Archive for December, 2006

h1

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

December 27, 2006


For how much material The Beatles put out and how much of it was fantastic, it is strangely easy for me to get bored with them. Maybe it’s because the only thing I would listen to for the first seven years of my life was The Beatles. So I got sick of Sgt. Pepper really quickly and I pretty much refuse to listen to that anymore. And I get wrapped up in the various imperfections in the white album and Rubber Soul as much as I like them. It is very hard to ask a Beatles fan what their favorite song is, because they are all so beyond comparisson and so all around great, but if you ask a fan what their favorite album is, well then you might get a straight answer. For me, the two Beatles albums that I can come back to after years and years are Hard Days Night and Magical Mystery Tour, the latter of which is probably the most comforting to me after repeated listens. Magical Mystery Tour is essentially the album of my childhood and it never gets old when I listen to it. In so many words, it is like an old friend who understands you. While Hard Days Night and Sgt. Pepper may speak of more vital and timeless issues like dumbfounded love and everyday life in this world, they hardly speak to issues that the listener can completely relate to. Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, and Magical Mystery Tour can truly do this job, and it just so happens that Magical Mystery Tour is the best of these albums.

Even my favorite Beatles albums have clunkers that end up haunting the overall picture. Abbey Road has Because and Golden Slumbers and Rubber Soul has The Word and Girl. For that reason, those albums, as great as they are, just don’t feel priceless. Magical Mystery Tour, however, has no weak songs. A few that some people may not like, yes, but listeners with open minds will have all eleven songs blow them away. The mood is actually very close to Rubber Soul, in how comforting the songs are and how they relate to peoples everyday lives. Which is odd, because the album cover would suggest exactly the opposite. The album was made as a soundtrack to the bands horrid TV special that no one seems able to remember, so the band obviously got a little silly with this. They dressed up as animals for the colorful cover art, and the drug influence shows here better than ever before, probably the most prominent in the bands entire discography. For that reason a good chunk of the album is surreal and druggy, but there are still wonderful melodies to be heard.

As I said before, I feel that I can truly relate to this album, or maybe it truly relates to me, or something. In many ways, this is the Beatles album for the run-of-the-mill working man, with some problems and some issues. The environment is never obtrusive but on more than one occasion a feeling of angst or depression is let out, and it actually feels great. Mostly because the majority of Beatles songs before this album were so damn poppy. You got the feeling that although songs like Yesterday and I’m A Loser were great and easy to relate to, they were also unrealistic in their poppiness and even a bit annoying in that respect when you are actually going through I hard time. Everyone goes through hard times. I went through hard times. My parents got divorced and I was having a hard time in school. Everyone can relate to this record in some way, I think.

But that doesn’t make the band any less prone to using hilarious irony. For how bleak or mellow some parts of this record are, the starting track is almost a joke or sorts, a call out to customers to “roll up” to a circus that is the bizaare and unexplainable everyday life. This is a sign that the album contains a lot of everything that happens in life. This song is not the only oddity though; there are others, and they are all just as delicious. The peculiar instrumental Flying is the most relaxing thing the band ever did, and you can hear the drugs just spewing from this one. But the song most obviously influenced by psychedelia and maybe even a bit of the far east is Blue Jay Way, the albums Harrison original. My dad always told me that George Harrison wrote the bands absolute best and absolute worst. Best being maybe Here Comes The Sun and worst being something like this. However, I find that this song is, although extremely weird and unaccessible, somewhat fun if you don’t take it too serioulsy. God knows George was my favorite Beatle and I SO wish that he could have produced more work in the context of the band. This is not one of his best, but it is interesting and druggy.

Speaking of druggy, this review can’t ever comfortably come to a close unless I Am The Walrus is given a proper explanation. Although really, the explanation for this is quite simple. DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS. Listening to this one at full blast makes Flying or Blue Jay Way sound tame and almost playful. In no other place does the drug culture and the full realization of the flaws of both liberal and conservative America come into full swing in the Beatles repetoire. And yet, it still makes no fucking sense at all. The hook is fun if not a bit bleak. The lyrics are…uninteligible. Well, you can hear them, but they might as well not even be lyrics because there is close to no obvious construction to them. Everyone has heard it, Paul McCartney screaming that he is not only “The Eggman,” but also “The Walrus.” These whimsical words combined with a meticulously planned instrumentation and a lions share of well placed samples make for the most interesting and interpretable Beatles song ever. Perhaps this was the bands way of saying “fuck off,” because there is no way in hell that the radio took well to this. And yet it’s a great song, but so sorely misunderstood for being a druggy hippie daze when in fact that was clearly the intention and maybe the subject of the songs mockery and shenanigans. Also interesting, people seemed to think that Paul McCartney was dead judging by some of the extremely quiet samples later in the song. Paul is dead? I’m not sure that I have heard weirder.

Although the album, like life, sometimes meanders on the strange stuff, there is a fair share of great accessible pop that marks every Beatles album. The second song The Fool On The Hill is quite a contemplative tune, giving a philisophical edge to the album. People like this exist, and that will come as very obvious after giving the song a good listen. Hello Goodbye is one of the bands best songs ever, and the explosion of an outro is breathtaking, one of the best moments the band has ever had. Two very underrated songs are Baby You’re A Rich Man and You’re Mother Should Know, and they are both very simple tunes for how effective they are. Two other killer tunes are both glances into the past of the members of The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. They both teeter on the same issues, fond memories of their childhood homes or neighborhoods, but Strawberry Fields is a little more psychedelic while Penny Lane is more reminiscent of the Rubber Soul era.

And the album ends with the Beatles most open and important message yet with “All You Need Is Love.” The title speaks for itself, and the melody is enough to melt your heart. For whatever reason, I find that this Beatles album may damn well be my favorite. This is both a snap into reality and the unreal, with it’s frank commentary on how tough and stressful life can be and also with it’s clear drug influence. This may be the only Beatles album that manages to be dreary while also being abrasive as always. Like all Beatles albums, this is best complemented by more happy albums like Revolver or Rubber Soul, but if you ever feel the need to listen to a Beatles album that gives a bit more of a realistic view on life and isn’t afraid to say some things that can’t be said in the radio friendly pop world, this classic is well worth checking out. It is an album that I love from my childhood and it stands tall alongside other great Beatles classics.

h1

Smashing Pumpkins – Adore

December 23, 2006


For my fourteenth birthday, I recieved two gifts from one of my best friends. One was a specially ordered bag of my favorite flavors of jelly-bellys; peach, green apple, and blueberry. The other was this album. I have fond memories of sitting on the floor of my room, leaning against my dresser, gorging myself with jelly bellies, and staring at my stereo, trying to come to grips with Adore. It’s not an easy album, that’s for sure. There is a reason that this didn’t sell. Maybe not a good reason, but a reason nonetheless. And it’s true, the album sold very shitty, and yet when you ask a rabid Smashing Pumpkins fan which of the bands albums they hold most dear to them to this day, a good chunk of them will tell you that Adore is that album. Which is actually very strange when you think about it, considering the grandiose of the bands previous albums. The truth of the matter is, no fans or even casual listeners were expecting anything remotely close to this. So it caught them off guard, and they flipped a shit. They called it gothic techno bullshit and then that was over, the Pumpkins were “going downhill.” And yet now so many years later you would be hard pressed to find a fan that doesn’t, well, adore this record.

The album even starts out with a song that fans would probably be a bit jarred by. It’s quiet guitars and steady non-intrusive beat build a sweet melody up into a pretty tune, and consequently disassemble it progressively. While this is not a strong structure that fans could really be THAT disturbed by, by that point it was the most vulnerable song that the band had written, and it would have most likely made a listener who was expecting something in particular feel confused. And at that, they would feel even more confused when the pulsating sexual bass kicks in after the warped synth beats in Ava Adore. While this is a song that the openminded listener could understand, you have to understand how weird this was at first listen. Most fans found this a disturbing shift to electronica. After all, the band had started to use the instrument that had helped the band almost ten years prior to this, the drum machine. And because of this previous experience, they actually know how to use one. Ava Adore is something that fans of the earlier albums can understand but maybe not completely appreciate.

To appreciate this album, it helps to understand the circumstances under which it was crafted. The band had just gotten done harvesting the fruits of their third album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, and had secured their position in the rock history books. Their first album, Gish, showed an artier more dream-pop side, while Siamese Dream is a one two arena-rock anthem punch to the face, decidedly a crowd pleaser and a stray from pretentious art-rock, so says Billy Corgan. Mellon Collie is a massive two disk smorgesborg outlining pretty much every other aspect of the band that listeners were begging for. It delivered with flying colors after an anticipated wait, and although people may call Billy a dick for deeming it “The Wall of the nineties,” that’s exactly what it is as far as popularity goes. During the touring of Mellon Collie, the bands touring keyboardist died of a drug overdose while getting high with drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. Jimmy was promptly fired, and the tour was finished with replacements. Tensions rose between the remaining band members… D’arcy Wretsky and James Iha founded Scratchie Records (which is still around and kicking today) and Billy Corgan speaks of the bands stress and turmoil during this period. Billy’s mother also died, and his wife divorced him. Make no mistake, this was a very painful time for the band. Even though the record sold abysmally, the fans still ate it up, and the band finally proved that there was, in fact, no need to prove anything else. Playing the roles of rock troubadours, the band embarked on a massive world tour, dressed in gothic clothes and makeup, playing gigs in, as you will hear as legend by any commentator, extremely strange places. Namely, the back of a truck, an art museum, and other such small venues.


By this point in the bands history, it would have been absurd not to create a record of this stature. To be sure, this is the Pumpkins most open album yet. You can see D’arcy’s tits in the liner notes, for christs sake. You can hear the fighting, the grief, and the turmoil in the music. And yet most of the music is serene while it is painful and sad. This was really the first album where the Pumpkins did not care one bit about image or mainstream appeal, and it just happens to be the depressing one. Once again, there are great similarities to the bands previous work. The song Perfect would strike listeners as familiar, holding many similarities to 1979 in instrumentation and mood.

One thing I really feel that I must mention is what some people think of as an “ego problem” that Billy Corgan possesses. People seem to forget that frontmen have a duty to put themselves in the forefront and be the star of the show, and when there isn’t a party-crazy drummer or a wild guitarist, who else would you give the spotlight to but the main songwriter? Really, the man doesn’t have as big of an ego as some would like to think. It is a tad overinflated, but not dangerously or disturbingly so. For that reason, the music video for Ava Adore probably features more of the rest of the band than many of there other videos, even if it has Billy out in front for most of the entire thing. There was clearly an emphasis on the fact that a member of the band was gone. Many of the songs have a very light, airy atmosphere, but this is still the work of a band in any case. There is not so much an emphasis on the individual so much as there is on the songs, save maybe To Sheila and For Martha. If there is one album where stress does not get in the way, it’s Adore. The stress affects the music, and you can really feel it, but it doesn’t get in the way, at all.

To name highlights of this album is a bit silly, and choosing favorites is extremely difficult. The singles, Ava Adore and Perfect, will be the songs that fans of the previous albums will like. There are some quieter more story-based pieces as well, namely The Tale of Dusty And Pistol Pete and Once Upon A Time, both of which flutter with airy beauty. There are some fast more electronic based pieces too, Appels + Oranjes and Daphne Descends. The standout track to me, personally, is also the most distinct and individual on the album. Pug is the most seductive and sexual song the band ever (or “has ever,” if you will) made, and it oozes fantastic guitars and a killer beat. The album also has an epic that fans will love, For Martha, near the end of the album. The end of the album. It’s fantastic, and it will even knock the most prepared person off of their feet. The home stretch of the last three or four songs is something that really needs to be heard to understood, and Adore leaves on a better (albeit sadder) note than any of the bands other albums. Weak songs are few and far between… In my opinion, there is only one, and it’s not even really bad enough to be worth mentioning or anything. Don’t worry about it.

This is not an easy album. You probably will not like it at first. But the more you try to wrap your head around it, the more it opens up and presents itself as being just as beautiful as any of the bands prior work. If you won’t take anything less than a Mellon Collie killer or an album full of anthems, you may be a tad disappointed, but please do not let this one slip though your fingers. In short, it is the album you hate to love. No matter how much you will try to stray yourself away from it, you will surely come back to it. Unfortunately, Billy Corgan says it like it is in Daphne Descends when he whispers “You can’t resist.” The more you put into this album, the more you will get out of it and the more great it will be, just as great as many of the Smashing Pumpkins other essentials, even if it takes a fuck of a lot of jelly-bellies.

h1

Susumo Yokota – Sakura

December 11, 2006

Essentially what the composer of this music has tried to do is appease to the viewers ears in as picturesque a way as possible, through ambient music. It became increasingly obvious to me over time that the intention here was to paint audible pictures, as there was clearly a symmetry and supreme order here that most ambient work simply does not possess, but at the same time there was this nagging feeling that something went a bit wrong. While most of these are clearly wonderful “paintings” as it were, there are some clear problems, most stemming from Susumo Yokota’s artistic values outdoing his musicality. The result is surely a good album of ambient electronica, but in many respects the album as a whole fails to have any real cohesion or anything. I’m not completely familiar with this mans work, but if the rest of his career is anything like this then he has something to really be proud of. But to me, this is a very NOT memorable or special album with a few VERY memorable pieces.

I’ve got to tell you a story, because I feel like it really relates to this. I go to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a lot because I really do like classical music. The problem with going to see one of the most talented orchestras in the country, maybe even in the world, is that they have such an open mind and such a tolerance for certain modern crap. I love listening to Vivaldi and Handel and Mozart and such, but at the same time I kind of like hearing more off-kilter stuff, or maybe just stuff that you wouldn’t expect a professional orchestra to play. And yet I cannot stand all that atonal shit. And if you don’t know what atonality is, it is pretty much where they get a big orchestra with all sorts of instruments to sit in a big circle and crank out as much completely random nonsensical bullshit on their instruments as possible. I remember reading a program for a show once and I got all excited because the name was “Celestial Amity” or something of that sort that sounded really pretty from the name and ended up being the most ear-shatteringly awful thing I have ever heard. And the composer was there, a nice looking middle aged woman who got three rounds of applause. I didn’t get it. Shit, I still don’t get it. If there is no scale hierarchy it all falls apart. But what I did note was not so much the fact that the notes they were playing made me want to shove a screwdriver into my ears until I could no longer hear it, but instead the whimsical dynamics. Not that this atonal music really has that much in common with this at all, because this is good and all, but for some reason the spontaneity connects the two in some way.

The opening track Saku does sort of remind me of that in a way for some reason, but instead of a huge group of people playing random stuff, it’s a small group of instruments and synthesizers playing the same loops and patterns randomly over a long period of time (and in the same tonal hierarchy too!). This gives the music quite a sense of natural progression and untouched beauty, just like the greatest room on the planet, the room that is millions of years wide, the outside world. This is those dynamics I mentioned working, and yes, it is possible. If you are going to have completely random dynamics and movements and such, make them quiet and relaxing and something beautiful will come out. Of course, this isn’t a new concept… Brian Eno has done much in this field before, and of course all things ambient should really be related back to him, but in a way this is sort of new.

Just after a few tracks into this CD I came to question it’s intent. I saw what it was getting at, for sure. It’s ambient music, and it is pretty geared towards nature, but it is also clearly not meant to be a typical ambient work in a sense that not so many universal themes carry from song to song. Like most other ambient music, it was clearly intended to be non-intrusive background music to something else, or a audible representation of certain images. The cover art is one thing that needs to be kept in mind. If woodblock art like this is constantly in thought of the listener, a bit more sense may be made of this music. Maybe.

But there are some points where this album simply falls hard and can’t recover. While most of the songs don’t really have a beat, there are a few songs with soft electronic beats. With Gekkoh, Yokota breaks one of the utmost essential rules in making ambient music… Don’t lay on the same beat for a long time unless it is really good. While Gekkoh does eventually shift it’s beat, it stays on it for far too long and the result is an aggravated listener. The following of this rule can be great, and it is exactly the ever-changing rhythm that made Music Has The Right To Children by Boards of Canada so strikingly brilliant. Here the rule is cast aside, and like that fucking atonal music, makes a really big sacrifice when these norms are broken. Hisen is just bad, a droll escape for annoying sound effects that just doesn’t go anywhere. Two more flawed songs are Azukiiro No Kaori and Kodomotachi. When you let vocals into ambient music, you have to be SO careful to make sure they are not intrusive. They really are here, and they ruin their songs quite a bit. And then there is the typical problem that ambient music faces with Hagoromo, which pretty much just a really bad synth loop that gets progressively dressed up to be even more uninteresting. Bad synthesizer loops happen. And it seems like the composer doesn’t always have a grasp on what loops are bad. Let’s be honest here, ambient music is hard to make and you have to be really careful to avoid this kind of stuff.

That said, Sakura is an album with painful lows and ingenious highs. Even as background music, some of the songs can strike a chord as great ambient music. Genshi is an obvious winner, and while it dwells on one beat for the entire song, it is a good, simple, relaxing beat accompanied by precise synth parts. Great things happen when Yokota leans toward the natural world and that rich outdoor sound, and Uchu Tanjyo may very well be the greatest of this world. I actually puts vocals to good use too, and creates an ancient sounding jungle swagger. Though it is quite out of place, Naminote is great trippy jazz for a night-time environment, and it paints a picture of a theatrical urban area very well. Yokota should also be complemented for his ways with starting and ending this album, providing the listener with two inspiring openers and two killer Eno-esque clinchers.

Taking a step back and looking at Sakura as a whole, it probably is not as testing as I am making it out to be. But I really did find it to be hit or miss, half of the songs nagging of missed opportunities and the other half emanating very skilled musical spirituality. Maybe it’s just because I’m not that huge of a fan of ambient music, although I do like the genre a lot. I think fans of ambient electronica would deffinitely want to pick this up, and to them it would even be a great album. But for everyone else, me included, this is a release to be careful of. If you want very picturesque atmospheric chill out music, go for it. You’ll love it. Sometimes I love it too. But if that’s not exactly what you are looking for, you will be disappointed.

h1

The Radio Dept. – Lesser Matters

December 6, 2006

It’s no surprise I found this gem by association of a Sophia Coppola soundtrack. God knows that has happened before. The Lost In Translation soundtrack was a revelation for me, and it pointed me in the direction of My Bloody Valentine (can’t I just go one post without mentioning them?), The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Air, three of my favorite bands now. Hell, the disc practically slapped me on the face and threw me at a completely new scene of music. I haven’t seen Marie Antoinette yet, and the soundtrack hasn’t completely knocked me on my ass partially due to that fact, but it’s nothing to shake a finger at, that’s for sure. It should be noted that the double-disk soundtrack is just as varied as skillfully constructed as it’s predecessor, but once again I can’t really determine it’s worth without seeing the movie. This soundtrack is significantly more aimed at post-punk and stuff from the 80s, specifically Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, and Gang Of Four. But the typically dream-pop elements are here too as usual, and some of the standout songs to me were dreamy little tunes from a band I had never heard of, The Radio Dept.

I soon found out that the group is a Swedish band that recently came out with a new album, Pet Grief, which I now also have. They are sort of dream-pop revivalists, but they have their own style, that much I’m certain of. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head that they rip on, which is a pretty unusual quality for a band, that is, that significant an amount of originality. To be sure, this is the bands best album to date, their debut LP. If I were to describe the sound of the music in as few words as possible, they would be the following: dreamy, warm, reserved, honest, comforting. I probably couldn’t use less words. They are just that distinctive. The first thing that will stick out to any listener will be the rather programmed beats, the blanketing bass, and the quiet vocals. Considering how easy it should be for these themes to get boring in the span of a full album, the band makes sure they don’t need to repeat themselves and make sure the listener gets everything they should get out of this experience. After all, if you want to make a splash on one album, make it your first. These guys do, no shit in the middle.

But that’s not to say that this album is revelatory or anything. You probably won’t see any bands ever taking too much influence from the Radio Dept., but that doesn’t stop it from being as individual is it is. It’s a great indie rock release, fantastically comfortable, and not overly extravagant. The songs particularly on this album set the sound in stone. It feels very reliably sythesized, not too many big surprises or anything, and occasionally a very pretty ear-treat to make the songs glisten to their utmost. The song most true to the bands style is 1995. Starting off with a very synthetic beat and simple guitar strums, the chord progressions and vocal direction isn’t too hard to predict or anything, and the chorus is heartwarming and dissonant. A lot f the bands sound thrives on subtle detailing. There are various guitar parts to brighten to mood and synthesizers doing unobtrusive but ultimately impressive work. A cross-refference to this tune is clearly It’s Been Eight Years, which actually comes earlier on the album and refers to the time difference between 1995 and the albums year of release, 2003. You can hear the contrast actually, and this song almost feels like it is hinting at the things that it will later say in 1995 without really leaving too much left undone.

The track on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack is worth a mention as well. The somewhat more upbeat and fun Keen On Boys plays like a playful introduction to a day of mystical and dream-like fun. A combination of gliding vocal prowess and echo, layered guitar fuzz, and soft beats makes for an effect that I’m not sure the makers were readily aware of…When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of a steamy shower room or a sauna. But the lyrics suggest it might actually be about a gay guy. Listen to this one and you will hear what I mean either way. Where Damage Isn’t Already Done is an even more upbeat and straightforward song, and a lovely introduction to the bands sound after the opening filler. Two other favorites are Bus, a daydreaming suggestion, and Slottet #2, a wonderful piece of summer atmosphere. But the album never really misses a beat and stays really consistant all the way through, and each song is quite enjoyable and fun.

This is an album you can come back to and feel more comfortable and less bored with than your typical dreampop. The very nature of the music is relaxing and non-intrusive, and if you want to chill to some great tunes that aren’t unrealistic or depressing, this is your ticket. Really, try it out. Their new album Pet Grief is cool too, but this is clearly superior and more accessible. Give it a shot.

h1

My Bloody Valentine – Things Left Behind

December 2, 2006

To be honest this collection is well due, even if it is just a bootleg, considering it’s already hard as hell to get My Bloody Valentines earlier EPs. It might as well be hard as hell just to get one disk, and by hard as hell, I mean expensive to import. It was done in Japan I believe, which makes no sense to me, but the catch of this release is that it’s a bulk of the earlier tracks the band made all in one place, all remastered. Of course it is pretty easy to argue that MBVs material got pretty reliably better as they went along, it is still essential for fans to get a look at the bands earlier stuff, if not just for the desire for history but because some of it is actually good.

To be exact, the tracks that are on here are the Geek, the The New Record By My Bloody Valentine, Sunny Sundae Smile, and Strawberry Wine EPs, all remastered. The more I think about it, the more I really believe that MBV got better as they went along. I think you could almost maybe go out on a limb and say that they peaked with Tremolo, the final EP, but obviously Loveless is the most precious release, and that came second to last. Conversely, the bands first EP, This Is Your Bloody Valentine, is sort of a punch to the kidney. The sound basically reflects a high school band that can actually write their own material, but doesn’t know how to make their own style, so they rip on The Cramps. Fuck, if you have a song named “Don’t Cramp My Style” and you sound like this, it’s pretty obvious. And yet theres really no reason to listen to listen to that EP for the music or anything, because if you wanted to listen to a Cramps lookalike, why don’t you just fucking listen to The Cramps and call it a day? It’s history, I’ll give it that, and considering that the disk still had a great deal of time in which to fill stuff, it wouldn’t have been criminal to include the seven track TIYBV, but it still sounds like something the cat gacked up most of the time, and speeding up any of original vocalist Dave Conways horrid vocals would surely result in the sound that an adolescent Alvin the chipmunk would make if he got a softball driven into his nads at 80 mph.

There is a growth between TIYBV and Geek, but it’s not too big. Instead of being treated to seven songs worth of shite, you get four songs worth of something bearable. It’s still heavily influenced by The Cramps, but instead it’s something that fans of the aformentioned band might want to check out. Which is only saying so much, because I’m not really a huge fan of The Cramps, but they have their own respectable and distinct sound. It’s just easily immitated. No Place To Go is sort of a rockabily thing, and it’s actually kind of cool. Kind of. Not that anything on this EP is really anything to scream about. Except maybe Sandman Never Sleeps. I’m inclined to scream about that, mostly at Dave Conway. But it is a funny tune, just because it’s so bad. It’s comforting to know that the band went so far from here, really. And to be honest, if you’re into The Cramps or very early JAMC, the first two tracks might be enjoyable. Not that memorable though.

And then there is The New Record By My Bloody Valentine, which actually isn’t bad at all. To be honest, until I got this a few days ago, I had never heard anything before Sunny Sundae smile besides some live takes and sound clips of the really early stuff, so this was new studio material to me. I’ll say right off the bat that this is the first good EP the band ever made. It’s just so confused though, so cutely confused. The band has now dropped their obsession with you know what band and have moved on to straightforward pop. And the bands inconsistencies have been outlined already by the fact that they still have not produced a full scale album, and they wouldn’t for two years or so, in which time they would crank out numerous EPs. Perhaps this was a lack of funds or simply lack of a grounded direction, or possibly even a lack of any obligations, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s a decent EP with some decent songs on it. The band is still far from bliss, but all four songs are enjoyable if you listen to them lightheartedly. Lovelee Sweet Darlene and On Another Rainy Saturday are my personal favorites. But it’s still apparent that the songs don’t really have the pop sensibility that would soon be gained.

And then there is Sunny Sundae Smile, which is in a way the soft transition into the band doing great things. For one thing, Dave Conway is still in the mix. Which really at this point isn’t so bad. This is pretty much the only release where his voice can actually do good, maybe even great things once or twice, but it’s apparent that he really didn’t have any career going for him or anything. The songs on this EP are all great and priceless, really the first great EP the band had. Each song is drawn out in a very structured pop context, with the then famous JAMC noise film in the background blanketing it all. The music stays true to the title and is reminiscent of teenage days of fun. The title track is probably the best one on the album and is very memorable, but once again, all of the tracks are great. Essentially what has happened here is that the rest of the band has moved on to the jangle pop and sweet pop tunes that would be presented in the Ecstacy And Wine era, just with Conway on vocals. Thankfully, his vocals don’t get in the way or anything here. This is an essential EP to have, because it’s easily the best pre-Belinda Butcher release there is. I already had this EP before I got this collection, and I can vouch for the fact that it sounds better than the original masters. Not by much though, almost unnoticable in fact, but those with a trained ear can surely hear a side by side difference. These songs sound glossier and much better, and although it might not be essential for casual collectors to get these remastered EPs just for the sound quality, hardcore collectors will enjoy this change. But once again, it’s not that big of an improvement. It’s just surprising that it’s an improvement at all.

The addition of the Strawberry Wine EP is a bit of a strange gift. Granted, it’s remastered, once again with a very small margin of improvement, but it was a mystery in the first place why this is here anyway. The Ecstacy And Wine release can be found not only on CD but also on vinyl for pretty cheap, and that contains the Strawberry Wine and Ecstacy EPs. So this is not a very difficult to acquire release at all, while The New Record By and Sunny Sundae Smile are hell to track down. Of course getting the original release of Strawberry would be tough, but the songs are not hard to acquire at all. The songs are great though and mark the first release after the reconfigured lineup. By this point in the bands history, all of the band members that would last until the bitter drawn-out end are here: guitarist/vocalist Kevin Shields and drummer Colm O’Ciosoig are still around, and now we have the added bassist Deb Googe and guitarist/vocalist Belinda Butcher. I’m not exactly sure if Deb Googe was included earlier on than this, but regardless of those circumstances, the gangs all here. And this was a pretty interesting shift, allowing not only a female vocalist into the fray but one that is also a guitarist paving the way four layered guitars in the future. This opened many doors for the band, as exemplified with the EPs title track Strawberry Wine, arguably one of the bands best songs ever. The song is a luscious layered rural pop harvest piece, also very reminiscent of the far east in many ways. You can hear Colm in the background with a stomping beat and also the signature unmistakeable drum rolls. And we now have Kevin Shields in the vocal upfront, and Belinda harmonizing all the way through. The results are fantastic. And the two other tracks on the EP are just as good. Never Say Goodbye is a heartwarming piece very simmilar to Strawberry Wine in Feeling, and Can I Touch You is classic pop. Great EP, and the remaster is appreciated, but just a very strange thing to include.

All in all, this is a release that pretty much gives you what you expect. It’s not an official release or anything and pretty much a bootleg, so it’s not from the main mans direction, but it’s still a release nonetheless. And considering that it’s not that hard to acquire, you might be better off than hunting down all the other goodies seperately. They are remastered so that is nice, but once again, the inclusion of the Strawberry Wine EP is confusing and probably unnecessary. Even with that in the mix, the disk still ends under fourty minutes. It just seems to me like they could have crammed in TIYBV and all of it’s shitty glory just because fans who want the early EPs don’t care about quality of music when they are looking for history. And it is interesting to hear Kevins guitarwork in such an early stage anyway. If there was that much space left, and I’m sure Kevin wouldn’t even want to get anywhere close to a lawsuit that would associate him with that shit, TIYBV should have been in here, not that I would really want to listen to it too much. Truth be told, this bootleg has almost all great songs, and it fulfills it’s promises. It leaves the MBV catalogue in a little less obscurity, a much appreciated effect.