Uncle Stephen's Christmas Hamper

Unnervingly one of Joe Orton’s holiday snaps adorns the cover, but after diving into the album’s beguiling waters, immersing myself, I emerged reborn, no longer threatened by the strangely alluring photography. In fact, I rather like it.


This morning, I was forced to forgo breakfast, due to an imminent, auspicious delivery.

Like the rest of the herd, I could have masticated animal feed soaked in milk, or munched toast hanging baboon-like from a strap. But, rather than prepare you for the rigours of the day, such a functional repast will set you up for dyspepsia and sour belching. Breaking-your-fast should be a celebration, awakening your palate, stimulating mind and desire. Mouthfuls of kedgeree, smoked kippers and devilled kidneys should be savoured, washed down with a robust, invigorating Chianti Superiore.

Neither early arousal nor hunger could quash my joie de vivre. I was expecting some artistic etchings to be delivered, and, it was imperative that I arrived at the club before Roderick, as, out of necessity or malice, he uses the mail to light the fire. I had discovered the originals in Amsterdam, and had to possess them. They may be too risqué for some, others will consider them obscene, but morality is for those who fear judgement. I am an aficionado of the female form, and I consider them art. Thankfully, the package, replete with Netherland’s postmark, was waiting for me. Eagerly I ripped it asunder, scattering twine and brown paper to the winds.

Oh the horror! The horror! Rather than Rembrandt’s ‘Diana Bathing’ and ‘Woman Sitting Half Dressed Beside a Stove’, it was a collection of Cds in need of review…. crushed I collapsed onto into the cold embrace of my armchair. Must I forever live in world without beauty?


The National Jazz Trio of Scotland: Christmas Album

Christmas deifies Mammon and jazz annoys, but the dreadfulness of Christmas Album shines out like the star over Bethlehem. Desperate to be unconventional, yet each track is given the same turgid orchestration: tunes and vocals slowed down interminably. You have time to kill between notes. Performed at the correct tempo this would have been an EP. The musicians are accomplished; the delivery forced and clinical. Jingle Bells always makes the bile rise, but I felt this treatment violated it, and every other song featured. Imagine what someone who likes them would feel?

Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay

Whitby is a regular haunt, supernatural literature a passion, and Goth girls strangely alluring, but I’m not an adolescent boy, or emotionally disturbed adult, so I avoid this drivel, unless contractually obligated to do otherwise. Richard, my nephew, your editor, knows this, so why does he continue to force me to review them?

The only, admittedly elaborate and far-fetched, explanation I can conceive is that he knows that I will keep this CD, whether I like it or not. Then, when he deigns to visit, he can produce this, and other similar works I have appraised, from my collection, exposing me as a Goth sympathiser to Roderick. Well, your plan, Mr Foster, has been foiled, I intend to use them to impress any female Goths I encounter on my constitutional around the ruined abbey.


Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t; and Marc Carroll: (It Was Lust) Not Love

Unlikely though it seems Jens Lekman might know what love isn’t, but he certainly doesn’t know what makes a good album. This is a stream of bland 80s love songs, complete with de rigueur sax solos. Normally such timorous fare washes over you, but the lyrics are so trite, puerile and clichéd that they stun you out of your reverie. One of the tracks is called Erica from America, which is repeated endlessly, and one song mentions that he was in Washington for the election, I rest my case, your honour.

I'd stop the Bristol 407 to pick Jens Lekman up if he was wandering lost along the middle of a desert road, but the guitar would remain discarded at the roadside, along with any itinerant saxophonists.

But do not despair Jens, at least your offering produced a reaction, which is more than Marc Carroll’s (It Was Lust) Not Love did. Based on this insipid, passionless number I suppose he is incapable of either.


Rebekka Karijord; We Become Ourselves

The individual parts of We Become Ourselves are performed well, but it remains soulless. An abundance of orchestration and mastering permeates, but such smoke and mirrors can’t disguise that there is nothing of value within. The cover, with the singer, back to camera, playing some sort of tree-organ hybrid is fascinating, and I expected the music to capture the same atmosphere, which it does not. The singer has a powerful voice, but there just isn’t any real passion here, or a song that is memorable, regardless of techno intrusions or bouts of primal scream therapy. Ms Karijord mistakes serious demeanour for talent, and has her eye on Kate Bush’s crown and possibly Tori Amos’s diamante tiara, but, if you like wailing, ululating female vocals, I’d listen to one of their earlier albums.


HKK119; Imaginature

Diverse, effervescent, explosive and poetic, often within the same song, this album captures the imagination. Lyrically and musically intriguing, poetic incantations, haunting clarinet solos, washing waves and a buzzing fly, are woven together over a strong electronic beat to create a complex, assured sound with real depth.

Each track is unique, the excellent vocals creating a coherent whole. This constant reinvention means this album never feels formulaic, sometimes a feeling of dread is evoked, while other tunes are quirky and playful, and surprisingly catchy. I found myself singing Iceberg after hearing it once, and I still smile when I remember it now. Definitely worth buying.


Sikane; Mars

Sikane nearly made me dance, he should be proud. A schizophrenic album that takes you on a wondrous journey from super funky to experimental jazz, in such small steps that you are surprised where you end up and can’t remember where you started. A fantastical night out in an exotic new city, with strangers who respect no boundaries and experimentation is on the agenda. Mars must be experienced rather than described. Unnervingly one of Joe Orton’s holiday snaps adorns the cover, but after diving into the album’s beguiling waters, immersing myself, I emerged reborn, no longer threatened by the strangely alluring photography. In fact, I rather like it.


Ringodeathstar; Mauve

The Editor Himself has passed judgement on Mauve, making this review redundant. Maybe it is a test? Maybe he will ask the audience to judge our performances? Maybe it is a mistake? Anyhow, mine is not to reason why…(Oh get on with it, I'm paying by the bloody word - ed)

The combination of melancholy, breathy female vocals, almost disembodied, floating behind fast-paced guitars and furious drumming produces a wonderfully robust sound that somehow manages to feel ethereal. An engaging dichotomy with presence pitted against power.

The result: a draw. Even when both vocalists sing, each part is clearly audible, although the lyrics remain, on the whole, unintelligible.

Once or twice, the band appear to get lost, the music feels repetitive, the lyrics apathetic, but just when a cacophonous dirge seems inevitable, the sound is reborn with new energy, discordant and angry. Unexpectedly, a few tracks have an almost pop sensibility. Please Don’t Kill Yourself will be an Europe–wide Christmas number one. I have spoken.


Stephen is available via theheadcleaner@live.co.uk