UK Dispatch: March '05
Rob Forbes
3/7/2005 7:30:39 AM

Rosie Brown
Clocks And Clouds (Stuck Records)

There’s a wonderful combination of the earthy and the lush on Rosie Brown’s second release, Clocks And Clouds. Recorded with her Austrian producer / guitarist / collaborator, Bernd Rest, in their South London studio, they’ve moulded something here which is quite special. A gentle blur of jazzy folk-pop, which I’m sure will appeal to the Norah Jones crowd, but is perfectly and subtly superior in every way. In fact, the ten tracks here should instead be provoking comparisons with artists such as John Martyn and Rickie Lee Jones - which raises Clocks And Clouds to another heady level altogether. She’s an impressive guitarist, too.

Various Artists
So Young But So Cold: Underground French Music 1977-1983 (Tigersushi)

Everybody loves the French, and here’s another 16 reasons not to stop. While us Brits fully embraced punk and new wave back in the late ‘70s, it was an insular scene. Sure, a few American bands made impact, Ramones, Television, etc., but for the most part we had our own music, and there was a heck of a lot of it around. Seems the French did too, but no-one was taking much notice. A shame, because as this excellent little collection proves, they had some great bands, especially in that post-punk period, just after the first wave broke and guitars were beginning to be traded for synthesisers. Kraftwerk, Bowie and Roxy Music provide the most recognisable influences, but there’s a remarkably contemporary feel to a lot of the music here. Special nods to Nini Raviolette and Artefact, and good to hear Stranglers’ bassman JJ Burnel’s "Euroman" again.

Cicero Buck
Humbucky (Super Tiny Records)

American / Anglo duo Kris Wilkinson and Joe Hughes made lots of radio and press friends with their debut offering, Delicate Shades Of Grey. Their follow up, Humbucky, doesn’t immediately come across as a difficult second album, but it does lack some of the easy charm of its predecessor. That’s not to say that it isn’t without its gems. On "Eyelashes", Wilkinson pulls off the impressive feat of sounding like both Maddy Prior and Debby Harry - sometimes in the same line. "Little Songbird" is pure Bedfordshire Americana and "Black Road" rolls along like the Gothic pop songs Robert Smith chose to write once he discovered money.

Enlarge Your Johnson (Pink Hedgehog)

Dorset pop outfit Cheese entitled their debut record Let It Brie, which remains one of the few album titles to link the Beatles with dairy products. The less said about this new title, the better, though there’s no doubting the quality of the music. Main man Marco Rossi, who wrote and recorded most of the material here, channels the glorious pure rock ‘n’ pop of classic Beach Boys, XTC, Beatles, Big Star and Badfinger into a collection of intelligent and catchy-as-hell pop songs. For fans of harmonies and hooks aplenty, ambitious arrangements and wonderful melodies. If the gaps between Teenage Fanclub albums are getting too long to live with, fill ‘em with Cheese. Just not before bedtime.

The Wedding Present
Take Fountain (Stickman Records)

A welcome return to the mighty Wedding Present. David Gedge’s in-between band, Cinerama, never quite worked in the same way - I suspect he was a little too happy for his own good - but with Take Fountain, he sounds back to his old self--which is miserable, wracked with jealousy and guilt, and alone. Back in the band’s heyday, Gedge’s only real contender in the lonely stakes was Morrissey, though the Wedding Present man never rung the same degree of perverse pleasure from the situation. Instead, it was a tortured existence and twenty years later, with another relationship on the rocks, he’s older, marginally wiser and just as confused. Musically, it’s the grungy indie pop of the Steve Albini-produced Seamonsters period that, for the most part, gets revisited, and that’s fine. To be honest, it’s just nice to have him back.

Matt Backer
The Impulse Man (Warmfuzz)

A renowned session guitarist, Matt Backer has fingered the frets for many, including (bizarrely) Shirley Bassey and Steve Earle. Happily, he has returned to us with a second solo album of ‘70s-soaked rock and pop. For easy reference, think solo Beatles, late Beach Boys and Badfinger, and maybe just a hint of Bad Company on a couple of tracks. It’s cracking stuff - the guitar playing is amazing, whatever style he utilises, and the songs are knowing, at ease with themselves and comfortably droll. An abundance of effortlessly retro pop hooks and excellent harmonies should appeal to guitar pop fans of a certain vintage, and if "the kids" don’t get it, frankly, I don’t care!

The Embrooks
Yellow Glass Perspections (Munster Records)

Recorded by Liam Watson at London’s legendary Toe Rag Studios, The Embrooks’ third long player, Yellow Glass Perspections, sounds just like a classic late ‘60s freakbeat album, which I guess was the intent. It takes its inspiration from the sort of stuff that gets passed around at scooter clubs on home-burned compilation CDs - and if you own enough of the originals, you pay a lot of home and contents insurance. The playing is phenomenal; guitarist Dr. Al scatters short acid solos like machine gun fire and drummer Lois, knows many, many ways ‘round her kit, but generally sticks to the noisier, faster routes. The highlights: "Francis" slams home like a classic Ray Davies lyric wrapped up in fuzz guitar and a driving bass riff, and "Riding A Wave" gets vaguely psychedelic, but retains its pop hooks, frantic energy and buzz.


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