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The Greatest albums

23 December 05 words: Various
Ian Brown, John Lennon, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, The Beta Band, Baggamics, The Leano, John Vanderslice, Fixit Kids and more

Ian Brown
The Greatest


This 2005 greatest hits compilation merely glides across the elite from Ian Brown's first four solo albums. A distance away from the front man who was the Stone Roses, Brown appears to have matured through sound and found a place where both he and his music can live in safe haven. Distinctive vocals and psycho-delving lyrics produce a sound seemingly inimitable and symbolic of Browns talents.
The collection summarizes a turning of phase and a growth in experimentation. Ian Brown is not afraid to rummage in the depths of ethnical sound nor is he opposed to taking risks against the norm…he’s not another bandwagon passenger..Ian Brown travels alone.
All classics are included in this sought after anthology. Sharp groove edged Dolphins were Monkeys and the beautifully engaging Forever and a Day lie perfectly alongside new tracks Return of the Fisherman and All Ablaze. Without forgetting collaborations with UNKLE and Noel Gallagher, Ian Brown has created a personal indication of where he’s at and where he intends to go and tracks like his breathtaking F.E.A.R subliminally advertise this intention.
There are few artists today who will grab the power of music by the balls and interpret their own reaction. Ian Brown is a unique lyricist and a powerful artist. This greatest hits album gives reason for his strut and becomes the perfect recipe for cramming all his capacity into a perfectly formed nutshell.
 

www.ianbrown.co.uk

Michelle Bayton



The Beastie Boys
Solid Gold Hits (Capitol
)

It’s hard to believe, but the Beastie Boys have now been together for 24 years. Over that time they’ve changed their image and style on several occasions, always pushing to boundaries of the current scene.
This album has hits from across the decades. From Fight for your right, to So What'cha Want, Sabotage and Intergalactic. They’re all on here and they all rock, in a hiphop kind of way. It’s hard not to like the Beastie Boys. In their younger days they were a loudmouthed and brash, but exciting bunch of kids. They had girls in cages at their gigs and they encouraged people to go out and pull the symbols off the front of VW vehicles. In more recent times they have transcended into Buddhist monks of hiphop and apart from that embarrassing scrape with the Prodigy over Smack My Bitch Up, they have always retained their cool!
For hardcore BB fans who already have all the albums there is probably no need to buy this especially if you already have the more complete Sounds of Science released a couple of years ago (…but then again if you’re that much of a collector you probably will anyway). For anyone else looking for a CD to buy a hiphop fan this Christmas, this is a good un!



www.beastieboys.com

Roger Mean



The Best Of...
The Beta Band (Astralwerks)


The Beta Band were something of an enigma in British music. With a total of four full-length releases (counting their Three EPs compilation), it may seem a little premature for a retrospective, but since they disbanded at the end of 2004, it's a worthwhile exercise.
In their time The Beta Band lurched through a sometimes-bizarre kaleidoscope of indie rock and ambient texture, creating solid pop songs out of playful futurism. DJ John MacLean fashioned a rolling pastiche of samples and sounds that blended perfectly with drummer Robin Jones' lumbering beats. Meanwhile, vocalist Stephen Mason completed the triangle with his moaning tone and rambling lyrics (when legible). Songs included here like Dry the Rain, Dr. Baker and Squares (the latter from 2001's Hot Shots II).
Since then they have gone their separate ways and Mason has formed King Biscuit Time. This is a good showcase of some of the best bits of a band whose fans included Radiohead, Beck and Oasis.
The two-disc set also includes a sterling live recording from one of their triumphant farewell gigs at the shepherds Bush empire with live favourites Dog’s got A Bone and Inner Meet Me. Gone but not forgotten…



www.betaband.com

Claudia Kowalski



John Lennon Reissues
Walls and Bridges (Capitol)
Sometime in New York City (Capitol)


As Notts Rapper Scorzayzee said in his song Heroes “John Lennon would have changed the world if he was still alive.” There’s no denying that in his time this gobby Liverpudlian music god certainly did make an impact on the world of popular music and entertainment. The Beatles are and will surely remain the biggest rock and roll band ever.
With all the recent press surrounding the 25th anniversary of his murder, you can’t help wondering what the world would be like if he was still around. You hope that he’d be kicking off alongside Bob Geldof to try and even the scales of poverty across the world. Mick Jagger, but with more politics and less wrinkles. It wasn’t to be though, but he did leave us his legacy of music. Plenty of his albums are being re-released this Christmas and this might be an opportunity to rediscover the man.
Sometime in New York City (Remastered) came hot on the heels of Imagine, arguably his most balanced and artistically accomplished solo record, this album-length harangue (with a "bonus" live disc ) takes on all the de rigueur victims and causes of the day, from feminist hardships (Woman Is the Nigger of the World) to American injustice (John Sinclair, Born in a Prison, Attica) and the Irish Troubles (Sunday Bloody Sunday, Luck of the Irish). Though it features many of Lennon's stellar Plastic Ono Band sidemen (Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Voorman, Eric Clapton, Jim Keltner) and the presence of legendary producer Phil Spector at the helm, many would say it’s a tad over-political and be warned, it also has extensive cameos from Yoko. It’s still an interesting chapter in his life though.
Walls and Bridges was the remains of Lennon’s "lost weekend". Alcohol dominated his life during this period. While it doesn't measure up to his first two solo albums, it more than compensates with melodic, rich songs. The best tracks here stand up very well to Lennon's best material such as Going Down on Love, #9Dream, Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out and Surprise, Surprise.
It also features Lennon's biggest solo hit before his death Whatever Gets You Through the Night recorded with Elton John. Fans know the story that John predicted it would be a number one and bet Lennon that it would be. Elton challenged Lennon to appear in concert with him to play it if it did hit the top spot. True to his word, Lennon performed the song with Elton (though it is missing his performance of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which Elton John had released as a single at the time).
It’s always good to look back at the work of a genius. These might well be two of the muddier patches in the career of John Lennon, but they still ooze musical talent, an appetite for experimentation and some serious soul. Rock on!



www.lennon.net

Jared Wilson




Souljah Clique
Baggamics 2

Home-grown, narrative hip hop from the roots of Bristol’s illicitly respected underground scene, Souljah Clique’s Baggamics 2 publicizes realist vibes through self-governing compilations.
Accessible sound and computerized beats underlie dark vocal rhyming which conveys intelligence only true to those in the grime of the south west. Eclectic influences chisel through the 35 track album pieced together by featured independent artists from all around the UK. Melodic intros comparative to the later work of BB King and dark and deep poetic message driven from the heart of the Wu Tang give this mix sufficient gelling yet take not from the pure innocence of what is a methodical message from the streets.
Most tracks on Baggamics 2 are derived from original remixes or produced by the band and feature artists such as Manage, CLG, K.Ners, Jedi Mics, 10Shott & Late, Klashnekoff, Da Label and Oshin 57th Dynasty just to name a few. An intentional flow throughout allows track after track to convey similar atmospheric twang whilst still maintaining variety and understated demonic vibe. Baggamics 2 represents a reality so true in Souljah Cliques releases, so true in fact that this album is definitely worthy of a listen.



 

Michelle Bayton



The Leano
Steps to Leanoland (demo)


Amateur and consistent, ‘Steps to Leanoland’ is a mix of rap, reggae and poetry pretty much focusing on everything to do with life and its occupancies.
Ambient beats which sound admirably home produced build track after track of chilled out and melodic input springing slight comparisons to Faithless and maybe at times Jurassic 5. Twisted Tongues one of the better tracks on the album is ridden with dope induced beats and insightful stories…but then that’s pretty much the same idea throughout the album. The Leano’s vocals have a raw and old skool sound, he’s simplistic and holds a few good ideas in structuring and sampling.
My general feel for the album can be compared to a delightful buffet. Your presented with treat after treat of pleasing material, easy to digest and relatively simple on the palette ..but then after mouthful and mouthful of the same kind of taste, your stomach feels full and you start to suffer from indigestion only associated with over indulgence. It’s good but it all just stays a bit too samey. Not a ba deffort though.



 

Michelle Bayton


You Judas
Discover Mutiny.


Yet again another barbed wire throat slitting musical addition to a genre already full of lame attempters, however, this time the stab comes in the form of a slightly more believable band, You Judas.
Clearly political and unmistakeably angry, Discover Mutiny isn’t just bulked up by an enraged package of life haters with no real cause - there actually seems to be an underlying message. Domination, corrupt leadership and world tormenters thread through dark, atmospheric guitars and an array of psycho-theatrical drums similar to thought evoking voids created by bands like Radiohead and Bullet for my Valentine.
Title track Discover Mutiny aptly sends a wave of chill down your spine and leads you into a well of your own malice and hate for all that is crooked. All tracks sum up what is a pretty powerful album but it’s not really something I’d recommend as suitable listening amidst the joys of your Christmas dinner. This album is best served chilled in a darkened room alongside a bubbling broth of demonic fluid. A praiseworthy release and a real thought provoker.


 

Michelle Bayton




John Vanderslice
Five Years

From a man most famous for his production skills comes an album of his greatest songs from the last five years. A clear example of his talent and a collection of razor edged indie-pop concoxions summarise just how seriously John Vanderslice takes his profession.
Clear links to Placebo’s morbid thrashy indie persuasion and a relatively happier take on The Smiths’. Five years is an album which offers a wave of inspiration and diversity from its delegated genre. The beautifully harmonic lullaby feel of Trance Manual by far erases everything else from the album and takes you sleepily away on a beautiful melodic blanket which subsequently crashes you back down to earth with the contrasting early nineties punk-indie influences in Time Travel. The album is as eclectic as any artist can be focussing on one specific style of music.
Vocally, John Vanderslice isn’t exceptional but the countless textures and layers ridden throughout several tracks purifies his sound and creates a cutting and soulful listening. In principle I feel that his attempts can be levelled on a par with bands like Arcade Fire in the sense that their style is taken and built upon one attitude as opposed to creating deliberate commercially pleasing ‘pop’ songs.
However, with the exception of a couple of tracks, ‘Five years’ isn’t a mind-blowing or pioneering achievement…but it is a summary of John Vanderslices’ talents and absorption into music and the result is definitely worth a listen.



www.johnvanderslice.com

Michelle Bayton



Fixit Kids
The Easy Way out


Fixit Kids second full length album The Easy Way Out is a self contained DIY attempt at what has become a genre of punk death-metal hardcore.
Concrete blocks of guitar, screaming gravely vocals and drums that don’t quite meet their intentions create an album of dark melodic influences with an extremely amateur twang.
The Derby based band extract inspiration from bands like Iron Maiden right through to Queens of the Stone Age and use these influences to produce what is essentially and credibly a fairly eclectic album for its genre. Their style and expectations are apparent and they succeed in creating this fairly unstructured free flowing ensemble of self pity and fatality enthused tracks.
The Easy Way Out is an album best played at decibels worthy of speaker destruction… angry music needing to be played at angry levels. Every track builds up a preparation for explosion and additions like meat and Suit although bizarrely similar, seem to summarise ‘Fixit Kids’ natural contempt for life and their musical extraction from the bleached nirvana era but with less success. The album is a not a bad attempt, but its certain that these boys have a long way to go before they make it.



 

Michelle Bayton



 

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