Pizzicato Five: Happy End Of The World (Matador)

Pizzicato has nothing to do with pizza or Inspector Clouseau’s servant. It means ‘plucked by finger’. So no prizes there for this sequencer-born keyboard outfit. And there’s two of them. Doh! Amongst some ever-smirking paragon’s of cutting edge cool, this band’s conveyer-belt pastiche of everything going is the height of post-modern ingenuity. These are the same people who intermittently wear flares and perennially sport wraparound shades. Because culture’s too fast, too auto-referential to be taken seriously anymore, right? Wipe that grin off your face please. When two people sit down and decide to do nothing other than make a pastiche of past ideas, sing over it in Japanese, suggest that one song ("Trailer Music") comes with a ‘coupon that wins you an around the world trip’, and throw in the odd ‘sunny day’ synth-riff to provoke that self-ironic smirk; it’s hard not to question the point of it all. Such clever-clever japery works, and is almost fun for about ten minutes. Then the entire exercise in cultural deflation drags and you miss a bit of durability. Perhaps Pizzicato Five want their audience to share in their feeling of being one step ahead of the game, a little more clued-up than most. Just like wearing flares then. Crap is still crap, however pretty it gets. That cheap Walkman you bought. Looked the business didn’t it. Broke after ten minutes. You won’t buy another one, right? (NPW)

Echobelly: Lustra (Epic)

"Give Her A Gun" yodelled Sonya way back when Britpop was just a baby. A plethora of firearms promptly arrived in the post chez Ms Madan. Obviously it was hoped that she was as clumsy with guns as she was with political posturing. Give Asian women guns. Nice one luv. While you’re at it let the lions and bears out at London Zoo and burn some witches.

After the ‘shot in the foot’ blabber-mouthing of their ill-reasoned chanteuse, Echobelly’s erstwhile pleasant Smithsy drone became a secondary concern. Not a bad thing, as ‘Everybody’s Got One’ had a few sassy singles in tow but an inescapable first album midway slump. As Sonya the quote machine became badly in need of an oil, a guitarist buggered off and no-one got the second LP. On this, their third escapade, Echobelly are more polished than before, a bit cleverer, but still unavoidably Echobelly. "The World Is Flat" is the best their pop niche has to offer. It’s fast(ish), not particularly hard work, and stomps along harmlessly. The opening "Bulldog Baby" rides on the same brisk tunefulness, but lets Ms Madan get all carried away in some over-wrought anti-nationalist metaphor. Strings abound, throughout in fact, as these ageing new-home owners bear the brunt of a mortgage full-on. The band’s maturity shines through the accomplished veneer of arrangement, but sags obtrusively on "I’m Not A Saint". ‘Chilly this time of year?’ etc. "Here Comes The Big Rush" does the ‘thirty-something’ and still single moan with a spattering of innovation and swagger, but is neutered by the drab "Paradise". "Lustra" closes with the reminder that when Echobelly are relaxed, they are embarrassingly dour. Far from spectacular, occasionally gripping and so barely the right side of noteworthy. (NPW)

Northern Uproar: Goodbye (Heavenly)

When Leo and his lash of acne first trod the boards as a Mini-Noel with concussion, ‘Goodbye’ was the best advice he could have been offered. Despite being horrifyingly execrable at first, The ‘Roar return with their ‘development in progress’ tunes. This "Goodbye" clearly is, a production salvo-job being supplied by Mike Hedges. Most alarming is the notion that it might just be quite good. Harmonies prop up a chronically gormless lyric with the preposition ‘with’ conspicuously missing, but this is still not as laughable as you’d presume. The B-sides are a giggle though. (NPW)

The Pixies: “Death to the Pixies” (4AD)

Whilst it is six years since the fifth Pixies album ‘Trompe le Monde’ became their last, it is perhaps no surprise that 4AD have not rushed to produce this retrospective compilation sooner. The two sides of the Atlantic have been preoccupied with grunge and Britpop in the interim years, and have managed reasonably well on their own. Listening to ‘Death to the Pixies’ provides a welcome reminder of the magnitude of this Boston quartet’s power and influence over recent rock, and aims a kick up the backside at all the underachieving copycats that trailed in their wake. More than that, it offers up some damn fine songs, too.One qualm about this collection is that, although it contains some of their greatest moments in “Debaser”, “Gigantic” and the like, it is merely not possible to cram in enough for the proper picture of what the Pixies meant. A better bet would be to buy up ‘Surfer Rosa’, ‘Doolittle’ and ‘Bossanova’, a trio of albums spanning just two and a half years, and ignore this decent, but rather unfulfilling abridgement of events. (TF)

Nick Paton Walsh, Tom Fulford

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