Reviews - Week 30

Amazing Grace

Spiritualized

Amazing Grace - Cd LP

Spacemen/Sanctuary

There aren't too many albums that manage to take in gospel, space-rock, blues, the alt.est of alt. country and (briefly) the diggeri-doo - here's one of them. 'You only get a lifetime to try' sings Jason Pierce - and boy, is he going to try everything.

The album opens with the growled vocals and feeback of 'This Little Life Of Mine' and swiftly flows into 'She Kissed Me And It Felt Like A Hit' - the standout track on this album that just begs to be jumped up and down and thrashed around to: you get to come down later, this is where you're coming up and, if there's any doubt of this, the lyrics ('gonna shoot it up and take it down') make it abundantly clear.

No surprises there then - and lyrically its fair to say that this is what you might expect from Spiritualized. The usual themes are present - nihilism tempered with idealism; the talk about holding on, and the intentions of letting go; the desire to transcend earthly pleasures, balanced by the longing for a good fuck. If this can all get a little maudlin at times, that tendency is redeemed by occasional wit, attempts to find a happy place ('I can't promise a miracle but I'll always be trying') and the fact that it all sounds so damn good.

Spiritualized create a wall of sound, and utlise it to fantastic effect, overwhelming you with noise one minute, and then suddenly pulling everything away from you, leaving you with a silence which reverberates with the anticipation of the explosion to come. Some songs build up slowly, teasingly and drop away, leaving you dangling. Other songs feel like four-minute crescendos, pulling you along in their wake.

If it all sounds rather inconsistent, it thankfully ties together rather well. The blend of musical styles never leans too far in one direction and at its best there are echoes of The Byrds circa 'Eight Miles High'; The Velvet Underground and, at one point, Ravi Shankar.

My only major gripe with this album is that it isn't long enough. Many of the songs pull you in, take you to that special place, and then pull away while you're still there. If parts of the album feel like they're building to orgasm, others feel a little too much like real sex: you want to experience a slow build-up or to bask in the after-glow but suddenly its all already over.

But you're left wanting more. And when you're left wanting more... well, perhaps you can only follow the advice the band handed out on an earlier album: 'Come back down, and do it all over again'.

All over again? Hell, why not? It was fun, after all. Exciting, adrenaline-fuelled, and just a little bit dirty - the way the best sort of experiences so often are.

 

I believe

Tim Burgess

I believe - Cd LP

Warner/Chappell

With 'I Believe', Tim Burgess continues in the direction in which he was heading with the last Charlatans album, leaving the Lennon/ Stone Roses pastiche behind and pursuing a more uplifting, soul-influenced sound.

The New Tim is greatly influenced by American artists. This is apparent from sleeve-notes that name-check Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Kurt Wagner and Gram Parsons alongside references to the Gallaghers and Mark and Lard. As if that wasn't enough, we have a picture of a Joshua Tree on the inside back cover, and we also have pictures of Tim posing with a guitar in the desert.

The influence is, of course, most apparent in the music: 'I believe in the West Coast' sings Tim - and its pretty safe to say he isn't talking about Southport. The production of the album lends a sun-kissed, happy feeling, an attempt to impart a Beach Boys or Temptations vibe. Tracks like 'Say Yes' are resolutely upbeat. 'Oh My Corazon' has Radio One play-list written all over it.

It is easy to see the influences, but the UK Britpop-era scene clearly exerts a strong subliminal pull. Many of the the tracks on this album sound less like Curtis Mayfield and more like Oasis trying to make a Curtis Mayfield-style album. Lyrically, snippets like 'If I had a gun, I'd shoot you up the ass' or 'I feel like I just got laid by the whole word/ And you know its face is red' (pardon?) are the sort of lines its easy to imagine Little Liam Gallagher pouting his way through on Top Of The Pops.

Ultimately, despite all the breezy harmonica, soaring strings, bouncy music and tinkling piano, the music of Brian Wilson or John Phillips does not spring to mind. This feels less L.A., more Leyton Buzzard and the artists that it recalls are closer to the likes of Cast and Starsailor.

That said, this album will probably appeal to many people. If you're a fan of Robbie Williams, Dodgy and the Sarah Cox breakfast show, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this. If you want an album that fuses guitar, gospel and country into something a little bit more unusual, try the Spiritualized album instead.

Ian Anscombe

 

 

 

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