With the onset of Seattle, the cloudy yet still left-of-mainstream radio pop fluff of the late '80s and early '90s has all but vanished. But The Clouds bring it all back home.
With brazen guitars.
Belly and Breeders wanted to be this chimey, but they were afraid. The Clouds pair two female vocalists (guitars and bass) with two male powermongers (guitars and drums) to create a Bangles-gone-Gen X sound that is both sweet and sharp.
Collage is actually exactly what the title says it is: a conglomeration of tracks taken from the Australian foursome's albums, EPs and demos recorded between 1991 and 1995. It's consequently an up and down ride, but a solid, if sometimes loose and garagey pop sense pervades all.
Jodi Phillis provides the soaring and grounding lead vocals, and she alternately falsettoes and croons atop the often bashy rhythm section. "Aquamarine," the collection's best track, leads it off with a warbling chorus and kickstart surf guitar riff. "Bubble Baby" follows up with an angularly quirky, whimsical flair. These are the band's most distinctive cuts, and are followed by 10 more good to middling tracks.
The band shows off its rock chops on the surf-meets-Veruca Salt shower of "Mr. Wibbly," and the sublime melancholic moments of "Hieronymus" definitely make this one — filled with soft starts and minor-to-major chord changes — a keeper. And "Foxes Wedding" includes ambient phaseshifting akin to the standard weird beauty of a Cocteau Twins vocal/guitar flux. The album closes with a final winner: a smoothly mournful cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman."
Given that this compilation includes no material more recent than 1995, we can only hope that this album is a teaser from Down Under and that the band has more in store. Hopefully, The Clouds haven't already met the fate of Falling Joys, the only other cool Aussie alt-pop act (besides Frente) that I can think of which made it to these shores over the past five years. (For information on ordering a copy of Collage, call 770 419-1414 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
There's a really good album hidden in Animal Rights. You just have to look to the right and left of the thrashy industrial rants. The 16-track disc is divided almost equally between psychotic fests of distorted vocals and frantic guitars and ambient, electronic mood pieces. Garage bands have done the industrial thing better, but the instrumental tracks are beautifully melancholic. If you sequence this album to dismiss all the vocal tracks, you'll have a suite of songs perfect for playing in grey English gardens and rainy funerals. Cellos and acoustic guitars weep with pianos and synthesizers to create sweeping, sighing soundscapes that cry of loss. Of lonliness. Of the night.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The Boatman's Call
Last year Cave went over the top with Murder Ballads, a collection of odes to the darkest sin. This time around, he steps away from the gleeful taunts of death and instead, explores the empty, diseased corners of love. There's no better voice than Cave's to express the emptiness of lost emotion, the tragedy of human loss, the uselessness of broken life.
Gone is the black glee and breakneck pace of Murder Ballads. On The Boatman's Call, the Seeds play somber dirges as Cave speak-sings stanza after stanza of bittersweet story. The evocative tale of "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?" is a good example, as Cave's ambiguous lyrics leave us wondering whether he is victim or murderer:
"I remember a girl so very well
the carnival drums all mad in the air
grim reapers and skeletons and a missionary bell
O where do we go now but nowhere
...Oh wake up, my love
my lover wake up."
Cave sings of girls from the "West Country," girls with "Black Hair" and "Green Eyes" and all of these lover's odes seem more ominous than inviting. You might hang onto this one for Halloween.
Arista has released a greatest hits set by former Raspberries frontman Eric Carmen. The Definitive Collection features 18 songs, including "All By Myself," "Hungry Eyes," and "Make Me Lose Control."
Roger Daltrey is one of rock's most distinctive singers, but he has never experienced the success with his solo career apart from The Who that bandmate Pete Townshend has. That's not to say he hasn't cut some fine solo sides. Rhino Records has just issued a 20-song collection Martyrs & Madmen: The Best of Roger Daltrey, which examines his singles and album sides from 1973 through 1987. Rescued from soundtrack obscurity are three of his best (and most chart-friendly) solo recordings: "Free Me," "Without Your Love," and "Waiting For A Friend" from the low budget Daltrey-starring movie McVicar. Also included are the title track from his 1984 album Parting Would Be Painless, his recording of a Townsend song (and a Top 50 single) "After The Fire" and his Top 100 Leo Sayer penned first solo hit from 1973 "Giving It All Away." (As the liner notes-including an interview with Daltrey-explain, it was Daltrey's wish to help Sayer get a record deal that got Daltrey's solo career started in the first place.)