Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Album review: J Mascis | Tied To A Star

Review for www.meg.ie

Gig review: Slint at Button Factory, Dublin

Review for www.meg.ie

Album review: Desertshore | Migrations of Glass

Review for www.meg.ie

Album review: Mark Lanegan Band | No Bells On Sunday

Review for www.meg.ie

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.