HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

The Gathering - Accessories
(Century Media)

You couldn't want more for a rarities pack, The Gathering offering full and official documentation as to the origins of the songs on this two CD pack and then personal comments as well. Add to that super high fidelity (barrel-scraping in the '70s and '80s could never pull up tracks like this), not to mention a cohesion, and you've got a thoroughly essential album for fans of the band. The covers of Slowdive and Dead Can Dance fit right in, Anneke's voice and the panoramic full band presentation and production helping in that cause. Seriously, there are all manner of vocal diva out there, but few have the rich, sonorous quality of Anneke, or her complicated style. Like slide guitarists, it's easy to call all of them good, but this one's got the ability to fill up a room and dominate a song, no matter how proggy or indeed genre-defying the backing track. With respect to the relentless (suspicious?) quality, granted, much of Accessories is from CD singles, so it's no surprise the songs are rapt in lush attention. The second disc is comprised of two demo sessions (one chunk for Nighttime Birds - dreamy, Eno-esque - the other for How To Measure A Planet? - intimate, compressed), but these are pretty perfect demos. The guys seem to think there's a certain magic here - whatever. The final records were pretty damn good too.
Rating 8

Tokyo Dragons - Give Me The Fear
(Escapi)

Ha ha, these new rawk bands are always trumpeted as non-ironic, and there's certainly nothing amusing or alt.rock about the latest UK proposal Tokyo Dragons. But I have one major complaint, and it's the usual goddamn one: every one of these bands plays songs that are a little too simple, stiff and under-written. Line 'em up... Buckcherry, Dirty Americans, Danko Jones, that hyped Warner one I always forget that starts with T, all descendents of Dangerous Toys, Seahags and Hangmen, raunch rock with roots - too many roots, and a weird safeness that undercuts. UK bands have a particular problem with this. Dirty Deeds (legitimately ex-NWOBHMers) pulled punches, as did Thunder, Dogs D'Amour and London Quireboys and even as of late, Wildhearts. And let's not get into the UK's "L.A. glam" bands from '84, '85. Only The Darkness are suitably flavourful, and their producer Pedro Ferreria does this one too, only it's a tiringly corporate knobjob - safe, all of it, every frequency. Nashville Pussy's got this problem, hell, even Turbonegro. And it's a problem that betrays an irony, this idea that metal is not cool and should be laughed at: don't do a widddly riff, don't try and be smart (i.e. take note of how good the simple, lo-fi, trendier alt.rawk bands are selling), nothing too fast, nothing too slow, just dress like a trucker (not a metalhead, OK, maybe a trucker crossed with a metalhead, but check with the office first), churn out a stupid, predictable, sawed off riff at 4/4 and shut up. And yes, this is always going to work live, but on record, man, you'll have these songs sussed out so fast... Good things I can say? Well, about half the songs are good enough, and singer Steve Lomax has an interesting voice that reminds me of early 45/debut-era Joe Elliott.
Rating 4.5

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