Hip-ometer Rating ~ 3
Jennifer Jackson - "Birds"
I had had high hopes for this, not the least of reasons being that it had garnered many good reviews. Actually, I got it for my wife, as she's been nagging for the Dido LP which I still have not gotten, so when I put an order in I added this figuring
it would be a nice surprise for her. Well, I don't know if other reviews are being nice or naive, but this thing is just not very good and please don't make the assumption that I dislike it because I'm a "guy". I gave it to my wife to listen to and she came home and threw it on the counter with a smirk. She
simply disliked it, and so much so she couldn't force herself to listen to the whole thing, getting just over halfway thru before she was compelled to "eject". For the record, I have always enjoyed solo women artists. I have and like many Lp's by the likes of
obvious artists like Sarah McLachlan, and some less so like Lucinda Williams, Tanita Tikaram, Jane Sibbery, or Loreena McKennitt and I have to tell you, this is a disappointing LP. The first track, The Fade isn't too bad, and the next Mercury,
Sun and the Moon has that gypsie caravan (almost Loreena McKennitt) feel and is the best cut on the LP. The next two tracks are fair but it goes right down the dumper after that. Actually, the biggest problem is she has an irritating voice when she
tries to sing in falsetto, and it's really tough to listen to. That aside, the LP has little in the way of soul or heart and many of the songs seem to have no "feel" and that coupled with her voice makes it a chore to get thru. Run, run my small
ones, and don't look back. Maybe not one of the years absolute worsts, but not a good one either. It got a three out of kindness.
Label ~ Parasol, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Luke Jackson - "...And Then Some" This is the third long player from Luke who runs our Popsicle shop. I first met him many years ago now (like most people I suppose) when I bought Swedish crap from him off Ebay. We began to talk, realized our mutual fondness for the genre and things progressed from there. At the time I did not realize he was also an artist who had an album out, however when he sent me a copy of it I was a bit taken aback because it had more to do with classic rock than Swedish indie. I chalked him up as a closet metal head and moved on.... which brings us to the present where I found out album number two had been completed. OK, I'll admit it, I was afraid to ask for a copy because I figured I wouldn't like it. But when he sent me a "melange" of clips for his sample for the popsicle shop ad, I was surprised to find I was not entirely revolted by it, and in fact it was a bit charming. So I asked for it. What I got was even more surprising. Not only is it on his own Popsicle recordings label (which I knew about) he sent a CD and vinyl album which was also a 180g pressing in a gorgeous sleeve. That had to cost this boy some change. I could only think of what a waste it would all be if it was gonna suck.... Well, it doesn't suck, it's not classic rock (although rock "licks" can be heard time and again) it has emotion, coherence, a theme and some excellent musicianship. In other words it's a nice collection of songs. Somewhat unexpected as well is the inclusion of a string section which appears on a number of the tracks. All of these things can most likely be attributed to the fact that he went to Sweden to record this with many of the friends he has acquired over the years. The only thing I'm still confused about is the theme. The songs are a collection written over a decades span or so, and most of them harbour themes of fear, pain, despair and of cutting old ties. Yet over this time I know he was living like an international playboy: Having drinks with Flemming Borby in Germany one night, Cocktails with Holm on the Thames the next, then off to Stockholm for a Smörgåsbord with someone named Magnus. (I couldn't keep them all straight) Perhaps the inspiration came from the depressing letters I wrote him about my life. If that's true, I got screwed out of an album sleeve credit. Joking aside, I'll end this review with two sets of advice. To the consumer - If you like the music normally reviewed on this site this is an album you should check out as it appears our Luke has arrived at last. And to you Sir Luke, either buy a bottle of Grecian formulae or get a trim, you're approaching sporting a Larry Fine there on top.
Label ~ Popsicle, 10 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Denise James - "It's Not Enough To Love" This is the second LP from this Detroit woman, and again we have an album which could best be described as Petula Clark over dosing on mersey beat, yet there is a hint of retro european cafe stylings as well. (think Would Be Goods) Sometimes it gets hard to define an artists who sounds so much like someone else, and music that you're not even sure if you heard before or not. I imagine that is to her credit then, for making an album that parodies that to which it would become so well that indeed, it did become it. The album does lean a little more toward the ballad side than the really uptempo pop numbers, and I do sort of wish that was more 60-40 in favour of the pop tunes. It doesn't make the ballads poor however, I just think, especially after the first few cuts, you're really expecting a skirt shaking, boot tapping ride and instead it wants to edge in close and get sultry. I think what will probably happen is that once I get over my expected expectations I will find I like this more with every listen. At times it does get a little plodding and she still needs to learn when to cut and run, but there is no denying there are some special moments here and I think the future looks promising for this one.
Label ~ Rainbow Quartz, 10 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Januaries - "the Januaries" I'm not sure how this band imagines itself, but I would guess they probably don't think of themselves as indie. I think they wade closer to the waters of corporate "alternative", residing there somewhere next to the likes of Garbage etc.. The first track here, Julietee has lead singer Debbie Diamond (isn't that a pornstar? Not that I'd know of course. Must ask T-Baby) sounding similar to 10,000 Maniacs, only there is a more sultry side to the song. That being the case in all probability because our Deb is trying to be a bit of a sex bomb where Natalie Merchant is not. On Black Transmission they actually do come across as sounding a bit like the previously mentioned Garbage, but on the next track Love Met the Devil they wander closer to Tori Amos or Loreena McKennitt as the song has a sultry eastern vibe. Styles change again on what is probably my favorite track Love Has Flown which has a distinctive 60's groove. This album comes and goes for me personally. Some songs are good, and some I can live without, but then again I don't care much for the genre of bands which this belongs to. (insert Garbage again) If you do, this LP you will definetly want. If not you'll find it semi worthwhile, like I do.
Label ~ Foodchain, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Jazateers - "I Shot the President" This is another un-obtainable Marina release, and while I was getting the other two Dino promted me to get this as well. I couldn't hear this one beforehand, but figured what the hell. This is a 'retro' release, this Scottish band having recorded the material here between 83 and 87 and it consists of 2 LP's, their first and actual only LP and the second which featured a new lineup and was never released. Guitarist Ian Burgoyne states on the liner notes they were either ahead of or behind their times. Upon hearing the opener Nothing at All I was inclined to think perhaps they just weren't so great. I began to wonder if it was another case of someone going off again "about this great band everyone forgot about". No my dear, we didn't forget them, but we were trying to.... However, it did get somewhat better after the first track, until I shortly began to suspect I knew the lead singer. When I heard Once More With Feeling I was saying "Christ, this sounds like a real Hipsway ripoff" but then, wait... that's no ripoff, that's him! So I pull out the booklet and sure enough their original lead singer on the first 9 cuts is Grahame Skinner of Hipsway fame. Then it all fell into place, and the nagging suspicion that this bands name was familiar somehow came home. Musically, this isn't forgotten brilliance, but it's also not for the dustbin either. I love Skinners voice in Hipsway, but here it doesn't suit the music it's teamed to, and musically the first 9 songs are only average at best to less so. The next 10 songs are sung by Matt Wilcox (Skinner by this time absconding to Hipsway) and his voice is more suited to this indie guitar sound, plus these ten songs are much better than the first 9. If people want to mine the 80's I can suggest a lot of albums to get before we got down to this (that is if I ever got the oldies pages done) not that it's bad actually. The first 9 songs on this outing I'd rate about a 6.4 and they are best forgotten mostly, but the last 10 rate about an 8.9 and there are some nice moments like Up To My Eyes which feels the period and is very good. So how do I rate it? Should it be compiled and be an 7.7, or should we just forget the first bunch and consider it a good 10 song LP? I suppose it comes down to whether you can even get the damn thing. If you like mid 80's indie guitar stuff, (reminds me of the first Shack LP, the Bodines, and even the Desert Wolves) the last half of this LP will probably please. It's not the best thing I ever heard from the period but it certainly deserves a listen and the couple of good tracks from the first 9 just sweeten the deal. Yes, I'm feeling very charitable today, so lets give it a 9. Maybe Marina will be grateful and make the damn thing available then.
Label ~ Marina, 19 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.7
Jim Yoshi Pile-Up - "Homemade Drugs" This disc was sent in by Team Clermont publicity and while I didn't like the clip I heard, Becki there said she'd send it anyway since she didn't like them at first but they grew on her. I'm leery of things growing on me but again, I "put the lotion on". I have heard this a few times now and while it isn't bad it never grew on me. It's kind of typically american, but it borders on being a dark recording. A few tracks here I don't like at all, some I am ambivalent about, and others like Distance aren't too bad. To describe it on a whole it is west coast sounding low key guitar alternative, with the songs tending to the slower and sublimier. Like so many times now here, this isn't bad, but it simply does not move or effect me in any way, excpet to want to take it off and listen to something else. It's another plate of artichoke or asparagus for me to have to eat and elucidate upon. I don't really like the voice of lead singer Paul Gonzenbach, the timbre of it and yes, it's too american. The instrument playing is good if the style is a bit american as well although I do like a number of the melodies but for some reason it is not coming together into something I like, or will ever like. I simply can't like asparagus by eating a field full of it. It's just personal taste again. The only legitimate gripe I can levy about this is that it is a bit too morose and ponderous over all. I'm not even sure this would appeal to people into shoegaze because it's roots are closer to rock than indie. I rated it a little low for that, but again, it is your call here.
Label ~ Absolutely Kosher, 9 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
John Wayne Shot Me - "The Purple Hearted Youth Club" I got approached by this band at a time when my head was spinning. The clips were a bit odd I thought, but they were from Holland or whatever so I figured, how bad can it be? I didn't have the time or sensibilities to consider it deeper. Well, it isn't what I expected at all, whatever that might have been. It came across sounding very much like an american band at first, and a very avant garde one at that. If I had to place them I'd say somewhere between Mates Of State, They Might Be Giants and a crack pipe. I first had to listen to this in the car as my stereo was completely apart when it came and it was just awful there, so I cast it aside for another day. That day came, and my stereo came with it, and it did indeed gain some redemption. Make no mistake, this is still one wacked recording, but it does have elements of genuine charm and it then becomes an endearing wacked record. I'm actually quite fond of Speakers Are Microphones and the Tentacle Song which very much reminds me of Jesus Couldn't Drum. In fact the more I listen to this the more the over all zaniness on this album comes right out of the JCD playbook. Quite a number of songs on here remind me of them, such as Let Sleeping Monsters Sleep, titles and all. They even went to the trouble (and they shouldn't have) of making track 19 track 99. That means there are 80 tracks in between. 80, 3 second tracks of nothing. Well, the ones I bothered to check were. I didn't listen to all 80 of them so if there's a surprise in there, I won't spoil it for you. So is this worth it? If you are a kid at heart and like wacky stuff that is actually done pretty well you will find a lot to love here. Some of the tracks certainly are keepers.
Label ~ 62 TV Records, 19 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Johnny Dee - "Love Compilation" Johnny Dee is a Japaneese group which is in love with all things guitary and poptastic about early 80's Britpop, and that's OK in my book. This LP starts with the instrumental Theme For Johnny Dee which is about as close a ripoff of the Monochrome Sets brilliant 405 Lines as you can get while staying different. It even displays the quirkyness of the Monochrome Set as there are "pauses" in the song where you can hear background talking and some says at one point "I married a hooker.." It's a fun song. Many of the songs on this LP copy styles of their idols I suppose, and songs are even dedicated to one of them, such as Why I Like Max Eider. In some of the songs there is little detection of accent, but in some there is. That is perhaps most prevalent and interesting on what is the most noteworthy track here, their cover of the brilliantly beautiful Go-Betweens masterpiece Bachelor Kisses. It's done slowish with great reverberating guitar chords and singer Hiroshi either makes no attempt to hide his accent or sings it deliberately that way and it comes out something like;
"Don't rush off
you won't be r-ate
don't be-reeve wrat you've her
fraithful not a bad word
hands rike hrooks" etc....
Actually, I think it's charming as all hell, and makes the cover quite extra special. (even if it reminds me of the Chineese restaurant scene at the end of the movie A Christmas Story. "deck the hars writ bowrs of hoh-ree") If you dig bands like the Monochrome Set, (and if you don't you damn well ought to) this LP will be quite a welcome addition. In any event, it's worth it for the cover of Bachelor Kisses alone.
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 10 Tracks, 1993
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Johnny Says Yeah! - "Friends Gone By 86-89" This is another retro offering from our friends at Firestation who have culled another band from their interesting Leamington Spa releases. Hailing from the period of the late mid 80's this band is very much the atypical C86 sounding outfit if ever there was one. I honestly can't recall the name being familiar to me back then, but as they only put out two singles I suppose they slid under my radar at the time. (I was and am still not much of a singles buyer) The first concern we come across in releases such as this is sound quality and while this is a little compressed sounding it isn't too bad. In fact it's generally as good or better than most releases of this kind and the tracks are thankfully noise free. As for the music, while you could generalize them into a typical a-typical C86 category as I said there does appear to be a meandering to their sound. On Some Things Are More Simple for instance there is a decided Housemartin edge and on Suzie they wander into sexy saxy dub like waters as if they were the illegitimate love child of Spandau Ballet and Orange Juice. Also, while they use a lot of brass at times they don't come across sounding like the Junies or any other type of band from the period. For me, Generally speaking, it seems their problem was never finding their own "sound", and when they sound like others they are OK, but not better than the others they sound like. When music dollars are at a premium that is not an impetus to buy. However this certainly has it's moments and deserves to not be forgotten. If you are very fond of the genre you'll absolutely want to own this. It's solid if not stellar and it's a shame an album didn't come out back then as I almost certainly would have bought it. More kudos to Firestation for saving another band from the obscurity of time.
Label ~ Firestation, 13 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.5
Jumprope - "Suitcase and Umbrella" This LP is one of those tragedies of sorts. The music contained on this disc is quite good and I like it alot. A kind of light groovy guitar pop, and the songs themselves are pretty good, some above average. But the voice of lead singer Cindy (which is often helped (ahem...) by Ad (who should NOT be singing) really kind of rubs me the wrong way on many songs. Every so often though it's OK like on the very Swing Out Sister like Interstellar Secrets From the Cellar which is a pretty cool song. (probably because Ad doesn't sing on it) There's probably about 6 songs I really like alot on here, and the rest seemed to be ruined because of the vocals. All are quite good musically, and that's the real shame. If this band can find a producer who can mike her right and they can shut Ad up, they might just have a career, as musically they are spot on. So short of hearing them this is a hard one to advise you on. Many songs seem like they're going great but at some point he jumps in to harmonize with her and arrgghh, right down the dumper. This one's your call.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 13 Tracks, 2000