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It might have come to your notice that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you'll just kinda have to get used to. I will however, now and again, have bursts of creativity and if it was to please the massed hordes, who chose to visit this insignificant page, to supply some input on the direction and type of music you would like to sample (before going out and buying yourself a copy) this little communication will not have been in vain.

I will also say now that some of the outstanding music already available to sample will be reaching their 30 days without a click threshold, where by they're deleted by the host.

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Gotta Fever To Tell

On their EPs, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs grew considerably, moving from the arty yet anthemic garage punk of their self-titled EP to Machine's angular urgency. Fever to Tell, their first full-length and major-label debut, also shows growth, but for the first time the band doesn't sound completely in control of the proceedings. Their EPs were masterful studies in contrast and economy, balancing just the right amounts of noise, melody, chaos, and structure within 15 to 20 minutes. At 37 minutes long, Fever to Tell sounds, at different times, scattered and monotonous. Most of this is due to poor sequencing -- the album opens with some of the raunchiest noise the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs have ever recorded, then abruptly changes gears and delivers a kitchen sink's worth of pretty ballads and experimental pieces. Both the old and new sides of the band's sound offer brilliant and frustrating moments: "Rich" is a sneering sugar-mommy story; "Black Tongue," which features the great lyric "let's do this like a prison break," is almost Hasil Adkins-esque in its screwed-up sexuality and rockabilly licks. "Date with the Night," a rattling, screeching joy ride of a song, combines Karen O's unearthly vocals, Nick Zinner's ever-expanding guitar prowess, and Brian Chase's powerful drumming in dynamic ways. Not so good are the insanely noisy "Man" and "Tick," which have enough volume and attitude to make the Kills and Jon Spencer turn pale, but also sound like they're coasting on those qualities. The moody, romantic songs on Fever to Tell are the most genuine. "Pin" and "Y Control" have a bittersweet bounciness, while the unabashedly gorgeous, sentimental "Maps" is not only among the band's finest work but one of the best indie/punk love songs in a long, long time. Along with "Modern Romance," a pretty but vaguely sinister meditation on the lack thereof, these songs compensate for some of Fever to Tell's missteps (such as "No No No," a lengthy, halting mishmash of punk and dubby experimentalism). Perhaps they should've included some of their tried-and-tested songs from their EPs, but for a group this mercurial, that would probably be stagnation. Though this is their debut album, Fever to Tell almost feels like a transitional release; they're already rethinking their sound in radical ways. Even when they're uneven, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs are still an exciting band.


The Dead Can Still Dance

Putting early punk backgrounds and the like behind them, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard created a striking landmark in early '80s atmospherics on their first, self-titled creation. Bearing much more resemblance to the similarly gripping, dark early work of bands like Joy Division, The Cocteau Twins and The Cure than to the later fusions of music that would come to characterize the duo's sound, Dead Can Dance is as Goth as it ever gets in many places. Perry and Gerrard's wonderful vocal work, Brendan’s rich, warm tones and Lisa’s unearthly, multi-octave exaltations, are already fairly well established, but serve different purposes here. Thick, shimmering guitar and rumbling bass/drum/drum machine patterns practically scream their sonic connections to the likes of Robin Guthrie and Robert Smith, but they still sound pretty darn good for all that.
When they stretch that sound to try for a more distinct, unique result, the results are astonishing. Gerrard is the major beneficiary here. "Frontier" explicitly experiments with tribal percussion, resulting in an excellent combination of her singing and the rushed music. Then there's the astonishing "Ocean," where guitar and chiming bells and other rhythmic sounds provide the bed for one of her trademark, and quite, quite lovely, vocal excursions into the realm of glossolalia. Perry in contrast tends to be matched with the more straightforward numbers of digital processing and thick, moody guitar surge. The album ends on a fantastic high note, "Musica Eternal," featuring a slowly increasing-in-volume combination of hammered dulcimer, low bass tones, and Gerrard's soaring vocals. As an indicator of where the band was going, it's perfect.
Then continuing in the vein of the self-titled debut but more clearly plunging into a wider range of music and style, Garden Of The Arcane Delight is the clear transition between the group's competent but derivative Goth start and something much, much more special. Opening track "Carnival of Light" captures the band at play, with rolling drums, dulcimer, processed guitar and more creating a swirling, evocative mix of sound at once new and old. Gerrard's simply lovely vocals are further icing on the cake. "Flowers of the Sea" is another similarly entrancing effort, simpler in arrangement but no less hypnotic. The remaining numbers, "The Arcane" and the wordily-entitled "In Power We Entrust the Love Advocated," follow the first album's general pattern -- Perry is again a fantastic singer, but the songs themselves aren't as memorable, embracing doomy goth sonics without adding much to the overall sonic canon.


The Waking Hour

Either a temporary project, a promising alliance that fell apart, or a waste of time; Dali's Car and its sole effort isn't something easily agreed upon, even by long-time fans of both Peter Murphy and Mick Karn. Even its original appearance was fraught with doubt given that the two were signed to separate record companies, resulting in the creation of a wholly new label just to get it in print (Beggars Banquet has since taken over full pressing on its own). While on the one hand Waking Hour is pretty much the sum of its parts; Murphy's dramatic, edgy singing style and Karn's fluid, immediately recognizable fretless bass and other instruments, plus percussion from Paul Lawford; there was enough variety going on to set it apart enough from the legacies of both Bauhaus and Japan. On the one hand, the band's music feels a little harsher and more electronic than the flowing arrangements of late Japan, no doubt accentuated by the electronic drums in place of Steve Jansen's work. Similarly, the production feels a bit hollower; not quite demo level, but a little more straightforward all around, occasional fripperies like the exotic synth line on "His Box" aside. Meanwhile, Murphy avoids the more torturous roars and screams of his most extreme work in Bauhaus; it's still recognizably him at 50 paces off, but everything feels a touch gentler and more meditative. He indulges in his usual cryptic images, admittedly (quite what "Dali's Car" itself is meant to be is unclear) but as is so often the case, his all-around performance is what counts the most. If nothing else, points for credit for the cover art: a lovely reproduction of the famed Maxfield Parrish painting Daybreak.


I Will Have My Dreamtime

Image-wise, the Cult still weren't entirely there yet, as the band photos show. Ian Astbury's bandana is more dated than anything else. But it's Billy Duffy's look (a Duran Duran/Spandau Ballet wannabe, down to the haircut and suit) which is terribly amusing in context. Musically, though, on their full-length debut, the Cult were pretty much on their way. Duffy's dramatic, spaghetti Western-tinged, dark psychedelic guitar and Astbury's passionate semi-wailing set the tone from the start and throughout, while the Jamie Stewart/Nigel Preston rhythm section keeps the tribal/goth feeling running equally high. Indeed, Goth is still stalking the band's effo
rts whether the members liked it or not: consider "83rd Dream" and its distinctly creeped-out introduction, Astbury's vocals fed through extra effects. If there's not as much in the way of blunt power chording as later, Dreamtime is still loaded with a variety of moody, energetic joys. "Spiritwalker" is especially fantastic, Preston's rolling drums and Duffy's epic, crystalline guitar not that far off from what U2 was going after, but (arguably) with even more appeal. Add in Astbury's explosive singing, and it's a definite treat through and through. The other strong tracks include the title effort, which may reference the native Australian concept of time, but is more about wearing long hair and tripping on the shamanic vibes, and the who-else-but-the-Cult invocations of mythic America in "Go West," "Horse Nation," and "A Flower in the Desert." If everything is sometimes too shrilly and dramatic for easy digestion, one can't fault the band for energy, and given that they would shortly improve all around, Dreamtime is still an attractive enough listen.


We Are… The League

The years pass, the wheel of time turns, and the shocking, moral-challenging ne'er-do-wells of one generation eventually seem almost sweet when compared with those of later days. Every so often, though, something will remain almost gloriously offensive and wrong no matter what the future brings; T’League's filthy gob of a debut album fulfils that brief, and then some. Musically, there's nothing here to surprise or challenge anybody; already dated three-chord thrash, smash, and bash at the time of its release, years later it just sounds like the type of stuff folks like Offspring listened to while killing time in rehearsal studios. However, for all of the band's protestations of "being shit," the roar is actually reasonably produced, with a good oomph to it instead of becoming too treble. Every so often the band tries something just a tiny bit different (the slow opening to "Woman," which is almost a late '50s tearjerker in modern leather gear before everything revs up), but mostly they just do what they do. It's vocalist Animal, though, who transforms T’League from being just another band to becoming veritable kings of trash. His rough vocals tackle everybody and everything, not least of all himself and his bandmates; suspect sex, random contempt (the brilliantly titled "[We Will Not] Remember You" and "I Hate...People"), and more just scratch the surface. The group even trashes their own medium, as "Can't Stand Rock 'n' Roll" concludes "the man who made it was big and fat." The undisputed highlight, of all things, is a cover of Ralph McTell's folk anthem "Streets of London." Transforming the sympathetic look at the city's outcasts and dregs into a celebratory anthem of defiance, T’League delivers one of the best remakes ever done, almost in spite of it-self. This reissue also contains that single's notorious B side, "So What," a gleeful detailing of sexual and social depravities revived by Metallica in the '90s.


The Blurred Crusade

After such a fine debut as Of Skins and Heart, creating a follow-up might have been a burden for the Church; and maybe it was, but the end result was well worth it. Perhaps even better than their first, The Blurred Crusade captures what for many remains the classic early Church sound, blending both the various strains of '60s inspiration and postpunk drive detected from the start with an even more elegant melancholy. Musically, both Willson-Piper and Koppes are just fantastic, their combination of guitar playing running the range from sparkling post-Byrds chime to sharp power. If the group doesn't fully explode here as much as later albums would demonstrate, especially on Heyday, it perhaps can be laid at producer Bob Clearmountain's feet. Consider the slow but steady build-up of "When You Were Mine," guitar lines and notes setting the scene before fully kicking into the main riff and the clever but not forced production on the vocals on some of the middle verses. Add on the fantastic solo about four minutes in, and this is great rock music, period, deeply impressive coming on a sophomore album. Highlights are plentiful throughout Blurred, but the best numbers are perhaps the opening "Almost With You," a note-perfect combination of hooks and downbeat but not morose atmosphere, and the lengthy, powerful "You Took." Willson-Piper's lead vocal number "Field of Mars" and the brief, concluding "Don't Look Back" are further songs of note.


The Kick Inside

Kate Bush's first album, The Kick Inside, released when the singer/songwriter was only 19 years old (but featuring some songs written at 15 and recorded at 16), is her most unabashedly romantic, the sound of an impressionable and highly precocious teenager spreading her wings for the first time. The centrepiece is "Wuthering Heights," which was a hit everywhere except the United States (and propelled the Emily Bronte novel back onto the best-seller lists in England), but there is a lot else here to enjoy: The disturbing "Man With The Child In His Eyes," the catchy rocker "James And The Cold Gun," and "Feel It," an early manifestation of Bush's explorations of sexual experience in song, which would culminate with "Hounds Of Love." As those familiar with the latter well know, she would do better work in the future, but this is still a mightily impressive debut.


Natural History

On this collection of singles, the March Violets sound very much like their former label mates The Sisters Of Mercy: simple drum programs, droning bass, slashing guitar and deep, melodic male vocals (with Simon Denbigh as the poor man's Andrew Eldritch, though, like Eldritch, he clearly loved his David Bowie collection). The main thing that distinguished them from the Sisters is the presence of female vocalist Rosie Garland, while the dark, aggro surge of the music carved its own wired and romantic path. Guitarist Ashton and bassist Elliott found a reasonable space between Joy Division, Echo And The Bunnymen and Bauhaus for their respective approaches, and were as much masters of shade, throb, and scalpel sharp guitar lines as anyone. Natural History isn't organized by any particular order of recording, there are singles (A and B’ sides) and John Peel session tracks. It's no surprise in the end why the band essentially ended after Denbigh's departure in later years; when he was around, the tension usually built to the breaking point. The male/female vocal dynamic was definitely one of the March Violets' strong points, and their most successful tracks push that hard, whether it's the murkier edge of "Children on Stun," the wonderfully vicious "Radiant Boys," or the blunt "One Two I Love You."

Natural History is not without its high points, "Fodder," "Undertow," and especially "Snake Dance," which hints at potential yet to be realized.


Standing Up Straight

The Wolfgang Press (Michael Allen, Mark Cox and Andrew Gray) were one of 4AD’s most enduring bands, spending the entirety of their career (more than twelve years) with the influential British indie label set up by Ivo Watts Russell back in 1980. Even before they formed the Wolfgang Press in 1983, Cox and Allen had released material on the label; first as Rema Rema (with future Ant-person Marco Pirroni), and then with Mass. (Prior to joining the Wolfgang Press, Gray had also been involved with 4AD, releasing three singles on the label with In Camera.)
The story of the Wolfgang Press is a familiar one. They were a talented alternative band with a distinctive, multifaceted vision: over the course of five studio albums, their sound encompassed everything from dark, somewhat difficult noise to orchestrally enhanced art-angst to idiosyncratic electronic funk-soul hybrids that were well received on the alternative dancefloor. The group garnered critical acclaim, flirted with mainstream success and soldiered on until the mid-‘90s, only to end up as a footnote in alt. rock history, coming up in the context of questions like “Whatever happened to that 4AD band the Wolfgang Press?”
By the time of 1986’s Standing Up Straight, the Wolfgang Press had started to explore more expansive, orchestral and industrial textures. While "Hammer the Halo" and "Rotten Fodder" in particular stand out as two of the group's most aggressive efforts, the intensity level remains high throughout. “I Am the Crime”, an austere, melancholic number that has much in common with the kind of doomy, dark melodic sound that the 4AD label is perhaps best known for. Indeed, songs like this would reinforce the reductive, erroneous categorisation of the Wolfgang Press as a Goth band. On “I Am the Crime”, Allen’s deep vocals put listeners in mind of Nick Cave, while Elizabeth Fraser makes an appearance, albeit in a more recognisable vocal mode.
A challenging and even punishing album, but a rewarding one as well.


Turn On The Bright Lights

One might go into a review like this one wondering how many words will pass before Joy Division is brought up. In this case, the answer is 16. Many are too quick to classify Interpol as mimics and lose out on discovering that little more than an allusion is being made. The music made by both bands explores the vast space between black and white and produces something pained, deftly penetrating, and beautiful. Save for a couple vocal tics, that is where the obvious parallels end. The other fleeting comparisons one can one whip up when talking about Interpol are several -- roughly the same amount that can be conjured when talking about any other guitar/drums/vocals band formed since the '90s. So, sure enough, one could play the similarity game with this record all day and bring up a pile of bands. It could be a detrimental thing to do, especially when this record is so spellbinding and doesn't deserve to be mottled with such bilge. However, this record is a special case; slaying the albatross this band has been unfairly strangled by is urgent and key. Let's: there's another Manchester band at the heart of "Say Hello to the Angels," but that heart is bookended by a beginning and end that approaches the agitated squall of Fugazi; the torchy, elegiac "Leif Erikson" plays out like a missing scene from the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen; the upper-register refrain near the close of "Obstacle 1" channels Shudder to Think. This record is no fun at all, the tension is rarely resolved, and (oh no!) it isn't exactly revolutionary, though some new shades of grey have been discovered. But you shouldn't allow your perception to be fogged by such considerations when someone has just done it for you and, most importantly, when all this brilliance is waiting to overwhelm you.