November Reviews–Suede, Orange Juice, Sufjan Stevens & Patrick Watson

I know, I know, two of those aren’t November releases but I don’t make the rules. They’re in the November issue, and that’s the way this works. Now be quiet. The quality appears to be in the old stuff this time around.

suede best of

SUEDE – Best Of’ (SUEDE LIMITED)

There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Brett Anderson realised this soon after the release of Suede’s fifth and, to date, final album, ‘A New Morning’, and thus marked the end of one of the definitive British bands of the Nineties. Shorn of the epic songs of old, not to mention the vast majority of their fanbase, the album spluttered to an inglorious demise and the band soon followed. 2003’s ‘Singles’ appeared in the lower reaches of the album chart and Suede passed into history with the minimum of fuss. Seven years later, it’s time to have another go, even if the first disc is essentially ‘Singles’ shuffled around a bit, but with three songs taken off. What matters, as ever, is that these songs – ‘Animal Nitrate’, ‘The Wild Ones’, ‘Beautiful Ones’ – still sound as vital and invigorating as the first time you heard them. The two discs serve to delineate between the Suede which went about bothering the charts and the Suede which resided only in long-player form, rewarding those who took the time to get to know them properly. Although the second disc appears to be convinced that Suede stopped recording music around 1997, it does serve to illustrate just how grandiose and absolutely fucking spectacular the Anderson/Butler partnership was capable of being. Absolutely essential. 9/10

Regular followers of the Just Played Twitter will know that this one proved to be a tricky bugger for me, what with the promo having the phrase ‘Suede – Best Of – Promo’ delivered in a monotone voice across the start of EVERY BLOODY TRACK. Odd person that I am, I confess that I actually bought a proper copy of this upon its release last week and I still find myself mentally delivering that phrase over some of the tracks. Quite what it was meant to do apart from drive me to distraction, I don’t know. I also suspected that the mastering wasn’t as spiffing on the promo as it would turn out to be in the retail version and so it appears to have proved. Some of the tracks do genuinely sound better after this polishing and the overall impression you get of the band from this compilation is ‘how they hell did they dribble away to nothing?’ Lovely to have them back – in whatever form.

ORANGE JUICE – Coals To Newcastle’ (DOMINO)

A post-punk pop band with limited chart success and a fluid personnel may not seem the obvious recipients of a definitive collection of their recorded output, but Orange Juice were always far from obvious. Shamelessly erudite and delightfully frenetic, they were never likely to win mass appeal, but lyrics like "here’s a penny for your thoughts. Incidentally, you may keep the change" deserve to be heard again. Frontman Edwyn Collins‘ remarkable musical return after suffering two cerebral haemorrhages has already ensured he is responsible for one of 2010’s essential releases and, with this box set, you can make that two. Under-appreciated gems like ‘Untitled Melody’, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘What Presence?!‘ still dazzle while each studio album has much to enjoy. Quite how essential various 12" dub versions are is debatable, but the BBC sessions disc offers unpolished and frankly invigorating takes on tracks from across their catalogue. On this occasion, being comprehensive equates to offering more than you want but, with all of their studio releases remastered and accompanied by a beautiful booklet, you’ve got everything you need. 8/10

Funny one this, as I’d been looking forward to it for an age and then had to review it in the space of one week’s listening time. It is delightful and, as you can imagine, contains some beautiful music. It comes with a lovely little booklet too, with some nice details to enrich your enjoyment. It does feel like there is occasionally TOO much of a good thing, in terms of the multiple versions, but few box sets escape that problem. Not that I imagine you care, but this is a tricky one for me now as I have all of the content on discs and a pdf of the booklet but, together, it’s still not a box set. Doesn’t seem worth laying out all of that cash for a proper one though. Still, if Domino are reading this and wanted to show their appreciation for this positive review… No? Oh, ok then.

Nov reviews

SUFJAN STEVENS – ‘The Age Of Adz’ (ASTHMATIC KITTY)

Sometimes, it would be nice if people avoided saying a record was ‘overflowing with ideas’ and simply pointed out that, from time to time, musicians need telling to rein themselves in a bit. There’s a good album in here somewhere, along with a fairly annoying one too. Stevens has always had the hallmarks of the tag ‘acquired taste’, and this only serves to reinforce this fact. Electronic noodling and a twenty-five minute song may be big but they’re not clever. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. But to enjoy those moments, you’ll need the patience of a saint. 5/10

A very odd record to review. I suspect it might just about make sense on the fifty-third play but I didn’t have that luxury. I largely stand by what I said here and the good bits are certainly right up there, but he does make it hard work for us sometimes. There’s a cheap, HQ double vinyl out there which I’ve been lured into ordering. Hopefully, it’ll grow a little in my preferred format.

PATRICK WATSON -  ‘Just Another Ordinary Day’ (SECRET CITY RECORDS)

Remember that glacial, shimmering majesty which made Radiohead‘s ‘Nice Dream’ and ‘Let Down’ so remarkable? Lovely, wasn’t it? This previously under-the-radar debut by Patrick Watson, and his band of the same name, ploughs a similar furrow. Delicate piano and faded-photo vocals are the order of the day and, while it lacks the adventure of later offerings, there’s plenty to enjoy. 7/10

Patrick Watson is the band’s name, as well as that of the chief protagonist – honest! Big fan of this lot – their last two outing are worth hunting down (‘Wooden Arms’ and ‘Close To Paradise’) and this early offering is the gentle, less mature kid brother. Still lovely though, and once you love the other two (and you will) this’ll be a worthy addition to your record collection.

2010 inverted

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