1.) The Colour Of Spring: Talk Talk
2.) Death On The Road: Iron Maiden
3.) Recovery: Eminem
4.) Things To Make And Do: Moloko
The Colour Of Spring is an art rock masterpiece which embodies the spirit of absolute dedication to craft. Displaying an immense attention to detail and percussionary masterclass, the album has a truly organic, animal-like essence. The zoic April 5th begins like the mating call of an insect as it shuffles through the undergrowth. An efficacious cornucopia of abundantly different sounds are amalgamated together, some of them barely 4 notes out of the whole album, all tightly coalesced around a collection of eight excellent songs, which flow superbly.
Talk Talk are masters at the absence of sound, which can have just as big an impact than sound itself, they know when not to play. Take the patient silences that perforate Chameleon Day, as if waiting on a response. An effect also evident within the guitar solo on Living In Another World, there’s an animal-like harmonica piece almost four times longer than the fleeting guitar extract that follows it, yet that guitar solo has so much power in the context of the song, making it one of the more memorable passages of the entire album.
Distintive and unusual instruments help colour the whole album such as use of the Soprano Saxophone and Harp. Music legend Steve Winwood prominently displays his Organ skills on the superb Living In Another World, I Don’t Believe In You and Happiness Is Easy. Dramatic key changes give the songs a sweeping immersion culminating in the operatic swell of Time It’s Time which rounds off a sumptuous musical experience.
Iron Maiden’s Death On The Road, recorded in Dortmund 2003, balances their Dance Of Death material with classic Maiden album tracks, notably tracks of an epic nature such as Fear Of The Dark, Lord Of The Flies, Brave New World and the obligatory Hallowed Be Thy Name. When you consider that most of the Death material is also full-on epic in scale and length then what you have here is a 90 minute bonanza of prog-Maiden-metal punctuated only by the snappier Wrathchild, Can I Play With Madness and an utterly masterful version of The Trooper.
The band sound amazing, this is a top of the tree live musical tour de force by six talented musicians excelling at what they do best, sweeping, melodic, guitar heavy, razor sharp metal. Everybody is on top of their game and some of the guitar passages here, played live, are far superior to many lesser bands studio efforts. The Death material in particular sounds positively gorgeous, especially Dance Of Death, No More Lies and the intense Pachendale complete with intro poem by Bruce, adding a chilling realism to the already chaotic, atmospheric fidelity of the song.
Recovery is an intense Eminem album, especially compared to the albums that preceeded it. It’s a definite move away from goofy skit-led humour and vulgarity of the previous albums, although he’s clearly still having fun on tracks like On Fire, W.T.P and the ‘Untitled‘ final track. Overall though, it is clinical, competent and brings a new seriousness to his delivery.
Recovery is also the start I think of some of Em’s elevated wordplay, his lyrically abilities seem to improve with age and this is the first album that I noticed some really clever lyrical gambolling. “Girl you got a hot butt, like a lit cigarette“, “I’m so sick ambulances are pulling me over“, “I stick my dick in a circle but I’m not fucking around“, etc.
As I said, there’s some serious retrospection here about his adult struggles with drink and drugs alongside remberance of his childhood friend Proof who was killed in a nightclub incident (Going Through Changes, You’re Never Over). This album also marks the beginnings of Eminem’s style of melding chorus with verse, which I think only sometimes works out. It definitely does work on Love The Way You Lie featuring Rihanna, a killer track. I think the strongest track here is opener Cold Wind Blows with Em letting loose with some tremendously rhythmic rapping and clever lyrics, coloured, as is often the case, by a mix of autobiograhical references and the odd superhero citation.
The album has its weaknesses though, it starts fairly strong up until mid-way through before revealing some more ordinary affairs like Almost Famous, You’re Never Over
and No Love. That and the relentless seriousness makes it more difficult to sustain over lighter efforts like Marshall Mathers, Relapse and Kamizaze all of which are superior to Recovery.
Moloko’s Things To Make And Do is unusual and unique album making Colour Of Spring look like a commercial sell-out by comparison. It’s borderline strange at times (Dumb Inc., Indigo, If You Have A Cross To Bear You May As Well Use It As A Crutch), not just in the weird lyrical imagery but also in the sounds themselves. There’s lots of random horn sounds, flickers of Jazz piano and Jazz percussion arrangements all infused with modern electronica and strafed by classical orchestral snippets.
Things To Make And Do was always the wildcard in this group and when I’d finished up listening to all four albums back to back several times it was clear that while the album holds a certain curiosity, it’s totally outclassed in this group. Tracks like Absent Minded Friends and Remain The Same are aberrant and grinding while It’s Nothing unfortunately lives up to its name. Kudos remains for the superb The Time Is Now, an excellent dance/pop/guitar/electronica effort and the jewel of this rather atypical album.