Originally posted to grapevine.com
Not quite making the grade:
Superb pop album that was just right for the prevailing mood. Of course there's nothing revolutionary on here but none of it was meant so to be - it's just a bunch of lads with some songwriting ability and a talent for assiduous plagiarism, screaming down the road to the rock cemetary. I'm sure they knew that at the time and I'm even more sure they didn't give a shit. Some of the touches are superb however - for example, the last few bars of Wonderwall, with the overlayed piano. Now if Blur could make a consistent album like this I might actually be able to stand them for long enough to like them.
The next two are so dissimilar I can't really split them in any non-arbitrary fashion so:
Actually my least favourite Radiohead album - this one's a bit too mainstream for my liking, but that was obviously the intention. Let's face it, if The Bends hadn't done any better than Pablo Honey then OK Computer couldn't have managed the level of acclaim it achieved. Well, this is a great album of edgy pop songs, from the super-sarcy lyrics of Fake Plastic Trees to the gorgeous layering of the likes of Bullet Proof and Street Spirit. It's just a tiny bit too comfortable for me to rank it higher though.
Alright - I can hear you all saying 'He's flipped' from here! Seriously, I think this is a damned good album - and my lack of fondness for the vast majority of female vocalists is well known. Some great energy here (e.g Excuse Me Mr), well played and allied to decent lyrics that manage to remain acceptable even when they drift into girlie territory (e.g. Don't Speak). Excellent musicianship throughout too. My fave has to be Happy Now but that's because on top of some class lyrics it's musically partly (and I'm sure not intentionally) ripped from old fave Feel Like A Train by the Original Mirrors. Could do with dropping a couple of tracks perhaps but only 'cos I happen to personally prefer albums to come in around the 50-minute mark unless there's any specific reason to top that.
Some albums just capture a time perfectly and this is one such. Added to this, the seediness with which Jarvis and co. imbue this album is wonderfully effective. I remember being introduced to Pulp on Jools Holland, after the first couple of singles had been released, and being knocked out by I-Spy, in particular - there's just a wonderful menace in Cocker's delivery that captivates. Throughout the album you believe the marvellously painted stories more than you would any top-notch documentary and the lyrics are pointedly powerful. Certainly of a Different Class to most contemporaries. (For some reason I think I'm gonna go 'me too' about Mr Hughes' comments on This Is Hardcore, judging by the last-line hint in his review of this one.)
No surprises here then. On first listening, being uncertain how the hell the band were to follow Brave, I recall being pleasantly stunned by CSB and AoSunlight in particular. The further you get into this album, the more you get out of it. The lyrics get off to a stunning start with Gazpacho and continue on similar form throughout, with the unfortunate exception of the unworthily trite wank that is 'Beautiful'. And the leaves turn from red to brown as I use them to wipe my arse. Anyway :-) the production is also top-notch - the feeling imparted throughout AoSunrise or in the latter half of Out Of This World, for example, is just so impressive. The decision not to release CSB as a single has to go down as one of the most expensive errors since the chap who turned down The Beatles because 'guitar bands are going out of fashion' - this album is so contemporary that all it needed to relaunch Marillion as a serious earner for EMI was something to grab people's attention. The bland front sleeve didn't help either. My only other complaint is with the ending of King, which I've never heard executed as indistinctly live as the take that is on the album. All-in-all a brilliant follow up to the best album in the world ever - chuck a finished, Meegan-treated version of Icon or Mirages in where Beautiful now sits and I'd have much more difficulty asserting Brave's superiority.
At this level: