R.E.M.: Reveal

We are told that the critics are united in their acclaim for this "return to form" album. Let us analyse this "return to form" by imagining Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills not as a big rich rock band, but as a share owned company. Let us assume that shares prices in REM are directly comparable to the quality of their output since releasing their first album (or floating on the stock exchange, if we are to continue to indulge my analogy). By examining the share price over the last 15 years we can clearly see a gradual rise in value starting in the mid 80's. We then observe a substantial increase in stock value in 1991 coinciding with the release of "Out Of Time". We can then see a further rise in 1993 (Automatic for the People). With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that this would have been the time to sell, as share prices were at their highest peak. We then experience a slight dip in 1994 (Monster), and a gradual decline in the latter half of the nineties after Bill Berry's retirement. By looking at the up-to date graph we can indeed see that the share prices have rallied considerably at the end of the second quarter of 2001. It is still however somewhat shy of the heady early 90's price. Can we predict that this upturn in the market will allow continued sustained growth into the next financial year and beyond? Well, frankly, no, we can predict that the current up turn in their market price is likely to be a temporary one by comparing it with similar trends derived from anlyses of U2 Ltd. and INXS.com who have since gone into liquidation. So far all I have managed to establish is that it's pretty good, but not as good as their peak. This leaves me very little room left to articulate on the music itself and more to the point, what it actually sounds like. Well that can be done quite easily, it sounds exactly like REM, and if you don't know what that sounds like by now then its probably too late to start worrying about it.

Cosmic Rough Riders: Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine

I was rummaging through the latest releases in my local record shop a few weeks ago when I picked up a copy of this album out of curiosity. My initial impression was that it was a re-release of an old album from a little known peace loving West Coast band from '67. The album artwork and title suggested references to the summer of love and that late 60's psychedelic sound. The album was actually released at the end of last year but is only now building up momentum. A single release of the excellent "Revolution (In the Summer Time?)" on 23rd July is expected to help increase album sales further. I may have been some way off with the year but my West Coast guess was sort of right as they actually come from Glasgow. The opening two tracks; "Brothers Gather Round" and "The Gun Isn't Loaded" sound like Harrison inspired Beatles tracks. The sixth track, "Revolution (In the Summer Time?)" is a masterpiece, a perfect 60's time machine with lyrics like "We can pray for the sun, Let it shine on everyone, Sunshine brings love". This theme and style continues throughout the album and "Melanie", which was one of the bands early singles, is yet another cheery summery song with layered up-beat harmonies like the Beach Boys or the Mama's and the Papa's. All in all it's a perfect summer album. If you are going to Glasgow, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Gorillaz: Gorillaz

Designer bands have been with us for a long time. From the "The Monkees" right up to "Hearsay" producers and musical entrepreneurs alike have been constructing acts with a greater emphasis on commercial success than musical merit. Gorillaz is the most original concept yet for a designer band. The two brains behind Gorillaz are Blur's Damon Albarn and the artist responsible for giving us "Tank Girl", Jamie Hewlett. No prizes for guessing who designs the characters and animation and who's in charge of the music. A great effort has been made to detach the real musicians from the music and allow the audience to concentrate on the animated characters designed to front the band. The four characters: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russell have been given personalities and relationships that are further explored within the bands videos and website. By hiding the real musicians Albarn has created a greater sense of freedom which gives Gorillaz the potential to move in a number of directions, explore new territory, and attract younger fans without detracting or devaluing any solo projects or indeed Blur. However, on some tracks Albarn has not made full use of this freedom, "5/4 five four" and "Dunk", good though they are, should definitely have been filed in the bucket of songs labeled Blur rather than Gorillaz. The third track of the album, "Tomorrow Comes Today" begins to set a trend that is followed for the majority of the work. We are introduced to a slower more jazzy sound, with a deep lazy bass overlaid with harmonica and subtle orchestral arrangements. "Clint Eastwood" is the instantly recognizable hit from the album and is consistent with the musical style of much of the remainder of the album. The modern scratchy jazz sound reaches its height on "Latin Simone" as a bizarre Spanish sounding vocal serenades over a mixture of trumpets, piano and heavy bass. The album concludes with a spooky lost voice wondering aimlessly as the raw guitars gradually pump up and drown the voice in a sea of noise, it then goes rather quite until the hidden remixed "Clint Eastwood" makes a reprise at a greatly increased pace. For the multimedia generation the CD also includes some other goodies such as screen savers, wallpapers and some animations that might be OK on a machine more powerful than an ImagoQA 166MHz laptop.