Roger Waters: In The Flesh

The title of the new double live album is taken from the opening track of what is probably Roger Waters’ best-known work, "The Wall". Unfortunately, we have been offered relatively slim pickings from Mr. Waters in recent years, 1992’s Amused to Death was the last new piece, and "In the Flesh" contains only one previously unreleased song, "Each Small Candle". All songs are taken from his tour of North America and Canada in 2000 and consist of a good mixture of Solo work and Pink Floyd classics. It makes a refreshing change to hear some of the old Floyd songs that seem to have been shunned by Dave Gilmour & co on all of their recent tours. The version of "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" originally from the second Floyd Album, "A Saucerful of Secrets", gets a serious make-over and sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1968. Other Floydian rarities include "Southampton Dock", "Dogs" and "Get your filthy hands of my Desert". Of course he includes many of the old favorites from "Wish you were here" and "The Dark Side of the Moon" too. The closing track " Each Small Candle" promised to be part of a whole new piece of work that is yet to emerge. There is however a fairly interesting story behind the first verse of the new song, it was written by a South American who'd been a victim of torture. An Italian journalist, active in the initiative against torture in Northern Italy, had given Waters the short poem years ago. The poem lay in a drawer in Waters' studio until, during the crisis in Kosovo, he read a piece in The Times describing a Serbian soldier who saw an Albanian woman lying in a burned-out building. The soldier left his platoon to give aid to the woman, then rejoined his men and marched off. The image inspired Waters to set the short poem, "Each Small Candle," to music and pen additional lyrics. All of Waters’ post Floyd work seems far superior to what Pink Floyd have come up without him. Waters has managed to fill the gaping chasm left by Dave Gilmour with such accomplished musicians as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Snowy White. How different may things have been if Waters had won the court battle for the right to trade under the name of "Pink Floyd". I guess we will never know. Still, I have deducted 1 point for not including any European venues in his last tour.

JJ72: JJ72

Another debut album, this time, from a young three-piece from Dublin. JJ72 seem to have carved themselves out a sound that sits somewhere between the Manic’s, Joy Division and Suede’s early Bernard Butler days with rather edgy guitars and high pitched vocals. There is something about this album that gave me a strange feeling of Deja vu. Although the album consists of new material, there is a weird familiarity about it that I can’t quite put a finger on. One track inparticular that generates these feelings is "Way Down South". It has crisp well defined drums, guitar and bass and an intriguing falsetto which could have easily convinced me that it was a Siouxsie and the Banshees track from 1979 that I had never heard before. "Undercover Angel", the second track has an excellent chorus and a riff that can stick in your head all day if you listen to it on the way to work. The latest single, "Snow", is another fine track worth listening out for. It’s no wonder that JJ72 have been nominated for the best newcomer in this years Q Awards. The band seem to be incorporating all of the best Rock n’ Roll cliches, The plain black album cover, and more recently they cut short their set at London’s Astoria and proceeded to smash up everything, including drums, percussion, bass and amplifiers. All they need to do now is have their drummer killed in a bizarre gardening accident and they can claim to be true rock stars.

Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP

I have always been a firm believer that rap is actually spelt with a silent "C", so I was little reluctant to get a copy of the Marshall Mathers LP. However, he does seem to have a rather high profile at the moment so I decided to bow to popular demand and give it a go. An interesting fact to start off with for those not familiar with Eminem, his name is actually derived from the initials of his real name, Marshall Mathers, (M&M), and is nothing to do with his love of sugar coated chocolate peanuts. The lyrical value of most rap records I have heard in the past cause me to believe that the average rapper must have hit an unfeasibly large amount of branches when falling from the top of the stupid tree. Eminem is however on a slightly higher plain. When he is not rapping about oral pleasure (by far his favourite subject) he devotes the remainder of his time to rapping about his contemporaries, his hatred of boy bands and Britney Spears and although hardly profound, it is quite listenable, and rather amusing at times. The album starts with a public service announcement insulting the listener for buying the record. He then gets underway with "Kill You", which boils down to "Don’t mess with Shady, or He’ll Kill", Even if he was serious, I’m not scared. Perhaps the most notable track on the album is "Stan". The story of a mentally deranged fan, Stan, is told in the form of a number of letters. The first letters from Stan to Eminem tell of Stan’s infatuation with Eminem, and his disappointment that Eminem has not responded to any of his letters. The last letter from Stan, in the form of a cassette made in his car, with his girlfriend gagged in the trunk just before they drove off a bridge, is more disturbing. The final letter, Eminem’s response, although too late, contains a rather sensible reply that seems to have been written by Claire Raynor rather than the real Slim Shady. "Criminal" contains minimal music content, a basic drum beat, a simple bass line and uncomplicated keyboards, but is nonetheless a damn good song with interesting lyrics based on the premise that every time he writes a rhyme, some people think it’s a crime. The closing track, "The Kids", appears to have been inspired by Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman and Mr. Mackey and tells the important morale message that "Drugs are bad, M’Kay". Whilst getting over this important message the song also caused me to produce a few rye smiles, as well as giving me a very good description of a G-String. Maybe it’s hard for modern pop stars to appear to be hard and be original. There’s nothing new about throwing TV’s out of hotel windows or smashing and burning your equipment, even biting the heads of chickens is old hat, so what can the new breed do to attempt to shock us. The latest craze seems to just be peppering the offensive lyrics with the rudest profanities they can think off. In my opinion it doesn’t shock, it just makes it awkward to play the album when the kids are around. The humour and timing in the Eminem’s lyrics is perhaps what sets him apart from many of the other rappers around at the moment. All though the lyrics are designed to shock the music itself is very tame compared to what previous generations have come up with, so Eminem may think he’s hard, but I reckon Ozzy could have him, no problem.