the review: albums

the record box | the news | the tunes | the album reviews | the singles reviews | the live review | the next big thing | my record collection | the links | the guestbook | the contacts

Stuart Braithwaite: Mastermind of the album Mogwai - Rock Action
Being labelled 'The Best Live Act In The World' by countless music critics is all too well for your gig sales, but you have to have the formula to recreate the live magic from the stage into the studio. That is something Mogwai can do without even breaking sweat.
1999's ground-breaking record 'Come On Die Young' was hailed as one of the albums of the year by all the major UK music publications. Original, heart-breaking, quiet whilst also loud, all that without any vocals. When the Scottish band went into the studio they clearly set that they were out to make a single record of no more than 45mins, of pure music bliss.
'Rock Action' begins with the touching 'Sine Wave', which with its slow instumental build up wouldn't look out of place on 'CODY'. The following three tracks 'Take Me Somewhere Nice', 'O I Sleep' and 'Dial: Revenge' all contain the meloncholy vocals which add an extra edge to the sheer brillance of the instruments which the band play almost to perfection. 'O I Sleep' is a one-minute lullaby, and 'Dial: Revenge' features the soft vocals of the Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys, who carries out the job almost as if his voice is an instrument in itself. This track along with the amazing 9 minute dream which is '2 Rights Makes 1 Wrong', make up the main highlights of this quite fantastic and original album of quiet noise.
Whereas the formula for 'CODY' was quiet-loud-quiet, 'Rock Action' works equally as well with quiet-quiet-quiet, which has helped Mogwai create their most rewarding record to date. 38 minutes of languid, melancholy tunes growing out of barely audible static pulses, incoherently Vocodered whispers or preposterously exciting cymbal splashes, carried on by soft pianos, vulgarity-free brass and heart-felt strings.
This is the sound of the future. Mogwai: are good, very good.

Stereophonics - Just Enough Education To Perform
Probably the first 'big' album released in 2001, word on the street was that, the third album from The Phonics, was to be a country/acoustic affair. Having heard the record that statement is not necessarily true but it is undoubtedly their most acoustic sounding record to date.
Fans of the band will arguably say that their debut 'Word Gets Around' was their best work to-date, with Kelly sounding fresh, the songs were shot epics and the lyrics had real meaning (prime example 'Local Boy In The Photograph'). However, when the Welsh rockers released their follow-up 'Performance & Cocktails' they changed direction to a more grown-up style which worked a dream with sales and new fans, but was a disappointment to the critics and to fans of their classic debut.
Whats more disappointing is that 'Just Enough Education To Perform' does not reach the heights of the debut or for that matter the follow-up. Instead what Stereophonics have to offer is a predictable, average record. Notes on the album sleeve see singer/songwriter Kelly Jones explain the meaning behind the songs on the record. He needn't have bothered. There isn't any use of metaphors in the lyrics and its definitely clear what the songs are about. It's not just that, but the lyrics are embarrasingly bad, Nice To Be Out: "There was Dallas too, the library/We stood where Oswald took his shot/In my opinion there's a bigger plot". It gets worse, the second verse (no pun intended) Jones arrives at Wembley: "The famous turf that made Geoff Hurst/The vodka stops to quench my thirst." It most certainly is not rock poetry. When you hear lyrics of that standard not only do you cringe, but you also recognise that the song/album is not the multi-layered masterpiece you may expect from a stadium-filler band. Instead, the most exiting the record gets are the odd tunes and a few decent riffs. No more than that though.

Credit to Jones and co, however, this record does contain a few good and memorable tunes. Opening song 'Vegas Two Times' is a similar rocky opening to 'Performance and Cocktails' opener 'Roll Up & Shine'. Single 'Step On My Old Size Nines' is one of the few of Kelly Jones' quiet songs that actually works as an epic, and together with the superb Oasis-esque single 'Mr Writer' are the best two songs here.
What the record mostly lacks is a classic rock/pop song a la 'Local boy In The Photograph', 'Bartender & The Thief. Instead the better songs on this record are the mid-tempo ones.
Probably most disappointing and frustrating about 'JEEP' as a whole is that the boys from Cwmaman have fallen into the same trap Oasis did: release a classic rock'n'roll debut, change direction to a slower/grown-up/experienced record & fill stadiums with its songs and finally release a over-hyped and very disappointing third record.
Expect a B-side album next year followed by an even more disappointing record, a break-up and a massive world stadium tour.

GORILLAZ - Gorillaz
Side project albums will forever live in the memory as being renowned for being second-rate records, with the main artist involved saving their best work for their band.
However, Blur's Damon Albarn has in somewhat challenged that idea by releasing a superb record with a bunch of cartoon characters. Here Albarn has mixed his ever-familiar vocals with classic hip-hop beats and rapping from one of his collegue Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, to form an irresistable listen to both Blur fans and neutrals who have found Blur's latest offerings dull. However, giving full-credit to Albarn would be unfair to hip-hop producer Dan Nakamura. He perfects the tone of the albums beats with the whine of Albarn (Clint Eastwood) and the hypnotic beats (Sound Check).
Urban feel, innocent nursey-rhyme quality of melodies, fictional characters and irresistable beats Gorillaz have unexpectedly set the pace for the music world of 2001.