22 November 2006

2005: These didn't make it.

The albums in the list, I should add, have been awarded something in the limbo between 'notes' and 'a review'. So, with that in mind, I would like to present these albums. They weren't great. At the time of writing, I was unaware as to what my bottom line for a #50 album would be, so I made notes on pretty much everything I considered for the list.

Some were really good albums, and won't be seen for a while. Others might have been poor, or at least disappointing, and while they are not worthy of a top 50 placement, I fancied venting a bit about them. So I present to you some albums that did not make it:

Sigur RósTakk (Fat Cat)

This once great Icelandic band continues its slide into mediocrity. I should be upset that this album is as bland and featureless as it is. However, after the disappointment that was ( ), I don’t really care any more.

The worrying thing is, I should care. This album was hyped in some quarters of the media as the band’s best album yet, though it lacks even the trio of very good songs that the last one bore. The intro is very pleasant of sound, but the rest of the album seems completely absent.

As popular radio worships the mediocre (by the band’s standards) ‘Hoppipola’ as though it descended directly from heaven, encased in crystalline packaging, those who have heard Sigur Rós at its best know far better and see this album for the empty shell that it is; all pretty sounds, and no content.

What 2005 brought was a far cry from the glacial, dynamic and eclectic majesty of 2000's Ágætis Byrjun. That album managed to be intelligent and unspeakably beautiful, imbuing a level of emotion into a ‘post-rock’ genre previously lacking in that respect.

The musicians of Sigur Rós seem to be constantly gaining in popular stature; good for them. If their music continues in this prog-Coldplay vein, though, I wish not to bear witness to it any longer than I have thus far. The wasted potential is almost heartbreaking.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic InfernoJust Another Band From The Cosmic Inferno (Important Records)

I really want to like this. The objective signs are all there: this is the first album from Makoto Kawabata, who dropped his last band (AMT & The Melting UFO Paraiso), in favour of switching to the ‘evil’ side of the Temple; hence Inferno, rather than Paradise.

What this album essentially contains is a two-song, one-hour suite of psychedelic jamming and guitar noise, led by the Sensei himself. Sadly, the listening experience is not all the album suggests on paper.

It’s enjoyable enough, but just drags on, and with little variety to it. At first the experience is a heady one, filled with the joys of Japanese psyche-rock. The joys last for about the 20-odd minutes of track one. Then the realisation comes that there’s another song. And it’s twice as long.

I’m sure this would be excellent when experienced under various psychoactive substances (which is the presumable intention), but I rarely am; the best 'drug music' is also usually entertaining in the cold light of day. So it’s just not that great.

CocoRosieNoah’s Ark (Amish)

A very pleasant album, this is the sound of two sisters, various instruments and random found sounds. As a rather off-kilter, unstructured album it works really well. The dual vocals – one operatically trained – are excellent and complement each other fantastically.

There is a rural feel to this album, sounding as though it should be listened to in the middle of a field on a balmy summer day. As a mood piece, it satisfies. However, there is little to separate this album from its quite brilliant 2004 predecessor Ma Maison De Mon Reve.

If anything, this is a dip in quality. There seems not to be enough material to fill the album and as a result the later tracks lose the feeling of cohesion that earlier ones had; perhaps they are as good, and the mood doesn’t last. Doubtful, as the last album avoided this pitfall.

The guest appearances of rotund flavour of the month Antony (of Johnsons fame) and Devandra Banhart serve to annoy, good singers though they are. This just seems like it would have made a great EP, preferable to a mediocre album.

AntigamaZeroland (Selfmadegod)

Unlike a lot of Metal, which has either gone very slow and drone-based, or conversely dressed itself up in pop garb, Antigama are at once quite old-school and refreshing.

Making no bones about experimentation or eclecticism (why does every band now want to be either Neurosis or Mr. Bungle?), Zeroland is a straight-up, no-nonsense grindcore based Metal album. And a really good one at that (it’s admittedly no Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom though).

Beginning with a great swerve from the Radio 4 hourly ‘pips’, the album sets out its stall – heavy, fast riffs, throat-shredding vocals and lots of blast-beats. While this has been seen before, the current climate renders it something of a novelty. And a rush of energy

The one exception comes with the throwaway 10-minute titular closer, which focuses on samples and loops. It’s quite reminiscent of the last track on the final Coalesce album, actually. Aside from that, this is a lean, and most definitely mean, slab of Metal.

Explosions In The SkyThe Rescue (Bella Union)

I have problems giving this a very high recommendation. An instrumental indie (arguably ‘post rock’, though there is little ‘post’ about it) album which makes all the right noises, this is reasonably enjoyable in isolation.

The problem is, this is nothing any fan of the genre hasn’t heard a million times before. The genesis of this sound is pretty much Slint’s 1991 Spiderland masterpiece, though certain songs recall more directly Mogwai songs from as far back as 1999.

The guitars chime happily, the rhythms roll along, and in places it is a beautiful piece of work. It’s just so derivative that I just want to play Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Levez Vos Skinny Fist Comme Antennas To Heaven! instead. And that was released half a decade ago, too.

At least if a band is to attempt an album like this, they could put a new spin on the form. As it is, Denton, Texas’ Explosions In The Sky seem to have been ploughing the same furrow for three albums now. I guess that’s just about enough to make them Denton’s second finest; at least as far as I'm aware.

Chino XLPoison Pen (Activate)

This is rather a mediocre entry into the 2005 HipHop world. There are some very interesting ideas on here, but as a whole it fails to impress.

The finest track on here is probably the perspicacious ‘Wordsmyth’, wherein Chino riffs on his eloquence and rhyming ability. Rather than sounding overly arrogant (that comes later in the album), the song impresses due to both intelligence and smoothness.

Unfortunately, such perspicacity is scarce elsewhere, as the listener has to endure reports of a ‘big-ass dick’, various ‘bitches’ and the feuds, which never get old.

Chino’s eloquence is rather at odds with his seemingly contrived proclamations that ‘I’m a gangsta’ – especially when one of the most interesting experiments on the tape is a near-cover of Chris Cornell’s ballad ‘Can't Change Me’. Sadly, that experiment is far from a resounding success, but it was a valiant attempt – after all, what are mixtapes for? This is a mixtape, right?

Poison Pen is a mixed bag indeed, of some interesting ideas, and a lot of genre cliché. I would recommend listening to this, but there are at least ten albums from 2005 in this genre that are far more impressive.


  1. Anonymous5:35 pm

    I adore Takk, myself. I do like Aegitus a lot, but I think the 'pretty' on this achieves a higher level of prettiness than the level of epicness achieved by the 'epic' on that.

    I'm very interested to see what you'll proceed with on this, anyway.

  2. I have been meaning to re-evaluate that album, actually. The only problem is that, the last time I tried that, I came away liking it less. We'll see.

    And the OCD has kicked in, now this project has gone live.

    Must... listen... to more albums!

  3. Hurry up then! I've eagerly been checking back...


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