"Though A Place to Bury Strangers called their second album Exploding Head, it's arguable that their debut, with its walls of low-rent distortion and abrasive beats, was more cranium-crushing. Even if the band's move to Mute resulted in cleaner, ever-so-slightly calmer surroundings for their music, A Place to Bury Strangers' sound and songwriting have more power and nuance here, as well as more structure -- nearly every song balances the black-on-black menace of their debut with pop appeal. Nowhere is this clearer than on "It Is Nothing," which opens the album with a three-minute burst of buzzsaw guitars, or on "Lost Feeling," which boasts a subtle tension and dive-bombing dynamics that wouldn't have been possible on the band's debut. This faithfulness to shoegaze's dark side sets A Place to Bury Strangers apart from many of their fellow revivalists who favor wispy, cotton-candy clouds of sound. Befitting their name, the band is still obsessed with death and destruction, be it physical or spiritual (as on the aptly fuzzed-out epic "Ego Death"). Interestingly, Exploding Head's more polished production brings out some of the more retro elements in the band's music, underscoring their fondness for goth, synth pop -- and in "Deadbeat"'s case, surf rock -- as well as their shoegaze foundations. They sound more like a pissed-off, guitar-enhanced New Order than ever on "In Your Heart," and close the album with "I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart," which offers heroic doses of pure effect pedal-stomping heaven. At times, listeners of a certain age will swear they heard one of these songs on college radio or saw one of the band's video on 120 Minutes or PostModern MTV -- "Slipping Away" in particular has the feeling of a forgotten classic -- and that's a compliment. Exploding Head is a fine step forward for A Place to Bury Strangers, and shows they're among the best bands bringing shoegaze into the 21st century"
"Orange Juice's three albums, along with compilations of various shapes and sizes, have floated in and out of print throughout the years. This hasn't made it convenient for anyone curious about the band, whether the interest was sparked by Haircut 100, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, the unlikely mainstream success of Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You," the history of post-punk, or the birth of indie pop. The Glasgow School, released in 2005 by Domino, contains the band's four singles for Postcard, the bulk of Ostrich Churchyard (a disc released in 1992, containing early versions of what would become 1982's You Can't Hide Your Love Forever), a Stars on 45-style version of "Simply Thrilled Honey," and a crude cover of the Ramones' "I Don't Care." For a lot of people, the material here (dating no later than 1981) is where Orange Juice begins and ends. The band signed to Polydor soon after the latest song on this disc was recorded, and they promptly gave their sound a coat of shiny wax -- so they helped invent indie pop, only to abandon it before their first album. Though the notion extends throughout Orange Juice's discography, they were nothing if not fearless. What other way is there to describe lyrics like "I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn's/I was hoping to impress/So frightfully camp -- you laughed," or their wholly convincing (if occasionally gawky) way of bouncing the jangly folk-rock of the Byrds off the fat-bottomed disco drive of Chic, all the while creating an identity all their own? Both the singles and the Ostrich Churchyard takes are as crafty as they are crude, and if you can't get past the amateurishness, there's plenty of winsome attitude to win you over. This disc serves as proof that, along with Josef K, Associates, Altered Images, Simple Minds, Cocteau Twins, and the Scars, Orange Juice helped make Scotland a very productive resource during the post-punk/new wave era"
"One of the cornerstones of the New York hardcore movement, The Infamous is Mobb Deep's masterpiece, a relentlessly bleak song cycle that's been hailed by hardcore rap fans as one of the most realistic gangsta albums ever recorded. Given Mobb Deep's youthful age and art-school background, it's highly unlikely that The Infamous is drawn strictly from real-life experience, yet it's utterly convincing, because it has all the foreboding atmosphere and thematic sweep of an epic crime drama. That's partly because of the cinematic vision behind the duo's detailed narratives, but it's also a tribute to how well the raw, grimy production evokes the world that Mobb Deep is depicting. The group produced the vast majority of the album itself, with help on a few tracks from the Abstract (better known as Q-Tip), and establishes a spare, throbbing, no-frills style indebted to the Wu-Tang Clan. This is hard, underground hip-hop that demands to be met on its own terms, with few melodic hooks to draw the listener in. Similarly, there's little pleasure or relief offered in the picture of the streets Mobb Deep paints here: They inhabit a war zone where crime and paranoia hang constantly in the air. Gangs are bound together by a code of fierce loyalty, relying wholly on one another for survival in a hopeless environment. Hostile forces -- cops, rivals, neighborhood snitches -- are potentially everywhere, and one slip around the wrong person can mean prison or death. There's hardly any mention of women, and the violence is grim, serious business, never hedonistic. Pretty much everything on the album contributes to this picture, but standouts among the consistency include "Survival of the Fittest," "Eye for a Eye," "Temperature's Rising," "Cradle to the Grave," and the classic "Shook Ones, Pt. 2." The product of an uncommon artistic vision, The Infamous stands as an all-time gangsta/hardcore classic"
""This is the sound of someone losing the plot/you're gonna like it, but not a lot." So says Jarvis Cocker on "The Fear," the opening track on This Is Hardcore, the ambitious follow-up to Pulp's breakthrough Different Class, thereby providing his own review for the album. Cocker doesn't quite lose the plot on This Is Hardcore, but the ominous, claustrophobic "The Fear" makes it clear that this is a different band, one that no longer has anthems like "Common People" in mind. The shift in direction shouldn't come as a surprise -- Pulp was always an arty band -- but even the catchiest numbers are shrouded in darkness. This Is Hardcore is haunted by disappointments and fear -- by the realization that what you dreamed of may not be what you really wanted. Nowhere is this better heard than on "This Is Hardcore," where drum loops, lounge piano, cinematic strings, and a sharp lyric create a frightening monument to weary decadence. It's the centerpiece of the album, and the best moments follow its tone. Some, like "The Fear," "Seductive Barry," and "Help the Aged," wear their fear on their sleeves, some cloak it in Bowie-esque dance grooves ("Party Hard") or in hushed, resigned tones ("Dishes"). A few others, such as the scathing "I'm a Man" or "A Little Soul," have a similar vibe without being explicitly dark. Instead of delivering an entirely bleak album, Pulp raise the curtain somewhat on the last three songs, but the attempts at redemption -- "Sylvia," "Glory Days," "The Day After the Revolution" -- don't feel as natural as everything that precedes them. It's enough to keep the album from being a masterpiece, but it's hardly enough to prevent it from being an artistic triumph"
Also included is a bonus disc entitled This Is Glastonbury, a live show.
From allmusic (5/5): "ABC's debut album combined the talents of the Sheffield, U.K.-based band, particularly lead singer Martin Fry, a fashion plate of a frontman with a Bryan Ferry fixation, and the inventive production style of former Buggles member Trevor Horn and his team of musicians, several of whom would go on to form the Art of Noise. Horn created dense tracks that merged synthesizer sounds, prominent beats, and swaths of strings and horns, their orchestrations courtesy of Anne Dudley, who would follow her work with the Art of Noise by becoming a prominent film composer, and who here underscored Fry's stylized romantic lyrics and dramatic, if affected, singing. The production style was dense and noisy, but frequently beautiful, and the group's emotional songs gave it a depth and coherence later Horn works, such as those of Yes ("Owner of a Lonely Heart") and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, would lack. (You can hear Horn trying out the latter band's style in "Date Stamp.") Fry and company used the sound to create moving dancefloor epics like "Many Happy Returns," which, like most of the album's tracks, deserved to be a hit single. (In the U.K., four were: "Tears Are Not Enough," "Poison Arrow," "The Look of Love," and "All of My Heart," the last three making the Top Ten; in the U.S., "The Look of Love" and "Poison Arrow" charted Top 40.) ABC, which began fragmenting almost immediately, never equaled its gold-selling first LP commercially or artistically, despite some worthy later songs."