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Aural Pleasure

Good evening pop pickers. You have arrived at "Aural Pleasure", the home of all things musical, and the best place to find good honest reviews of all the latest LPs worth listening to.

Please note a couple of points: firstly, yes, only 'proper' music will be reviewed, at least in the main 'new' albums section. Shite like Britney Spears, N'Synch and Backpassage Boys will *not* be touched with either of the office bargepoles. Secondly, my format of choice is Vinyl - like it or lump it, so don't complain if I say the artwork on the sleeve is lavish and you're all squinting at your horrid little CD inserts. I can't say the same for my associates though, who all love CDs. I suppose they take up less space in the bin (the CDs that is, not my associates).

Coming very soon is the Vinyl deBasement, a look at overlooked classics, blasts from the past and forgotten efforts from forgotten artists. Some of these of course will prove to be best left forgotten, but never mind. Any requests should be directed to seantheirishbastard@drinkfromthefurrycup.com.

If you're annoyed by the small number of reviews of new stuff, well that's because we can only review albums we've heard, and at the moment this means we have to go and buy them ourselves. If you want more reviews, then help us to persuade the record companies to send us promotional copies. If you represent a record company, get in touch with us at the above address.

That's it for now, happy listening and enjoy the Aural...

  • GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antenna To Heaven Helter-Skelter
  • Aural Pleasure - Radio Head - **Kid A** Helter-Skelter
  • BADLY DRAWN BOY - The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Twisted Nerve, 2000) Helter-Skelter
  • Peter Gabriel - Ovo: The Millennium Show Sean the Irish Bastard
  • IRON MAIDEN - Brave New World (EMI, 2000) Sean the Irish Bastard
  • GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antenna To Heaven

    Written by: Helter-Skelter Published on: 02 Feb 2001

    CD cover Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a band from Montreal, Canada; at the last count numbering ten (three guitarists, two bassists, violinist, cellist, two percussionists and a projectionist) who individually are not as important as the band as a whole and subsequently change frequently. GYBE!’s politics run along the lines that whole of America is a corporate fuck-up that is going to bring the end of the world in the next few year, but they don’t want to be miss represented so refuse to do interviews. They are purely instrumental, a no keyboards basis is expressly stressed and their songs themselves are as apocalyptic as the titles that describe them. Lift Your Skinny Fists… is a double CD; two tracks each side, each track lasting over twenty minutes contains; pieces of music, monologs, static, field recordings, small instrumental solos and general noise, all along a similar theme. The sleeve notes map it all out for you to make it easier to follow, naming each piece in the track rather than the tracks themselves.

    GYBE!’s music is all about the crescendos, they make a song build up through droning rhythms and any way of getting as much noise as possible out of their array of guitars (including the use of: bows, distortion, feedback and screwdrivers), they supply military style drumming and melodies from the sting section and a glockenspiel. This is what makes …Skinny Fists… so satisfying. It is so easy to listen to and at the same time interesting.

    The music here takes you from the intensifying waves of ‘Gathering Storm’ and ‘World Police And Friendly Fires’ to the everlasting momentum of ‘Monhiem’ and ‘3rd Part’ to the almighty kick of ‘She Dreamt She Was A Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone In An Empty Field’. The field recordings emphasise the mood GYBE! are trying to get across; ghost like trains on ‘Terrible Canyons Of Static’, an old man reminiscing about Coney Island, young French girls singing, a Mexican boarder gas stations warning tourists to be wary of the natives and a preacher explaining his visions of God.

    This is the world of Godspeed You Black Emperor! This is none corporate, none commercial music for the masses. This music shouldn’t only be heard for any political content because that really isn’t important in the whole scale of things, it should be heard because it’s fulfilling, powerful music and you are not going to hear anywhere else. So lift your skinny fists like antenna to heaven and thank the lord that finally some decent music has come out of Canada.

    Aural Pleasure - Radio Head - **Kid A**

    Written by: Helter-Skelter Published on: 17 Dec 2000

    CD cover We can all breath a sigh of relief, the world isn’t going to end. Civilization is no longer about to crumble from the pressure of corporation and capitalism. Mechanisation and murderous transportation isn’t going to take us over. The laws to lead fitter, happier and more productive lives are no longer set. Well, maybe they are but at least Radiohead have stopped singing about it! Life may now look a bit brighter, unless of course, you are Thom Yorke.

    Thom Yorke, the singer and main songwriter of Radiohead is now moaning about the fame. Someone with all that money and you’d think they would be happy and more productive but after the huge success of OK Computer Thom Yorke wanted to disappear completely and never be found. The expectation was enormous, for two years after OK Computer Radiohead produced no new material, the band fell apart and Thom Yorke had to start again. He rebuilt Radiohead with the same people, who all wanted to make different albums but if anything were to be done it would done be Thom’s way. From recording sessions in four different studios across the UK and Europe, Kid A was born. Around thirty songs were recorded and ten songs were curiously selected for Kid A, an album that would be done differently. No singles are to be released, radio stations are told they can play any track they like, no promos or advertising only 10-40 second ‘blips’ of animation by the artists who worked on the album sleeve.

    As for the album itself it is very good but not exceptional. There are good tunes, Everything In Its Right Place and How To Disappear Completely, describing best Thom’s mental situation after OK Computer, are the closest it gets to the old formula. Motion Picture Soundtrack is a beautiful song but having heard it played better live kind of spoils it and the same can be said for The National Anthem and Optimistic when they are played in a more raw form (see internet sites for MP3’s). Guitars are use in abundance on half the tracks like the rhythm of In Limbo that collapses around you. Parts of Kid A seem a little messy and far too sporadic like the title track, the emphasis being on doing something that they haven’t done before sounds chaotic and directionless. Radiohead felt that they can’t just do acoustic guitar tracks like those on The Bends, a sound that has been destroyed by the likes of Travis, instead a song like Mourning Bell is organ driven and only a slight hint of guitars. Streamlining out guitars and adding voice manipulation, recorded loops and broken beats make songs that are distinctively Radiohead seem strange and it takes some getting used to though the album isn’t as electronic as we are led to believe. The packaging is very Radiohead, having to rip open part of the box to get at some of it is something I learnt from OK Computer.

    It is true that Kid A lacks some of the really catchy tunes which they have written recently and regularly play live (again see internet esp. Knives Out, Egyptian Song and Lift) which presumably will appear on the next record that the band are rushing to put out by February next year. This might be a move back to a more commercial type of album. Another Kid A track worth mentioning is Idioteque, despite it’s Aphex Twin label (I had actually written it off long before hearing it) it is probably the best made songs on the album. This is a worthwhile album and I will enjoy it and unfortunately the trendy students will buy this. It’s not quite the high standard of The Bends or OK Computer, we’ll just have to wait until February for that and poor Thom Yorke is still going to be famous whether he likes it or not.

    BADLY DRAWN BOY - The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Twisted Nerve, 2000)

    Written by: Helter-Skelter Published on: 16 Dec 2000

    CD cover It seems weird when people say about Badly Drawn Boy, “Who are they?” because I have always known that Badly Drawn Boy is the music of one man, Damon Gaugh. So the first questions should really be, “Who is Damon Gaugh?” and “How did you know about this stuff?”. Well ‘The Hour of Bewilderbeast’ is the first album by Badly Drawn Boy however this is by no means the first material he has produced. Damon Gaugh has previously worked with James Lavell (the UNKLE album ‘Psyence Fiction’ being the first I heard of Badly Drawn Boy on a song called Nursery Rhyme), had a song preformed by Mark E Smith (amongst others who I don’t exactly know) and has self produced a series of critically acclaimed EP’s recorded from his bedroom. Observation number one must be that for a debut album his musical experience really shows.

    With eighteen tracks ‘The Hour of Bewilderbeast’ may seem a long album but there are certain things that grabs your attention on the first listen, namely the first two tracks. The album opens with “The Shining” starting with a mellow French horn and cello section which echoes throughout the song and like a lot of the album the music is primarily Gough and his acoustic guitar. This first song draws along to it’s conclusion pleasantly and then, like album that have been well thought out should do, it breaks from melody to riff. “Everybody Stalking” is the other side to Badly Drawn Boy with a classic electric guitar riff of the fast paced bouncy rock variety. After that the album totters along one way or another. About twenty minutes in you are hit again with the climatic start of “Another Pearl”, the first single that preceded the album. After this it’s not so dramatic, a few lyrics stick out here and there like “Disillusion” but it’s the melodies that are instantly hum-able that really draws you in.

    On closer inspection a definite out-door feel crops up time and time again as if Badly Drawn Boy is glad to get out of his bedroom. Song titles run along similar themes like three consecutive tracks; “Fall in a River”, “Camping Next to Water” and “Stone on the Water” as if Badly Drawn Boy is trying to take you from place to place but frankly that just annoys me. However, not to draw away from the fact that the latter is a wonderful song and is akin to a lot of the album in the amount of experience, thought and consideration that went into it, now that is what I like.

    Badly Drawn Boy Badly Drawn Boy does, however, try to make the album amusing by including sound clips (splashed on “Fall in a River”), little solos (“Bewilder” and “Bewilderbeast” being the same thing only on organ and with a band respectively) and things like “Body Rap” which I just don’t understand because it’s a one minute track that isn’t making a point, doesn’t link any songs and sounds tacky. We are now up to track twelve and there are still amazing songs rolling off this album. “Magic in the Air” is a piano lullaby, “Pissing in the Wind” is another campsite song only far grander and a country feel and on “Epitaph” the birds sing the album out as beautifully as it came in.

    The point I’m trying to get across here is that despite the confusing little interludes this is a album of fantastic songs presented perfectly and remember ‘The Hour of Bewilderbeast’ is Badly Drawn Boy’s first album. Basically, I don’t know anyone who has heard the album and hasn’t really liked it (and I know a lot of cynical people). If you don’t know Badly Brawn Boy or Damon Gough now, you will soon.

    Peter Gabriel - Ovo: The Millennium Show

    Written by: Sean the Irish Bastard Published on: 01 Dec 2000

    Peter Gabriel has been very busy. Or so he says - his last studio album, “Us” was released back in 1992, and since then much has changed. Gabriel was approached a couple of years ago and commissioned to write the musical backdrop for the ambitious Millennium Dome show.

    Yes, the Millennium Dome - that much maligned so-called attraction. Basically it’s a big tent full of stuff, but that is irrelevant for the moment. The idea behind the music on this CD is basically a story of evolution, charting the progress of a primitive tribe through various stages of existence from pastoral through industrial and out the other side with all sorts of odd things happening. The story centres around the birth of a child from two different cultures, the name Ovo coming from the child’s face (eg - the one-eyebrow look - although less demonic than baby Gerald from the Simpsons). Well, exactly…

    Anyway, the music itself is beautifully crafted, with an often cavernous sound. Since he scored the soundtrack for Martin Scorcese’s Last Temptation of Christ, Peter Gabriel has championed the use of global music styles and ethnic instruments. This album excels in this respect, and includes parts here and there on things as varied as didgeridoos, hurdy gurdys, dulcimers and tampura to name but four. Likewise there are haunting vocal turns from Gabriel himself as well as Richie Havens, Elizabeth Fraser, Paul Buchanan and others.

    The feel throughout is both tribal and forward thinking, and much in a consistent mood despite varied themes. There are a couple of exceptions to the general feel, notably the heartfelt “Father, Son” which Gabriel takes the lead vocal on at the piano (with brass band accompaniment) and the imaginative and catchy “Downside Up” which were both showcased on Later with Jools Holland a few months back. However the ‘story of Ovo’ rap on the bonus CD is a bit… weird.

    There are some neat chord progressions, and there really isn’t much to compare it to - but then Peter Gabriel’s music never could be compared directly to anybody else (I believe only Ozzy Osbourne was recently brave enough to cover “Shock the Monkey” from his fourth solo album). New age could perhaps describe it, but then there is much to be heard here which would break that mould. Maybe this is why Gabriel set up his RealWorld record label…

    Included with the CD (at least with the version I have seen - there seem to be at least two available) is a story book which is part fairy tale, part anime, and while a bit strange (Gabriel co-wrote the story with Bob Baker, who wrote for Wallace & Gromit), it is useful in setting the tracks on the CD into context.

    I haven’t seen the actual Millennium show, but with this as a backdrop it could be a bit of a jaw dropper. However, taken out of context, some of the impact is doubtless lost. What we are left with then is an ultimately rather odd but pleasant collection of sounds from inside the head of Mr Gabriel. If you like him, you’ll probably love this. For the more casual listener it may not be quite the cup of tea (hence the mark I have given it), but it’s still worth a look (or listen). It all bodes well for his long awaited ‘proper’ solo album, but as for when that appears, who knows?

    IRON MAIDEN - Brave New World (EMI, 2000)

    Written by: Sean the Irish Bastard Published on: 18 Aug 2000

    CD cover When Bruce Dickinson replaced original ‘Maiden vocalist Paul Di’anno in 1982, the band’s career skyrocked. After ten further years, Dickinson left the outfit at the height of its success leaving his band-mates to subsequently pick up the pieces with replacement vocalist Blaze Bayley. The reasons for the departure lay with Dickinson’s disenchantment with certain members of the band, a promising solo career and a desire to move on to pastures new.

    After two rather patchy efforts with Bayley at the mic, bassist and founder member Steve Harris persuaded the disenchanted Dickinson (although he became one of the most popular acts in parts of South America!) to re-enter the fold. Along for the ride was guitarist Adrian Smith, who left in 1989 and had lately corroborated with Dickinson on his solo career.

    And so it came to pass that Blaze Bayley buggered off (apparently resigned to his fate) and Iron Maiden recorded their twelfth studio album in twenty years with the dream line up: Dickinson, Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and three guitarists: Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers (Smith’s replacement). So what of the results?

    Well, to be honest there’s not that much new here as the title might suggest. However, there is certainly much to enjoy, and what you have is the classic Maiden style given a well deserved once over. The actual sound of the album is just fab, all credit to producer Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Black Crowes) there. And the energy put in to the recording really shows throughout. Do you really need three guitarists? Who cares? It works.

    Certainly tracks like ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Brave New World’ are (although arguably formulaic) perfect single material (the Wicker Man in fact went top 10 in the UK - not bad for an ‘old’ band!), and evoke memories of 80s classics such as Aces High and Run to the Hills.

    The songwriting on the album is of the usual high quality, although some of the later songs are less immediate, notably the closing track ‘The Thin Line between Love and Hate’ which lacks a real sense of direction. The other tracks grow on you though, and repeated plays reward the listener greatly. I would almost go as far as to say that the album is progressive in style, while still unmistakably metal, although there are a couple of places which resemble the plainchant guitar style of Steve Rothery from Marillion!

    Of course where Maiden really excel (and I’m not talking about live performances here - that’s another matter entirely!) is in the high speed chorus and overkill power drive finishes, all present and correct on this disc. (Or discs if you’re into vinyl - full marks for the beautiful designs on the picture discs). What’s perhaps being explored on this album is the different ways of wrapping this sort thing up in different ways, and this is where the ‘new’ does come in (for instance ‘Blood Brothers’ contains a section which sounds distinctly Irish!) There are some gorgeous atypical sounds and themes on here, but don’t worry, the boys haven’t forgotten how they play best!

    The fans will obviously lap this up, but if you don’t own any Maiden albums you could do far worse than start right here. All that remains is to hope the line up lasts, because the follow up could be even better than this. Very promising indeed.

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