Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Barcelona - "Simon Basic" Barcelona is a 4 piece from Washington DC, and one would not be far off calling them this generations answer to the Human League or Gary Numan. This, their first LP, has a little more of a mix of indie guitar popism than they will on their next album Zero One Infinity but the techno keyboard beat is nevertheless there. What first becomes obvious is this band can lay down a great beat and writes songs as catchy as all hell. Songs like Sunshine Delay or Indian Names have the kind of riffs that have you singing them all week long. The lyrical quality isn't "deep", but it's always good even when written from a childlike view as in Indian Names which is a song about being a kid stuck inside on a rainy day and you resort to building a "tree-fort in the den". Lead singer Jason Korzen has a very good voice which lends itself well to the songs, and he's supported somewhat on this LP by Bassist Jennifer Carr who has a very, well her voice isn't cute but kind of bordering on innocence with a childlike tinge, yet there is this spunky barbed edge to it. She doesn't do as much singing on this LP as the next, backing on a few and singing solo on only one track, I Know What You Think Of Me. Often these days boy/girl duo singing tends to be more annoying than anything, but they harmonize well together. This is just a great initial effort from what is probably one of the best US bands right now. It's the kind of start that is great already and shows much room for growth, and grow they do. A real keeper.
Label ~ March, 11 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Barcelona - "Zero One Infinity" On this their second LP Barcelona make good their transformation to the synth wave Gods of indie pop. The LP starts with the track Studio Hair Gel which begins with very heavy techno synth stylings, and what's more, Basist Jennifer Carr sings the song solo, not singer Jason Korzen, and it's all hers. Her singing is great, sassy as ever, and the song has great lyrics like Your hair looks like Robert Smith, brings to mind the word obsessed. She also does more singing duty on this LP, which has very slick production values. I would have to say nobody is making this kind of music as well as this band is these days. There are a slew of really great tracks on this LP, the pinnacle probably being Replicant which has soaring synths, cutting guitar lines and a driving beat and aside from the voice could easily be mistaken for prime Flock of Seagulls. This is the sound of a band really finding itself, and everything came together for them on this LP. What's more, I saw them and they absolutely kick some major ass live. I saw them triple billed with Trembling Blue Stars and the Ocean Blue (yeah, what a night) and while everyone was good, they left the biggest impression. They were quite remarkable live, and I've seen a few bands in my day. It was particularly enjoyable watching Jennifer slap that bass while singing Studio Hair Gel, as all the sassyness in her voice is expressed even more so physically on stage. The paramount of the saintly-yet-sassy pop girl bitch Godesses. (I believe she was even chewing gum while singing. Complete contempt) One of my absolute fave bands right now, a gem live, and 2 great LP's. By all means give them a hear.
Label ~ March, 14 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Barcelona - "Trans Human Revolution" I am a bit ashamed. I've had this for a long while now and even had the temerity to interview this band and the review is only going up now. Some of my feelings for this outing can be culled from that interview if you read it, and the opinion is of course a good one. It's my opinion that this does wade closly to their last LP in basic sound but perhaps the songs are perhaps more generic. Ooohh, that almost sounds bad. Actually, I think what I mean is that this has a more even temperment as an album. What the hell does that mean?! It must be me, as I'm having a hard time pidgeon-holing this album. I think that what I'm trying to say is that this band is getting it's sound so "down" that it's becoming effortless, or at least it sounds that way. Much like the new Vitesse LP, this doesn't have any what appear to be killer cuts on it, but on a whole it is all quite above average. As I said in the interview, I really think I like the songs that Jen sings like Human Simulation and The Power of Jen the most. Her vocal skills seem to be growing and she still has that edge to her voice that I like. About the only complaint (as mentioned in the interview) is the soccer hooligan noise at the beginning and end which throws the track listing off. Otherwise, this is a really solid and great effort. The more I listen to this album the more I like it. It wasn't the kind that hit me fast but it sure has staying power and it's growing. I rated it a 9.7 first, but no I think, it's a 10. Without question one of the best 5 bands in the US now. And what's worse I missed their New Years Eve party......
Label ~ Pulcec, 13 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.2
Michael Barrett - "Couches and Carpet" When I found out this was the guy from the Essex Green I almost cringed. T-baby got a record by them once, and oooeeerr, was it horrible. I couldn't even bring myself to review it for the archive it was so bad. But this was given to me, so I had an obligation to review it. (damn, I knew that would come back and bite me on the ass!) To my surprise however, this actually wasn't awful. I'm not sure if it's good, well, I guess it is good but it certainly isn't always my cup of tea. The songs are very bare and while not always slow the LP as a whole has an air of languidity about it. But I don't mean to imply that that's bad. Track three for example, Yesterday and Today reminds me alot of Ultra Vivid Scene and it's pretty good. Then it shifts to a female singer on the next cut Crazy which almost sounds like a Linda Rondstadt 70's type slow ballad song. I guess what bothers me about this is the almost too diverse diversity on it, especially coming in at 18 tracks, as it not only doesn't help give me a cohesive feel for it not all of it works or is good. When he sticks to the basics as on the slow but sweet the Beach Song the results are quite good. Of course there is the obligatory track with the "record popping" noise on it which frankly is really starting to piss me off. My records don't make noise and if you were a record slob and that's your nostalgic memory it doesn't mean I want to hear it. That's a phenomenon I hope goes away soon. Anyway, close to half of this record is actually not bad while the rest is easily forgotten, which should have caused me to rate it about a 6. But being 18 tracks long that means about 8 songs are still pretty fair to pretty good. So as an album I'd say it failed being 50% crap, but as a value you're getting almost an albums worth of good cuts anyway. If you like
creative introspective american pop, you'll probably find enough to like. If you like cutting guitar or dance pop, then you'll probably not. I doubt I'll listen to it again as a whole, but I will certainly pick tracks off of it, and I think that's the biggest problem with todays indie scene. There is too much "I'm doing it to please myself" involved, as nobody is making a living out of doing it. So any crap track they want gets stuck on nowadays. If this guy had a producer and manager which really forced him to be more pop friendly (like it was in the 80's) I think he could actually do quite well. Oh well, kids will be kids.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 18 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Bart & Friends - "10 Songs About Cars & Girls" First off, this LP isn't 10 tracks, it's 33. (It's Bart and Friends) But even at that Bart contributes 12 cuts, not 10, with the friends contributing the other 21. (the friends being The Cats Miaow). This whole affair is scores of different Aussies singing scores of different tunes. The first cut,Are You Guys Into Wings? is by Josh Meadows of the Steinbecks and is a brilliant soft guitar song, probably the best cut on the LP. However, the next track CBGBS is a very ambient number. There's a lot of variety on this disc, so if you need alot of structure in an LP (or at least similarity), you might not like this. They could have called it "A very various compilation". The Cats Miaow tracks are anything from live songs to rarities and again there's alot of variety. However, for 33 songs it only clocks in at about an hour, which means 2 min or less per song, which really adds to the multiplicity of this disc. It doesn't come with a jewel case, only a sleeve, but it also is only $8 or less and considering the variety and amount of stuff on it I think it's a pretty worthwhile thing to get. There's only a few really brilliant tracks, but most is quite passable if not very good, with nothing being bad and most of it coming off as semi-lo-fi mid 80's Britpop. (how bad can that be?) If you'd like some diversity, look no further.
Label ~ Drive-In Records, 33 Tracks, year unknown
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Bartlebees - "The Bartlebees" Years ago, Phil Wilson of the June Brides sent me an email he got from a Japanese guy who wanted to interview him. I thought it was precious because he only knew just enough english to make the letter hilarious (I have a copy somewhere). Anyway, in it he was asking to interview Phil for "Cookie Scene" zine which I had not heard of. That's the most twee-diculous name I had ever heard for a magazine but what's funny is the guy said he had his own small label. How that segues here is one the bands he had that he was most proud of was, yep, you guessed it, the Bartlebees. Since then, I have heard countless references to this band, been told they have been around a while and did actually have several releases (even though I couldn't ever find them) and they became one of those enigmatic mysteries of the scene everyone heard of but nobody knew, so I forgot about it. So I'm doing an LP search on Parasols website a while ago, and right there in the B's where it belongs was this, their first album. I clicked "add to cart" without thinking or batting an eye. So how is it? Well, when the opener You Are Still Beautiful opened to a dis-jointed beat, and heavily german accented english vocals sung very flatly to a lo-fi recording. My eyebrow was indeed as high as Mr. Spocks. However, there was no disputing that it did have some bizarre kind of charm. Overall, the songs do go fairly along the route I had expected, although had I imagined a sick german calf singing c86 on bad equipment while on the Sarah label I'd have pretty much nailed it. (Oh, and add a slight dash of quirk) While pop sensibilities are there, there isn't a lot of sense to it, and that's the conundrum of this album in a nutshell. One would be inclined to say that this was either brilliant, or it's crap. Actually, I am thinking it might be brilliant crap. And as the last song Down trails off to a cacophony of noise, only to have the stylus race to an inner groove designed to play a loud "burrappp" tone once every revolution until you stop it, I can only indeed say, brilliant crap. If you can play vinyl, I'd get this while it can be had.
Label ~ Little Teddy, 12 Tracks, 1993? 12" LP
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Bauer - "Baueresque" This is the second long player from this male/female duo from Amsterdam and it isn't even new, but it only recently became available and I was instantly smitten by it's imaginative songs, lovely vocals and great pop friendly attitude. It only took the second song, Libitz In A Car to completely bowl me over and steal my heart. Sonja Van Hamel has a to die for voice with an edge of angst very similar to Karen Carpenter. Her partner Berend Dubbe also sings occasionally on here and while his tracks are more avant garde they add an interesting air to the proceedings. While one might be tempted to call this a typical electronica album, there is nothing typical about it and there is also a lot more than electronica about it. Pop, soul and jazz are touched on and styles intermingle freely with magical results. The butterfly packaging is quite apt, as this is carefree, beautiful and it flutters about with joy and happiness. The only problem is it went as fast as it came and nobody seems to be carrying it anymore. We are trying to rectify that and hopefully we'll have it in the Popsicle shop in the near future. In any case definetly one for the list.
Label ~ Excelsior, 14 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Baxendale - "You Will Have Your Revenge" Baxendale is a group of 3 youngsters from the sweaty streets of London. They are singer, programmer Tim Benton, guitarist Alex Mayor and singer keyboardist Senay Sargut.
What stands out straight off about this record is it's fun filled attitude, and distinct lack of seriousness. What also stands out are the catchy beats and great singing. The packaging is also nice with a futuristic travelling theme and the insert has pics of the group on would be "baxmetro" railpass cards wearing the obligatory aluminium (that's al-U-min-E-um for you americans) space garments. I like it already. The self-effacing behavior continues right on track one, Music For Girls, where singer Benton tells the story of his brother telling him the music he listens to "is music for girls". I suppose if you belong to the modern type who like listening to Eminem talk about raping women then this isn't the record for you, sorry. Like Jim Alexander of NME who called this record "potently evil in it's banality". I suppose Jim prefers listening to songs about violating women, there's the lad. For the rest of us, it's a great song, and a great start. I particularly like song 3, The Future, which is sung by Senay (female) and the song almost reminds me of Colorbox. (yes, you probably don't know Colorbox, but they're a great thing) I love the way it ends too, with the boys chiming in;
"We're all heading for the space age"
and she inserts "Oooh, Ooh"
Completely head explodingly pop-tastic. The fun filled lyrics continue on the next track, Hanging Out With Her".
"It's staying light till really late
it's really great
and Birmingham is not so far away from here
and it's almost summer now.
So keep your virgin airlines,
for the first time.
All that stuff is not enough to stop me from staying here,
hanging out with her this year."
It's the kind of song you ponce about the house to singing unashamedly when no ones around. God bless pop. This Le Grand Magistery version has more tracks than the original UK one, and thats a point people seem to complain about, as alot of the extra stuff is dance tracks etc.. I don't see what the problem is with that. The first 5 cuts on this LP are giants, the next 5 are very good, and after that it comes and goes from good to very good. It's a dance pop paradise. If you like the Pet Shop Boys, this one's a keeper.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 16 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Beaumont - "This is..." Beaumont is the next incarnation of Paul Stewart from the band Blueboy. Only this time out, he's embraced what seems to be the flavour of recent times, a nostalgic romp thru late 60's early 70's pre disco Burt Bacharach easy listening cocktail pop. The LP has a number of instrumentals on it which help add to that feel and the 1st track, the predictably named Introduction is one of them. The next track, Bacharach may seem overtly obvious only the song is very Spanish sounding, castinets and all, and teamed up with the CD's imagery, that of a Ricardo Montelban suited lookalike on the back cover had me worried at first. However the LP settles down after that, and the next track Hey Barbara settles more into the direction they're taking us, melding Twee and Bacharach in an interesting way. Other standouts include Girlie which has a very suave, sexy coolness and Girls and Maths which starts slowly, but builds into a nice song. The record does have it's odd moments, such as the song Aftershave which is recorded to sound like a noisy record. As an audiophile who's records don't make noise to begin with, I don't need to hear that. There's no nostalgia in it for me, and it ruins the song somewhat because it draws your attention away from the music in it's obviousness. On a whole, this LP sometimes gets a little too contrived, but there are a number of quite good songs on it.
Postscript - I wrote this review many years ago when this "Bach-pop" revival was new and a bit of a shock to my old school sensibilities. Now that time has passed, I have since come to like and appreciate this album quite a bit. (still not the record noise, but the rest of it is very good) So it's score has been adjusted to mirror my feelings of how it has grown on me.
Label ~ Siesta, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Beaumont - "Discotheque a'La Carte" I like this release even though it is a bit more overtly poppy and less "European" than the LP was. It starts with the title track, which is very upbeat and wavers between 1974 US early disco-chart pop and the Pet Shop Boys. It's a pretty damn fabby song, and I like it alot. The second cut is the Bacharach/David ditty the Look of Love and is covered well and is as would be expected a great song. Now the trouble. That's about it. The third "cut", In Conversation With is nothing more than an imaginary taking the piss phone conversation where Beaumont is discussed with confusion by music industry people "How can we sell this, and besides, one of them actually plays an instrument.......no, the other one". It's funny if too true to home. The 4th cut is just a remix of the title track, and not I think better. So there it is, the stuff is great but it's really just 2 songs. If you're the type that HAS to buy singles, this is a must get. That said, if you're not (like me) then hopefully both tracks will be on the next LP, and then you'll be in like flint. Till then, I sit a-quiver for the LP.
Postscript - Well, as time has shown we got no flint. This didn't appear on any subsequent album but fortunately someone gave me a copy. It has grown to be my favourite beaumont work but sadly the only one of it's kind. After this they departed these waters never to return again apparently.
Label ~ Siesta, 4 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Beaumont - "Tiara" This is outing number two and I wasn't sure what to expect this time as the last single was a real departure from the Bacharach vibe that defined their first lp. Vocals are handled entirely by Cath Close and while she sings it well I had hoped to hear more of Paul like I'd heard on that last single. Such is life. This album is more polished and complete than the last one, and while it does at times still plumb the salsa and marimbo waters it also takes the occasional two step on the disco floor, and it works. On Glance Across the Room we are treated to the whispering sweetness of cath backed by salsa rhythms only to find the next track Club Class meld modern techno dance and 70's AOR disco chic. About the only critique I have is again there are a few tracks which have to feature record pops and noise to give you the "atmosphere" of an old record from your parents collection. (or was that yours?) Anyway, I can live without that but apparently it's a trend not going away any time soon. As for this it is perhaps their most accessible work to date if a little short on length. (would have benefitted from the addition of that last single) It paints some lovely if not entirely new delights and it would probably make not a half bad record to shag to. Still groovy, baby.......
Label ~ Siesta, 9 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Beaumont - "No Time Like The Past" This is apparently the hot topic album of this winters catalogue. A few people in correspondence with me have brought it up, and distilled their comments amount to "...and by the way, WHAT the hell is up with Beaumont? What the hell does he think he's doing?" Well, I had to admit to them that I don't know him personally and in fact I never asked him what it is the hell that he is doing. Then just the other day I went over to T-Baby's new place for the first time, saw this on the table amid a pile of stuff and so I casually asked him what he thought. I got the "it suts" look. My goodness I thought with a chuckle...... but to understand that better we must go back to the beginning. The irony here is I bought this with some high hopes last year when it came out, the cover looked cool and all, and I thought it might be one of those good old "redeemer" albums which would make up for past wayward err...ways. Then it came, I put it on.......and I hated it. Paul Stewart apparently has given up all singing duties to Cath Close and any comparison to anything previously done by him is long gone and out. So there it was, I hated it. I was one of these complainers..... But then, late one night I put it on again. I knew what it wasn't so I figured maybe I better find out what it was, and in the sweet delirium that comes when our pre conceived notions are put to bed I found the redemption I had been looking for. This IS a great recording, it IS a lovely album, it IS a pleasure to listen to. What it is NOT is like any previous work by this man or any of his bands. If you can swallow that grain of truth before going in, you'll serve yourself well. So what is this then? Well, there is a sort of country vibe to it and in fact track three Next To Nothing could pass for the Cowboy Junkies, music, vocals, vibe and all. There's even a really nice country tinged instrumental with pedal steel called Vintage and on the way to Vermont last November when my wife first heard it on a comp disc I made I asked what she thought......and she promptly declared she disliked it. Apparently there's no pleasing most people in regard to this album. However, aside from only one really pointless track, (a resurrected instrumental anthem to record noise, the only tie on here to Beaumonts past that should die already) this is a very enjoyable and finely recorded and played work that in many respects is a quintessential Siesta release. So, are you going to hate him for it? Well, if different is bad then this is indeed awful, but if you can measure it on it's own merits you may find a record you enjoy quite a bit. In time I did, and lets hope the others do as well.
Label ~ Siesta, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 2.6
Beauty Shop - "Yr Money or Yr Life" I got this Lp solely on the strength of the song Death March which I got on the copy of Parasols Sweet Sixteen Vol 2. The song is a litany of the damned, sung at the moment of ones final redemption. Brilliantly morose, with a light arrangement and insightful lyrics sung by John Hoeffleur who's voice is as dark as molasses, it makes me conjure visions of a forlorn cowboy lamenting some lost love the moment before vultures pick him to death. So I eagerly awaited the LP, of which this was the first cut. The next however, Lies, has a very poky almost hillbilly sound to it and it didn't appeal at all. On the track I Got Issues Hoeffleur sings "I made a mountain of coke, that I snuffed up my nose, I wrote fuck on all my clothes, cause that's the life I chose.." Well, all I can say is the insightful lyrics of that first song are nowhere else to be found on this recording. On top of that, this song suffers from some bad and unmusical chord progressions and is just plain awful. The record basically holds to their sound of light brushed drum and acoustic guitar and often sounds similar to early Violent Femmes but many of the songs are just too slow, and those that aren't are very disjointed affairs with either lackluster lyrics, poor arranging or both. I give Death March a 10, as it is just brilliant. The rest earns a 2 for effort only. If they can survive their teething stages and find a more musical bent and pen better songs I believe they have promise, otherwise they will go the way of all one song wonders. (or is that Oneders?)
Label ~ Mud, 13 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5
Belle And Sebastian - "sing...Jonathan David" I'll say right away I thought their last LP was pretty much of a lame affair, so I can't say I was on the edge of my chair waiting for their next outing. This single is it, and aside from it's cover being well, rather ugly, what I said before still goes. My first gripe is that the less Stuart Murdoch sings, the less I like this band. I don't know if he's having a Paul Heaton "limelight" crisis or if it's just a case of others wanting to sing more. My feeling is if they do then they should form their own band then. Although track one Jonathan David starts with about as "belle" a sounding piano riff as is possible, it does not feature him singing. I can't remember who it is that they're letting do it, but the guy's voice grates on my ears. Murdoch sings track 2 Take Your carriage Clock and Shove It which while it posseses a great belle-esque title that's about all it has. The final track The Lonliness of a Middle Distance Runner is actually an older song of theirs and has been released before. Not that it's bad but been there, done that. So that's it. I still feel they put out too much too fast, and are now stuck with doing a parody of themselves as they ponder a "direction". Unless they can find a way to extricate themselves, in my case at least, this love affair is over.
Label ~ Jeepster, 3 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Belle & Sebastian - "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" I must admit I was not overly expectant of this. This was a truly gigantic band of our time which I had come to feel had mostly shot it's bolt. Redemption however is a beautiful thing. The opener here, Step Into My Office Baby has all the sexual ingenue of their early days with lines like "I want to give you the job, a chance at overtime. Say, my place at nine?" and "She gave me some dictation" and "..I'd like to take down your little red dress.." . Lyrics such as this are VERY tough to get away with, and not only has Belle managed to do it, they do it with such a wry irony and magic that it still hits home despite their obvious taking the piss. This was always their strong point, and all of their magic is focused to startling brilliance on this record. Stewart never sounded better, they were never better musically and it's a lyrical joyride. The music has gotten more produced, and has absorbed a decided feel of the 60's but mostly 70's, but they excel at making it their own to such a degree that while the piracy seems obvious it's not, and it only lends a genuinely familiar feel to the songs. That was also another of their strengths, that their songs become so personal so quickly. This record banters about from the brilliance of the Chicago like I'm A Cuckoo to the equally profound Stay Loose which really reminds me of the Kinks in their glory. This is truly a fitting record for their debut on a major and it is a glorious thing of brilliance, that comes from somewhere in the back of the head and hits you right in the heart. Did they just reclaim the title of best band in the world again? They may indeed have. Never have they been more spot on, and never has one of their albums despite their past greatness seemed so "right". Run to get this children and enjoy....enjoy. Indeed, it is a marvel of our time.
Label ~ EMI Rough Trade, 12 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.2
Belle & Sebastian - "The Life Pursuit" I was in no rush to review this because they hardly need my press and you were either going to or not going to get it anyway regardless of what I said. A number of people have beaten this album about the bush simply because the band had the temerity to alter their sound. To me that's the sign of intelligence, because you simply can't keep repeating yourself and as far as the public goes, if you prefer "Feeling Sinister" then go listen to it, they made that already. (What's the point of making "Sinister II"?) That said, it is all too easy to go off the rails when "altering" ones sound, or in other words reaching for an apple you cannot pick. (or worse, a fruit nobody wants to eat) In my opinion, that's what happened here. From the outset it's quintessentially them, there's no way you'd mistake it for anybody else, but the problem however is the tank was empty on this one and they tried to replace the lack of creativity by plumbing the worst of the 70's and simply put, whatever magic it is they had before is definitely missing here. It doesn't start out too bad, some of the songs are catchy despite the problems, but before the middle hits I find I could really care less, and I can't make it past that point without really wanting it off and out of the player It's also the first time I found Murdochs voice on some tracks to be genuinely annoying, as he tries to perform tricks with it neither it nor he has the pedigree for. To sum it up, if you have no idea who this band is, DON'T start here. If you do, you probably own this already anyway. As for me, this is almost vapid, and while not crap it comes too close at times for me. In fact the only interesting thing about this is the three attractive young women featured in the artwork wearing rather skimpy Scottish tinted Catholic school clothes in various states of perspired un-done-ness. So I'm sure it's bound to make them millions.
Label ~ Matador, 13 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Besties - "Singer" This was an album I was not sure if I liked at first, as the opener Prison Song comes across with a strong and somewhat askew female vocal and chorus very reminiscent of the band Snoozer. I like Snoozer however so I wasn't sure why this was hitting home with me. It changes and evolves over the course of the album so that comparsion becomes less accurate but there is no question it retains a "juvie" quality with yelling that occasionally resembles singing. (wait, reverse that) OK, perhaps I'm just being grumpy because this is the last in a long list of titles I am reviewing today. The more time I do spend with it the more I find I like it. Having a bit of variety helps, from the slightly western tinged Western Song to the squeezebox laced Pirate Song (yes, every song on here is called "something" song.) this is a somewhat diverse effort. However it is un questionably a college DIY sounding affair, not that that is bad but it is a thing that only appeals to some people. As far as that goes the songs are crafted as well as any I've heard in the genre, in some cases better, but this is the kind of thing that really boils down to taste and mood. For me right now that put it about a solid B, and I suggest you be your own judge about it.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 8 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Biker Boy - "You Got Me Wrong EP" This came along with my goody bag from Hybris and I have to say it turned me on my head when it arrived. It is four original tracks plus four remixes of the title track by other bands such as LeSport and Vapnet. Let me tell you, OH what a title track it is!You Got Me Wrong has to be the single of the year, as it simply has everything. It's so 80's, yet so fresh, with great guy gal vocals and a melody that will not get out of your head. It's the kind of song you walk around for days singing like a mindless zombie in your own little rapture, and you don't even care who hears you. In fact it's so good it unfairly overshadows the other 3 tracks which on their own are fairly good as well. Actually, it's even better than that because normally four remixes of the same track is a bit much for any song, but not this one. They are also redone differently enough from each other that it sort of becomes a symphony you lose yourself in. I'm not a big EP fan generally but this, you gotta get this.
Label ~ Hybris, 8 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5.4
Bikeride - "37 Secrets I Only Told America" I had super high hopes for this, because once I heard Jeniffer on the first Parasol Sweet Sixteen compilation I fell in love with it. This band is basically the front of singer Tony Carbone (yeah, you don't forget a name like that) When the first song Erik & Angie comes up it reminds me of Wall of Voodoo. (later on in this LP it's Wall of Voodoo covering Three Dog Night) It isn't a bad song, just not what I expected. That's Math! is next and is probably the best song on this disc. The third track, Americas' Favorite Omelettes starts super bluesy and then almost sounds like the Eagles or something. E-gads, what's going on here? Finally, my cut is next only to find IT ISN'T JENIFFER?! I still don't know what the story is with that. The Sweet 16 comp says it's from this LP, the LP has it on the back, the Dogs EP even says "taken from the 37 secrets LP" Who knows. This other song isn't bad, just a bit slow, but it would be nice to know what it really is called. From here on this LP degenerates into bizarre attempts at being clever, mixing styles that don't mix, having songs that are just long talking diatribes and so forth. It's a shame as there are some tracks like Blue Jeans which show some genuine imagination if only they were worked out a little better. This record broke my heart, I love Jeniffer and it isn't on here, the packaging of this looked really cool, it had a hip title and I had high hopes for them after hearing Jeniffer. Oh, so why is Jeniffer so great? It's just the perfect american pop song. I don't generally even like very american sounding bands, but this song is done so well it's an all time classic. Again, only time will tell if this band will be remembered for one song alone or more. I hope it's more.
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 13 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.1
Bikeride - "Dogs EP" I got this the same time I ordered the LP above, as if I had gotten just the other first I probably wouldn't have gotten this. That turned out to be a good thing however. The first track on this EP (LP really, it's 8 songs, that marks the beginning of LP in my understanding) is the genuine Jennifer. (to understand what I mean read the review above) Where the CD was absorbed in blues riffs and hoakum, this is a much more varied and music outing. The second track Continental Divide starts with an almost 30's charleston vibe and comes in with horns and all, but the song itself has a mid 70's pop feel. It's actually interesting. Next is Estate d'Amore whose name sounds like a Police song or something but is actually quite weird with a farsifa keyboard hammering away to a beat that sounds alot like Madness, and it even has someone doing the Professor Nutty yelling in the background. The side ends with Carl Wilson Suite which again has a retro 70's feel with horns and the works. (that really seems to be the fad now. Someone give me a nudge when they finally work their way up to the cure and smiths please) The second side starts with You Stepped On My Guitar which is an attempt at 60's fuzz grunge rock. I said an attempt. Well, it's not as bad as all that. The next track Shawna is however. ("S is for super dooper, H is for how does she do it so well, A is for awesome..You get it) The next Endlesspch is an interesting pop cut with a sad violin in it, I like it a bit. This thing ends with Handlebars which is OK. So it comes down to whether this is worth it for Jeniffer, which considering you probably don't have a turntable to play this and you can get the song on the Parasol comp with more other stuff, I'd say buy that. This is certainly better than the LP, hands down, but they still need to grow. The potential is there, certainly, and I'd give sida A here an 8.7 (Jeniffer is a 10) and side B a 5.5
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 8 Tracks, vinyl only 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Bilby - "Length of a String" This was submitted to me by the band itself, or should I say Mung from the Aussie band Bidston Moss, this being a solo project of his and at first I was not sure what to make of it. As I have long said, the toughest trick in music is making an LP which is basically slow and heartfelt and not have it be a total god damn bore. And what's more, they really tested my mettle by weaving this tapestry in the "best of" 70's girl vocalist styles. The opener, Valium starts with an odd bass line and while I thought it somewhat odd at first it's quaint charm is affecting me. The next track Home again isn't really any faster (none of it is) but I think what makes this thing work is they are all unique from the song standpoint and the vocals are heartbreaking. Of course they are similar, but the songs all have a unique feel, good lines and genuine emotion. I wasn't sure of the next track Stammer as the voice is different (3 vocalists are credited, 2 from Bidston and another girl named Jel who sings this), and it sounds like some early 70's thing, I don't know, Carol King or "I learned the game at 17" etc.... You'll know exactly what I mean if you hear it, yet the thing is now haunting me it's so beautiful. Then comes Empathy and the chorus is so beautiful and the vocals are so warm and human, aaarrrrrggghhh!!! Tracks like Ruff have a very sexy, very adult almost jazz/country Ricki Lee tinge, but it is so good I can't help but obsess over it. I started with this on the kitchen gear (my old NAD integrated and CRAP speakers), heard it on a boombox, in the car etc... and was never sure if I liked it, but it started becoming familiar. Now, as I write this I'm hearing it thru the good gear and I just fucking love it. But I still feel guilty about it like the last juror in 12 angry men. I wanted to convict, (desperately so) but it's forcing me to hang my head and say "not guilty, ....not guilty". Mung, you bastard, how did this happen to my beautiful world, .....my beautiful world!? This is like Cosmology. The data collected from a radio telescope in one odd session can throw mans entire notions about the universe upside down. This album is my Dark Matter. I don't know what it is, I can't see it or touch it, yet it's importance is obvious and it is filling the voids in my universe. I would kill to see them play live. Absolutely one of the years (and decades) best. All I can say is wow.
Label ~Ramjet Records , 11 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Bilby - "Life In The Slow Lane" As their first album arrived in my mailbox un-expected and un-announced, so did this their second long player just recently. Bilby, being the "side" project of the Aussie band Bidston Moss (who's LP's I will review, I swear!) and while the first one was pure magic I was doubtful if lightning was going to strike twice, as we all know it rarely if ever does. My feelings were somewhat akin to my first listens to that album as well. That didn't strike me well at first, although I knew it had substance, I just wasn't sure if I liked it. This one I wasn't sure of at all. So I've sat, and listened, and listened, and just as before, the miracle happened. This isn't so full of empathy (to coin their phrase) as the first, but they manage to create a very odd yet sultry mood with it even with a slight mix of styles ranging from blues to country. There are still heart rending songs, such as the ever so sweet Molokai. What's more, there is a decided ironic sexuality on this record which is a little more overt than on the last. This comes to the fore on the smoky, dark and sensual Red Wedge which has the lines like;
"Did you take it lyin down,
will you get up?
Do you wanna see
what's in my B cup?"
There's also a reference to playing on stage when young and being back lit with a see-thru dress while wearing your old panties and one breast hanging out. Although that sounds more like an urban legend than something that happens to young people on stage. Anyway, here we are again. A record so minimal, so almost nothing it should be throw away, yet it has such a presence and will grow and infect so fully if you allow it that it's quite astonishing. Mung you bastard, you DID do it again. This comes very recommended and I'm going to get to work so you can actually buy this.
Label ~ Ramjet, Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Billie The Vision & The Dancers - "I Used To Wander These Streets" This arrived somewhat out of the blue recently. I say that because they had just put out their third album last year and I was not really expecting a new one already. However, Lars Lindquist being the driving force behind this group and clearly being a driven... person, it's no surprise that this band is his cathartic outlet so a steady flood should come as no surprise. So, where does this outing find us? As the name perhaps implies this is a return to their past, both in sentiment and in musicality. The heartfelt warmth, genuine emotion and lovely arrangement found on their debut is here in spades, only while that album was a litany of pain tinged with love this one carries the light heartedness that comes from reminiscence while it holds a clear optimism for the future. Catchy, brilliant up tempo tunes such as Lily From The Middleway Street and Stuttering Duckling are the amazing sort of songs this band throws out with seeming effortlessness and they stick in your head all day. They are punctuated with touching bittersweet melodies like Someday Somehow and Hold My Hand which are perhaps the sort of thing this band does best. While their last album wasn't bad, it appeared to me that they had lost their way. (or simply ran out of things to sing about) That has clearly been rectifed and this is going to be in the running for best album of the year without a doubt. It is vibrant, musical, and accessible and you don't even have to study Freud or Kierkegaard to figure out what the hells going on this time. It is available now in our Popsicle shop, so don't wait.
Label ~ LWPTB, 11 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Billie The Vision... - "Where The Ocean Meets My hand"Well, I can't say this one is long overdue since we all were a bit behind on this band to begin with, so actually I was a bit surprised when this showed up in the old mailbox recently. This is the third effort from the band I have been most engrossed with lately, although I must say their spell is finally wearing off. On their debut they gave us one of the most impassioned looks at relationship angst probably ever assembled, and on their second they gave a glimpse into the life of a troubled trans-sexual. (Pablo Diablo) This time? This time I think Lars was almost happy. There's the odd pine for Lilly, the occasional mention of Pablo, but mostly the album is upward looking, viewing hope and happiness for once, and touring. In fact that might be the only flaw. We can hear countless songs about failed romance and it never tires, but countless songs about what happened when you were on tour (and there are a few on here) tends to become a night of family vacation slides at your Aunt Gladys house. "My goodness, is THAT the time...!". OK, I have to bust them a little because I was so glowing in the past. (nature must find balance) Still, it's a petty complaint. A more serious one is this seems to be trying to be a guitar oriented pop album, and in so doing a lot of their signature past sound (heartfelt viola, accordion, tom toms, trumpet) is mostly missing. Change is good, loss is bad, but over all this is a nice album with some very good songs, and only one or two that I could do without. It's in the Popsicle shop now and with summer just around the corner this is one of those albums for putting the top down and enjoying the drive.
Label ~ LWPTB, 13 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Billie The Vision & The Dancers - "The World According To Pablo" I almost felt bad that this their new album is just excellent, and while it is true it does not reach the meteoric heights their debut does, no other album has either. I also discovered more about this band as time went on and it appears lead singer Lars Lindquist dons womens dresses and makeup when they play live. (he comes off looking like a 1920's flapper) Why? I have no idea. I'll admit to not understanding it, which in it's own way is odd as my generation invented that, from Martin Gore wearing womens bras, to the Cure wearing lipstick to well, Boy George. I have a hard time figuring out it's purpose in this context however because he keeps singing about this girl named Lilly, but frankly I don't care. The music is too damned good. (maybe I need to break my new rules and do one last interview) This album like the first is another travelogue, this time featuring the exploits of a man named Pablo Diablo. Whether it's a pen name for Lars is anyones guess, but from the brilliant introductory song I'm Pablo to the bittersweet Go To Hell where his girlfriend tells him what for this is loaded with gems. The brightest, and possibly their best song ever is A Man From Argentina which encapsulates this band perfectly, from his unique lyrical style to the bands glorious accompaniment. In an almost Morrissey-esque fashion the song revolves around his miserable life and how he's amazed that a friend will be "the happiest girl in the world" simply because a guy from Argentina named Mono is visiting her. Twisting it gloriously, he thinks "I wanna be you, I wanna be you, I wanna be you you you, so send me a man from argentina to make me the happiest girl in the world, and come to me on Friday or Saturday or Sunday, but I can't wait till Monday...". It just doesn't get any better. The only caveat is while the debut has a lot of sexual talk it's very hard for kids to pick out or get, but this one has some fairly surprising lyrical content like "suckin cocks in the basement". That aside, these are two albums you simply must own, and I must announce it. As of right now, this is the best band in the world.
Label ~ Love Will Pay The Bills, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Billie The Vision & The Dancers - "I Was So Unpopular In School..." "...And Now They're Giving Me This Beautiful Bicycle" to call it by it's full name is the debut album by yet another brilliant swedish band. They came to my attention earlier this year when Tim came over with stuff and played their new album "The World According To Pablo" which I was instantly smitten by. I liked it so much I had Luke get it and this for our Popsicle shop, and if the new one left me smitten then this one left me smoted. Fully and completely smoted. I can think of few albums that I would rate as highly as this, as it actually deserves a rating above 10+. In fact I would (and will) go so far to say it is one of the best albums ever made and probably ranks in my top 3 of all time. (with the #1 spot being quite likely) Why? I'm not even sure. All I know is it is not only a thing of musical beauty, it has genuine passion, heart, emotion, longing, regret, sorrow, remorse and humour all told with magical lyrics. What's more lead singer Lars Lindquist has a voice which is able to shape and convey those feelings in a way that is uncanny, and incredibly touching. Combined with the music there is an almost Arlo Guthrie type magic because the songs are indeed stories, very personal ones, and you soon become familiar with all the things involved from his mother and her casino stocks, his car and the sex he had in it, a "live from budokan" album and most prominently a girl named Lilly. The entire album is a passion play to his damaged relationship with her, starting off with Summercat which is a glorious pop song about him being dumped at the airport which is followed by sometimes cute but often impassioned songs about moments in their lives which culminates with the glorious song Want To Cannot Help But Dance where he urges her to choose her conflicts while half admitting "It's too late now, isn't it?" Yet he ends with the final plea, "Choose your conflicts Lilly, 'cause I need you to stand beside me." It is overpoweringly heart wrenching and not just because of Lars, but because this is one gifted band and their use of violin, trumpet, banjo and bongos as perfect accents in many ways marks this as the album Dylan should have made but couldn't because his brain is bigger than his heart. (and he can't sing either). It has folk - country textures but they add emotion only, as this work itself is above genre and categorization. In fact it has pretty much left me dumb struck (and smoted) and I quite literally can't stop playing it. OK, ok, I'll say it..... I'll say it. This is THE best album ever recorded in the history of popular music, and I haven't even begun exaggerating yet..... You can only get it in our Popsicle shop and I URGE you to do so.
Label ~ Love Will Pay The Bills, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.2
Birddog - "Songs From Willipa Bay" While discs like this are not the stuff of dreams for me, what with this being referred to as "american rock under cloudy skies with heavy eyelids" it isn't as bad as I would have figured. It is very american, somewhere between alt country and southern rock (no surprises there) and while it is minimal, it also reminds me perhaps of an american version of a band like Brighter. It doesn't sound like them, it's just the US take on the same vein of mood. I'm not sure what I think of this record. I do think it would sound better and come across more were I to hear it live. The biggest problem for me is there isn't too much variety, which is often the case in minimal affairs, although at 7 songs it isn't overly long. (is that a pro or con?) I have listened to this 4 times, and 2 times found myself disliking it, and two times it was acceptable background music. I think it's fairer to say a few songs on here reached me, and the others didn't. The Cities I really don't like, but the previous track, Red Red Wine (not the UB40 song) is fairly interesting and moody. So it really comes down to A- Do you like the genre and B- is it worth lp price for what could be considered a long ep? (it's only 23 minutes, and I don't consider anything lp territory unless it's 8 songs or 25 minutes, so it's right on the fence) The fact that I didn't slay this is a sign it must have something going for it. I doubt I'll play the whole thing again, but the odd track or two might wind up on a comp cd at some point. The kind of thing you play on a late night, driving down a foggy road with destination unknown, that is. However, it doesn't have that sexy groove David Lynch would love, it's just melancholy.
Label ~ Karma, 7 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.0
Birdie - "Some Dusty"
This one's been on my list a while but I finally got it. Birdie are Deborah Wykes on vocals, bass and keyboards and Paul Kelly on guitars. I think one look at the cover and title lend the imagery of a 60's folky feel, and your guess wouldn't be too far
off. However, it doesn't fall into parody and the production values are excellent. The LP has a gentle feel but isn't recorded low fi. It walks that fine line of trying to be "period", yet remaining current, and succeeds. Wykes voice is very nice, the
songs are well arranged with some having strings and trumpet and the overall feel is smooth sophistication. Every track is a winner, and as a bonus you get a video of their single Folk Singer which is done well and lends itself to the song
perfectly and gives you yet another reason to hate MTV. (as if you needed more) I'm not generally into the sixties "revival" thing, and I dislike much 60's music to begin with, but this LP is a lo-fi gem without being lo-fi.
Label ~ Kindercore, 11 Tracks (+ bonus video) 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Birdie - "Triple Echo" Wow, I'm getting so caught up with this damn site I'm reviewing an album that I don't think is even available in the US yet. This is the follow up to this bands great first LP Some Dusty. I would say this LP isn't maybe quite as retro as the first, but when you hear a wurlitzer organ getting played it seems to take you back regardless. (if you're older like me I suppose) Having said that, this album is still a bit like the first. Maybe it doesn't sound as retro because I'm expecting it now? Whatever my bizarre reason, this band blends folky strums with wurlitzer organ and the husky-smooth voice of lead singer Deborah Wykes to good effect and capture a sort of late 60's "Pepper-esque" folk implosion. On this outing there really aren't any songs that stand out as really great, it's all about the same and that's good to a little bit better than good. There are some songs on it I like more such as Rosies Drugstore which is probably my favorite, but it's all pretty good. If you liked the first, you'll want this, and if the first is unknownto you, then I'd probably start there.
Label ~ It, 12 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Birdie - "Reverb Deluxe" This is outing number three from this band, and while I found their last LP sort of average and I find this one coming close on it's heels I had a little pause going in. The opening cut, Such a Sound is quintessentially them. A bit sublime, with that 60's contemporary feel, a nice melody and her voice is as deeply hushed and pleasing as ever. Quite the perfect pop single for them. The next track while not awful is a bit dirge like and it is followed by the first of three instrumentals which appear in a row, which is a bit odd. It makes one wonder if she had some sort of vocal trouble during the production of this or if they wanted to make more of a soundtrack album or if it's just an ep turned lp via filler. Now, the tracks aren't bad but it all sort of wanders and meshes together even though there is a sort of occasional Bunnymen semi-sitar vibe in parts of some songs. The lack of singing also seems to lend to a quick exit as 2 of the last three songs (9+10) are also instrumentals, for a total of 5 on this 11 song LP. This clocks in at about 33 minutes, which isn't long but not overly short, but it does seem to end quickly. Because it was good? Because it was samey? A little of both I think. This is certainly pleasant, but in no way groundbreaking. It is less directly 60's influenced than their first LP, only hinting at it with a bit of modernism thrown in. This is too luxurious to be folky, to contemporary to be 60's and apparently too uniform to have any great impact on me, but overall it is a bit nice and I think if you have not heard them before this probably would be the best place to start. There are no cuts I loved like on their first LP, but this is an overall better LP I think.
Label ~ Apricot, 11 Tracks, 2002
Continue To Page