Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hindsight is 20/20

I've had the chance to re-read a couple of old music magazines that I had back in the day. It's funny to read album reviews from 10 or so years ago and to see how that album is thought of now. Let's take a look at a few of these:

Alternative Press, July 1993 - Verve' A Storm In Heaven - "I've just spent an intense week listening to A Storm In Heaven, Verve's debut album, and I can barely contain my excitement. Not since 1998 - when MBV's Isn't Anything busted open rock and loosed a new alien magma - have I been so all-fired intoxicated by a piece of music. Not since then has one album made everything else around sound like the anemic, mortal flailings of midwestern bar bands. Unless something extraordinary happens, A Storm in Heaven will be the best album of 1993." Now that's a very impressive review of Ashcroft and Co's debut LP. I love Verve and I like this album, but I don't know if I'd go that far with my feelings for it. I also find it amusing to see that even back in 1993, the MBV references were flying around.

Alternative Press, July 1993 - Radiohead's Pablo Honey - "Radiohead, a three-guitar, five-member band from Oxford, England, wedge themselves into an already crowded pigeonhole with poppy guitar-effects bands like Ride, Revolver, the Boo Radleys, and the Catherine Wheel - and Radiohead sound a little like all of them. If their music is a little unsurprising, so is the fact that they've been snagged by a major (the big guys can't seem to get enuogh of this stuff). After a couple of EPs that reduced a section of the British music press to little more than fawning, bilithering idiots, their big label debut makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. ... The album putters out, and the four good tunes, surrounded by a moat of mediocrity, can't quite redeem the album. But flavor-of-the-month bands like this aren't supposed to write whole albums, just a few good songs, and that much they've managed." Oooh, G.W. Erwin, I bet you'd like to take back that "flavor of the month" tag now. Although, my thoughts were similar to this when I first heard Pablo Honey back then - a couple of good songs, but nothing worth writing home to mom about.

Alternative Press, July 1993 (this issue was on fire with English debuts!) - Suede's Suede - "You could forgive us Americans for casting a skeptical ear at Suede. Preposterously pumped up by the British music press (declared best band in Britain by Melody Maker before they'd released their first single), Suede have had the spotlight in their visages practically from gig one. But they semingly thrive on this intense attention. Singer/lyricist Brett Anderson is largely responsible for the press' love affair with the group. He strikes one as a Brit journalist's wet-dream amalgam of Bowie, Ferry and Morrissey. ... Off the top of my head I can think of at least ten British bands superior to Suede but none of them can feed the mags a plentitude of controversial quotes or flounce around in gold lamee shirts in that androgynous manner that English hacks eat up like ravers gobbling Ecstasy. But you know what? Suede almost live up to all the hype they've received. ... Suede is a tremendous debut but it may prove to be too "English" to connect with the North American temperment (see The Jam, Madness, The Smiths, to a degree, and several others). But, as an AP reader, you're too broad-minded to let such cultural xenophobia stop you from enjoying this major work. Give Suede a chance and they'll take you over." How about that! A spot-on review of the debut album from one of my favorite bands. I've always thought that Suede was "too English" for most of America, but there are a fair amount of fans here.

Alternative Press, July 1995 (the 10th Anniversary issue) - In this issue, AP picked their top 99 of the decade (1985 to 1995). Here are the top ten: 1) Nirvana - Nevermind; 2) The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead; 3) Sonic Youth - Sister; 4) The Replacements - Tim; 5) Dinosaur, Jr. - You're Living All Over Me; 6) Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back; 7) Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine; 8) Husker Du - New Day Rising; 9) Bad Brains - I Against I; 10) Jesus and Mary Chain - Pyschocandy. Not a bad list, and I think that it would still hold up today.

Select, January 1998 - Robbie Williams' "Angels" - "Williams has one of those contemplative piano-in-a-white-room moment that comes to all artists ken to emphasize their new serious direction. Despite his voice getting dangerously close to Elton John he heads out into ballad-land without the usual syrup and conrived pomp: choirs sing, orchastras soar, and there's even a few George Harrison-esque guitar solos thrown in. Strangely, this is probably his best single to date." Good call Select - "Angels" was recently voted the best British song of the past 25 years.

Select, June 1999 - Radiohead's OK Computer - "A landmark on every latitude. Not the least achievement of OK Computer is that a major weird-psychological English guitar band can induce gasps of admiration, stunned silence and more than a few lumps in the throat. It's an emotionally draining epic experience. Now Radiohead can definitely be ranked high among the world's greatest bands." 5 out of 5 stars. This is pretty much spot on. Hardly anyone can disagree with OK Computer getting such a rave review. And it still holds water today.

Select, June 1999 - Moby's Play - "Since the Twin Peaks-sampling classic "Go", he's had a decade-long identity crisis, casting himself variously as Rave Moby, Punk Moby, and Soundtrack Moby. On Play, he's MC Blind Lemon Moby. Looping field recordings of early blues songs and spirituals over hip hop beat, he creates some neat bayou B-boy stomps (notably "Honey" and "Natural Blues") but his cultural tourism eventually palls. There's a crippling lack of conviction throughout, as Moby mixes his black source material with dated synth chords, his own anaemic vocals and sub-Satie piano that's more Robert Miles than Dr. John. Play mayhave plenty of jump around moments for Midwest skate kids but A-list status looks likely to elude Moy for some time yet." 3 out of 5. Ouch. Quite critical but somewhat off the mark - Play went on to hit #1 on the UK charts and go double platinum in the US, and every single song was licensed for television, film, or commercial use.


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