Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Most-read articles in 2014

Here are the most-read articles on Sacred Cowpats in 2014:

10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues

One half of Cave and co's 2004 set of albums, reviewed for your delectation

8. Juliana Hatfield - Only Everything

Hatfield's underrated follow-up to Become What You Are jointly with...

8. The Lemonheads - Car Button Cloth

This Lemonheads album is a bit all over the shop, but when it works... (a bit like the band really)

7. Mark Eitzel - 60 Watt Silver Lining

Eitzel does smooth, wine bar jazz.  You know it couldn't last.

6. Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

An oldie but a goodie.  The album too.

5. Top albums of 2014

One of the many broken-hearted lists of the year.

4. The Jesus and Mary Chain - The Power of Negative Thinking

More Jesus and Mary Chain B-sides than any normal person could possibly deal with.

3. Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones

Inscrutable, uncategorisable Tom Waits

2. The Durutti Column - Short Stories For Pauline

Exquisite guitar goodness from Vini Reilly.

1. A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Atomos VII

Transcendent EP teaser for the full album.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Highlights for 2015

It's looking quiet enough so far in 2015.  The Juliana Hatfield Three have reunited and are releasing the follow up to 1993's Become What You Are on 17th Feb and based on the first track to emerge If I Could, it will be a summery janglefest.  Dakota Suite are collaborating with Quentin Sirjacq for The Indestructibility of the Already Felled which should appear early in 2015.  If it's noise you're looking for there's a choice between A Place To Bury Strangers' fourth album Transfixiation, out 17th Feb or The Soft Moon's third album Deeper, out 31st March.

Scott Weiland is recording a rock album with The Wildabouts.  Entitled Blaster, it should be out in March.  Elsewhere, Richmond Fontaine and And So I Watch You From Afar have new albums expected.  On the more outlandish scale of the spectrum, Mark Kozelek is working with industrial band Godflesh, and maybe My Bloody Valentine will release an EP??

There'll surely be more than this next year...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Album Review: The Smashing Pumpkins | Monuments To An Elegy

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EP Review: Mogwai | Music Industry 3 Fitness Industry 1

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Album Review: Loscil | Sea Island

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Gig review: Morrissey at 3 Arena, Dublin

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2014

Ok I'm just going to put this up now and be done with it.  No, Mark Kozelek doesn't feature:

10. Caught In The Wake Forever - My Family Goes On Without Me

More exquisite melancholy from Scotland.

9. Earth - Primitive and Deadly

Lengthy, bombastic instrumental rock.

8. New Secret Weapon - New Secret Weapon

Exciting new Irish band.

7. Mark Lanegan Band - Phantom Radio

Lanegan keeps pushing the boundaries of his sound.

6. Morrissey - World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Old misery guts finally decides to mix things up... a bit.

5. Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams

Almost too smooth at times, yet it really works at others.

4. Dakota Suite and Quentin Sirjacq - There Is Calm To Be Done

Chris Hooson and co continue to turn out flawless albums.

3. Mogwai - Rave Tapes

One of the most consistent bands around.

2. Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin

An unexpected late career highlight, the fire still burns.

1. A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Atomos

I never thought my album of the year would be a droney, instrumental ballet soundtrack.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Album Review: Earth - Pentastar: In The Style of Demons

Earth open their third album, released in 1996, with the aptly named Introduction, where Dylan Carlson's layers of heavy guitar play a vaguely Screaming Trees melody (reprised at the end as Coda Maestoso In F(flat) Minor).  This track, like most of the others sticks to the Earth template of slow, head-nodding tempo with great slabs of heavy, repetitive guitars piled on top.  The 'feel' of the music takes precedence here over anything else. 

Carlson takes an understated vocal on the gloriously ragged, rough guitarfest of High Command and Tallahassee, which are both in a similar vein.  It's not oversamey either, Crooked Axis For String Quartet has a more ambient, widescreen feel and also the creeping, clean guitar of Charioteer is something else entirely.  Later they transforms Jimi Hendrix's Peace In Mississippi into a heavy Earth pounder.  Penulitmate track Sonar And Depth Charge is slightly out of step with the rest, consistingly mainly of two piano chords and little else over seven minutes.  But it doesn't quite derail the album, which is as solid an Earth album as anything else in their catalogue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins - Gish

Smashing Pumpkins' debut, released in 1991, opens with I Am The One, which is a kind of generic early 90s indie track.  That's not a criticism but apart from Billy Corgan's vocals it could be Lir or Jane's Addiction.  Siva on the other hand is an epic piece of work with driving guitars, a pounding beat and a classic yet modern feel to it.

What follows, however is even better.  The strangely mispelt Rhinoceros is a slow, loping track which builds up gradually, adding guitars.  Corgan totally owns this song with a perfectly pitched vocal.  It's an absolutely monstrous song with towering guitar from Corgan and James Iha.

Bury Me is a strong, heavy rocker while Crush and Snail are early attempts at those slow Smashing Pumpkins anthems they perfected with the likes of Disarm and Soma on Siamese Dream.  Later on, Suffer is a gloriously downbeat slice of, dare I say it, grunge with Tristessa acting as its faster counterpoint.  Final track Daydream sees bassist D'Arcy Wretzky take the vocals on a downbeat shoegazey tune with a hidden track tacked on that the end (I'm Going Crazy) for good measure.

But the high quality of this debut was a clear indication Smashing Pumpkins had arrived fully formed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Album Review: The Sly and Unseen / Caught In The Wake Forever | Summer Passes / Evidence Of Fractures

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Album Review: RM Hubbert | Ampersand Extras

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Album Review: A Winged Victory For The Sullen | Atomos

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Album Review: Johnny Marr | Playland

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Album Review: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross | Gone Girl OST

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Album Review: Aidan Moffat | Vagrants_09_14

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Album review: J Mascis | Tied To A Star

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Gig review: Slint at Button Factory, Dublin

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Album review: Desertshore | Migrations of Glass

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Album review: Mark Lanegan Band | No Bells On Sunday

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Album Review: Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones

For those used to Tom Waits' seventies albums 1983's Swordfishtrombones must be quite jarring.  Supposedly the beginning of 'difficult' Waits, in truth this album has its accessible moments.  Not the opener, Underground though.  It's a kind of growly, stumpy march, and it's followed up by the bone-rattling blues of Shore Leave.  Half spoken, half sung, it's a creepy song with some chilling Vietnam era imagery ("I shopped at the corner on cold chow mein and shot billiards with a midget").

Dave the Butcher is one of several instrumentals, this one with a warped fairground feel, while Just Another Sucker On The Vine's horns conjure up the last day of the carnival.  Closing track Rainbirds uses a glass harmonica with piano and bass to perform one of the prettier pieces of music here.

Johnsburg, Illnois and In The Neighbourhood will be comfortable territory for anybody used to Waits' barfly ballads.  16 Shells From A 30.6 and Down, Down, Down are down and dirty growly blues.  Town With No Cheer opens curiously, with bagpipes before Waits' paints a bleak picture.  Swordfishtrombone itself is a kind of slinky blues, in the vein of Shore Leave. It wouldn't be a Tom Waits album without an emotional wallop, and he delivers here on Soldier's Things, a mainly piano-based lament of the returned hero selling off his mementos - "and everything's a dollar in this box".

Overall the effect is of an album musically all over the place, the disparate songs linked by a loose Vietnam war connection.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Album Review: Juliana Hatfield - Only Everything

Juliana Hatfield's third album, released in 1995 saw her music take a harder edge.  The album opens (after a cough from Hatfield) with a pair of punky tracks, What A Life and Fleur de Lys.  Neither have an awful lot to recommend themselves.  Universal Heart-Beat opens with a drum solo but what follows is more of a pop song with a cloying chorus of "a heart that hurts is a heart that works".  Dumb Fun which follows is equally throwaway and you begin to despair.

Except from track five on the album improves dramatically.  Live On Tomorrow is a breezy acoustic strumalong with a lightness of touch which really suits her, with gorgeous acoustic solo thrown in.  Hatfield handles all the guitar work on this album and she really is in her element on the following track Dying Proof, which features ragged, lurching guitar work.  Bottles And Flowers and Outsider are in a similar, highly pleasing vein.

Hang Down From Heaven has echoes of Live On Tomorrow with the addition of a heavy chorus, and a similar sweet and rough experiment follows with My Darling.  One of the finest tracks is the penultimate Simplicity Is Beautiful, where she does a fine shoegaze impression, wth a gorgeously understated vocal under layers of guitar fuzz.

For a time in the mid nineties, Juliana Hatfield really had 'it'.  It's hard to argue with a lot of this material, quite wonderful in parts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Album Review: Dirty Three - Cinder

Dirty Three's seventh album, released in 2005, is a change from previous albums.  The songs are shorter and more plentiful (nineteen tracks!), and are less dominated by Warren Ellis' violin.  Rather it fits into the overall sound.  Two tracks even feature vocals, but more of that later.  Ever Since sets the tone for the album, an almost Morricone, Western feel with Ellis playing less manically but with grace and subtlety.  She Passed Through and Amy drift by very pleasantly before Sad S€xy picks up the tempo a little.  Mick Turner's guitar is perfectly pitched as Ellis' violin grows in intensity throughout the track.

Cinders' rattling guitars break the momentum a little, but the sprightly The Zither Player brings the album back on track.  It Happened and Too Soon, Too Late have a lazy, on horseback feel, almost like Calexico, while the spooky Great Waves features Cat Power on almost hypnotic vocals, which work pretty well.  Later, Sally Timms of the Mekons performs wordless vocals on Feral, while mixing it up further, Warren Ellis puts down the violin for elegiac piano on Last Dance.

So a fairly atypical Dirty Three album then, but a most enjoyable one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Album Review: Mark Eitzel - 60 Watt Silver Lining

Mark Eitzel released his first post-American Music Club album in 1996.  It was quite jarring upon first listen with a smooth, jazzy sound involving copious brass.  Typically, despite being one of the foremost songwriters of his generation, he chose to open with his version of Goffin & King's torch-song No Easy Way Down.  He pulls it off, but then follows up with some pleasant but unremarkable tracks, the smooth shuffle of Sacred Heart, and the soulful Always Turn Away.  Later, Aspirin transcends these arrangements via the steel guitar of Bruce Kaphan.

A handful of torch-jazz songs make the cut.  Utilising Mark Isham on horns, Saved and Mission Rock Resort work quite well as vehicles for Eitzel's passionate vocals.  Some Bartenders Have The Gift of Pardon is a kind of weary, "last orders" version of this, featuring a fine turn on piano from Kaphan.

Cleopatra Jones and Southend On Sea are funky jazz experiments that don't work at all.  But for those looking for classic Eitzel, he does deliver.  When My Plane Finally Goes Down is a shimmering, drawn out ballad with goose-bump inducing chilly keyboards blowing through it.  Wild Sea is a largely acoustic track that functions like an update of Johnny Mathis' Feet, bearing a fine, desperate vocal.  Bleakness closes in on final track Everything Is Beautiful as Eitzel sings "the thinnest rope won't hang you" over descending piano and a sensitive accompaniment from the rest of the band.  

So a departure for Eitzel, the introduction of Eitzel as doomed torch singer.  And, though uneven, it works.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Album Review: Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

Ok this is an interesting one.  Leonard Cohen's eighth album, released in 1988, features some of the worst late 80s synth pop production.  Yet it's one I return to over and over.  Well, six of the 8 songs anyway.  What of the other 2?  Ain't No Cure For Love is merely an easy-listening ballad introduced by a fairly cheesy saxophone.  But Jazz Police is something else.  Clattering synths duel with drum machines, supported by syrupy backing vocals to produce a song you'll only want to hear once.

Thankfully the other six tracks are the real deal.  First We Take Manhattan overcomes the production with a marvellous melody and vocal from Cohen.  The lyrics are full of longing and loss: "I don't like these drugs that keep you thin, I don't like what happened to my sister" and later "remember me I used to live for music" with a delivery that is weary and wise.  Everybody Knows has an Eastern European sounding melody and works well, while the title track staggers in on a playful lolloping beat as Cohen plays lounge lizard to perfection.

Take This Waltz is a downright pretty waltz but it's the final two tracks that see Leonard Cohen at his most wryly reflective.  I Can't Forget  overcomes an eighties Stevie Wonder beat helped by a Sneaky Peter Kleinow playing a gentle steel guitar and some great lyrics: "I stumbled out of bed, I got ready for the struggle... I said this can't be me, must be my double, and I can't forget... but I don't remember what"(!). A soothing bed of percussion and cooing backing vocals introduce Tower of Song.  This time Cohen's "friends are gone and his hair is grey" and he "aches in the places where I used to play" before he nails it by growling "I was born with the gift of a golden voice".  It's a really fine end to an album that really ushered in Act II of Leonard Cohen's career.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Album Review: Dakota Suite & Quentin Sirjacq | There Is Calm To Be Done

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Album Review: Morrissey | World Peace Is None Of Your Business

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Album Review: The Northern Drones | Psychic Waves

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Album Review: Drcarlsonalbion | Gold

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Album Review: The For Carnation

The For Carnation released their one and only album in 2000.  It opens with the eight minute slow burn of Emp Man's Blues, Brian McMahan's monotone vocals drone on as the understated music creeps alongside it, a little guitar here, a touch of keyboard there.  The track drifts in patiently and deliberately, and it's ably followed up by the stealthy, vaguely threatening A Tribute To, which though pacier than what came before, is darker still.  Being Held consists almost entirely of machine drones and Steve Goodfriend's drumming, yet it manages to convey a deeply sinister, stifling, suffocating atmosphere.
Snoother is, if anything, more downbeat, the band sounds utterly out of breath, creating a bleak slab of sound to lose yourself in.  Kim Deal contributes a vocal to the spidery guitars of Tales (Live From The Crypt), but on the closing slow grind Moonbeams the band finally shows their vulnerable side.  More emotive than anything which has gone before, it's an uplifting trudge with low key guitar, keyboards and cello combining to produce a rather affecting tune.
If it's reminiscent of anything, perhaps it's the darker side of Smog's Dongs of Sevotion.  But for an unrelenting album of basically all shade and no light, it's pretty addictive.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Album Review: The Lemonheads - Car Button Cloth

The Lemonheads sixth album, Car Button Cloth was released in 1996, three years after its predecessor and it's a kind of a messy one.  Less countrified than their early nineties material, at its best it contains some wonderful power pop.  The opening one-two It's All True and If I Could Talk I'd Tell You are fine examples of this lurching, rollicking style.
Break Me is an impassioned, relatively heavy track where the at times barely lucid Evan Dando is reduced to desperate pleas of "break me" over hard-riffing guitars.  The Outdoor Type is a clever, classic pop tune about the joys of indoor pursuits backed by an easy, effortless pop melody, and later C'mon Daddy is almost as sweet-sounding.
Unfortunately the rest of the album is a bit of a mess.  Losing Your Mind may have been semi-autobiographical and is a passionate, ragged rocker, while the band's version of Knoxville Girl is passable.  Heavy rockers Something's Missing, 6ix and One More Time were presumably great fun in the studio but add little to the album.
The album is frontloaded with the stronger tracks which just about keep things on an even keel.  Worth checking out.