Bob Dylan – Biograph

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

At first, I thought I would skip Biograph because it is a box set and under my rules, I am not reviewing box sets. But then I thought about how I keep Biograph organized with the regular CDs and not the box sets, and how I have reviewed the Treasure Isle Collection, which is a four CD set that I also catalog with the regular albums. And maybe I felt a little insecure about the Blonde On Blonde fiasco. Well, I regret nothing.

What I Think of This Album

This is a strange collection. Not a greatest hits, not really a career overview, not a gathering of rarities, it nonetheless makes stabs in all those directions. I think it works best as a rarities comp, as almost 40% of the songs were either previously unreleased or released only as singles, and there are some real gems there. As a hits collection, it fails simply because there are too many non-hit songs included, and its size makes it overly challenging for a first time listener. 

And as a career overview? Actually, it works pretty well that way. And while I am tempted to augment that praise by suggesting that Biograph overcomes the lack of chronological sequencing, I am going to go further and posit that the set works better because of the timeline jumping. I think to start out with Dylan as folkie, segue to the manic electric period, document the bewildering post-motorcycle accident era, observe the comeback of Blood On The Tracks and Desire, gape at the conversion to Christianity, etc. would have been boring and unfair (though, strictly speaking, accurate). I feel it is more appropriate and far truer to present Dylan in all his guises and modes without a framework, for this uniquely highlights his talent and skill (and perhaps his stubbornness). Jumping around from 1964 to 1975 to 1981 to 1966 to 1979 to 1969 reveals the scope and depth of Dylan’s gifts, and in fact honors those gifts by giving over fully to them. To otherwise present Dylan as being one thing for some chunk of time and then another thing during a later period dilutes and distorts the actual story, which is less one of transformation and more one of transcendence. Of course, Dylan says he was transformed after his motorcycle crash, so maybe I’m just full of shit. 

I like this collection both because of the rarities and the songs from the albums I don’t own (and probably never will). 

The unreleased songs (I am counting singles and B-sides here) are showstoppers, mostly. Two singles released in 1965 validate my preference for the Highway 61 Revisited portion of Dylan’s career. “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” is romantic and sexy. This is possibly my favorite Dylan song ever. It is also the blueprint for the entire Wedding Present output. Predating that by a few months was “Positively 4th Street,” which is cutting and venomous. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is perhaps a tad reductive of Dylan’s sound from that time, but it’s not a bad song at all.  

“Abandoned Love” is a tremendous track dating to 1975, never before released, replete with ramshackle charm (and the violin of Scarlet Rivera). Dramarama covered this recently. “Up to Me” should have been included on Blood On the Tracks, as it is similar in feel but much better (and refreshing) than many of that album’s tracks. “Baby, I’m In the Mood for You” is an early track – from the Freewheelin’ sessions in 1962 – and it reflects the playfulness of Dylan’s work from that era. “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” is based on an unspecified Scottish ballad, and it sounds like it; nae, this is a fine piece.

I don’t know why “Groom’s Still Waiting At the Altar” was relegated to a B-side. This is a fun, surprising blast of energy from 1981, the blues structure notwithstanding. “Quinn the Eskimo” could not carry that title these days (rightly so), but that’s the only thing wrong with it. Shifting locales, “Caribbean Wind” is pleasant, though lightweight. Ending things is the warm and spare “Forever Young.”

While it is nice to own the original of “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” the truth is that Nico’s version is *much* better (though it’s probably necessary to mention that Nico hated the arrangements on Chelsea Girls).

Of the songs from albums I don’t own, my favorite might be “If Not For You,” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is almost as sweet and heartwarming. I like the gentle “Every Grain of Sand,” which is also from 1981 but sounds like a 1964 track at its core (it reminds me, melodically, of “Chimes of Freedom”). “You Angel You” from Planet Waves is a very welcome surprise. 

I used to own Another Side of Bob Dylan, so “It Ain’t Me Babe” isn’t new to me, but I am grateful that I have it now. The same is true of the live version of “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met).”

Getting “I Want You” – the best song from Blonde On Blonde – without needing to own Blonde On Blonde is a gift. Too, the live rendition of “Visions of Johanna” is much more enjoyable than the studio version.

The liner notes contain a lengthy biography and, more compellingly, song-by-song commentary from Cameron Crowe (ugh), with explanations from Dylan (yes!).

The Best Thing About This Album

One of the nice surprises of this collection is all the love songs. I dig the fucking love songs.

Release Date

November, 1985

The Cover Art

Terrible, but not surprising.

Tiger Trap – Tiger Trap

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

It took me a long time to acquire this album – many years after I first heard it and fell in love with the band. Tiger Trap (named after the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes) was formed in 1992 in Sacramento, though guitarist/singer Rose Melberg had used the name for a solo performance the previous year. Melberg and high school friends Angela Loy (guitar/vocals), Jen Braun (bass/vocals), and Heather Dunn (drums) were together for only a year and released but one album (as well as a few singles). Still, their influence on the twee pop movement was considerable, and Melberg went on to additional success as half of the spare The Softies (with Jen Sbraglia of the All Girl Summer Fun Band) and with bands like Go Sailor and Olivia’s World, as well as via solo releases. Dunn later played drums for the Raincoats (reunion version, of course), Lois, and Dub Narcotic Sound System. The band was the inspiration for the Beat Happening song of the same name.

What I Think of This Album

Released on K Records and produced by Calvin Johnson, Tiger Trap’s self-titled debut is a charming, youthful blast of melody. To be reductive, it’s the American version of Heavenly (whose albums K released in the U.S.).

The energetic drumming on “Puzzle Pieces” demolishes any preconceived notion of what twee is and isn’t, while Melberg, Loy, and Braun harmonize with delicate precision and the guitars jangle away. There is a more downcast tinge to the tangy “You’re Sleeping,” this time with a more biting lead guitar part but the same bright vocals. The band gets noisy on “Eight Wheels,” and dreamy via layered vocals and arpeggiated guitars on the excellently-titled “Supercrush.”

The odd spy/surf guitar of instrumental “Tore A Hole” suggests a Bond movie score as performed by the Ventures. Album highlight “Words and Smiles” is a sunny, skirt-twirling piece of twee pop, with a niggling guitar part, drums being bashed left and right, and fantastic vocals. The foursome digs into darkness on the bitter “For Sure” (“I’d rather be without you / Than be anything like her”), which surges with hurt feelings and recrimination; the solo is excellent and the harmony vocals are essential.

The sing-song quality of “You and Me” underscores its fundamental sweetness, and the guitar line nicely evokes the lyrical reference to buzzing bees. I am shocked that the Wedding Present never covered “Supreme Nothing,” whose speedy and insistent thrum seems like it would have been irresistible to those Brits. “Chester” is really the only song here I could skip; the melody is slight and the changes from quick to sludgy are annoying.

Melberg and company bounce back with “My Broken Heart,” which sounds like a song that Vivian Girls would scuzz up with reverb and noise. “Prettiest Boy” is a ballad that highlights the women’s harmonies and the skilled drumming of Dunn.

The Best Thing About This Album

The guitars on this album are very well played.

Release Date

May, 1993

The Cover Art

You know what, I don’t hate it. It’s colorful and I like the handwritten look. I guess that’s a bouquet? It was designed by Beat Happening’s Heather Lewis.

Talulah Gosh – Backwash

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Amelia Fletcher is a giant in the indie world, and so is her first band, Talulah Gosh. I got into Talulah Gosh backwards, having started with Heavenly, which I adore and after noticing Fletcher’s unmistakeable vocals on work by other bands I love, like the Wedding Present, Hefner, and the Pooh Sticks. If Talulah Gosh didn’t start the twee pop genre, they were certainly one of the early, major players. Talulah Gosh formed in Oxford, England in 1986. Economics student Amelia Fletcher met artist Elizabeth Price via matching Pastels pins (or badges, as they are known in the UK), and formed the band with Amelia’s fifteen year old brother Matthew on drums, Rob Pursey on bass, and Peter Momtchiloff on lead guitar. Pursey left quickly and was replaced by Chris Scott. Price departed before the third single was released, and her substitute was Eithne Farry. The band broke up in 1988, but the Fletchers, Momtchiloff, and Pursey reformed in the heavenly Heavenly (and then reformed to varying degrees after the demise of Heavenly in various other iterations, which you will read about later). Amelia Fletcher is an esteemed economist and university professor (East Anglia), and Momtchiloff is the/a (?) philosophy editor at Oxford University Press. Price won the Turner Prize for her art – in the medium of video – in 2012. Farry went into the magazine publishing world, while Pursey became a television producer. Amelia and Pursey are life partners. Matthew Fletcher took his own life in 1996.

What I Think of This Album

Released on K Records, as pretty much ordained by the indie music gods, these 25 tracks are almost everything Talulah Gosh recorded in their short, shambolic two year existence (a different comp will give you an additional four demo versions of songs, apparently pegging the band’s total output at 29 recordings).

From the get-go of galloping “Beatnik Boy,” Talulah Gosh establish themselves as unique, by fusing indie-pop sounds to girl-group vocals and a winsome stance. Steering away from anything sexy – note hilarious song title “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)” – the band focused on the more romantic aspects of interpersonal relationships. But neither the lyrical content nor the musical style was simplistic or silly, even if the presentation was primitive.

From the punky “Break Your Face” to the desperate and frustrated “My Best Friend” (“So why should we both be so sad? / I’ll give you my heart / . . . / If you’ll give me yours / . . . / But I know that you won’t / Because you’re selfish that way”), Amelia Fletcher and company paint honest, devastating, and humorous portraits of young love. The vocals on the gossamer “Just A Dream” – with, I guess, an attempt at “Be My Baby”-style drums – are lovely. “Talulah Gosh” breaks the subject matter mold, exploring fame as relevant to Altered Images’ Clare Grogan (who was also an actor), and features some subtle whammy bar twangs, a wonderful shift in tempo from verse/bridge to chorus and back, and gloriously stacked-to-the-rafters vocals.

The band rides a Jesus and Mary Chain chord progression on “Steaming Train,” and jangle their way to greatness on the bleak “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)” (“Did you know I’m a pessimist / Have you ever wanted to die? / Have you no decency? / It’s a hard world, that’s no lie”). Meanwhile, waves of distortion inform “My World’s Ending” and all hell breaks loose on feedback-laced, scream-filled “Testcard Girl.”

While the lyrics can be difficult to discern, the vocals are an absolute joy (the vocal arrangements are stupendous) and the music is energetic and fresh. Almost every track is a tiny gem – intricate “My Boy Says;” giddy “In Love For the Very First Time;” Katherine Hepburn tribute “Bringing Up Baby;” and the spy-guitar framed “Girl With the Strawberry Hair,” just to identify a few – and well worth tracking this album down for. This stuff was, appropriately, the inspiration for legions of indie pop bands, including spiritual cousins Cub; one listen to “Sunny Inside” or “Testcard Girl” tells you exactly from whence sprang Vivian Girls.

Among the producers involved here are John Rivers (Close Lobsters, Yatsura); Dale Griffin (drummer for Mott the Hoople); Martin Hayward of the Pastels; and Barry Andrews of XTC and Shriekback.

The Best Thing About This Album

The vocals are majestic.

Release Date

May, 1996

The Cover Art

This is an unmitigated disaster, but I love the music so much, I just overlook the cover.

Close Lobsters – Forever, Until Victory! The Singles Collection

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

So, I was reviewing the first Close Lobsters album and I liked it so much I decided to order the second one. Which I also liked – though it is a more difficult listen – so then I decided to order this singles collection. My decision-making is not always great. Not even close. But I feel like I made the right choices this time. There is a post-reunion album that I almost certainly will pick up, too.

What I Think of This Album

If you are a Close Lobsters fan (which you should be), this compilation is indispensable. It gathers all the band’s singles and EP tracks from 1986 to 1989 (except for one B-side and a single issued on a label other than Fire). Almost none of these 19 songs was included on either original studio album, so if you squint hard enough, this is almost a double-album of material that could have been a third studio release. Right?

Much of this sounds more like the songs of Foxheads Stalk This Land than it does the darker songs of Headache Rhetoric, but there is a fair amount of diversity in any event.

Debut single “Going to Heaven to See If It Rains” flowers in full jangly/psychedelic glory with a great sing-speak vocal that plays off the music brilliantly. Someone (as on so many releases, the liner notes here avoid all critical information) sings a very pretty harmony on “Never Seen Before,” on which Andrew Burnett unleashes some Morrissey-esque yelps and trills, but is most notable for the cool drum pattern. The Wedding Present covered “Let’s Make Some Plans,” and it’s easy to hear how the guitar sounds attracted that band, though the original is far more delicate and pristine.

Much more aggressive is “Nature Thing,” proving that there was more than jangle to these lads. I can’t believe “Skyscrapers of St. Mirin” (what a title) was relegated to a B-side; this is a pounding tune with a thick bass, perfectly placed frenetic strumming, and a winning melody. The masterful “From This Day On” is an absolute pleasure, with a rubbery bass line and a FANTASTIC instrumental interlude. The gentle “Don’t Worry” reminds me a bit of the Go-Betweens (always a good thing), though with a solo those Aussies would never have attempted.

Fitful “Firestation Towers” is the song that was included on the seminal C86 compilation tape – though this is the rerecorded version. Also in alternate form is “Pimps,” which appeared on the debut (along with the kaleidoscopic “In Spite of These Times”). The gem that is “Boys and Girls” ends way too soon; the deceptively bouncy bass line that dominates the song is by itself better than most bands’ entire catalogues. Listening to “Pathetik Trivia” is like sliding down a rainbow made of guitar strings.

Is it weird to sequence the three covers in a row? I’m not sure. I don’t hate it. The jangly, caffeinated version of “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” neatly substitutes Nikki Sudden for Johnny Rotten, and the band does right by Leonard Cohen on a mellifluous rendering of “Paperthin Hotel.” They go super-obscure with a cover of “Wide Waterways” – a song by England’s Glory, the band Peter Perrett was in before the Only Ones. None of England’s Glory’s music (dating from 1973 or so) was officially released until 1989. Research indicates that the track was originally titled “The Wide Waterway.”

The Best Thing About This Album

Maybe “From This Day On,” but I could probably draw a song title out of a hat and agree with it.

Release Date

2009

The Cover Art

Excellent. The monochrome aesthetic always pleases me. The women with the drawn-on Dali facial hair and the berets are playfully seductive. The pointilist/Lichtenstein style is also a favorite of mine, and the different colors for the album title works exceptionally well.

The Wedding Present – Singles 1995-97

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

I don’t understand the single. It’s a vestige of a long-gone era. Long live the album. Bands should just wait until they have enough songs for a proper album, and if they have songs left over or songs that they didn’t deem good enough? Well, they can put those on later albums. No one’s going to listen to me, of course, and while I appreciate that eventually some record company comes in to make money off the resulting compilation, usually that compilation is poorly handled.

What I Think of This Album

This is a confusing hodgepodge (big fucking surprise), and while it doesn’t necessarily suffer for it, a listener may be robbed of a better experience because of it. The centerpiece of the compilation is the clever Mini album, which was in fact a mini-album of 6 songs. It was also a Mini album in that, in keeping with its British namesake, each of those songs was somehow automobile-themed:  “Drive;” “Love Machine;” “Go, Man, Go”; “Mercury;” “Convertible;” and “Sports Car.” How could the record company could bury this charming exercise in the middle of a comp? Following the Mini album are four songs from the “2, 3, Go” single as well as the five songs from the “Montreal” single. And serving as amuse-bouche of sorts to Mini are the A and B sides of the “Sucker” single; the “Jet Girl” rarity; and a contribution to a Tom Waits covers album. Among the various B-sides are acoustic versions of other songs on this same album, and two live tracks of songs from George Best and Bizarro.

The odd and angular “Sucker” barely sounds like the Wedding Present, and more like a Fall outtake. It’s not bad, it’s just disposable. The same is true, unfortunately, of the cover of Butterglory’s “Waiting On the Guns.” This is a very poor start to a very good album, but things improve dramatically with “Jet Girl,” which sounds like it came from the Watusi sessions. Key to its appeal are Gedge’s excellent lyrics, as well as the harmony vocals from Jayne Lockey, who sings on all songs and plays bass on some of them. The mind-blowing cover of Tom Waits’s “Red Shoes By the Drugstore” is gritty and menacing, with a bass line so aggressively taunting that it might as well pull your pants down and laugh at you.

This brings us to the amazing Mini album portion of the comp, a resounding success mostly because Gedge is at the top of his game, going all in on the automobile metaphors. The music, however, cannot be overlooked. “Drive,” in fact, features a high-octane distorted guitar part. “Love Machine” has lovely background vocals and Gedge sounds appropriately anguished, as the band bashes about in midtempo (with a nice, subdued instrumental passage). “Go, Man, Go” is touching, with a muscular groove serving as the backdrop to a great vocal melody. A Seamonsters-like crawl dominates (most of) “Mercury,” which is only 26 layers of distortion away from having been on that album. The wittiest number is “Convertible,” in which Gedge seeks to seduce a new conquest despite already being attached (“Oh yes, her / I’m still with her / But I guess I’m always convertible / Just flick the switch and I’m yours”), only to be shot down by Lockey’s character:  “Yeah, you were just saying . . . / But I’m afraid you’re not staying / Because I’m not as naive / As you believe.” A warm organ, layered male and female harmonies, and sprightly drumming make this one of the best songs of the Wedding Present’s career, and definitely of the back half of their classic period. Drummer Simon Smith flexes his muscles on “Sports Car,” and likewise someone (Darren Belk, I guess) does a fine impersonation of Seamonsters-era Peter Solowka.

“2, 3, Go” is, oddly, also automobile-centric, and pretty good, at least in the chorus. The xylophone/vibes on the acoustic version of “Jet Girl” are giddily adorable. The harmony-threaded rave-up “Up” is a nice little gem. Gedge delivers one of his best ballads with the vulnerable and sorrowful “Montreal.” Lockey sings lead on the acoustic version of “Sports Car,” working an effective transformation. There is an exciting enthusiasm to “Project Cenzo” that does not quite manage to steamroll concerns about the lackluster songwriting. The cover of the Cheers theme song – yes, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – is entertaining once. And I certainly will never turn down a live version of “Brassneck.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Convertible” races straight down the dragstrip of my heart.

Release Date

October, 1999

The Cover Art

This is a neat, cotton candy abstraction, and certainly unusual for a record company compilation. I also like the superimposition of the text and fonts – it has a very 4AD/v23 feel. Where the record company did skimp was on the booklet. The liner notes on the inside are printed (if I can use that word) in verrrrrrrrrrrrry faint white ink on a black background and are essentially invisible. I could no more tell you who designed this cover than I could traverse the Sahara on rollerblades.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

These guys were the indie heroes of 2005. With no record or distribution deal, they managed to sell tens of thousands of copies of this album through good press from blogs (and Pitchfork); they were hand-mailing these things out from their Brooklyn apartment across the globe. And they seemed pretty low-key about the whole thing. But I didn’t care for the second album and then I sort of forgot about them. Apparently, the entire band eventually quit and leader Alec Ounsworth is now the sole member of this project.

What I Think of This Album

I am not a fan of weird opening numbers – I don’t need a carnival barker to tell me to “hold on to your hat, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Just start playing the damn music.

Eventually, CYHSY settles into an energetic groove. Alec Ounsworth half warbles / half mumbles, with a distinctly David Byrne sound to his voice. This is probably what’s going to make or break this album for you – either you accept Ounsworth’s vocals or you don’t. Along with the annoying intro, there are also a couple of other 90 second tracks, which are what I find the biggest stumbling block (though “Blue Turning Gray” is admittedly pretty). But that groove I mentioned? Yeah, it’s here in full guitar-and-keyboard glory, with Ounsworth’s haphazard voice on top.

“Let the Cool Goddess Rust” benefits from a suspension bridge cable bass line and some great tom pounding; there is a sort of Wedding Present vibe to the rushing guitars. It’s easy to lose yourself in the appropriately titled and glittering “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found).” There is a tense beauty and grace to “Details of the War,” particularly when you consider that one of the lyrics is “camel dick.”

The strongest track is unmistakably “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” with a New Order bass part (but more spare), disco beat (also, New Order-ish, frankly), glassine keyboard lines, skittery guitar (New. Fucking. Order.) and an unstoppable vocal melody that Ounsworth stretches like he’s some kind of taffy-pulling savant. “Is This Love?” is where the Byrne comparison is most appropriate, but that’s not to take away from the song at all, which sort of sadly tumbles all over the place.

The big surprise of “Heavy Metal” is that . . . it is not remotely metal (though in fairness, the lyrics indicate the band was talking about a suit of armor); this song is just okay. The band gets back on track with the dysthymic but thrilling “In This Home On Ice,” with a sort of Yo La Tengo sound. Closer “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” (umm, okay) is another pulsing song that somehow comes across as both modest and anthemic, and also clinically depressed. Which is to say . . . I like it! Ounsworth pulls you in to his vortex when he chants “child stars” for what seems like three hours and you emerge gasping for air when he yelps “With their sex / And their drugs / And their rock / And rock / And rock and rock ‘n’ roll, HEY!” 

The Best Thing About This Album

“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” can even make me feel good, for almost six minutes.

Release Date

June, 2005

The Cover Art

I think this is hideous. The drawing is by Dasha Shishkin, with coloring and lettering by one of the band members.

Cinerama – Cinerama Holiday

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

Once David Gedge’s relationship with Sally Murrell ended, so did Cinerama (for the most part). Gedge simply soldiered on with the rest of the existing band as a reconstituted Wedding Present, which made sense, as the overall sound had been trending in that direction for some time. As with the previous singles collection, the title is a playful joke, as Cinerama Holiday was a 1955 documentary film.

What I Think of This Album

More of the tougher sounding, and therefore less interesting, Cinerama. And once again, David Gedge turns in a strong batch of songs, making exactly what the name of this band is matter that much less. Still. I liked the old Cinerama better.

This second singles compilation gathers the Disco Volante-related and pre-Torino singles (I think – this shit gets confusing), but of course was not released until after third studio album, Torino. “Wow” is pure Wedding Present, save for a flute part that is surprisingly well-integrated and is my favorite thing about this rave-up. There is more of the old Cinerama yet, as admirably displayed on “10 Denier,” both an advertisement of Gedge’s knowledge of hosiery and a realistic if cold-hearted review of an unfaithful boyfriend’s decision-making.

“Gigolo” avoids the easy joke, which would seem to be the only avenue realistically available to a song with that title, and instead expertly balances humor and pathos. “See Thru” takes us back to the Wedding Present sound, which is fine because this is a great fucking song (the xylophone is wonderful, though I don’t like the way Gedge pronounces “lingerie”). “Your Charms” splits the difference between Wedding Present churn and Cinerama orchestration, and makes it work, more or less. Murrell gets a rare spotlight turn on the dramatic “Reel 2, Dialogue 2.”

The Spanish language songs are atrocious, and “Superman” is too self-pitying even for me. There is a Carpenters cover – yawn.

Once again, Rachel Davies plays the violin, while the accordion is hefted by one Karen Cleave, presumably a relative of guitarist Simon Cleave. Steve Albini produced – oh, excuse me – recorded. At some point, I owned sophomore studio album Disco Volante but I abandoned it in favor of this collection.

The Best Thing About This Album

“10 Denier,” because I really liked the classic Cinerama sound.

Release Date

June, 2003

The Cover Art

This is highly reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, which was released about seven years earlier. Except this one is significantly sexier. Still, not terribly original.

Cinerama – Torino

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I own four Cinerama albums, which surprises me a bit (though I know for a fact I used to own at least two more). I gutted it out through two reviews but I think I’ve hit my limit. As explained elsewhere, I just can’t dwell on this music right now. This was the last Cinerama studio album, at least as far as I am concerned. There was a 2015 release, but that was essentially a novelty item – Gedge convened musicians to play a Wedding Present album in the style of Cinerama, and it did not involve Sally Murrell at all. So . . . fuck that.

What I Think of This Album

By this album, the original vision for Cinerama had been compromised. With former Wedding Present guitarist Simon Cleave fully on board, and a rhythm section (including bassist Terry de Castro, who had played with Animals That Swim) also formally part of the band, the music of Cinerama bounded back towards the old Wedding Present sound.

The combination of louder, distorted guitars and orchestral arrangements is sometimes a bit forced, but the fact is that Gedge is certainly a strong enough songwriter to make it work, and Torino is packed with excellent songs, many of which sound fantastic (“Airborne” sounds like classic Cinerama, for example).

Steve Albini had a hand in the production, and Rachel Davies plays the violin again.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Two Girls,” probably, or the guitar intensity of “Cat Girl Tights,” but I can’t really make the effort to be disciplined about this. Most of the tracks are excellent.

Release Date

July, 2002

The Cover Art

Very cool, if perhaps a bit trite? The palette is dull (as in, not vibrant and also boring).

Cinerama – This Is Cinerama

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Well, I said elsewhere that I wasn’t going to keep both this album and Va Va Voom, but fuck it. Call it indulgence. It is typically perverse that roughly two years after the release of debut Va Va Voom, but just weeks after second album Disco Volante, Cinerama released this collection of early singles. The title is a clever joke, btw. Cinerama was a pre-IMAX immersive process (three projectors used simultaneously on one giant screen); This Is Cinerama was a documentary from 1952 intended to promote the new system.

What I Think of This Album

Even discounting the overlap with Va Va Voom, this is a very strong collection. The songs “Kerry Kerry,” “Au Pair,” “Love” and “Dance, Girl, Dance” are all repeats. There is also a remixed version of “Ears,” cheekily jejune and retro.

The vaguely flamenco guitar strum of “7x” is what you first notice, but then Gedge’s lyrics take center stage:  “And I don’t want to seem unreasonable / But I’d just like to know when / You are going to speak to me again” and “Because now / I’m feeling totally perplexed / What did I do wrong? / Well, how do I work out what comes next? / Do I play along?” “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has a sort of spy guitar sound, which plays nicely with the orchestration. Meanwhile, “Model Spy” relies on a wah wah effect, with spy keyboards instead.

“Crusoe” is goddamn gorgeous, with timpani and strings, and full of devastating lines like “You can’t get a phone call like that and not tell me / You can’t lie with him in our bed and not smell me.” There is a sad ruefulness to weepy “King’s Cross”:  “I thought that you and me / Were never meant to be /  Now why would I think that?” with some great harmonies from Sally Murrell at the end. The cover of the Smiths’ “London” I can take or leave.

Given the timing of these singles, it is not surprising that the list of supporting players overlaps considerably with that of the debut:  Marty Willson-Piper (the Church); Dare Mason (producer of the Church and Animals That Swim); Derek Crabtree and Anthony Coote (Animals That Swim), as well as Julia Palmer (Billy Bragg) and Rachel Davies (Animals That Swim). Emma Pollock (Delgados) guests on “Love” and “Ears.”

This time, former Weddoes guitarist Simon Cleave is also around, and he co-wrote a couple of the songs. Gedge co-wrote two of the other songs with different people, neither of whom is properly identified in the credits.

The Best Thing About This Album

“The silence when you hold me is deafening.”

Release Date

October, 2000

The Cover Art

Another winner from Cinerama – bold color and font/graphics, with a whiff of romance to the blurry photos.

Cinerama – Va Va Voom

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Cinerama represented a rebirth for David Gedge, who by 1996’s tired Saturnalia, had put the Wedding Present through all the reasonable (and some unreasonable) twists and turns he could. Teaming up with girlfriend Sally Murrell, Gedge launched Cinerama, the aptly named chamber pop project. Gedge fortunately stuck to his comfortable themes of love, lust, betrayal, romance, infidelity, and heartbreak, but the new setting seemed to invigorate him, and Murrell’s voice was a warm, welcome (sometimes counterbalancing) presence.

What I Think of This Album

David Gedge and Sally Murrell offer up eleven orchestral pop nuggets that explore all aspects of interpersonal romantic relationships. The credits don’t seem to tell the full story of how this all came to be, however. Gedge and Murrell get a “performed by” credit right underneath the track listing, which seems generous. Meanwhile, the dozen plus contributing musicians receive a tepid “additional playing” nod. No word on who exactly arranged these intricate pieces, which would seem to be critical – otherwise, Gedge and Murrell could’ve just played these songs on guitars. In fact, the music is magnificent and Gedge comes up with lyrics to match.

“Comedienne” is almost straightforward jangle pop, propulsive and exciting, with some strings behind it and Murrell’s lovely backing vocals. “Maniac” is packed with dark, deadpan humor as it explores toxic masculinity (hence the title). “Hate” has some delightfully delicate percussion as well as a gentle organ, and Gedge half-convincingly declares his hatred for his lover’s “style,” “smile,” “country,” and “continent.”

The cinematic strings on “Kerry Kerry” are heart-stirring, and Murrell’s background coos are to die for; the percussion touches here are also noteworthy. The pop confection of “You Turn Me On” is perfectly composed. Emma Pollock of the Delgados sings on the lush “Ears,” an exploration of disloyalty. Pollock’s vocals were always the best thing about the Delgados. Gedge gets downright romantic on the sweet and carnal “Dance, Girl, Dance,” which glides by on heavenly strings.

My disc adds two bonus tracks:  the swoon-worthy “Love” (with a starring role for Pollock) and “Au Pair,” equally ridiculous and sad (“He fell in love with the au pair / When she ran her fingers through his hair”).

Marty Willson-Piper of the Church contributes guitar to the album, as does Animals That Swim and the Church producer Dare Mason. Speaking of Animals That Swim, their drummer and trumpeter – Anthony Coote and Derek Crabtree – also lend a hand. The connections continue with guest violinist Rachel Davies, who also played on the Animals That Swim album I Was the King, I Really Was the King. Cellist Julia Palmer had played with Billy Bragg.

The band thanks former Wedding Present drummers Simon Smith and Shaun Charman in the liner notes.

The Best Thing About This Album

The arrangements, whoever the fuck dreamt them up.

Release Date

October, 1998

The Cover Art

This is a good cover. I dig the colors, the composition, and the vaguely ‘60’s imagery. I don’t love the font for the band name, but I can forgive it.

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