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Recent album review
Jeopardy is very nearly a 7 star album, and upon an initial listen I had no qualms about that, but after a while I got the sense that something vital was missing.

It's not so much that The Sound aren't breaking any new ground, coming a mite bit too late to seminate as pioneers of angsty post-punk - it would be churlish to fault a band on the basis that had they released their debut a year earlier it would be cutting edge - they have their own distinct personality and identity, and that's what matters.

Heavily influenced by Joy Division and Magazine, The Sound actually come closest in spirit and vision to another post-punky band that released their debut that year ... Jeopardy comes across at points like an English version of early U2, with keyboards.

Even though in terms of musical complexity, lyrics, taste, and overall sound, The Sound beat U2 on all counts, I'd still rank U2's Boy higher than Jeopardy, as Bono and cohorts seemed to have a soaring sonic passion that thrust their early material into rapturously intense overdrive. Not that The Sound don't possess in spades all of the above ingredients - passion, drive, intensity - just not in such concentrated doses - perhaps that's the difference between Irish flamboyance and English reticence.

The subtle flaw though, is that - like their forebears The Jam - The Sound have a mild problem with memorable hooks. These songs sound like small songs writ large, as rather simple melodic and structural compositions puffed-up into grandiosity. Not that that's a bad thing. But just like the bands I've mentioned as influences, The Sound seem to be entirely humorless.

But the band do have a near-perfect sound. As frontman, Borland's vocals are the strongest presence, with his brooding baritone yelp situated at the precise mid-point between Bono's tenor and Ian Curtis' low register. The other musicians don't so much stand out as acquit themselves well - they play to serve the songs, not flash around.

That isn't to say there aren't plenty of delectable moments of rock musicianship on display, such as the squalling clipped guitar and thudding stop-start rhythm on the opening "I Can't Escape Myself". The ingenious stuttering hook isn't immediately apparent, as the atmospherics overshadow it, but after a few listens it sinks in, as the stuttering and pent-up explosions make the song one big hook.

The Sound weren't above frontloading this album with their strongest material though, and "Heartland", with its soaring keyboard drive, is the most immediately grabbing track, albeit less substantial than "I Can't Escape Myself". From there on there's an extremely consistent collection of tracks, all of which have something to recommend them - even weaker cuts like "Words Fail Me" and "Night Versus Day" are strong - not a bum track in the bunch.

The band's turn-of-the-80's sound, which effortlessly combines rock dynamics with forward-looking Techno sheen, goes down easy - it must've been what the future of rock sounded like to most people back then. So I can't really imagine many people not enjoying this kind of music, unless that is they have an allergic reaction to the intense Ingmar Bergman-esque melodrama of young adulthood.

With one exception - the crackling Midnight Oil-ish rocker "Missiles", which burns with the band's patented build-slowly-and-explode tension as beloved by all melodramatics - the lyrics are Joy Division lite. Borland (who eventually took his own life in 1999, long after this album, following two decades of failure in the music biz) is certainly an angsty young man, but his problems, while weighty and ponderous, don't seem to overwhelm him to utter despair.

So this music hardly ever approaches Goth - it's melancholic rather than dark - as exemplified by "Unwritten Law", a moody mid-tempo synth-ballad that contains a mildly haunting melody that's the loveliest on the album.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise

Posted: Tuesday 21st Nov 2017 9:21 AM
Recent album review
Garbage - Garbage (1995)

Whilst Garbage was very successful saleswise, and includes two hit singles in "Only Happy When It Rains" (no relation to the Jesus and Mary Chain song) and "Stupid Girl", it's not an especially notable album.

Although the songwriting seems fairly good, the material is severely undermined by what is a very muddy mix, such that every track has a woolly bass-heavy sound, with Manson's blurred vocals so low down in the mix that the majority of her lyrics are simply incomprehensible. And that's further aggravated by a lyric sheet that only quotes at most a couple of sentences from each song, sometimes only a few words.

At 4 stars - and thanks to its memorable vocal hook - "Stupid Girl" is the only track that somewhat appeals, and as the rest of the material is cut from the same cloth soundwise, Garbage turns out to be a case of one decent hit single accompanied by a bunch of B-sides.

The album's overall mood is depressive and downbeat, and - although usually characterised as grunge - I'd sooner file it under 'emo' / dense gothic guitar-rock, that further reinforced by Shirley Manson's pouty ice-maiden vocals.

All in all, my impression of the album can be summed up by a line from the Ministry soundalike "Not My Idea" ... this is not my idea of a good time. It would be a 3 star album but for the truly awful job on the mixing desk.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Tuesday 21st Nov 2017 11:07 AM
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