Review: Warner has worked on a run of Joy Division reissues this month and after their most famous "Love Will Tear Us Apart" comes "Transmission" which is not far behind. A 2020 Digital Remaster reboots the sounds but retains the grit and urgency of the original, which is a surging post-punk anthem filled with angst but also a sense of vulnerability and melancholy that makes it so much more enduring. "Novelty" on the flip has a broken beat line, gauzy guitar riffs and is underpinned by an excellent insistent baseline that never lets up.
Review: Cutting to the chase in an attempt to avoid something cliched like 'what an honour it is to write something on a Joy Division album', it's astounding that 'Closer' has now passed the 40 year mark. Perhaps not as immediate and certainly less familiar to many compared with their 'Unknown Pleasures' debut, in many ways this serves the record well. It's an altogether more experimental beast in terms of song structures and ideas, and as such doesn't feel definitive of a moment but instead timeless. That said, this is still very much a case of perhaps the greatest post punk band of all time delivering a masterpiece difficult second LP, with audible hallmarks of act and era. From opener, 'Atrocity Exhibition', through the whispered and suppressed 'Heart & Soul' and onto the beguiling 'Decades', 'Closer' makes it painfully clear that had circumstances been less tragic Joy Division would likely have continued to deliver for many more years than fate allowed.
Review: The world was very different in 1992, but some of the greatest musical moments from that year stand the test of time. Just take Polly Jean Harvey's staggering debut - the making of a musical icon and one of the era's finest examples of songwriting. It still sounds exceptional and its messages still resonate, lifting the woke-washed veil of our age in one fell swoop, laying bare the fact that many toxic attitudes prevail. It's rock music, but that's hardly the point. What matters isn't so much what's being played, but how and what's being said. Delivered with an air of Pixies and nod to Patti Smith, written in the wake of a relationship imploding, our introduction to Harvey remains vital as ever. A refusal to accept simplistic, patriarchal views of womanhood and femininity, or indeed simplistic patriarchal views of anything, the record's razor sharp observations, cunning wit and deft ability to reference but feel original is remarkable.
Review: No mater how many times you hear it, you just cannot resist air drumming and foot stomping to Joy Division's most famous hit. It's a track that resonates through the ages, and when you know the story of lead singer Ian Curtis it always takes on extra sombre resonance. Here it gets a special remaster and is served up with a special Pennie Version which sends the drums into overdrive and mad echo and distortion all make the track that bit more frenzied, intense and essential. The short but sweet, hard hitting post punk banger "These Days" is also included on this heavyweight 12".
Review: All of Joy Division's biggest hits have been remastered and reissues by Warner this month. This particular heavyweight wedge of 12" vinyl offers "Atmosphere", which interestingly enough was first put in March 1980 by the Sordide Sentimental label as a France-only single under the title "Licht und Blindheit". Like "Transmission" or "Love Will Tear Us Apart", it is an essential tune with a real moodiness in the production rom Martin Hamnett. Curtis's vocals have a sense of finality to them that was to prove all too real when he committed suicide not long after recording it. 1979's "She's Lost Control" is an other archetypal, angular groove with the jittery drums that made the band so essential.
Review: Smoked-out Texan psych troupe Khruangbin have picked a pretty apt moment to release this recording of their live show at Villain, Brooklyn. For starters, it's summer 2020, and if it weren't for a global pandemic there's a good chance a few of us would be recovering from the night before to a late-afternoon, or better yet early-evening performance from this lot at some festival or other. Secondly, because of said health crisis, we're all starved of the unique qualities that come from a band playing in the flesh. Dinner is definitely served here, then, via generous helpings of Laura Lee's bass-laden grooves and gorgeous, intoxicatingly airy vocal delivery. First laid down in 2018, when Khruangbin were touring in support of their second album, while 'Con Todo El Mundo' provides the majority of musical moments here, really 'Live At Villain' is a self-contained record - an hour or so of the band's typically magical and engrossing stage stuff, captured for keeps.
Review: 'Mordechai is another blissed-out record from Texan party-chill-psyche trio Khruangbin. It's also among the outfit's most defined and driven, a smooth, sticky hot funk odyssey made for hazy afternoon soirees. Leader Laura Lee is, as ever, unfathomably siren-like on vocals, her bass grooves aiding the process of seduction no end. Even at the most upbeat and anthemic, 'Time (You and I)', it's hard not to feel woozy and intoxicated by the pared-back breaks and guitar lick combination. Dance floor ammo for sure, as is Pelota. Overall, though, it's an album best savoured slowly, allowing you to fully appreciate every lackadaisical moment of opiate goodness, with tracks such as 'Father Bird, Mother Bird', 'One To Remember' and 'Shida' summoning stunning sticky, heavy, deep atmospheres.
Review: Reissues go one of two ways. Well, OK, maybe three. You're either left blown away by how fresh something sounds, reminded of a special moment in music history and how good an example a record is of that time capsule, or walk away wondering why you thought it was necessary to play, let alone buy, from this particular archive. As you'd hope, listening back to Slow Dive's seminal 'Just For A Day' fits into the second of those conclusions. Yes, soaring rock that seems to foster our dreams and fantasies in walls of power shoegaze does feel like a recollection rather than where we're at today. But my goodness do the epic arrangements and woozy artistry in the songcraft still sound as awesome, grandiose and yet personal as ever. One for the books, for sure.
Review: This record is the first time PJ Harvey's demos for her 1992 debut album Dry have been put out on a standalone album. The rough edge nature of the recordings lends them plenty of extra rawness and character, meaning the low-slung guitar poems the artist serves up sound even more direct. As well as previously unseen photos by Maria Mochnacz, the record comes with brand new artwork, so is a real must for Harvey fans. This release marks the first in a planned series of reissues from UMC/Island and Beggars that will see all PJ Harvey's albums reissued with plenty more demos.
Review: Where would we be without Jarvis Cocker? It would probably be a similar world, but one that never had the Michael Jackson BRIT Awards incident, Pulp's wonderfully astute take on socially and politically conscious Britpop, or 2019's British Christmas No.1, '(C**ts Are Still) Running The World', a 2006 track propelled to the top via a public bid to show the Conservative Party what at least some of the electorate were thinking. Despite cultural omnipresence, 'Beyond The Pale' is arguably the first proper JC record in over ten years - finally an album that again fully embraces the resolutely UK combination of geek and rebel which have made so much of his work stand the test of time this far. It's melodramatic, psychedelic, electronic pop that simultaneously celebrates one of the truly good aspects of Britain's place in the world today - musical scope and variety - while dishing out a welcome body blow to the country's downfalls, problems and misfortunes. Many of which haven't changed since 'It' landed in 1983.
Review: The Psychedelic Furs are back with what is their eighth album overall, but their first studio work since 1991's World Outside. These highly influential post punk stars are in exhilarating form right from the first powerful opening bars. The band sound fresh and enthused, with aggression and ambience driving the dynamics. Richard Butler its the powerful voice and strong lyrical presence on the alum while his brother Tim lays it down on bass. Many years of constant touring have kept the band at the bleeding edge and they are in fact scheduled to return to London to headline the Royal Albert Hall in April 2021.