to the 2001 film Ghost World is a mixture of music ranging from jazz and blues of the early 20th Century to complement a lot of the material from the film. Featuring other styles of music such as blues-rock, hip-hop, and Bollywood along with a score piece from David Kitay. The soundtrack to Ghost World is truly a wonderful compilation that serves as an excellent companion piece to the film.

Opening the soundtrack is Mohammed Rafi’s Jaan Pehechaan Ho, a vibrant Bollywood style track with baritone-laden guitar melodies, blaring horns, and upbeat vocals. The song is used to open the film where the character of Enid dances as it appears from the film Gumnaam. Graduation Rap by Vanilla, Jade, and Ebony is a cheesy rap song written by director Terry Zwigoff and co-screenwriter Daniel Clowes that is filled with some lame lyrics. Skip James’ Devil Got My Woman is a blues track with a smooth acoustic track and James’ somber vocals over the loss of his woman. I Must Have It by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks is a wonderful jazz track set in a mid-tempo rhythm with a blaring trumpet, swooning saxophones, and a smooth guitar drive.

Lionel Belasco’s Miranda is another mid-tempo jazz piece led by tinkling piano melodies and a somber clarinet as it’s a superb piece as each instrument plays back and forth or accompanying each other. Blueshammer’s Pickin’ Cotton Blues is a loud, blaring blues-rocker with cheesy lyrics that is more of a parody of blues songs while it features a sliding guitar that goes overboard in what is a very funny track. Let’s Go Riding by Mr. Freddie is a simple, bopping ragtime song with a washy guitar as Mr. Freddie sings songs of having a good time while talking during the song as he’s still playing. Georgia On My Mind by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks is a cover of the famed Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell conversation set in a slow yet somber ragtime jazz setting with trumpets and soft guitars.

Lionel Belasco’s Las Palmas de Maracaibo is a Latin-inspired piece with swooning flutes and trumpets with scratchy percussions and vibrant xylophones all in a slow, mid-tempo presentation as it’s a wonderful track. Clarice from Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks is an upbeat ragtime jazz piece with spurting guitars and flourishing pianos as they play to a clarinet, a saxophone, and a trumpet as they each bring wonderful notes to the performances. Craig Ventresco’s Scalding Hot Coffee Rag is a blues piece led by a wonderful acoustic guitar performance with blues melodies played through in a great instrumental piece. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks’ You’re Just My Type is another ragtime piece with a smooth, mid-tempo rhythm as it’s dominated by a trumpet playing with saxophones and clarinets accompanying it along with a guitar and piano.

Venezuela by Lionel Belasco is a somber piece led by a soft piano and a clarinet that plays slowly and picks up the pace a bit during its performance as it’s a lovely piece that plays to Enid and Seymour’s feeling of alienation and longing. Fare Thee Well Blues by Joe Calicott is a blues song that has Calicott singing and playing a swift, arpeggio-laden guitar to melancholic lyrics. C.C. & O. Blues by Pink Anderson and Simmie Dooley is a more upbeat blues track with flourishing guitars as it features vocals about trains as it’s a playful blues track. The McGee Brothers’ C-h-i-c-k-e-n Spells Chicken is a playful blues song that features some racist lyrics that involves chicken.

Robert Wilkins’ That’s No Way to Get Along is an acoustic-laden blues track with Wilkins’ vocals singing about the way things go wrong as he’s playing to a mid-tempo, washy guitar track. Dallas String Band’s So Tired is an upbeat, ragtime blues piece with arpeggio-laden guitar and mandolin piece as it features calm vocals filled morose lyrics. Bye Bye Baby Blues by Little Hat Jones is a slow, mid-tempo acoustic-blues piece as it features wailing vocals filled with melancholic lyrics to play to the sense of melancholia in the film. The closing track is the theme to the film by David Kitay with its melancholic piano flourishes and lush string arrangements to complement Enid’s sense of alienation around her.

While the soundtrack has a great collection of blues and jazz pieces, the soundtrack is a bit imperfect not due to a few tracks that don’t fit in. It’s the other pieces of music that isn’t in the soundtrack that makes the album feel incomplete. Among the omissions are various pop songs that appear in the diner scenes, Ashford & Simpson’s Solid, A Smile and a Ribbon by Patience and Prudence, and the Buzzcocks’ What Do I Get along with some score pieces by David Kitay.

The soundtrack to Ghost World is a superb soundtrack that is a bit inconsistent early on due to non-related blues and jazz pieces with the exception of Jaan Pehechaan Ho. While it is a soundtrack that fans of the film must have, it also serves a good introduction for those interested in blues and jazz pieces of the early 20th Century. In the end, the soundtrack to Ghost World is stellar collection of blues and jazz music mixed in with a bit of Bollywood that fans of the film can enjoy.

© thevoid99 2011