6 - Volcanic
5 - Blistering
4 - Hot
3 - Smoldering
2 - Room Temp.
1 - Fizzled
0 - Extinguished

A: Multiple Listening
B: Deserves Another Spin
C: Once Should Suffice

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PAUL CARRACK - Satisfy My Soul
Paul Carrack is of course the unmistakable voice behind
Mike And The Mechanics. With this solo album of his, he takes a more personal, reflective view, being in charge of almost every element of this recording. He manages to express himself fully in a smooth, easy listening kind of blues rock style with many a soulful touch. Paul wrote most of the songs single handedly and produced it himself. He engineered most of the tracks and played drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. Being in such control of his own expression has to be quite a cathartic, emancipated experience for Carrack, who would (in Mike And The Mechanics) be a megaphone for the creativity of Mike Rutherford. There is however a song co-written by Mr. Rutherford, which, like almost every other track, is a glorification of life & love and the importance of remembering and cherishing good memories throughout trials and tribulations.
- PB
4 / C

CAZ - Listen To Your Heart
From Big Bucks Bonanza presenter, fleeting Jackie Chan extra and Ziwa Mo mainman, Caz now storms headlong into the music world. People see Caz as either “cool” or “clown”. Whichever way you like to scrutinize him, there’s no denying that he drives towards what he wants, his love for striking poses an asset. With this, his debut, the music, style and lyrics are pretty generic but will appeal to those who know and love what he’s all about. A saving grace is the closing track incorporating Juluka’s Impi. Although I have a mouthful to say about songs riding on a popular or classic sample, at least here they chose a good one to resurrect (if not exploit).
- PB
2 / C

CAZ - Listen To Your Heart (Scorpio Music)
Caz has never been a man satisfied with merely being a TV presenter/personality. His long climb to stardom culminates here with his biggest step yet, donning the hat of pop star. A kind of hip-hop, R&B, pop mixture result in a fairly accomplished effort that does however blur in with the multitude of other similar acts out there, local or otherwise. Unfortunately the psychology of the whole thing will have some listeners deterred from checking it out, seeing it’s “the guy from TV” - same with Amor…
- PB
2 / C

A not too shabby continuous mix of 12 hyped tracks by DJs at Work await the House fan on this disc. Some of the artists include Martin Solveig, Africanism, Kruze, Next Evidence and Latina Café. A sometimes subtle African and even tribal undercurrent is present in this mix that makes it a bit more distinguishable than the usual hogwash.
- PB
3 / C

CHICANE - Behind The Sun
With the opening soundwaves of Behind The Sun, the man behind it, Nick Bracegirdle (and several collaborators) create a tranquil feeling of great expectations with Vangelis-tinged keyboard soundscapes. The fear that these expectations could be shattered is all too apparent. Luckily it is not the case. What you get is an accessible ride through electronic pop that doesn’t fall in the radio rave pit. It is not exactly Craig Armstrong, but does give the listener a mood enhancing, flowing audio experience. The track Low Sun has a retro flavour with Hammond and flute incorporated into the overlaid, trippy loops to great effect. The album’s hit track, Saltwater, seems to veer into that plastic house category, but miraculously avoids this by means of its tender, vulnerable and moving tone, partly set in place by Maira Braman’s vocals. Its 10 minute length also avoids radio airplay and thus commercialism (but a radio edit is definitely out there). An ambient Thrillseeker remix of Saltwater is also included and is well executed. The two most artificial tracks are Halcyon and Andromeda, but luckily they’re in the minority. An interesting little fact: one of the collaborators are none other than Bryan Adams, who sings on Don’t Give Up (which has that remixed Everything But The Girl feel to it) and also took most of the photographs for the cover. Overall the album gives one a sense of a dimly lit lounge and cinematic soundtrack atmosphere, without things getting too ominous amoung its sequenced tranquility and rising energy.
- PB
4 / B

CHUMBAWAMBA - Songs From Wysiwig (EMI)
Yes, we all remember their chart topper, Tubthumping, also used for the footie world cup and all the tales of them being a struggling punk band before blah-de-blah. Their activist roots do shine through the eroded soil of this stripped down effort played in, I quote, “a fetchingly acoustic neobilly style”. She’s Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy is the very first example - self explanatory really, then there’s Jesus In Vegas - again, no explanation necessary, really. Passenger List For Doomed Flight 1721 is another bit of black comedy from the 8-piece boys & girls where the lyrics consist of all the names of public figures they believe we can do without, like Bill Gates, Richard Branson etc. An enjoyable little collection of songs that is not in your face, though subtly that is exactly where they’re putting it.
- PB
3 / B

What was planted first...the [Sepultura] Root(s) or Korn? I don't really care about the answer, all I know is that this loaded, down tuned, simplified groove is the new late 90's sound (for the moment). In this same growling vein, Coal Chamber pelts out some serious intensity on both the musical and vocal front. These bouncing, minimalist tunes will have you clenching your teeth as it sucks you in with each listen. The emotional agony and internal turmoil translated to the listener gets momentary relief with adequate doses of humour - especially in the hidden studio outtakes. Oh, and about that question...isn't it all meant to boil down to Black Sabbath in the end?
- PB
4 / A

COLDPLAY - Parachutes
Coldplay’s entire album cruises along at a very steady pace (even the track called High Speed). The band manages to create a sweeping sound within the basic production. They all contribute to creating an amazing mood with the bare essentials of drums, guitars and the occasional piano. In part the vocalist reminds me a lot of Dave Owens (ex-singer of Cape Town’s Lithium, now (2000) in Johannesburg singing for Gimp). Coldplay has a certain sense of honesty and sincerity that is bound to speak to someone who isn’t exactly into their brand of commercial, but heartfelt and expressive rock. Do check it out.
- PB
4 / A

These three luscious Irish lasses and their (not as tasty) brother have become superstars. Let’s be honest, though, in most part it is thanks to their parents’ gene combinations. Their song writing skills are well in tact, albeit in the kinda predictable end of the pool with lyrical content often a little naive. It’s not up to me to knock mainstream music, but I will. Then again, I can’t knock their nice little tunes of love and happiness (and disappointment, oh yes) because they’re just so damn prrretty - oh, OK, even their boetie’s cute. See, I told you their success is mainly due to aesthetics…!
- PB
2 / C

COVENANT - Nexus Polaris (Nuclear Blast)
Where under usual circumstances I find most Black Metal bands hilarious (18 year old Gene Simmons of
Kiss immitations running around with similar make-up, spitting blood and breathing flames as he does). That doesn't mean that there aren't great bands in that vein out there. I don't know if they partake in this kind of cliche onstage antics, but here the music speaks much louder. Covenant (now more electronic and spelling their name with a K) consists of members ranging from Mayhem to Cradle Of Filth, two of the most respected Black Metal bands around. This impressive disc features eight epic tracks so full and vast you could get lost in it. Extreme vocals which avoid the oft irritatingly shrill screeching are constantly countered by the melodic, harmonic and thrilling female backing vocals. This task is alotted to Sarah and I wonder if it's the same XXL Sarah we befriended in London who does Cradle Of Filth's backing (?). It fits really well with the tracks and adds that much needed mystical feel. The wall of atmospheric keyboards, piano and church organ blend perfectly with the hectic but melodic extremity of the guitars & drums. In some parts the vocalist could be easily mistaken for King Diamond. Similarly the music reflect that Merciful Fate/King Diamond feel. This was one of the few times I actually enjoyed listening to one of these CD's from start to finish and then again. It's heavy, it's beautiful and well executed all at the same time. If you've never considered anything remotely close to the Black Metal genre, do yourself a favour and check this out, you'll be pleasantly surprized.
- PB
5 / A

One of the UK’s most controversial bands again burst out with a monumental slice of musical mayhem and near genius. Surpassing the Black Metal genre in their image (more horror / vampire than anything else) as well as their sound and great production, the intensity, “evil” content and technical expertise still make many heads turn (and roll!). Not that you necessarily need to take it all too seriously, it’s kind of like a
King Diamond trip of unholy tales wrapped in elaborate conceptual motifs, imagery and walls of sound ranging from poetic to chaotic. Fabulous operatic female vocals (by Sarah) juxtaposes the ludicrously high pitched (and low pitch-shifted) vocals of the front-goblin, Dani. Still very much like a Hammer Horror soundtrack on Crack, with Satan as sound engineer, you can’t help but to love it for its pure theatrics, blatant attempt to shock and ability to come up with some wickedly elaborate songs of metal madness.
- PB
5 / B

CRITICAL MASS - Blueprint (Firestain Music)
It’s no secret that cover artwork plays a big role in one’s perception of a CD before you’ve even heard it. This one looks a bit more exciting and futuristic than it actually is. It boils down to a basic acoustic rock trip in the vein of Just Jinger and Grannysmith. Production wise it is a pretty competent package, its Christian undertones not shoved in anyone’s face.
- PB
2 / C

This band from down under might be no more, but they live on in the minds and CD players of their fans. This posthumous release includes unreleased, rare material that their supporters had been hoping and praying for. But, each track can be better explained by Neil Finn, in stead of me trying to philosophy on something he knows firsthand: text to follow.... (sorry, lost the printout!)

If Aqua is your thang, you’ll cream for this little piece of, uhm, hamster fun. Apparently something to do with an Internet Hamster I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing - like the dancing baby featured on Ally McBeal. A dumb-ass kind of sped-up Yodeling thing happens here that’ll have primary school kids going nuts (and probably drive you nuts playing it repetitively). As much as I hate it, I couldn’t help but to play it to everyone I know laughing myself silly. It also has that dangerous quality to stick in your head. Say no bloody more…I think I’d rather settle for a gerbil…Richard Gere style, in stead of having to listen to this every day. Weird, bizarre and quite scary, actually.
2 / B
- PB

CYBERLAB (Nuclear Blast)
This double disc is a superb collection of known and unknown acts falling in the Goth / Industrial department. With old favourites like
KMFDM and Frontline Assembly you can never go wrong. A fine spread of acts not many have heard before illustrate their abilities to full effect. The predominant electronic tone of the bands are hard edged, so don't expect any compromise. Still, many toned down approaches can be found here. Some of the other bands included are: Birmingham 6, Statemachine, Mesh, Implant, Die Form, Cleen, Hexedene, Dive, Inertia, Neuroactive, Plastic Noise Experience, Regenerator, Evils Toy, (In)ternal and others. A compilation well worth picking up.
- PB
4 / A

CYPRESS HILL - Skull & Bones (Columbia)
A couple of bars and you know exactly whom you’re dealing with. On this double album the first Skull disc gives you pure
Cypress. A strong Scarface thread is visible in some of the songs while they still talk tough with more believability than most of the other rappers attempting to live the life and say it like it is. Track 3, (Rap) Superstar has the Hillers shed some light on their perception of the industry with which they have a love-hate relationship - the sharks you encounter, the loneliness on tour, fakesters and the bite-down-and-tolerate-it as it’s a career that pays the bills. Some nice string samples are incorporated while the beats are as constant as always. They do touch upon one of their favourite subjects (which also features on most of their artwork - Can I Get A Hit. The Bones disc throws in heavy guitars and acoustic, hard thumping drums. (Rap) Superstar gets the crunch treatment with its demon cousin (Rock) Superstar on this fantastic six track disc of Bones that is a perfect compliment to Skull, these elements making one fine union. If you wondered when Ice-T would bring out another Bodycount album, don’t worry, the Bones disc makes up for it in spades. Dino and Christian of Fear Factory are some of the contributors. Other guest artists include Everlast, Eminem, Noreaga, Eric Bobo, Brad Wilk, Chino and Andy Zambrano & Jeremy Fleener.
5 / A
- PB