Alfvaen's Record Reviews

These are obviously not complete, because I'll probably never get up the gumption to write up something for every single album, and there will always be some that I haven't listened to enough to have a decent opinion of. What you see is what you get, and is generally my own opinion. Feel free to correct me on any factual information that's mistaken by emailing me. Your own opinions are also accepted, but I doubt if I'll share them with anyone else, or care if they disagree with mine. (Although, if you've got a lot of them, and are interested in sharing them other people too, I've got vague ideas about a project involving reviews of albums where several people, not just one, review each album...) Recommendations taken, with salt to taste.

Though most of my record-reviewing energy these days has been going to Rate Your Music. Check that out for a lot more of my opinions.

Godley & Creme

Kevin Godley, Lol Creme. Two guys that used to be in 10cc, who've done some solo stuff since. Probably have more acclaim for the videos they've directed than their music, which is admittedly a bit uneven. However, when they're good, they're good.

Ismism
Probably their best album; my favourite, at least. Contains some of their most creative work. "Under My Thumb" is a song whose chorus is virtually guaranteed to be stuck in your head for days. "Joey's Camel" is a slightly surreal story-song à la Indiana Jones, probably my favourite track on the album. "Ready For Ralph" is really a very silly song, but it's got a tremendous brass section. "Lonnie" is a very interesting look at "The Day Jack Was Shot". "The Problem" is sort of like about a dozen of those high school math word problems strung together. Those are just the highlights, IMHO. The music is consistently strong, with lots of bass, interesting rhythms, and the like. Check it out.
Music From Consequences
The only other sample of their early work I have; this is a sampler of Godley & Creme's three-record set "Consequences". Not as familiar with this one, but has some good songs, like "Four O'Clock In The Morning"(?), "When Things Go Wrong", and the instrumentals "Sleeping Earth" and "The Flood". A bit sparer than "Ismism", on the whole.
The History Mix, Volume 1
As far as I can tell, contains some remixed older material, but is mostly new stuff. (They never did come out with a Volume 2...) The new material is really of more interest--"Cry" was probably their biggest hit. "Golden Boy" is one of my all-time favourite songs. "An Englishman In New York" is quite biting, and very interesting in headphones because of the separately-recorded vocal tracks for each ear... "Save A Mountain For Me" is also of note. The remixed material I was less fond of; called "Wet Rubber Soup", it contains samples of 10cc songs like "Rubber Bullets", "Life Is A Minestrone", "I'm Not In Love"(some of which also goes into a remixed version of "Cry"), and bits of other tracks, like the closing of "The Flood". On the whole, I would've preferred another twenty minutes of new songs.
Goodbye Blue Sky
With some justice, this album was condemned by one reviewer because Godley & Creme seemed to have abandoned most of their other instruments in favour of harmonicas. It's lacking a bit of the musical richness that characterizes their other recordings, and one wonders why they limited themselves so much. "Little Piece of Heaven" is still a good song, as are "Golden Rings" and "Airforce One", but they can do much better. It's also, as I discovered after a few listens, a sort of anti-nuclear concept album.

The Grapes of Wrath

A fairly successful Canadian group, who split up a few years back; part of the group survives as Ginger. Their albums usually have a few more or less accessible songs, and the rest require several listens to really start to appreciate.

September Bowl of Green
The Grapes' first album, from 1985. "Misunderstanding", "A Dream(About You)", and "Break My Heart" are the most notable songs. There's also a cover of The Beatles' "If I Needed Someone". Vaguely reminiscent of early REM. Not a bad place to start with them.
Treehouse
Certainly the Grapes' most successful album. "Peace of Mind" is a masterpiece, and "Backward Town" an anthem for those stuck in places far away from the mainstream of civilization. Each song on the album is almost equally as strong. Highly recommended.
Now And Again
The title is unfortunately quite descriptive of the album's quality. The three singles, "All The Things I Wasn't", "What Was Going Through My Head", and "Do You Want To Tell Me", are all good songs, but the rest of the album is much weaker.
These Days
I don't think I've given this album quite the requisite number of listens to get into it yet. With this album they started to get into a bit heavier guitar.

Shriekback

A British band(although I used to think they were Australian)who has done some phenomenal work, although they're a bit uneven. But when they're good, they're good. (Sometime bass player Dave Allen also plays with Gang of Four.)
Care
Early underground dance-club sound. Vocals mixed low, and mostly understated music that only foreshadows their later edge.
The Infinite
A "Greatest Hits" record, collecting songs from "Care", slightly remixed, and the earlier EP "Tench", which from the sounds of the songs on here wasn't quite as subdued as "Care".
Jam Science
One of their weaker albums, although I haven't listened to it as much. Sort of transitional between "Care" and "Oil & Gold", but I don't have a clear picture of it.
Oil And Gold
A tremendous album, with hard-edged songs like "Nemesis", "Malaria", "Fish Below The Ice", and "Hammerheads", and some softer yet still powerful ones like "Faded Flowers" and "This Big Hush". Lyrics more perceptible than on earlier albums, although the record sleeve has them in a bizarre phonetic alphabet. Very highly recommended.
Big Night Music
Another great album. The trend is a bit brassier, as the beginning of the album makes quite clear, but they haven't lost their edge totally, as songs like "Black Light Trap" and "Running On The Rocks" show. Still, "Cradle Song" is very tender, "Sticky Jazz" is playful, and the album as a whole is very strong.
Go Bang!
A step backward in quality, for sure. The absence of bass player Dave Allen may be some of the reason for this; something was certainly different. The brass trend goes overboard, and they go so far as to cover "Get Down Tonight". The lyrics are well below what this band has shown they're capable of, for the most part. Not a total disaster, but some songs will make you wince if you remember "Oil & Gold" when you listen.
Sacred City
A welcome return to quality after "Go Bang!", this is a concept album based around cities, and London in particular. I haven't given it the listening it deserves yet, but the opening song, "Signs", is quite good, and on the whole they seem to be back on track. "Every Force Evolves A Form" sounds like a leftover from "Go Bang!", but would probably have stood out there nonetheless.

And now, back to the Den, or to Alfvaen's Album Page.

The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com