Saturday, 27 February 2010

Dana International - More Is More

Dana International's 6th studio album Yoter VeYoter (More and More) continued the singers evolution into not just a woman but a woman who releases music. Her first entirely-Hebrew album, it's not completely impenetrable for those curious simply to seek out more where Diva came from. Although it will hardly snag her new fans, released in 2001, there is much on offer here and Dana's asthetic remains a glittering prize for fans of ethnic Hi-NRG.

Tongue-tripping smash-opener and second single, the imprisoned danefloor siren Nitzachti (I Won) is the albums biggest throat-ripper using the singer's signiture sting from her intensely waspish vocals and declematory Hi-NRG motivation. With her darkly feminine aura, it's a lethal dancefloor noir dosage of highly flared-up electronic sounds. Her vocals might be as flat as her chest, but you'd never care dancing to this. Nothing less than righteous

The swanky rn'b wind up Let Me Live is perkier than such a stale set up might suggest. At one with the vocoder, her vocals are laced with baratone promise - the perfect vehicle for her freaky-glamour persona.

More and More is a testing cheeseball, rnb fused with strings - having no idea what she is crowing on about, it's more than passable and gentle. Dannii would love the glossy 1000 Days of Love (pictured above) - a simmering house chill-out, slapping on sunscreen and just enough bass to give you a semi. Chic. The stripped resources of No Reason is a slightly word-drunk sounding pledge for optionless funk.

The intensely sun-kissed house skimmer You Mess All Up is perfect Hed Kandi fodder - she ought to slip into her English tongue more and rent tricks like these out to such compliation homes. An exquisitely uninterested vocal slurs in gogrgeous fusion with the lush disco strings, slushy beats and languid bass line. A static beat kicks in after 3 minutes.

Above: the single cover for Let Me Live - can you get more phallic?

The pulsating tempo of Ata Ha-DJ Shelí (You're My DJ) is the standout track that could appeal to her Eurovision tourists seeking an easy dance cut. Trancey and with its upright pop melody is not dissarmingly dissimilar to Dana's most recent monster hit Love Boy. Her cheesey embouchure more engaging, euphoric and unthinkingly plaintive than ever.

Pinching her beats from the Spice Girls' Holler, He Makes Me Feel Good would have been a killer Forever track. Beyond the world-beat disco, the chorus is subtle and yum. A yearning guitar line (3:40) is to die for.

The enigmaticand and evocative lead single A Song is an exotic juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and glinting electronica not dissimilar to Madonna's Music album only it is something Dana has always done anyway, perfuming her unique vocal presence.

On The Road To Freedom is a teetering dance cut, throbbing with mystery and determined impulse to cater to her international fans. With thwarted guitars that casually promise Kylie's Shocked, this is far too slow to top the older Minoguwe but as ever Dana engages with pensive moods that are all her own perfection. Her soukus demolition doesn't errupt but there's definately a panic.

Another snaky, nimble and spaced out rnb scattering, Turning Pink has low budget traces of delicate sythns and a pleasant ennui. Sadly not a Cher cover, After All (pictured above) is a stunning glistening ballad that could be ABBA getting their folk on. Moving on a lazy river of sound, it seduces you from the outset.

The solid Until The End of Time grooves with the album's classiest sample. Thriving on a sleazy sequencer, slapping bass, tanssexual flamboyance and a goth-disgust that demands authority, Dana triggers sensations there could never be any translation for.

Sometimes more of a mood piece than a collection of commercial hooks, More & More peaks on her trademark unflinching Hi-NRG as well as the de-layering languid strolls through Hebrew rnb, of which syntheisize Middle Eastern musical strains into her audio-glamour that's as one of a kind as her original nose. For outsiders, this might not convert, but it's fragile moments of naked experience are gripping ripples not to be sneered at. Always a diva, Dana invests in emotions that are luminous, graceful and always glamorous.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Madonna Gives Jesus A Leg Up

Chelsea Handler, I mean Madonna will simply do anything to postpone filming the sequel to Whatever Happened To Baby-Jane? If rumours are to be taken with a bucket of microbiotec salt, Madonna has begged her old label to sign her much-photographed boyfriend/accessory Jesus who agreed on the terms that the mouth-breather continue to be photographed and be young and hot and gay-looking and stuff. So-so one time Madge mixer Victor Calderone is apparantly the knob-twidler on board. Personally I love looking at hot foreign guys with their tops off and I love 90s dance music - maybe he could simply re-record Hard Candy and make it sound like a half decent album.

Dusty Springfield - Reputation

Dusty Springfield's cool-soul got tough on Reputation, proving her myth was very much intact if even stronger than ever. She'd gotten over her flop fineries, worked with the Pet Shop Boys, secured a transatlantic #2 smash and achieved her most successful album in 20 years. The album analyzes the artifice and cruelty of fame's unhealthy manipulation, poisoned affairs and submits to the rhythm.

The title track Reputation is decorated with heavy synthesizers, seizing drums, effeminate male backing vocals giving it the 'macho man' routine, and the kind of bassline that could rescue you from a hurricane. The bad taste of celebrity is evident: 'they're gonna take your dreams away ... and I won't defame you' almost seems to trigger a neverous breakdown. However, tumbling drums symbolize the terror but 'well you try, baby you look for a way... you don't wanna changhe but you still change the same' yanks you back up again, chin up ('who cares what they're whispering? Huh!') and the sailor-chanting chorus stimulates an enormous liberation for the singer.

Earning an A straight away, she keeps it going on the exquisite torch job Arrested By You, which drifts with a total unconciousness to it. Send It To Me almost isn't bad - with the rhythm up front, it's solid but not extravagant or particularly seductive.

Above: NO!

Rarely being able to deliver a fast one, the decadent In Private remains one of her finest ever singles. A great hook, and proof that perhaps Neil Tennant shouldn't bother singing his own songs at all. Also, Dusty handles a 12" better than any lesbian in history - this version defies belief in its perfection. The mysterious Nothing Has Been Proved was an all-important top 20 single, as was In Private. Breathy suspicion and anxiety.

Smokescreen of escapism, the fanciful Daydreaming utilizes her mucous for an easy-effect rap. The only faint sense of slippage is on Time Waits For No One and Born This Way. The beats are 80s-fancy, languorous and adequate disco. And as always, she's selling the truth - on this album this is very important.

After such intensely relieving proficiency, the mild simplicity of the impassioned I Want To Stay Here is unexpected. On Occupy My Mind, Dusty explores PWL-style acid house and yet reaffirms her essential power. Lingering ponderously over a key lyric creates an expressive tension - the sensation is that she's grooving.

Rinsed with tactile glamour and smouldering nicotine, Repuation remains the singer's most stylish album. Her pop sensibility, style and taste create and art fusing together robotic energy and a catty interpretation of the Village People on the title track, which immediately trumps the Tennant and Lowe tracks where ironically the album's reputation seems to stem from. The PSB credentials certainly boosts the charge of the album, but the good/bad divide isn't a case of which songs they were and were not involved in. Dusty will always render a song worth listening to, and the PSB definately provided extra bait, but I seriously recommend the title track which is like an even more robust Your Disco Needs You (its chanting has better vogue-posing). This is the album that really intensifies her legacy into something completely mythical. The album is on Dusty's terms. Her long overdue success will make you feel classic Dusty emotions: overcome, giving and proud. Docked a whole star only for trimming off What Have I Done To Deserve This, Dusty proves, still, in the 90s that the prizes are not necessarily her compilations. Above all else, her voice aches with dignity, I hear unimaginable restraint on her part, yet as she proves on In Private her voice could ignite the sky with euphoria and all the boyuant charm of a Cher disco single but never seeming crass or contrived. She always made sure her music, all her music, was the perfect fit.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Smashing Pumpkins - Disco King

There is one gigantic chorus I especially love in isolation from the Smashing Pumpkins - that it's technically a metal song is perhaps a wayward deviation from what this blog is about, but for his pompus grandeur Billy Corgan easily qualifies as only the second male artist to feature. The Everlasting Gaze is saturated in human error, 'you know I'm not dead' (way before Pink) complaining bitterly about being alive, 'I'm just living inside my head' possibly explains my obsession with music itself, and Billy's inpenetrable voice suddenly finds a take-off projection 'on the ways of your desire, you always find a way' is shot like a missile and finds a grimness and powerful euphoria like taking to space - devotional concentration with a beat.

The original demo is called Disco King and is even more cruddy, except it thankfully scaves off Billy's scabby acapella section of which totally renders the studio version unlistenable thereafter (had there have been an extra chorus after it things would have been different). Corgan wore a dress in the video and upset Sharon Osbourne who resigned from position as his manager citing 'health reasons ... Billy Corgan makes me sick'. Some things never change.

Today Billy dates Jessica Simpson. Maybe they do.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Creatures - 10 Cuts & No Serious Bleeding

When Siouxsie put down the Banshees, she and Budgie's continuation of The Creatures was no surprise, but their idiosyncratic endorsement of 'electropop' (yes, electropop, in 1999) will have raised a few painted eyebrows. Anima Animus is an album that creeps out from the shadows, flaunts and aggrevates itself in unafraid and unembarassed splendour as Siouxsies hungry vocals are sustained by Budgie's bulging breakdown nutrients of seedy exuberance.

The pulsatingly claustrophobic klaxon dance cut 2nd Floor swishes with dizzying synths, but Siouxsie's pushy reassurance is the most lethal injection of all. With dense beats at speed, Budgie's rhythm element maintains it's a decadent affair, and the venomous vapours encourage her hospitable snarl ('why fear death? death never heart no one').

Less melodically induced, Disconnected is foreboding and tense - what better bait to amuse Siouxsie into irritated howling? 'Make the heart grow fonder, then obliterate' is about as nice as it gets.

Fully out the cage, even more belly rumbling is evident on Turn It On's transfixing adrenaline has a passionate Spanish influence ehoing through the forceful disruption of Budgie's rampaging percussion. What makes the combination of these two so formidable is that Siouxsie shapeshifting voice has no allegiances - it's cat and mouse between them both.

The spooky chills groaning through Take Mine disguise a vocal that might sing 'take mine' but seems to simultaneosuly snatch it all back. Hear threatening disapproval turn sorry and disgruntled.

The cold contemplation of Say kills me, it's so beautiful, finding solace in something too abstract to place, a desolate landscape perhaps, with a boiling aquatic current. The sounds signifying loss and an aching sadness Siouxise simply dillutes herself into. 'I heard the news today, Billy's gone away' is delivered tersely and that's why it works - folding an irreparable subjectmatter into the structure of a rhyme just feels and sounds appropriate, she's not playing coy and acting messed up. Concise lyrics convey the damage with simplicity. Ironically, it's not what is said rather what is simply felt. Siouxsie's gloomy residue and the grimy technology are at a loss in uncomplaining disorder and grief. It's a struggle that is more than earned.

The acoustic I Was Me is almost petulantly sulky but with the young posturing of Shirley Manson's S&M robot-rock at the time, you can't blame paranoia to creeping through into the vanity of the original being such an obvious influence for a more commercially succesful imitation. 'Same lips, same hair, same stare' toothpics with knowingly catty disgust and horror that isn't even over the top - seathing 'I swear ... it's on the tip of my tongue, oh, oh, yeah' before Budgie's militant soundscape purges ahead.

Stimulated by visceral moodiness, movements and tensions, Prettiest Thing was the final single to also get nowhere in the charts. Siouxsie's greedy attention reminds me of Depeche Mode's Blue Dress. Lip-licking lyrics such as 'razors edge sliding in, wanna feel my fingers dipping in ... what a beautiful violence moving in' are absorbed into the build up of tinkling sounds, and a hovering noise fades out in carnivorous bliss meets Donna Summer I Feel Love.

The perverse rapacious disco thrill and strident apocalyptic kinesthetic fury of Exterminating Angel is faster and angrier. Not to draw too much of a fine point about her urine lyric ('piss on it, I'm sick of it, I wanna fuck it up for the hell of it'), but the cardboard case for the album alludes to a sleaze found much throughout. Sioux immediately seizing authority, howling and unleashing an impossible escapism if disjunct, claustrophobic malcontent, and blistering disdain. The track is alientated, depressive and revolting, yet wathed in a gauzy glow that proves truly immersing time and time again. That the bitter rage never sounds like a complete sham (and it is mortifying) consumates a miracle - it's resistance not hostility (same goes for when she told Paris Hilton to fuck off).

Boasting the best 'ahhhhhhhh' not to come before chanting 'spice up your life' (seriously), Another Planet is probably the only song that remotely resembles a vintage Banshees song, but even then it is an average tour de force moment - the only moment where their rock-association seeps through, 'with a twisted edge' (for comfort of course). We've also heard much the same before so maybe that is also it, but Siouxsie's fierce exotic vamp is still an amazing fuck-you.

The bamboo percussion of Don't Go To Sleep Without Me supresses xylophonish tinkles that seem to threaten one's spine -sometimes Siouxsie's superstitious similes scream louder than a shout. An atmospheric, breathy conclusion that stays in your head long after it has finished.

Constricted and contrived for sure, Anima Animus is not without its creature comforts, preying on disco (the illuminated abuse of 2nd Floor and the phantasmagoric Exterminating Angle hunts down and inadvertantly spoofs a dancefloor euphoria that Donna Summer would need to kill for, not that they are in any danger of servicing the same audience), aghast acoustic cynicism (I Was Me), the hushing threat of Don't Go To Sleep, or being aware of other people (the surging ripple of Say), it's an unpredictable and unlikely predator of optimism (Turn It On is practically Siouxsie letting her hair down on a hen night). The songs growl, grow and expand on their own accord, just as Siouxsie howls and whispers instinctively: distorto-disco incarnate.

Medium-priced with only 10 tracks, outtake Red Wrapping Paper is worth the investigation, as is Sad Cunt if only for the lyric 'got no mouth but you need to scream' (indeed).

Worth A Gawk - Pete Burns Cameos For Vengaboys

Nevermind Pete stealing Cher's One By One look, the sailor is HOT!

Mary Kiani's 100% Devotion, Ya Know?

Just as I will instruct anyone who wants their quick fix of Mary Kiani (flip n) fill (when she last begged Flip N' Fill to produce a comeback single for her they told her to flip burgers instead, but poor Kiani was confused and offered her gammon steak slices) - anyway, grip onto your handcuffed ankles and get ready for your life to change forever, Mary's unstable classics with a k are Hi-NRG avalanches of eclipsing hormonal trauma that will humiliate you, invade your dreams and leave you feeling like a shameless stereotype whether you get to the chorus or not.

When her mental health issues flare up so vividly as on the contrived pledge for sexual effort 100%, gays know only too well but to cluster together, take off their tops and prepare to wait for the 1990s to be over all over again. 'You just gotta let me in' pleads Mary-K, but Glaswegians have been warned and many don't even have homes just so she can't break in and ruin their lives with a 15 year old album that she'll tell you is 'pure dead brilliant' until you are in fact dead or lucky enough just to pretend to be.

The whimpering When I Call Your Name remains the ferocious diva's biggest top 20 hit to date as well as her only one - Kiani still gets a thrill using her TTF royalties to pay taxi drivers to circle around Georges Square as she screams out the window of a vehicle driving 15 mph between traffic lights 'can you hear me now?'

Above: close your eyes and get ready to piss yourself, Mary's interviewer asks her questions whilst flicking through Heat magazine, whilst the poor singer is reduced to begging 'any producers out there' to go to her website and even gives out her phone number live on air (as in hospital radio presumably, Mary's biggest audience). I love when she reminices about 'just workin really'.

Her Motiv8 remixes provide the only respite: I Imagine's fertile dissillusionment is whisked into a gear-shifting dance classic Gina G would give up her career for; the epic pounding of When I Call Your Name will leave you feeling more used than a whore in Iraq (the only reason it lasts over 6 minutes is to give gays enough time to break out of her high rise and escape); and the frighteningly unhinged 100% remains one of the most uplifting Steve Roadway ejaculations ever.

Don't get me wrong, Diva Incarnate loves this diva - here is a vintage post celebrating her insanity to prove it here.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Amber - Amber

I think I got the order wrong for reviewing her albums yet even if I can't help but compare Amber's self-titled sophomore album to its darker follow-up, it remains the superior effort. She simply beefed up the breakthrough she achieves here, and yet the Amber album boasts no less than 4 amazing singles, a further 3 cracking album tracks as well as a few decent ones, of which all constitute a consistent strength rarely found on dance albums. Co-writing with Billy Steinberg, Amber amply applies herself to the craft of album construction.

The sublime dreamy headwind-trance of the Sex & The City endorsed Above The Clouds rivals Dana International for activating dance ballads. With a gorgeous chorus that spirals out of control, Amber's feminine treacle spills into sexual nirvana. Steering heavenwards, she's also very lucky that her emotional range eclipses her physical one. Insinuating an orgasm, the groove is vague yet soulful and totally succumbs to her dulcet tones. Her foamy yet flexible vocals are floaty, and when she does shout your legs are already up just as high to disagree. Dance-art.

The insatiable disco of Love One Another was tarted up for its single release and sadly the album version cannot compare, and poor Amber's usually rich vocals sound feeble against the added competion of a stunning Cher cover version. Whereas her limitations are usually artistic flubs, on this those verses are almost painfully inept. The chorus is bulletproof though.

Above: the orgasmic video edit provided Amber with a bit more beef than the impotent album arrangement, but wasn't enough to stop Cher from demolishing it definatively for her 2001 album Living Proof.

She loses it slightly on Spiritual Virginity, the first real dud on offer. We know she's a spiritual sexpot already and her ballads are always beautifully crafted, but this one just doesn't take shape with me. Such smitten songwriting isn't my thing, she simply doesn't have the timbre to dramatize such lines as 'spritual virginity opened up my fantasy, revealed my sensibility with your creativity' - I can live my life without hearing this. Object of Desire finds a better vein with Shakira style exhaustion.

Yet more muddled bedroom ambivalence, Sexual (la da di) became a US #42 hit single. The pulsating Plasma remix is the version I am most intimate with, and the album version isn't quite right, but the CD supplies the Thunderpuss remix as a bonus track, which is also the definative video mix. Her genital-adgitating agenda finds a suitbale lubricator at last, and the gorgeous Afterlife chill-out treatment appeared on her next album Naked.

The throbbing Without You is powered by a whooping chorus. Her vocals are just as gutsy, exploring the sick fear of being single. Tripple A batteries not included, but suggested.

The Tina Arena-ish I Found Myself In You is a sombre jangly love ballad with rnb ripples and eastern influences eaking through Amber's trembles.

Thankfully not a Daniel Bedingfield cover, If I'm Not The One is sadly not very good despite that advantage. It actually sounds a bit like Madonna's You'll See in places. R Kelly would probably enjoy singing this is his closet.

The album reaches its full pleasure potential on the frantic Don't Wanna Stop through her almighty 'whoooaah hey yeah' evocations to unending sex. A compulsive succession of hooks flavour the singer's nasal, robust, confident-if-impotent growl, with enthusiastic vogue-posing, bump-and-grind beats confirming the madness.

Like other dance divas from the late 90s (Gina G, Geri, Gloria, No Mercy), Amber gets her flamenco flush on Let's Do It For Love, a piano-grooved salsa slammer.

The triple-threat threesome of Amber, Ultra and Jocelyn Enriquez on If You Could Read My Mind might be a bit crowded, but it's an attack that just gets better and better with age. Because it's such a magnificent soul-shouter, Amber is left no choice but to pretend she is a 15 stone black woman and despite this being hilarious it's not without its charm.

With its dramatic intro and undercurrent of folk exoticism, How Can I Tell You is a jazzy club jam: Amber's horny vocals get real and tell her lover it's over. I'm Free is actually a prison sentence to 3 minutes of hell: when she puts her clothes back on her principled balladry fails to compete with the encouraging abandonment of her dance tracks. Horribly mismatched.

I might prefer the darker sex drive of Naked, but Amber's sultry dance album Amber is undeniably intoxicating dance-pop at its very best and her most spontaneous sounding. Her effort pays off in spades and she gives her contempories more than a few pointers - that she never became a name as big as Kylie, Dannii or Lisa Scott-Lee is an absolute crime: perhaps her moderate success in the states sustained her appetite, but here in her cover girl prime, Amber was worth the first and last of those girls combined. Baited by 4 grade A singles, illuminated by 3 more album cuts on equal billing, and handicapped by only a few useless slow ones, Amber puts out every time.