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REVIEWED!
AUGUST 2002

XTC
Coat of Many Cupboards
(Virgin)
www.xtcidearecords.co.uk 
UHF
If It Was Easy
(In Music We Trust) 
www.uhfweb.com 
Be warned! This 4-CD box is NOT for neophytes but for the diehard fans who can't wait to get their grubby hands on any XTC material. Me included, of course! Consisting primarily of live tracks, rarities, alternate versions, out-takes and demos, Coat features enough choice nuggets to keep enthusiasts happy. My faves - various incarnations of "Life Begins at the Hop," live recordings of "Paper and Iron" & "Yacht Dance," home demos of "Love on a Farmboy's Wages," "Grass," "Mayor of Simpleton" & "Find the Fox." One major caveat - the album tracks included (at Virgin's insistence?) are simply out of place here. Still, XTC lovers (you know who you are) will not be disappointed! Bring on Fuzzy Warbles! A if It Was Easy makes light of the daunting task of comparing yourself to Coldplay, Radiohead, Doves and Oasis (okay, not sure about that last one!) as UHF more than hold their own in this, their third album. Psychedelic power pop of the highest order is offered here: "Mr. Grey" suggests mid-60s Kinks, "First Thing In the Morning" is as fragile and precious as anything on The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin, "Toast" is gorgeous Byrdsy folk-rock with chiming 12-stringed arpeggios bleeding though, "Rain on the Street" is a melancholy confection right out of Blur's The Great Escape. Won't be long before folk will say - "This is great, sounds just like UHF!" Yes! A

BRIEFLY

EVEN - A DIFFERENT HIGH WILCO - YANKEE HOTEL FOXROT
RAY MASON BAND - 3 DOLLAR MAN THE WEEKEND - TEASER EP
CHUCK PROPHET - NO OTHER LOVE DAVID CROWDER BAND - CAN YOU HEAR US
THE PILLCRUSHERS - P TROUBLE DOLLS - I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL
VARIOUS ARTISTS - DEEPER UNDERGROUND VOL. 1 THE MISS - NO RADIO
THE WORD - THE WORD MARLOWE - THEY WOULD HAVE HATED YOU ANYWAY
THE ATARI STAR - AND OTHER SMALLER, BRIGHTER WORLDS WINDSOR FOR THE DERBY - THE EMOTIONAL RESCUE LP
BOX-O-CAR - IN THE FUTURE...ON MARS REED DICKINSON - PLAYING WITH THE SUN
NORMAN BROWN - JUST CHILLIN'
EVEN A Different High (Rubber) www.rubberrecords.com.au 
One that got away? Released in 2001, this wondrous 3rd album from this underrated Aussie power trio deserves to be in the top ten list of any given year. Singer-songwriter-leader Ashley Naylor is an astute student of 60s classic rock and his finely crafted songs resonate with all the elements that made that era so special. Potent melodies, prominent guitar craft and that vibrant beat. Tunes like the spacey "I'm Gonna Try," the bluesy "Electric Light," the sparkling "Shining Star," the poignant "Beautiful Day Never End," the oddball folky "Bowie in my Dreams" and the rocking "We Are the Purple Nazz" settles the case for A Different High to be given its due recognition as a pop-rock tour de force.
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WILCO Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) www.wilcoweb.com 
So what was the fuss about? Wilco leaves Warner's Reprise label to end up with Warner's Nonesuch? Can you say 'publicity stunt'? Whatever - never quite touching the peaks of Summerteeth or Being There, songs like the groovin' "Kamera," plucky "War on War," ELO-channeling "Jesus, Etc," effervescent "Heavy Metal Drummer" & the whispering "Pot Kettle Black" more than make YHF  an essential 2002 purchase.
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RAY MASON BAND 3 Dollar Man (Captivating) www.raymason.com 
Listen up, Power of Poppers, this understated, charming album is a must-have for those of us who love our pop music in straightforward melodic fashion. Mason has an ear for a fine tune and a healthy appreciation of the pub rock - new wave of the late 70s/early 80s and you're likely to pick up references to Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Smithereens & Freedy Johnson. Match that with Mason's unerring wit and the result is a Power of Pop recommendation!
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THE WEEKEND Teaser EP (Teenage USA) www.teenageusarecordings.com 
The Weekend has been described as Weezer fronted by a girl but that conclusion is only viable if you've never heard of Blondie. Surely this feisty quartet derives its inspiration from that classic post-punk new wave era when cheesy synths anchored power chords into a blissful blend. These 5 songs provide a 'teaser' indeed into the joys of the Weekend. Tracks like "80s Rockstar" and "Perfect World" bristle with powerpop dynamics and crackle with mellifluent charisma. Encore?
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CHUCK PROPHET No Other Love (New West) www.newwestrecords.com 
Roots-rock reflections come easy to Green on Red alumni Prophet in this potent set. "After the Rain" with its fine mix of wah-wah & tremolo guitars is the highlight, together with the bluesy "What Can You Tell Me," the stomping "Run Primo Run," the gospel-tinged title track & the dynamic Stonesy "Eloise." Premier stuff!
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DAVID CROWDER BAND Can You Hear Us? (Sparrow) www.sparrowrecords.com 
Can You Hear Us? is a fervent worship-centric record that is heavily influenced by those neo-worship pioneers Delirious? and Matt Redman. In fact, the band covers (rather well actually) the former's "Obsession" and the latter's "Undignified" here. A solid effort distinguished by the vibrant "Our Love is Loud," inspiring "You're Everything," thoughtful "God of Wrath" and catchy "My Hope." Also worthy of mention, the band's version of the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King," a stirring moment.
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THE PILLCRUSHERS P (Self-released) The_Pillcrushers@hotmail.com 
Good-natured pop that is folk-rock breezy ("Is It True"); jaunty ("Beautiful Release"), mid-tempo rustic ("When I Noticed") and passionate melancholy ("Everyday"). Promising tunes and solidly derived constructs are the order of the day on this 4-track EP. Vocals tends towards the lanquid but a minor quibble. The horns on "Everyday" an excellent touch.
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TROUBLE DOLLS I Don't Know anything At All (Self-released) www.troubledolls.net 
Containing only 3 tracks, this sampler of sorts showcases the Trouble Dolls' acoustic/electric guitar dynamics anchored by the scratchy larynx of vocalist Cheri Leone. Nothing ground-breaking perhaps but final song "Something Blue Amazed Me" more than lives up to its name - its sad beauty shining through with surprising force. More of the same, please.
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VARIOUS ARTISTS Deeper Underground Vol. 1 (BigO/Snakeweed) www.bigo.com.sg 
BigO (Before I Get Old) magazine celebrated its 200th issue recently; it has also co-released this album as a showcase of what the Singapore indie rock scene has to offer. BigO had been instrumental in kick-starting the local music scene with its New School Rock samplers in the 1st half of the 1990s and now plays its part as a label as well. The bands here exemplify the breath of the indie music scene whether it is the Britpop of Sherene's Closet, the punk pop of The Moderates, the mat surf rock hybrid of Force Vomit or the death metal of Ossuary - all worthy material. Eclectic enough for most pop-rock palettes.
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THE MISS No Radio (Morphius) www.morphius.com 
Can I be honest here? The Miss's brand of atonal punk rock is not going to give any power pop fans much of a sugar fix but it's sheer energy & hyperventilating style will endear No Radio to fans of no frills hardcore punk rock. Elements of The Fall, Jesus Lizard, Pavement can be easily detected in tracks like "Grey Light," "Closer Still," "French New Wave" & "Spoiler."
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THE WORD The Word (Ropeadope) www.ropeadope.com 
This is a project album featuring of The North Mississippi Allstars viz. Chris Chew, Cody & Luther Dickinson; John Medeski and Ralph Randolph. The 'project' in question is 'gospel music.' Basically, The Word is a study of gospel music as a musical genre. On that score, it does fulfill its stated purpose. However, the supreme irony is that by having a secular context, The Word is devoid of soul and isn't that what gospel music is really about. Sounds pretty enough but what's the point?
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MARLOWE They Would've Hated You Anyway (Pink Hedgehog) www.pinkhedgehog.com 
Extremely fragile pop in the best traditions of Nick Drake/The Lilac Time/Divine Comedy/Belle & Sebastian. Marlowe never gives any cause to quicken the pulse with its hushed tones and wistful ambience. One cannot help but wish that Marlowe ups the ante now and again but there you go.  That said, ace material like the lovely "Bachelor Pad," shuffling "Two Day Affair" and silky "Victor Mature" sweeten the pot somewhat. C TOP
THE ATARI STAR And Other Smaller, Brighter Worlds (Johann's Face) www.johansface.com 
Even amidst its angular constructs, The Atari Star manages to imbue enough sparkling mellifluence to raise its music above the indie pop mundane. The lyrics aspire to the poetry evinced by the title whilst the soft artistic focus certainly permeates throughout the eleven tracks here. Not a chord strummed in anger, The Atari Star is apt for those plaintive quieter moments in life.
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WINDSOR FOR THE DERBY The Emotional Rescue LP (Aesthetics) www.aesthetics-usa.com 
4th full-length from this Austin/NY band finds it mining brighter territory than previous albums - why, "Emotional Rescue" is almost sprightly whilst "Indonesian Guitars" is vaguely romantic and "Mythologies" rocks out in angular fashion. Traditional pop purists might find the music here a tad challenging but the infectious post-punk gem "Awkwardness" may raise the comfort level that much higher.
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BOX-O-CAR In The Future...on Mars (Modern) www.cracked-rock.net/boxocar 
Fairly pleasing & rollicking good glam fun from Box-O-Car awaits you on this seven-track CD. Strong traces of Bowie, Roxy Music, T. Rex, Steve Harley & um Oasis abound on this competent offering. Fans of that early 70s pop-rock vibe will warm to In the Future... in no time at all.
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REED DICKINSON Playing with the Sun (Flying Kite) www.FlyingKiteRecords.com
Earnest is probably the best way to describe this effort from Dickinson. There is a strong '70s vibe - think: Wings, Beach Boys, Eagles, Pink Floyd - which manifests itself in the breezy "Same Blood That We Bleed," atmospheric "Many Mysteries," poignant "Black Cloud Zone" & socially conscious "The Killer Made the Cover." A competent debut.
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NORMAN BROWN Just Chillin' (Warners) www.wbjazz.com 
Jazz fusion so slick you could ice skate on it! I must confess that though I admire the obvious thought and effort put into the process, not to mention the gleaming seamless production work, this somewhat strikes me as fundamentally soulless.
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