Thursday, August 07, 2003

THE NO ROCK REVIEW: Some people have sent us some stuff to review. So we're reviewing it:

Yellow Kid - The Ballad of Holy Joe/ Ambrose Tompkins - So Fine
Regular Beat 7"

We actually feel quite bad here, because we promised to review this but what we didn't realise at the time was that it's a vinyl release. Which wouldn't have been a problem a while back, because we clung so firmly to the vinyl dream in the face of the march of the CD we managed to survive until the mid nineties without having a CD player in the house. Since that time, though, several cats feet, a badly damp flat and - let's be honest - some cat urine conspired to kill our turntable and so, as such, at the moment, we're not able to play the record. Normally, of course, this wouldn't bother the reviewer who'd just cobble together a review from the press release and the sleeve, and would hope that would do.

But we do think they deserve better than that, and so at some point we'll get Morag to give the record a proper review as her turntable still works (she's got a broken arm at the moment, mind, so get well soons her way.

In the meantime, we're going to suggest you should buy a copy of this anyway. It's a new label, and Yellow Kid coalesced in Penny Lane, but take their cues from Guthrie (Woody, not Robin) and Houston (Cisco, not Whitney). They say it's a fine slice of alt-country pie, and we're not going to disagree.

It's available in Probe and in Fopp, but if you want to get a copy try emailing the label and offering to send some money.

Large Number - Spray On Sound
WhiteLabelOnline CD album

When Add N to (X) split, it seemed - so much like a unit they seemed - that they'd reached the end of the personal musical journeys. Spin-off projects seemed to be less likely to reach us than 'Gunther: After the Coffee House' had of making it to the screen.

Yeah, we're wrong again. Ann Shenton is back with her new project, Large Number and while, as with +N2X the band wouldn't get very far in a powercut, they're a totally different proposition. The genius of Add which the world chose to ignore was to create tracks which took the pessimism about a mechanical future found in Hazel O'Connor and Gary Numan and figured a way that mankind could come to an arrangement with it - the set-up of Metal Fingers In My Body was just Are Friends Electric with a strap-on. But Large Number isn't trying to work round machines - either musically or philosophically - but instead harks back to the optimism fifties - machines can be fun; automatons can be friendly. There's also a much wider range of styles explored - Pink Jazz comes on like Kellis garrotting Johnny Dankworth; classical music gets a chrome makeover; country and even barnyard sounds get a look in too. It's like the early days of motoring - taking the range of possibilities opened up by technology. It's not just a great debut, but a splendid reclaiming of white heat of technology for the purposes of better living; machines not for their own sake, but for what they can do for you; cake mixers rather than The Matrix. Breathable and splendid.

Various Artists - Feedback to the Future
Mobile Germany Compilation CD

Ride - Waves
Ignitions BBC Sessions CD

As the era of shoegazing got crushed by the in-rush of the first stirrings of Britpop, the new generation were quick to deride the scene which had celebrated itself (even, in Blur's case, to deny they were part of the scene at all) and as such, the music of the time has been quickly dismissed as being little more than a night-time effluent from boys who were such big girl's blouses they didn't even have the guts to wear big girl's blouses, and girls who wore glasses.

Ten years on, and the era is starting to come to the surface of pop archaeology again. These two albums provide a handy starting point for those too young to remember the times when stage invasions were feared because they might disrupt the effects pedals and for the greybeards of scene to correct some self-imposed gaps in their collection(all of whom were still clinging madly to vinyl at the time - Shoegazers were the 'Japanese units deep in the jungle' of the Format World War II, fighting on, refusing to believe the war was lost).

'Feedback...' rounds up eleven shoe tracks from 91-92, and they're pretty well chosen. As ever with these historical snapshot things, there's room for argument - Drop Nineteens had the spirit, but were American and as such, in a special way, didn't quite count; Blind Mr Jones were always more Camden Lurch and, more to the point, rubbish; Swervedriver only ever really qualified as being part of things because they came from Oxford and one of their Dads wrote for the Oxford Mail, a crucial factor in nurturing the Thames Valley focus of the not-quite-a-genre. Including them here is a shrewd move, though - through Craig Vines tshirt, they're probably the most well-known of the acts on this compilation amongst the downlaod generation. No Boo Radleys? And, to me, the lack of a contribution from the Charlottes seems like a snub, even although I guess it wasn't.

But as we step inside and bravely read the tracklisting - all those people, all those dreampops, where are they now? Adorable, Slowdive, Pale Saints, Telescopes, Ride... behind the fringes there were some real talents, many of whom continued to make music but few of whom ever troubled the feature pages of the Melody Maker again. A compilation is great, but it really makes you yearn for a reunion.

If the scene had a big name, it was Ride. I'm biased - I used to sleep on streets in a bid to see as many Ride gigs as I possibly could (one lovely night behind a hotel in Paddington; another the good people at Oxford Police Station let met overnight in their waiting room) - but the combination of pretty faces and chimerical music took them far - unfortunately, too far, into a doughy, proggy, heartbreaking misdirection, interneccine warfare and eventually, splitting. Mark Gardener continued on solo; Andy Bell surprised us all by forming the bellicose Hurrican Number One and then joining the even-more-bellicose Oasis. But before it all went wrong, they were special, and this collection of Peel Sessions (a great chance for me to replace my wobbly off-air taping) shows just how special. Most of the material is alternative versions of stuff available elsewhere - Like A Daydream, Chelsea Girl - but there are a couple of real gems; most notably 'Sight of You', their Pale Saints homage. Yes, incestuous maybe. But that's why they called it the scene that celebrated itself. See?

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