Travis, "The Man Who"-Sony/Epic -
The Man Who has the 3 M's: memorable, melodic melancholy. It's the perfect bridge between Britpop and classic rock. What comes to my mind when hearing the album is a cross between "Imagine"-era John Lennon and 10cc. It was the top selling album in the U.K. in 1999 (finally seeing a U.S. release in 2000) and it's easy to see why. I just can't get enough of this album!
But, will the The Man Who sell as well in the land of N'Sync, Korn and Limp Biskit? Who knows...But, once again it takes the U.K. (in this case, Scotland) to show us how it's done.
Emerald Rose, "Emerald Rose"-Indie Release -
First, what I like about this CD: it is an excellent mix of traditional Celtic music as well as Emerald Rose originals. Unlike most of today's "Celtic" groups, who are simply bonafide rock groups, Emerald Rose makes no such pretensions. They know that "unplugged" is the ONLY way to present real Celtic music. The original tunes by the band stand up just fine alongside the traditional songs. You won't be fast-forwarding to the next track. Arthur Hinds' originals are especially impressive. He is able to write subtle, religious-theme songs ("Summerland") as well as hilarious parodies ("Never Underestimate"). Brian Sullivan's contribution, "My PBJ" is easily identifiable to anyone who's been a poor college student! The standouts among the traditional songs are "Maggie Lauder" (my personal fave), "Donald McGillivray" and "Padstow". And Larry Morris' pennywhistle on both of the traditional jigs is nothing short of amazing.
Now, what I don't like about the CD. The only thing that keeps it from being an excellent album is the sound quality! The drums/percussion sound virtually non-existent. Especially when you consider the band's own bio: "…the distinctive world-beat percussion that helps make the Emerald Rose sound instantly recognizable". For being such a vital ingredient of the band's sound, it is poorly represented. Although the lead vocals come across fine, the backing harmonies are mixed too far back. The sound deficiency is glaringly obvious when you see the detail and effort put into the packaging - it should have gone into the sound as well. Now, what I would really LOVE to hear is a live Emerald Rose album, because on stage is where the band excels. You simply can't experience Emerald Rose without their trademark powerful percussion.
With all that said, this is still a very good album and I can't wait for the follow up! If you are tired of the stale music churned out by assembly line "alternative" rock groups, pick up this CD by Emerald Rose. It will really open your eyes in alot of ways.
(Note: stay tuned for an upcoming Emerald Rose interview in our next issue!)
Oasis, "Standing On the Shoulder of Giants"-Sony/Epic -
The new Oasis release suffers the same problem as their 1997 offering, "Be Here Now". There are no easily identifiable instant-classic sounding Oasis songs (like, "Live Forever", "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova"). You can play the album over and over and only a few songs will stick in your head. Four songs basically save the album. "F------ In The Bushes" has a cool guitar groove and hilarious sound samples. "Who Feels Love" finds Oasis going raga -rock ala the Kinks/Byrds in 1966. The best ballad on the album is actually Liam's first Oasis songwriting attempt, "Little James" (does this mean Liam will do a solo album after his next fight with Noel?). The only song that hearkens back to classic Oasis is "I Can See a Liar" (Oasis covering Oasis?).
The rest of the album sounds like disposable out-takes. I recently saw the band on a live TV appearance and they made one of these "disposable" songs rock! Maybe they should have done a live album? As much as they revere the Beatles, Oasis can make use of the Beatles original Get Back concept-all live recordings with no overdubs. It's an idea guys...
Patron Ur, "Never Trust a Hippie (demo)"-Web site download -
Oi punk rock band from Sweden, with a very Bad Religion sound. "Never Trust a Hippie" is a clever, catchy, tongue-in-cheek tune that you can picture Cartman moshing to on South Park! I downloaded this song from the bands' website (http://home.swipnet.se/tuba/pu/) and it was one of the few songs in English. Hopefully, their full-length release will be this clever (and in English!)
*Note: I am not rating this one because it is only one song from an upcoming album.
Cupcakes, "Exaggerator"-Dreamworks Records -
Techo-flavor, XTC sounding rock. Besides sounding remarkably like XTC on some of the tunes, they also suffer the same fate of allot of XTC albums: along with some great songs are some really forgettable ones. "Future Girls Future Boys" looks at the Columbine mentality-"...will they accept me? I hate everyone. You don't fit in. ..trenchcoat kid". There is a really cool bossa-nova meets rock sound going on on "High Speed Cakes In the Hole" and "Deep Space Bossanova". The band can also rock, examples being "Exaggerator" and "Blood Thirsty".
But, Cupcakes really shine on the song, "Black Helicopters", the best paranoia-rock song since the Kinks, "Destroyer". Plus, you get X-Files lyrics: "they're coming after me, black helicopters, can't seem to shake the conspiracy...trust no one in the brave new world". Catchy as hell, in a kinda David Bowie way,