Stereophonics: Just Enough Education to Perform

Following on from the trouble Ann Robinson has recently found herself in after making derogatory comments about the Welsh, I shall have to tread very carefully knowing that the Stereophonics fellow countrymen walk among us in the hallowed ImagoQA halls. Cwmaman most famous sons, Stuart Cable, Kelly Jones and Richard Jones (no relation) took the name "Stereophonics" from the front of the old sideboard styled gramophone in Cable’s grandmothers’ house. The success of their second long player, "Performance and Cocktails", ensured that this third installment had no problem entering the top of the UK charts, toppling Hearsay’s "Popstars". Kelly Jones has taken a minor slating from the popular musical press for the quality of his lyrics. Although Jones is hardly in line for the next poet Loriet, this does seem a trifle unfair, after all the competition aren’t doing any better, and the standards set by the likes of Dylan and Cohen are rarely reached in these enlightened times. Perhaps a more important thing to look at is the quality of the music, and that sounds pretty good to me. The opening track, "Vegas Two Times", picks up were "Performance and Cocktails" left off with Kelly Jones’ distinctive throaty vocals and brusque guitar. "Mr. Writer" has a bubbling reverbing backdrop on which the trio overlay some interesting harmonic vocals, bluesey piano and pounding acoustic guitar. The Steely Guitar and Harmonica on "Rooftop", the final track provides a solid end to a wholly acceptable album. They do however, never seem to quite reach the pace and energy of "The Bartender and the Thief". The more optimistic of those watching their careers with interest will feel that "Just Enough Education to Perform" falls slightly short of their higher aspirations, still the majority of fans should have no cause to be disappointed.

Dido: No Angel

By providing the musical backdrop to Eminem’s "Stan", Mr. Mathers has attached his proverbial jump leads directly to the career starter motor of Miss Dido Armstrong. Although the Islington singer/songwriter would finally make her name on Eminem’s "Stan", her first break into the American market was as a result of singing the theme tune to the American Drama series "Roswell High". On the back of all this she has seen some impressive sales of her album "No Angel". My first listen to the album had completed floated over me. I inserted the disc into the CD tray and sat down quietly to listen to my most recent purchase. By the time it had reached the second track my mind was elsewhere, I had reached the seventh bobo of spiritual enlightenment and I was drifting towards a somewhat higher astral plain. Then I realised that the record had finished without me really listening to it. I approached my second listen some time later with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for that monthly task of scraping the crud from the roller inside my mouse. A few weeks later and no "No Angel", has spent quite a long time in my CD Player, like all good records, its starting to grow on me. As usual a quick round-up of few key tracks follows; "Don’t Think Of Me" sound like a strong single contender to me and the well orchestrated string section builds up into a powerful Robbie Williams style chorus. "My Lover’s Gone" is very pretty, haunting number that deserves a mention, but unfortunately "All You Want" is more disappointing. Her habitual need to change pitch and tone in the middle of words gets a tad annoying after a while. Although I hold the Corrs and the Cranberries responsible for making this high pitched wobble fashionable, Miss Armstrong should not be excused. My copy of the album concludes with an additional bonus track, "Take My Hand", which takes me back to a 1970’s discotheque, with it’s pounding hi-hat and prominent Boney M style strings. Despite the album title she seems a lot more Angelic than a lot of her contemporaries.

Papa Roach: Infest

The current nü -metal wave being surfed by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Blink 182 has yet crash onto the beach and ebb away into obscurity. An entourage of young hopefuls have therefore greased up their boards and paddled out to sea. Although most are destined for "Wipe Out", a quartet of Californian nü-metallers fronted by Coby Dick are currently looking pretty stable on the crest of this new wave thanks to their hit single "Last Resort". The album, Infest, is packed full of solid riffs and angst. The lyrics are crammed with depressing images of mutilation and self hate which is what the current generation of moody American teenagers seem to want to hear. Dick’s aggressive and often gruff vocal style switches between Fred Durst style rapping and more traditional metallic high pitched screaming. The album maintains a consistent musical standard throughout and is generally a much better bet than Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate St*rfish". "Last Resort" starts off with the cheery opening "Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort" before the crunching guitars kick in, this is followed with "Broken Home", which is a typical example of lyrics aimed at the "No one understands me" youth culture. "Dead Cell" mixes spliced guitar riffs and rapping versus with a fast and furious chorus, and the finale, "Thrown Away", consists of the standard 4 minutes of thrashing followed a surprise change of pace to wind the album down. Not bad from a lead singer who admitted to excessive bedwetting during his teen years.