Round 1 – Group 212:
In The Twist Of Pure Emotion
Much like the theory of Quantum Entaglement, the career of Take That and my own personal life journey have been inexplicably linked through the years, despite the vast distance between us. When Take That first hit the charts in the early 90’s, they were the antithesis of a good band in my eyes. They couldn’t play instruments, they couldn’t write music, all they could do was prance around in music videos lip-synching to uninteresting songs. Over time, as the hits kept coming and the Top Of The Pops appearances never diminished, I found that I could no longer ignore the relentless quality of Sure, Babe, Back For Good, A Million Love Songs and Never Forget. The stupid boy band image/antics couldn’t shield my adolescent self from the songwriting craft under the surface.
In 1994 I had two epiphanies around the same time, one was that I found my hatred for Alex Ferguson and his stupid Manchester United team disolve into admiration and respect for probably the best football team I’ve ever seen and the second was that my disdain for Take That grudgingly turned into a cold acceptance that this Gary Barlow character was not only a wonderfully talented song writer but also seemed to be a really nice chap to boot. What was going on?
Then came the dark years when Take That split up. I didn’t need to ring the special hotline that they set up to help people through the trauma, although I’m sure a few of the girls at my school probably needed to. Next was the the Robbie/Barlow chart rivalry, which turned out to be less of a rivalry and more a case of Barlow disappearing into obscurity while Robbie went truly global.
I must be one of only a dozen people that went out and purchased ‘Open Road‘, on a cassette no less. I backed Barlow all the way, he had all the talent and Robbie was, to quote Liam Gallacher, just ‘a fat dancer from Take That‘. I hadn’t learned my lessons though as Robbie proceeded to release great pop like Angels, and Let Me Entertain You, and South Of The Border and I Hope I’m Old Before I Die and I found myself doing another 180 and becoming a big fan of this new pop showman.
Still, I knew in my heart that Barlow was a real talent. In this business, sometimes that’s not enough. 16 yr old me would have scoffed at the idea that older me would celebrate a Take That comeback but back in 2006 when I found out that the incredible pop song that I’d been hearing on the radio for the last few weeks was actually Take That and written by Barlow (it was ‘Patience‘), I felt genuinely happy for both them and myself. Patience wasn’t a one-off either, Take That’s (Barlow’s) newer material rivals their old
90’s output, possibly even surpassing it. Take a look at some of the new era songs here on Odyssey. Giants, Spin, Cry, Greatest Day and Rule The World. The Odyssey mixes don’t sound dramtically different from the originals but do blend the string of classic pop hits together in a coherent way. Odyssey then is a celebration of Barlow’s songwriting legacy, a fun collection and one hell of a back catalogue, the strongest album here.
So What The Hell, Order Your Mercedezes and Leather.
Corporate America is the embodiment of smooth melodic rock n’ roll. Jazzlike in its smoothness, Beach Boy-esque harmonies and probably not much actual rock n roll to be honest (trollface). It’s a shame that Boston albums are almost as rare as public appearances by Kate Bush, this being only the fifth studio release by the band in 2002. The album also introduces two new members in Fran Cosmo and Kimberley Dahme and would be the last appearance of original vocalist Brad Delp before his death in 2007.
The songwriting of Cosmo and the female vocals of Dahme definitely take the band in a different direction at times. I’m not necessarily complaining though, Kimberley Dahme’s vocals and harmonies are quite beautiful and blend very well with the now two male vocialists. Her own song, With You is also quite beautiful but not very Boston-like, it comes over as a folk effort.
Scholz of course is known for his high-tech guitar arrangements but these seem to be subdued here. Cryin’ is probably the only track that gives us an actual guitar solo with only flashes of ‘serious’ riffage elsewhere on the album. Scholz does still prove his outstanding songwriting ability with the title track Corporate America, easily the strongest effort here. A melodic rock anthem that espouses the dangers of globalism and global industrial exploitation, a theme even more prevalent in the forefront of people’s minds today.
Unable To Break Out
Where Our Love Grows continues the Swing Out Sister trademark pop/jazz style. I actually thought that this was one of their albums from the 80’s. That’s how dated it sounds. That’s not a negative thing you understand, at least not in my mind.
Eventually, on the third or fourth listen, that throbbing synth psuedo alarm on Certain Shades Of Limelight gave away its more modern nature. Each song is pleasant enough, with just enough pop sensibility to prevent the album from descending into a dreary jam session. Certainly the opening two tracks of Love Won’t Let You Down and Where Our Love Grows have fairly catchy melodies with Corinne Drewery’s soft agreeable vocals providing texture and emotion. This is one of those albums that doesn’t
do a lot wrong except that it occassionally flirts with boredom if you let your mind wander. Not overly grand or impressive, not doing enough to ‘Break Out‘ of this group (ahem), simply just an enjoyable album worthy of the occassional listen.
Shout In Your Sleep
Discovering The Waterfont is Canadian Screamo band Silversteins’ second studio album. I’ve given this outfit both a bit of stick but also some kind words in the past and I’m happy to report that this effort is better than the previous 2 albums that I’ve heard.
Not by much though, it still has too much unecessary shouting and a few bland numbers but it is an improvement to their debut When Broken Is Easily Fixed. The musicanship, especially the guitar arrangements is much better here and used to good effect on tracks like Smile In Your Sleep and The Ides Of March. The production
values have stepped up too and this helps deliver solid versions of My Heroine, Call It Karma and title track Discovering The Waterfront.
They do have a knack for expressive song names too, with the likes of Fist Wrapped In Blood and You’re Sword Vs. My Dagger, Beethoven & Strauss could learn alot from these guys, no? Shout out to the melodic heavy rock of Already Dead too, a good track and one which sounds inspired by Iron Maiden due to its melodic centre while seemingly aping the concept of AC/DC’s Night Prowler. A decent effort but ultimately well short of the top two.