Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 19 News List

CD reviews 

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Clash

The Essential Clash

Columbia

The Clash was a group that once staunchly refused to appear on soundtracks, compilations and shunned thoughts of "Greatest Hits" albums with talk of lawsuits. Since its demise in 1983, Clash compilations, and "Best Ofs" now out number the band's studio albums three to one. Many a Clash fan would probably argue that if you really want to listen to Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Chimes or Headon at their best then you'd be better off simply buying the band's 1977 eponymous debut and 1979's London Calling instead.

Which is not a bad idea, as with the exception of the formidable 1991, 64-track Clash on Broadway, many of these post-Clash compilations are awkward skimpy affairs and linger too long on overplayed predictability and pay little heed to the power and flexibility of The Clash's highly original sound and open-minded musical outlook.

The first -- and for the sake of what remains of the group's credibility let us hope the last -- compilation to hit record stores since the death in December last year of Strummer, the 41-track The Essential Clash certainly offers nothing new.

Packed with tunes and providing a chronological musical overview of the band, the double CD omits too many classics to be truly essential. Spending too much time on early material (1977 to 1978), the album ignores many remarkable moments from London Calling and the groundbreaking Sandinista! of 1980.

The double album does have its drawbacks, the worst of which are the inclusion of duds such as Train in Vain, Stop the World and the post-Jones This is England.

Various Rough Trade: Counter Culture

Mute Records

The West London record store and indie label that kick started the careers of such diverse acts as Pere Ubu, Stiff Little Fingers, The Raincoats and Joy Division celebrated its 25th anniversary two years ago with the release of Rough Trade Shops -- 25 Years. Packed with tunes by early Rough Trade signings, including The Swell Maps and Throbbing Gristle, as well as latter-day acts such as The Chemical Brothers and Spacemen 3, the double CD was a 56-track, fault-free, mammoth of a compilation.

Sadly the same cannot be said of Rough Trade's latest collection of tunes, Rough Trade: Counter Culture. Featuring 41 tunes by some of the label's less commercial acts, the CD is a hodge-podge miss-match of "musical" genres.

The CD couldn't get off to a worse start, with crass experimental techno-pop from Montreal-based Marc Leclair, alias Akufen, in the form of an annoying go-nowhere tune entitled New Process. Opting to open with track two, Detroit quintet, Electric Six's raunchy alternative mild-dance Danger! High Voltage would have been a better move.

What follows are 39 tracks of varying quality. Some of which sound as if it they were recorded in a vacuum on a portable tape recorder, whilst others show a glimmer of hope. Tunes worthy of a listen include those by the Be Good Tanyas, Dempsey, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Freeform Five, Polyphonic Spree, The Boggs, Trash Money, Langley Schools Music Project and The Mountain Goats.

Tizzy Bac

Anything Can Tempt Me (甚麼事都叫我分心)

TRA

Tizzy Bac made its first public appearance as a rough and ready act at 1999's Spring Scream. Since then the three-piece keyboard-driven pop/alt act has somehow become a darling of the local indie scene as well as the focal point for Taiwan's TRA label.

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