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Weekly new release round-up: Miles Davis, Gin Wigmore, Wax Idols

April 19, 2013
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More recent release reviews at this page.

Miles Davis Quintet: Live In Europe - Bootleg Series Vol. 2

Miles Davis Quintet: Live In Europe – Bootleg Series Vol. 2 — Though the “Lost Quintet” never recorded in a studio together, they are probably one of the the most heavily documented line-ups Miles Davis played with. I own recordings of at least six cities from their 1969 European tour. It seems like every year another recording surfaces and gets issued, so they’re hardly lost at this point. Since I refuse to go through the trouble of playing them all back to back to determine which has the best performance-to-fidelity ratio, I’ll just state this set is all the 1969 European tour of the “Lost Quintet” you’ll ever need to find. Disc 2 and 3 offer slightly better ROI with some great solos from Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette and the general tearing-shit-uppedness of all involved. I haven’t watched the DVD of the Berlin date yet (I’ve heard the audio on a different CD release, I remember it being good), but I have watched the Copenhagen DVD from the Bitches Brew 40th anniversary set which suggests it’s well worth watching (I’ll get to it someday). The band was indeed, as Miles famously said, “really a bad motherfucker.” Though perhaps not, in my opinion, really any more bad than the Wayne Shorter-less 1970 quintet which has a slew of better quality recordings available and delves a little deeper into the psych-rock fusion people associate with this period of Davis’ career. The Quintet is still jazz on these dates. Very experimental, electric jazz, but pure jazz compared to the stratospheric fusion Davis would soon explore beyond Bitches Brew.

4  Decently high fidelities out of 5 Real bad motherfuckers.

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Gin Wigmore: Gravel & Wine — The short story is this is the kind of white-hot, red-line rock version of Amy Winehouse that Adele was hinting at with “Rolling In The Deep“. Or sort of a better, less contrived, more assured version of Lykke Li‘s “Get Some“. But repeated nine times with three ballads covered in the dirt they unfortunately scraped off Adele’s 21 before they released it. If, at some point in the last 20 years, you ever wished for a dream collaboration between PortisheadBoss Hog and The Bad Seeds, this isn’t that far off. Nancy Sinatra packing a sawed-off shotgun on amphetamines washed down with enough gin (pun intended) to bring out her inner Shirley Bassey. Okay, enough name-dropping. Noir swamprock with a pop edge.

4.75 Pistol packin’ rock’n’roll mamas out of 5 R&B revival femme fatales

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Wax Idols: Discipline + Desire — I think I’ve arrived at an age where if someone did do something new and exciting in rock, I wouldn’t like it. This is probably why chillwave and shitgaze and whatever it was Animal Collective were supposed to be didn’t impress  me at all. So instead I’ll just listen to records by bands that SOUND EXACTLY like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Not that Wax Idols sound exactly like Siouxsie and the Banshees every single second. Sometimes they sound a lot like Siouxisie Sioux singing on a blend of early PiL and The Cure tracks. Which is great because she didn’t sing with those bands and now I get to hear the results of some fanboy dream collaborations. Plus, I just really like this kind of reverential post-punk throwback. Naked on the Vague do it pretty well too, though perhaps with a little more originality. Anyway, Discipline + Desire fits nicely into my curmudgeon comfortzone. It’s good to see these ghosts perennially resurrected. What I don’t like to see resurrected is the stupid “mystery song” tacked onto the end of the last track of the album after a few seconds of silence. That should have died a fiery death in the late-90’s and I thought it did. Do people not realize how annoying that is when you put the album on your phone? Do they not realize that’s where people listen to CDs now? Good god, people, if you feel the need to tack an out-take on the end, make it its own track and just don’t list it on the art work. (The song in question is actually a pretty great halloweeny garage rocker).

3.75 Siouxsies out of 5 Banshees.

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Alex Calder: Time — A sort of weirdly lo-fi dream-pop album. Listening to it gave me the nagging sensation I’d heard it before. But like it was in another dimension or a dream. That was kind of invigorating until I decided it sounds exactly like Polvo playing Danielson Family songs. Then it became a lot less interesting. Not saying it’s at all bad mind you, just not the right record for me.

2.5 Oddballs out of 5 Songwriters

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Inspiral Carpets: Life (extended edition) — Not often recognized as such, Life is probably the best album of the Madchester and Brit-pop eras. It’s just that little more rock’n’roll than Primal ScreamStone RosesOasis and, of course, Happy Mondays (who weren’t very rock’n’roll at all). The songs are a bit better and the psychedelic flourishes come off a little less contrived than those of their counterparts. Brilliant and ecstatic. This reissue is a little bit of a baffling creature though. Included as bonus materials are the Planecrash and Trainsurfing EPs and their first Peel Session. Bloody fantastic! But left out is material from the Joe and Island Head EPs which means “Commercial Reign“, the song most associated with the album on this side of the pond, is missing along with “Joe” (one of their bigger early hits). “Besides Me” from the original UK release is reinstated but a few other tracks included on the original North American release are AWOL. Anyway, all this material could have fit nicely on the second disc except the second disc is naturally the now obligatory live DVD meant to draw in old fans like me. Which is great, I guess, except I might never get around to watching it and would rather have the complete picture of the band’s music up to this period in one nice shelfspace-saving package. A near miss.

Life5 Monkeys out of 5 Backs / Reissue: 3.75 Real Things out of 5 Happy Returns.
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