|VOL. 1 NO. 1 AUGUST 1999|
No Such Thing As an Urban Cowboy
File this one under "W" for "what are we, a bunch of idiots?" The readers of "Q Magazine" recently rated Manic Street Preachers "Best Act in the World Today." I may just agree with them. So the question is, why aren't Americans listening to Manic Street Preachers??? You don't find much better songwriting in the rock format, apart from maybe Radiohead. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is a must-have. Nuff said. Released in 1998 in Europe, it's now available here in the U.S. Look, songs don't get much better than "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next," with its thumping backbeat and string section.
Although generally more straight rock than the other albums in this installment of Over the Airwaves, the Manics serve up a luscious blend of musical styles from hard-driving love song ("You Stole the Sun From My Heart") to quiet and unconventional ("Born a Girl") to the best of Neo-Progressive ("Be Natural") to beautifully disturbing ("S.Y.M.M.") and sincerely deep ("My Little Empire"). I can't stop listening to This Is My Truth. Needless to say, I was devastated when I was about to see the Manics at the 9:30 Club in D.C., and found the show had been cancelled. If they come your way, consider making the extra effort to catch them in an intimate setting, something no longer possible in the U.K., where they are used to playing huge festivals in front of many tens of thousands of fans.
Pulp has been around for nearly 20 years, slowly building up a huge fan base in the UK. So why is it that you and I have never heard them on the radio here? This is perfect city music. Jarvis Cocker's deep and sometimes-shaky voice is Bowie mixed with a dash of Leonard Cohen and a pinch of Brian Ferry. This vocal melange is matched only by his moody lyrics.
From the beginning of This Is Hardcore, which opens with the searing "Fear," to the rousing "Like a Friend" that closes out the album, Cocker & crew evoke a mood that few others can. The title track is as provocative as any song I've heard in recent years, erotic and charged, yet weary and sad; ugly and beautiful--perfect city music. Other tracks, like "Help the Aged," are musically brilliant and lyrically unafraid to challenge the existential questions that plague any of us who spurt out our youth deep within the concrete canyons of the urban wasteland. "You can dye your hair but it's the one thing you can't do, can't run away from yourself, yourself, yours- s- s- s- soooooooo." It makes me want to scream everytime I listen to it. Incidentally, if you enjoy This Is Hardcore, you may wish to check out the concert video available on VHS, entitled The Park Is Mine.
Please do yourself and the world a huge favor and buy Spacehog's The Chinese Album. A brilliant collection of songs that follows up their amazing and campy-yet-sincere debut album "Resident Alien," which featured the hit single "In the Meantime." Their latest album came and went largely unnoticed after the band's auspicious start in 1995. Why? Perhaps they made an unfortunate choice of first U.S. single, "Mungo City," which was a little bit too quirky for American audiences. A much better choice would have been the British single "Carry On," which is as engaging musically as it is lyrically. It might also have been nice if Sire Records had done more to promote the lovely tune "Almond Kisses," featuring a duet with frontman Royston Langdon (seen in the tabloids as the unknown rock star paramour of actress Liv Tyler) and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Roy Langdon (brother Antony is the bass player) is the primary songwriter and gives us classics in the tradition of Bowie and the great glam-rockers of the 70's, infusing derivative songs with modern instruments and production values. The goofy "Skylark" and "Captain Freeman" keep the mood light, but Spacehog really shines on its most rocking ("Second Avenue") and soft touching ("Beautiful Girl") tunes.
One more thing. I saw Spacehog live and have to say they put on one of the greatest shows I've ever seen (and I've seen plenty, trust me). I believe they're currently writing/recording their next album but if you happen to spot them on the road, be sure not to miss 'em. In the meantime, check out The Chinese Album. If you have any musical taste at all, you won't be disappointed.
Note: Because I want to introduce you to music that isn't generally being listened to by many Americans, some of these albums may be difficult to find at some smaller music shops in the States. If you can't find these albums at your local music shop, check out CDNOW or 1-800-EVERYCD
|In This Issue||Features||Urban Oasis||Columns||Arts||Letters||About Us|
Copyright © 1999 by THE WIRE