Monthly Archives: December 2009

230. Ani DiFranco – “Like I Said (Songs 1990-1991)”

And thus we embark upon a Cave-esque multi-review engagement with the considerable DiFranco catalogue (fear not, I will regularly intersperse some reviews of recent purchases and seasonally appropriate albums)…

Like with Nick Cave, I stumbled in Ani-World a few albums in.  Prompted by the rabid adoration of a friend, I first encountered her at the Port Fairy Folk Fest and (from about 10 feet away) was very taken with her powerful take on the folk schtick.

That was around Little Plastic Castle time, so this album was a later purchase.  It is not overly different from much of the early work. It’s just Ani slamming and plucking on her acoustic and spitting out highly personal, occasionally vitriolic compositions with very little other accompaniment.

I get both sides of the polarised Ani encounter issue that audiences have.  Her songwriting and delivery are confronting in the sense that there is so much confidence and rawness.  You either get completely enveloped, or repelled.  I lean considerably towards the former (obviously given all the purchases).

Having said that, this album is one I don’t listen to particularly regularly.  The strong tracks are very engrossing. Anticipate flows and jumps with excitement. Gratitude is mightily confronting. The Whole Night nails her trademark syncopation and vocal stylings.  Both Hands has some fantastic lines, while Out of Habit drops the c-bomb with aplomb.

The weakness is the spoken word which upsets the flow and doesn’t nail the beatpoet thang as well as later efforts.

File under: Better sung than said

229. Died Pretty – “Doughboy Hollow”

This album would be up there with The LemonheadsIt’s a Shame About Ray and Rat Cat‘s Tingles EP as the CD I remember being most regularly in mates’ collections in the early 1990s. And I reckon it might have ended up getting more regular spins than the other two.

This is a thoroughly mature, fully realised and powerful release. At the moody (almost gothic) end of the rock spectrum, it contains eleven examples of well-measured songwriting and lush instrumentation.

The producer here also shaped works from Echo and the Bunnymen and Stan Ridgway, and there are aural similarities here as drums are given that big sound, guitars jangle, and vocals soar.

Frontman Ronny Peno (belying his Iggy Pop-ish stage persona) has a great voice that the band could build songs around . There is killer track after killer track here, with The Love Song, Godbless, DC and Sweetheart the best of the bunch.

I saw these dudes play this album in its entirety (and in order) early last year (as part of the Don’t Look Back series) and they’ve still got it. As there is a distinct paucity of video clips online from the band, here’s some pretty crude footage of them from this year’s Big Day Out:

File under: Take pride in these ditties

228. Dido – “No Angel”

Curiously when I first hooked up with my eventually-to-be wife, I could have swore her CD collection, while not inconsequential, wasn’t huge either.

Yet here I am reviewing another of her purchases. Now, going on its release date, she probably purchased after we commenced cohabitating. Nevertheless, I have only a vague recollection of ever hearing it before. Either I’m a tyrant stereo-Nazi (possible) or Catherine spins this in my absence.

Which is a bit of shame. It isn’t too bad in a Suzanne Vega meets Beth Orton fashion.

Miss Dido does that smooth as silk soundscapey vocal thing very proficiently, and the tracks are reasonably catchy. It doesn’t hit the heights of either of the aforementioned artists, perhaps because the underlying instrumentation is too mundane and same-same from track to track. A few new or different rhythms would have made a difference.

Said album has sold >16m copies world-wide, so a lot of folks are presumably more excited about this than me. Of course, a considerable portion of those sales came from folks chasing that backing track from the Enimem song. It sounds so much better in the background than up front:

File under: Not likely to induce much rabid fan behaviour

227. The Detroit Cobras – “Tied and True”

As Christmas comes hurtling towards us, and our thoughts turn to the challenge of finding acceptable presents for all and sundry.

Might I recommend this album from one of Detroit’s finest as a highly suitable and life-changing gift for a young-un in your world?

By a youngster, I mean a boy (or preferably a girl) in the mid-to-late single figures.  Instead of polluting their mind and stunting their emotional growth with a Cyrus disk, offer them this gem.

The album includes the usual mix of bluesy garage soul and rock.  It’s nice and clean sounding, but with enough oomph to get the child gyrating like that girl from Little Miss Sunshine.

There isn’t any swearing (that I picked up), and there are tunes about kittens (Leave My Kitten Alone), puppets (…On a String) and road safety (Green Light).

Of course, down the track said munchkin will discover the concept of double entendre.  I’m not sure if that’ll happen before or after they ask why the lady of the front cover has her legs tied together.  Irrespective, such revelations are an important rite of passage which you should be proud to have prompted.

A particularly inquisitive child might then chase up the originals, such as this gem from Bettye LaVette:

File under: They want it so you should put a a bow on it

226. The Detroit Cobras – “Baby”

Back I return to the big party that is the Detroit Cobras recorded output.

This CD offers even more bang for your hard-earned, as it contains a full album, plus an earlier 7 track EP (hence two album covers).

The party here is a little more sedate and chilled than the earlier soirees. There are more slower, soul tracks and a little less rock-n-roll.

That is a shame, as the garage efforts have been (and are) typically the more vital and engaging tracks on their albums.

Actually, most of the feistier tunes are on the EP section of the CD, so if you buy the UK version of Baby you may be getting a CD much closer to a Bettye LaVette release than the usual Southern Culture on the Skids-ish fiesta.

Of course, both of this comparisons are compliments.

A favourite car game of my missus and I is to build fantasy music festivals and great gig lineups. My one for today is these Cobras, and the aforementioned SCOTS, with perhaps the Black Diamond Heavies as the bridging sound… that’d work a treat.

File under: Partisome progreny

225. The Commitments – “The Commitments”

Reviewing the Detroit Cobras reminded me I had missed a CD down in the soundtrack section which was also all about covering old classics.

Back in my early undergraduate days I managed to see this film three times at the cinema.  This perhaps reflected some ill-fated dating and lack of imagination, but mainly it was driven by my enjoyment of the flick.  It may well rank up there with various Star Wars editions and Can’t Buy Me Love as the film I have seen most often on the big screen.

Despite this, I never purchased said soundtrack (my missus did).

There is a substantial contrast between this release and the works thus far reviewed from the Cobras.

Music of the soul/R&B description (indeed, almost all popular music) must have some sexual aspect to it.  For a hetero male listener, the women must sound alluring and raunchy, and the males should seem threatening or jealousy-inducing.

That dynamic is very much at play with the Cobras.  Here it is a little lacking.  These pasty-faced Celts are too clean and tidy and, well, white.

Andrew Strong does a better job of pushing into the soul domain with a belting voice that could well be that of a bourbon-drinking Lothario (rather than a 16-year-old Dubliner).

The Commitment-ettes are the weak spot here.  They deliver very saccharine, colourless versions of tracks, that lean towards showtune versions of ’60s Supremes pop.

It just doesn’t turn me on.

File under: Diet-Soul

224. The Detroit Cobras – “Life, Love And Leaving”

When you’re onto a good thing, why wouldn’t you stick with it?

The Detroit Cobras nailed a brilliant idea on their debut, and they repeat their effort here.

Again, the tracks are reasonably obscure ones from the early days of rock-n-roll.  The covers are executed adeptly and the result is a very coherent and engaging listen.

The final track on this album, Otis Redding’s Shout Bama Lama, is a ripper.  The vocals are irresistable and the tune just makes me want to time travel back to some dingey backroad shack in the early 60s and see these guys in that context.

I am very disappointed that I have yet to see these guys in the flesh.  They played the perfect venue – The Tote – a couple of years ago.  The gals in this outfit are just like the sort of intimidating women who have frequented both sides of the bar there for years.

Anyway, back to the album in question. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the debut  and is a little too produced.  But you should still own it…

File under: Life is good