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Fellow Travellers

Reviews by Aidan Merrit

Reefus Moons
Uptight Sound From The Message Tree

This is -- as far as I know -- an entirely self-produced album, by a single artist playing all the instruments, and as such I suspected straight away that it would be either abysmal or a classic. Mostly, it falls well on the latter side.

I'm not quite sure whether to file this album under 'R' or 'M'. In one case it would go between late Lou Reed and early REM, and in the other between Monty Python and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Both are very appropriate.

This is an album of the type that the neo-psychedelicists of the late 70s -- Hitchcock, Cope et al -- seem to have forgotten how to make recently. The albums it most resembles, to me, are Invisible Hitchcock and the Teardrops' Wilder, and it stands up well in comparison to either. The track titles -- 'Life On A Razor Blade', 'Clockwork Creatures', 'Seven Of Seeds' and eight more in similar vein -- are good both musically and lyrically, if a little light on rhythm in places and occasionally pretentious. (And to be fair it has to be said that there are a couple of real turkeys here.) All the instruments are competently played, some are brilliantly played, and his voice sounds like an excellent Robyn impersonation. (Make your own minds up whether this is good or bad.) I don't know if I'll still be listening to it next year -- I suspect it's the kind of album that begins to grate on you eventually -- but it's certainly as good as a fair number of Robyn's albums, and beautifully packaged. (Love the cover shot!)

You might not like all of it, but if you like Robyn in the Element Of Light/Underwater Moonlight mode you should like most of this. There's an advert for it on the back cover of this mag with the address, prices etc, or you should be able to get it at Minus Zero etc, and given how cheap it is you'd really should give it a try. There's also an earlier LP, The Moon Raven, which isn't nearly as good save the great Teardrops-ish 'Thinking Of You' -- but it's arguably worth buying for this alone.

(Available from Insect Eye Records, 12 Emmerson Street, Heworth, York, YO3 0XH, England)

Barbara Lien
Let The Reverb Answer

Let The Reverb Answer is the first official release by PVs contributor Barb Lien. As such, I'd be inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt whatever -- but truth be told it really doesn't need it. Both this and the Reefus Moons album are very reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock but they couldn't be more different; Uptight Sound out-Soft Boys's the Soft Boys, while this is an all-acoustic, solo affair vaguely reminiscent of a determinedly lo-fi Eye, complete with an extremely naff cover (I'm sorry!) and titles along the lines of 'This Sweet Sickness', 'Cozy Lie' and 'Strong Poison'. Nigel Cross, apparently, loved it, and Mark Ellen will no doubt love it. (If that's a recommendation.)

The guitar work is, generally, competent rather than outstanding; Barb's singing voice is by no means perfect but she does sound both competent and confident, and somehow simultaneously like Nico, Dylan, Stipe and Dan Treacey. The nine tunes are generally a bit too slow and introverted for my liking -- what made Eye and Trains always bearable and occasionally brilliant was that the likes of 'Raining Twilight Coast' 'Queen Elvis' and so on were separated by the likes of 'Beautiful Girl' and 'Satellite'. This much downbeat in one go gets a little on top of you unless you're in the mood.

Still, don't let that put you off. While this certainly won't be everybody's cup of tea, if you liked the second half of I Often Dream Of Trains and the middle of Eye, you'll like this. If you saw Heather Nova supporting Robyn in August and liked her you'll love this. Even if you didn't like any of them, you may well like this. At this price, you can easily afford to try it out.

Let The Reverb Answer is available on cassette only, from Barbara Lien, 1738 University Ave. W, St. Paul, MN 55104, USA [HTMLer's Note: Barbara Lien no longer is reachable at that address], or from Imp Records, P.O. Box 34, Portland, OR 97207, USA, for $5 US -- but I dare say if you wrote and asked you could pay in other currencies or IRCs.


This article originally appeared in issue 2 of Positive Vibrations, the Soft Boys/Robyn Hitchcock/Kimberley Rew magazine. It may be distributed freely but may not be sold except with permission of the author or publisher.

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