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Infinity Within is the second album by Deee-Lite (who at the time comprised of Lady Miss Kier Kirby, Super DJ Dimitri Brill & Jungle DJ Towa Tei) and it was released by Elektra on June 23, 1992.
This was much less successful in terms of sales as its best recorded chart position was #37 on the UK Albums Chart. Its possible that as this was a more socially aware album covering issues such as voting, safe sex & the Ozone layer it was too ahead of its time for when it was released which may account for its poor chart showing.
Both the album and the single for I Had a Dream I Was Falling through a Hole in the Ozone Layer was issued in an eco-friendly package called the eco-pack that was mostly paper packaging that the customer folded into the shape of a traditional CD case once purchased.
So whats on Infinity Within then?
1 "I.F.O. (Identified Flying Object)" (featuring Arrested Development) 2:55.
This one kicks off with a few samples and a funky breakbeat before you get Kier's vocal submitted to a rather unusual muted treatment so as to make her sound a long way off, as if broadcasting over a ham radio. Arrested Development provide the main rapped lyrics with Kier filling in the odd call & response section. Oddest lyric in this track? "We're trying to conduct a fax orgy".
2 "Runaway" 3:54
This was the 1st single released off the album and spent 10 weeks on the Billboard dance chart reaching #1 (on July 18th 1992) where it stayed for 1 week after coming in at #10. And we're right back to the Chicago House influence with this one, its no shock it spent a lot of time in the US Billboard as its very dance orientated. Think "Jack Your Body" and you'd be in the right ballpark for sure.
There are some funk influences but it'd never win any song writing awards as its a very simplistic vocal with a few short hooks repeated ad infinitum.
3 "Heart Be Still" 4:10
That'll be Bootsy Collins at the start saying something about Monkeys. It's right into a funk inspired bass line thats almost certainly being played by Mr Collins too. The lyrics of this are at least a bit more involved with a nice poetic run. The horns are pretty cool as are the mixed down congas. If you were thinking there aren't any samples, that piano line is definately one and comes right from Dimitri's record box.
4 "I Won't Give Up" 4:24
I quite like the phazed guitar that is mirrored by a harp behind Kiers very simple intro. This is a killer soul track that always left me wondering why she never decided to go solo after the band folded as an entity. This track is very much in the genre of this like Show Me Love or Too Blind To See It but predates them both by several years so its fairly clear the band and Kier were quite influencial with their sound and style. It's hard to know if she's referring to either the band or her relationship with Dimitri in these lyrics as both were strained at this point.
5 "Vote, Baby, Vote" 0:32
It's short and sweet and was actually written to raise awareness for the younger demographic to get more young Americans to vote in the then upcoming Presidential elections. This track was actually played on tv and got the band countrywide recognition, this was one of their attempts to be a more grown-up band.
6 "Two Clouds above Nine" (featuring Jamal-ski) 5:08
This one is quite groovy. Great brass section behind a good breakbeat that doesn't get boring. Jamal-ski is the voice providing the "toasting" vocal in the middle. And no, it doesn't matter if you can't understand it. I quite like the line "Damn, It's my jam" as Kier sings at a great counterpoint to the main guitar line. It really shouldn't work but she manages to make it so.
7 "Electric Shock" 4:49
What a great Kraftwerk style intro, thats got Towa's fingerprints all over it. This is Deep House several years before the term would even be coined. The German synth influences are very eminent but really gel well with the late House style too. Its a very a bassy synth line with a kick snare holding things together. Many American artists would go on to mimic this style so once again its Deee-lite blazing the musical trail. Kier even sings that this is an "Electric Groove", an ideal description. If you can't hear how this massively influenced acts like Bizarre Inc and Sub Sub then you must be deaf.
8 "I Had a Dream I Was Falling through a Hole in the Ozone Layer" 5:38
The 3rd single from the album, no release date or chart position could be found for this track. That phazed intro is so laid back as to be horizontal. Now you might not realize it but this is Kier telling us to be more enviromentally aware. Yes, its the grown-up face of Deee-lite coming to the fore yet again along a funky groove. It may well be sung in the style of the Age of Aquarius but Kirby had her finger on the pulse telling us to stop ruining the ozone layer. "We breathe the future and we start to choke" - stark imagary indeed but hitting the message home for sure.
9 "Fuddy Duddy Judge" (featuring Michael Franti) 4:37
This has a very tribalistic intro before it kicks into a Grandmaster Flash inspired 80's breakbeat. Again Kier is pressing the awareness card here with references to things like Homelessness, joblessness and poor standards of education. Franti gives a killer rap section too. I did wonder if they tried to get Ice T to do this but he turned them down. The track itself is a good reflection of the have not society trying to better themselves. It's odd that the Judge of the title isn't even referenced until the final 30 seconds of the track.
10 "Pussycat Meow" 3:50
This was the 2nd single released off the album, it spent 12 weeks on the Billboard dance chart reaching #6 (on Jan 23rd 1993) where it stayed for 1 week after coming in at #12. I assume the actual cat noises are samples, but that's definately Kier saying "meow" and purring. It's scary how erotic she sounds doing it too, I love the way she fucks with my head at a subliminal way when she vocalizes like that.
Kirby wasn't afraid to explore her erotic side, she was pretty freaking awesome at it. A woman shouldn't be able to make a man react that way but Kier is definately a Greek siren luring me to my death on some jagged rocks somewhere for sure. Add underneath that a killer break and funky guitar and you've got a great track.
11 "Thank You Every Day" 6:21
More Deep House influences from our inovators yet again. Its a fairly simple lyric about how someone else can make you feel so much better just by being there, nothing thats going bring about World Peace but its a nice sentiment. Coupled to a counterpointed Hammond organ, a funky piano and banging bass drum gives you a cracker of a dance track.
I'm surprised the band never chose this as a single as I am sure it would have trampled the US Dance charts beneath its dancing feet. Heck, I'M grooving along to it RIGHT NOW as I type this! Have you any idea how hard it is to groove AND type at the same time?
12 "Rubber Lover" 3:59
This track was released as the b side of Runaway. And yes again its the grown-up face of Deee-lite, preaching a message of safe sex in a world becoming more concious of AIDS. Oh yes indeed, Miss Kirby is most definately telling you to wear a condom in not so many words. Its rumoured that their record company were quite unhappy about this particular track and requested several lyric rewrites which Kirby refused to do so you get the song as she wrote it, not as Elktra thought it should be. The drum track is crazy fast, the Hammond organ makes some nice fills that shouldnt work but do and yep thats Bootsy Collins saying "Skintight" in the background. With Kier telling you to "Have a good time" its hard not to think you will.
13 "Come on in, the Dreams Are Fine" 5:10
And another track that influenced the roots of Deep House. Its slow and laid back in a soulful style with a very counterpointed organ line and synth brass section probably coming right from the mind of Towa. I love the line "Light a candle to your soul, deja vu a thousand miles old", great imagery. The acid brass sample is definately something added by Dimitri and the flutes behind it are really nice and melodic.
From this track and the others it does make me wonder if Kirby went into song writing after the band folded as her lyrical talents are really well displayed here.
14 "Love is Everything" (bonus track) 5:28
So to the last and my favourite track on the album, the Larry Adler inspired harmonica, slow piano and Kiers relaxed vocal are soothing but arousing at same time. Here you can really tell how passionate Kirby actually is in both her lyrics and vocal delivery (damn but was Dimitri Brill a lucky man to have a firebrand like her as his girlfriend!). "Theres nothing else to say, the words just get in the way" - now does that speak volumes or what?
Some of the other tracks may have incredibly simple bubblegum lyrics but this is intensively creative writing at its best. Thats Bootsy Collins laughing as Kirby sings "Theres a smile on your face". After a really crappy day this track could de-stress absolutely anyone and leave you with a feeling of complete calmness and serenity - I know it helped me maintain a major grip on my own personal reality for which I have nothing but gratitude to both Kirby and Deee-lite.
(All times are approximate, taken off my own copy of the album)
Summing up:- Some of the tracks are plain old dance tunes requiring no thought but the others can be listened to on many levels. This may not have been Deee-lite's most successful album in terms of sales figures but its a far better crafted work than World Clique. It has lyrics to make you think, even the the US President requested usage of "Vote, Baby, Vote" to open the minds of Americas youth to political awareness. It's still as good today as it was almost 20 years ago and some of Deee-lite's more adult messages are common watchwords now. It can be enjoyed on several levels and is well worth yours or anyone elses money. Why are you still sitting here reading this, go out and buy it!
(This review also appears on Ciao! I am the original author)
Mockingjay is the third and final book of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
Picking up where book 2, Catching Fire left off we rejoin Katniss who has just been rescued from almost certain death in her second Hunger Games. Alliances had been formed, thoughts of rebellion had been sown in the minds of the populace of the various Districts but now after recovering from her violent ejection from her last combat trial Katniss has no idea who is friend or foe any more.
Most of her new life is documented in District 13, no longer a far off mythical place.
Now set in concrete or rather firmly under it, hidden away from the prying eyes of the Capitol who seek to eliminate the last traces of any resistance to their regime. Would that they could have it their way but these are last the days of the Roman Empire as it were.
Panem has been revealed as the Latin quotation for Bread And Circuses, the ancient Roman games of yore. However with her escape and defiance as a cat amongst the pidgeons, or Katniss amongst the Mockingjays to be more accurate to the story. She is the spark to start the fire, hers is the name that is the call to battle, hers is the face on the banner of freedom.
Katniss has in fact become the ultimate figurehead, Boadicea, Eva Peron or even Joan Of Arc.
Her relation with Peeta has gone beyond complicated, captured by the Capitol, brainwashed and used to spread doubt amongst his fellow rebels Peeta is used as a visual Lord Hawhaw (the younger amongst you might need to Google that reference). But of course plans are afoot to rescue him. The star-crossed lovers can not be kept apart by guards, or guns.
It will take torture and mind games to achieve that aim.
In District 13 President Coin rules, and rules are enforced. Food is rationed, time is accounted for, citizens are made to be useful. Katniss has simply swapped one totalitarian regime for another, only District 13 does not bay for her blood. Or does it?
In this final book we will follow the battles to free the remaining 11 districts after the carpet bombing which has destroyed most of District 12. We will follow how she trains to become a soldier for the new regime, all the time keeping her own personal revolution and agenda in mind - the one underlying thought, to kill President Snow, ruler of the Capitol.
In him you see Caesar, Caligula and the worst of Roman Empires. This is a man who won't go down without a fight, who will kill your friends or family if he can't kill you. His troops are loyal to the point of blindness, his inner circle of citizens think his is the right way to live. Only that life, that status quo is about to come tumbling down like a house of cards.
The rich will see how the poor in the Districts have been treated, the war will be taken into the very heart of their own previously protected society.
It may be difficult to read this final book, there is no literal Hunger Games this time but the battle into the heart of the Capitol becomes a mirror to that battle ground. Many will die in terrible and pointless ways.
Even when the regime falls, Katniss is still left with doubt. Has her leader Coin done the right things to defeat Snow?
Beyond that I wish not to spoil your reading any further. Be reassured there are twists and turns, twists within twists and an actual ending that can be enjoyed.
Of the three books this will probably get re-read the most as the action happens so quickly you may frequently miss character deaths or plot twists.
Suffice to say I am ready to return to the fray with Katniss. She has been a most excellent companion across her story arc.
(this review also appears on Ciao! I am the original author)
Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
If you've already read book 1 you'll be familiar with Katniss, Peeta, and their fight for life.
This book picks up where the first left off with the winners of the Hunger Games trying to settle back into some sort of normal life but all is not well in the state of Panem. It appears the rulers of the Capitol are more than aware of Katniss' transgressions outside her own District, thinly veiled threats are made to her by The President himself as she is told to step in line and act more like the winner she is.
On their winners tour she and Peeta manage to unwittingly spark the embers of a budding revolution in another District and to punish both Katniss and Peeta a special announcement is made at the time of the Quarter Quell. This is a special Hunger Games held every 25 yrs, normally featuring double the amount of contests. Only this year being the 75th anniversary The President announces all the contestants will be selected from each districts former winners.
And yes, that means Katniss is forced to return into the combat zone only this time her opponants are all seasoned killers.
Along the seam of the tale of the "surprise" from The President is a second plot detailing how the revolution is starting in many other Districts and how some people are even leaving their own Districts to try and find safety in District 13, an area shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
I don't want to spoil the plot too much beyond that, suffice to say the characters are equally compelling with the new veteran contestants being introduced as well as the story of what lengths The President will go to to maintain the status quo.
As the second of three books sadly this does suffer from "Empire Strikes Back" Syndrome in that it neither has a real start or a real finish, both of which you might find deeply annoying. The plot it does deal with is well told and the new characters are well written and very interesting.
If you enjoyed the first book you'll enjoy this too. I finished it in less than 5 hours.
So what can I tell you about the first in a trilogy of offerings from Suzanne Collins that no-one else has already mentioned?
Lets cover the basics:-
Dystopian future? Check.
Protagonist living in difficult circumstances? Check.
Likeable entourage cast? Check.
Ideas blatently stolen from other books? Check.
Ok, you are going to call me out on that last one so I'd better explain myself. Books set in dystopian futures are hardly new, heck they weren't even a new idea when Orwell was doing it in 1984.
Our main character Katniss (her odd sounding name will be explained as you read, don't worry) is a teenaged girl who is part of a single parent family where she is the bread winner, quite literally in fact. Her home is not the Earth we know now, its North America (now referred to as Panem) 75 years after some sort of conflict that split it up into 12 districts. Each of these districts has a specific function within society, District 12 is a coal mine with all its associated dangers.
Its clear at some point her society has tried and failed to rail against authority and this has led to the creation of The Hunger Games, the ultimate Death Match. Held every year, each District has a ballot to select one boy and one girl to be sent into this combat arena where the last person standing is afforded a lifestyle others can only merely dream of.
She isn't chosen to be a participant, that particular "honour" goes to Prim, her 12 year old sister who was taking part in the yearly lottery for the very first time. Obviously Katniss can't allow her beloved baby sister to be killed in such a manner and selflessly volunteers in her place.
As a plot device this isn't original either. Those who have seen the movie or read the books Battle Royal, The Running Man or The Long Walk will be familiar with the lotteried contest where your life is the greatest prize on offer.
In Katniss I see elements of Ben Richards and Ray Garrity (the protagonists of The Running Man & The Long Walk respectively), Richards perhaps is more like Katniss in that he is hunted and must survive to win.
His eventual fate (in the original book, the movie ruins its beauty so I recommend you read it) is most unlike that which awaits the plucky Katniss as he manages to both remain defiant yet destroy the system that oppresses his freedom.
She does exhibit the same defiant traits but has to surpress her urges to topple the state that splits her society into the haves and have nots as she has a sister and mother to be concerned about. Her abilities as a survivalist are explained so its clear to even the dimmest reader that she won't ever starve in these so called "Hunger Games" and that her knowledge of at least 1 weapon will stand her in some reasonable sort of stead to defend her life from the 23 other combatants.
To be placed into an unknown arena against unknown opponants in a survival situation again isn't a new concept, it was probably best done in the book Tunnel In the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein. There at least the only threats to life are from the indigenous wildlife whereas Katniss is hunted by the most deadly game of all - man.
The Hunger Games isn't just Katniss against the world, she does display some redeeming traits by forming certain alliances within the combat zone and even one relationship under the worst possible circumstances that almost comes to a Romeo & Juliet type ending (come on Miss Collins, did you not think we'd spot where you stole that particular idea from a mile away?).
Its a good book, its got good characters in compelling situations. Its got some decent plot twists and it'll make you think in certain sections. I have to warn those considering reading the ebook version (which is what I reviewed from) as it suffers from rather bad proof reading with some awful spelling mistakes. If you can get past those you have a book you can read again and again. And quite quickly too as I finished the book in 1 sitting of about 4 hours.
I guess that was the trouble with this being the first in a trilogy, it felt unfinished and in a hurry to be over. But it left too much open with not a clear enough conclusion. Too much being left to the sequals.
The good news to those who do enjoy the book (and theres certainly plenty to enjoy) is that the movie is now in development so I look forward to seeing how they translate this story to the big screen.
(this review also appears on Ciao! I am the original author)
Metro 2033 is a post apocalyptic novel written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The novel was translated from Russian so may suffer slightly in that respect.
It is the story of a young man called Artyom who lives a completely dull life on the VDNKh station of the Moscow Metro undergound rail system. His origins are less than dull but not worth spoiling for the sake of a review, suffice to say his start in life is not an easy one but his life up to where we join it is less than spectacular.
This is probably why when Hunter, a friend of his Uncle, turns up he decides to go out into the world beyond his station to fulfill the task Hunter gives him. The background of the book isn't great, no real explanation is given for the cause of what was obviously World War 3 which drove their ancestors into the Metro tunnels seeking shelter from the radiation.
It is clearly some post nuclear situation as mutants and mutations are discussed and mentioned often, they are one of the many bogeymen that inhabit Artyoms underground world. Artyoms journey is one of those epic treks, overcoming massive odds, facing up to foreign political & idealogical views from his own.
If you dont want to be fed Fascism, Cannabilism & Communism (amongst other things) then my advice would be to steer well clear of this book. Its fairly well written but its overly long for the sake of it, many things are described in the most minute of detail only to then be completely pointless with no relation to plot, characters or progression of storyline. On the whole the plot progresses fairly well and characters are quite well rounded but Glukhovskys mania for minutae can get very annoying really fast.
The book itself may have suffered rather badly in translation as it doesn't appear to have been proof read very well (if in fact at all) as there are many spelling mistakes, words and whole sentances are repeated in places too.
The book suffers for these easily fixed small points. I can't say as whether the original version of the book comes with any kind of map (as I read the ebook) but access to a station layout map would vastly improve the readability of what is a quite heavy tome.
It doesn't seem to have any real conclusion as such, the plot just tapers off and ends rather abruptly. Again possibly this is a translation issue although I have discovered there is a sequal to this book which may pick up the unfinished threads of Artyoms life.
If you like post apocalyptic fiction then I can recommend the book in that respect, it may not be destined for greatness as a piece of literature but its certainly fairly readable and may even improve with re-reads.
(this review also appears on Ciao! I am the original author)
World Clique is the 1st album by Deee-Lite (who at the time comprised of Lady Miss Kier on Vocals, Super DJ Dimitri on DJ/Scratching & Samples and DJ Towa Tei on DJ/Scratching, Samples & Keyboards) and it was released by Elektra Records on August 7th, 1990. The band met in New York with Kier writing vocals (as well as creating the bands image, costumes and all album graphics), Dmitri & Towa Tei bought different styles of DJ'ing & Towa Tei created additional rhythms on keyboards.
Kier and Dmitri were a couple during their time in the band and Towa was friends with them both. It made for an unusual band dynamic but Towa never seemed like a gooseberry during performances.
Its highest recorded chart position was #14 in the UK Top 40 album chart and the record attained Gold status by December of 1990.
I bought this on cassette when I was doing my trade training at RAF Hereford where it proved to be a great source of comfort and relaxation during the constant pressures of studying. Despite Wikipedia's contrary claims "Deee-Lite Theme" & "Build the Bridge" WERE both included on the general album release, my cassette version certainly has both tracks on it.
All tracks written by Deee-Lite unless otherwise stated.
So whats on World Clique then?
1. "Deee-Lite Theme" (Deee-Lite, Herbie Hancock) 2:10
A great start with a rocking saxophone intro (most of the brass section on this is sampled from a Herbie Hancock tune) with Kier introducing us the World Clique movement from her vocals.
2. "Good Beat" 4:40
And straight into another dance orientated tune with big House inspired drum lines, Kier tells us no matter what situation you find yourself in its fine as long as you've got a great tune to keep your spirits lifted. Kiers multitracked vocal is stunning, she is very much the killer siren luring you into her trap of amazing dance tunes. And yes there is a sample from "Pump Up The Volume" in there too, well done for spotting it!
3. "Power of Love" 4:40
This one really harkens back to the Age Of Aquarius with Kiers simple vocal, the writing on this (and most of the other tracks) were never going to win any Ivor Novello awards for originality but they express a wonderful if somewhat simple sentiment.
Belief in the power of love. Kier had obviously attended the 2 Unlimited school of lyrics for this track. The tune again has many Chicago House influences especially the piano lines.
4. "Try Me on... I'm Very You" 5:14
This has a more old school breakbeat style in its dischordant delivery, I think this is quite influencial as the Hammond organ lines are straight from what go on to be the Madchester "Baggy" sound, I also believe this tracks lyrics influenced Mobys early work as Kirby sings about "How it feels for it to be so real" and Mobys 1st record was "Feeling so real". Another cracking brass section, laid back upright piano and simple breakbeat drums. You can really hear how this influenced artists like Bizarre Inc (circa "I'm gonna get you").
5. "Smile On" 3:55
Ambient drums? A very rare thing. Kier sings about a simple smile can break down the barriers of communication, its not exactly going to stop wars but its a lovely idea. This track feels like Bootsy Collins had a lot to do with its creation, its got a very funky feel about it. Very psychedelic with the dischordant xylophones.
6. "What is Love?" 3:38
The B side of "Groove Is In The Heart" but also one of the coolest tracks on the album, its very minimal with the organ chords. Its practically a master class in how to create what would go on to be known as lo-fi. I have no idea who the (sampled) male voice on this is but Kirbys faux French voice is so erotic its unreal. If she can't stir you, you are probably dead. Its not the greatest version of the track, that'd be the suitably named "Frenchapella" containing just the organ chords, drums & Kirbys vocal line. Best line in the track "Is there really such a thing? Right".
7. "World Clique" 3:20
Its the title track! The world clique, a group everyone can belong to. Kirby was clearly one of those girls who wasn't popular at school and this is her way of saying despite the fact she couldn't belong then she's forgiving those people and inviting them to join the global party that Deee-lite were heading in the 90's. To be honest its going to be a song LOTS of people across the planet can relate to. When Lady Kier Kirby says join my clique you are going to say "Yes please", especially with her looks & sultry voice.
8. "E.S.P." 3:43
Clearly written as far as music goes by Towa Tei and influenced in no uncertain terms by Kraftwerk and no-one else. In fact if you aren't humming "Tour De France" you are either deaf or unaware of the track. For those curious? The "Good, Bad & The Ugly" sample was Dimitri Brills idea.
9. "Groove Is in the Heart" 3:51
This is the only single from the album and was released in August of 1990, its best recorded chart position was #1 in the Australian & U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts, it reached Gold status having sold in excess of 500,000 units. If you know a track of this album it is almost certainly going to be this one. Thats Bootsy Collins saying "Dig!" at the start of this Bossa Nova based track, Collins performs additional vocals and bass and Q-Tip (from A Tribe Called Quest) provides the rap in the middle 8). I had to stop reviewing to dance along. I can't help myself, sorry. Its too funky not to.
10. "Who Was That?" 4:35
This is an odd little track with the racetrack horn intro and Casio keyboard drum track from Towa Tei, Bootsy Collins provides additional vocals. I do love the way Kirby does the refrains from each call and response. This is just too weird not to like. Thats Collins doing the silly "Who is it" voices in the middle 8 in case you wondered, he does a great "weird woman" impression. Its very much "The Funk Adventures Of Goldilocks" without any bears.
11. "Deep Ending" 3:47
The intro to this is quite bizarre but once its into the very off kilter but killer open chords its very cool. I am trying to decide if the "flute" is a sample from Terrance Trent D'arby's "Wishing Well" as it sounds exactly like it. Kirbys word play is quite clever using both Deep Ending and depending to create a para-rhyme. More Chicago house influences with the piano track of this.
12. "Build the Bridge" 4:32
My favourite track on the album and oddly enough its an instrumental, drums & synths by Towa with samples from Dimitri, this went everywhere on my Sony Walkman as it was great to run to. The choppy sirenic chords are excellent and harken back to the days of Acid House, its very much like "House Arrest (By Krush) or "Doctoring The House" by Coldcut both of which predated this album by 2 yrs so its highly possible they influenced Towa.
As Deee-lites first foray into an album this isn't bad but its not great either. The dance music lover will enjoy the record for what it is but apart from Groove Is In The Heart there were never going to be any other real big hits coming from this album. If you like a fairly eclectic range of music then you can't go far wrong than investing in this as its bound to be dirt cheap these days. Give it a spin, well worth a cheeky punt!
(this review also appears on Caio! I am the original author)
I'm not sure why Amazon are so eager for me to review the Kindle, especially as I've only owned the darn thing for only a month now. Frankly I've barely scratched the surface of its documented abilities but I'll do my best to talk about what I've encountered thus far.
Instructions:- You'll get some frankly awful paper instructions that tell you little to nothing. You'll also get instructions on the Kindle itself, in fact it'll be the very first document you encounter after switching the Kindle on. They aren't especially useful and don't really contain anything particularly helpful to you as a potential owner.
The instructions seem to be oriented towards people who have already owned a Kindle, they aren't for a newbie. If you have any specific queries my advice would be to join the Facebook Kindle group, you'll get answers fast from them.
The Kindle unit - I went with the black one, its more off grey than black though. The screen is a decent size (as a man I'm not sure that really IS 6 inches!) and with the ability to resize text (look for the Aa button) pretty much anyone who can see can use a Kindle to read. I've only used mine to read MOBI files but Amazon say you can read TXT and PDF as well. Its stunning that the Kindle can't use EPUB but thats just Amazon being stubborn format bitches in my humble opinion.
I can't tell you about loading stuff on through Amazon, using Wifi or Internet access using the device (all of which the Kindle can apparently do) as I've tried none of that. Using Wifi will drain your battery very quickly according to most users. So I turned that off right away, the day mine arrived. That didn't stop my battery running out 6 days after its first charge so I was VERY annoyed that the Kindle couldn't give its claimed 1 month battery life with Wifi disabled.
I'm on my second charge now & the device is now into its 3rd week with 1/4 left so it might (touch wood) JUST make the 1 month battery charge claim. People do claim the Kindle takes a while to establish a charge memory so newbies may encounter similar issues. Lots of owners claim their Kindle battery charge will easily last a month even if the device is left on sleep mode.
Ah, sleep mode. Yes, the Kindle is NOT designed to be turned off! How counter-intuitive is that then?
Its one of the weird foibles of the Kindle that isn't mentioned in any of its press or reviews so I felt it was very worth mentioning here. Personally I turn my Kindle off when I'm not using it, people claim that drains the battery as the Kindle supposedly has to index its contents every time it's turned on. If thats true then its a piss poor design feature, clearly logical brains weren't a required thing for the Kindle 3 design team.
The Kindle has 3 gigabytes of available memory (it has 4 gig in total so it hogs a whole gig for its O/S and associated built in things like the English and American Dictionaries you can use to look words up as you read (a very useful sounding feature but I am yet to try it).
Amazon claim the Kindle can hold 3000 books, if its indexing at every switch on I wouldn't advise loading that many onto it. Loading books onto the Kindle can be done either via Wifi (which I haven't tested) or using the USB connection doing a simple drag & drop into a specific folder to hold your books. There is a battery meter (which annoyingly isn't always visible, another thing I'd change about the device) and you get an on-screen message when your battery is about to die and needs charging.
When this happens the device powers down and wont stay on long if you switch it back on. It insists you recharge it. The USB connection is the only way to recharge the device, Amazon recommend a 3 hour charge which will give a months usage. You can do that through the fitted plug attachment or just by plugging into a USB port on your computer. When the light on the Kindle turns green (it'll be orange when its low power) its recharged.
Obviously this depends on how much you use the Kindle and how long you read on it when you are using it. There aren't any figures on how many hours average usage per day or week they expect to be so Amazons battery life claims are questionable at best.
Books can be listed by author or title to your own personal desire, the screen can be rotated to either landscape, portrait or even upside down. Actually reading on the device is very easy, pick a title and use the buttons on either the left or right to page forward and back (you have one of each on both sides so the Kindle can be used by right handed or left handed people alike, it also means you can read only using 1 hand).
The Kindle can also read to you using a text to speech system with a male or female voice, as it reads it will also turn the pages automatically so you don't have to touch the Kindle at all. Apparently that saps the battery as well so its not advised to use that function for any length of time. If you do use it or use the Kindle to play MP3's (yes, it'll do that as well!) there are speakers on the back or a headphone jack if you don't want to disturb people.
As the device isn't back lit you will need a light source to read from, if you are struggling to see using your light source a useful tip is to tilt the surface of the Kindle which can improve the light situation with almost no effort at all.
Portability - Its small and thin. Suffice to say I can fit it into my jeans or tracksuit bottoms pocket for easy carrying. I don't really see me taking my Kindle many places but its certainly pocket sized. You might struggle to keep that feature if you put it into any of the covers or carrying cases though. Which incidently you have to pay extra for. No free cover despite its £100+ price tag.
Life - I can't comment on how it survives being dropped, after paying £111 I am avoiding any distasters like the plague personally. The display surface seems pretty scratch resistant, its pretty easy to wipe clean as well.
Features - When the Kindle is asleep it has a few static screensavers that are randomised. These can't be changed unless you hack the device. So clearly Amazon don't want their users to improve the device for them, unlike the Iphone and its apps Amazon are determined to hold all their secrets to themselves.
Heres another bad piece of news, when your battery will no longer charge your Kindle is useless. Its now just an expensive white elephant you can no longer use because the battery can't be removed. In fact the Kindle can't be opened at all, there are no screws. Amazon don't want you looking inside or fiddling with the internals.
So be aware your Kindle is a one shot deal, once it dies its dead. So you'd better hope it dies during your 1 year warrenty or spend the money on the 3yr extended warrenty and hope it dies during that so Amazon will replace it free of charge. Which incidentally they will do at any time during your 1st year of ownership.
Frankly if you want the battery replaced out of the warrently period only god himself knows how much money that will cost you, I can guess it'll be a pretty penny though.
In case you hadn't guessed by now my 1st month of Kindle ownership hasn't been great. Knowing how to turn a device off should be in even the most basic piece of technologies start up guide. On portability and general ease of use the Kindle has lived up to its claims. I don't think its close to worth what Amazon are charging for it though. Even at £80 I would still consider it too expensive. Its internals and 3 gig of RAM aren't worth the price Amazon are charging. They've got to be making insanely big mark-up profit.
If the Kindle had write access (for books, allowing me to correct proofing errors) I might be happier. I'd be a boatload happier if I could change the screensavers without hacking it and I'd be massively happy if I knew I could replace the internal battery myself too. Most of these desires aren't unattainable. The Kindle can receive software updates online and theres no reason the ability to edit and the ability to change screensavers couldn't be added fairly easily.
Amazon weren't happy when I wrote this review (its the main reason I am now putting it onto Ciao! and Dooyoo) and one of their staff sent me an email not exactly saying so but he sounded like a puppy when you scold it for being bad. If Amazon don't want their Kindle owners to say negative things perhaps they should improve their product, massively improve their instructions and possibly do some of the updates I have suggested.
I will be keeping my Kindle and I hope to see better things from future updates. I won't hold my breath though. Can I recommend the Kindle? If you have the disposable income and read a lot? Yes.
(some of this review also appears on Amazon & Ciao! I am the original author)
Lynx Fever is one in a new range of Shower Gels/Bodywashes for men. It is orange in appearance & when you first use it you might find its quite cold to the skin, especially if you are in a quite hot bath or shower.
My best advice there would be to run the bottle under your hot tap for a minute or so just to take the cold edge of it, it gives a completely different feel to the washing experience when warm as opposed to when the gel is cold.
The label states the product contains Red Dragonfruit (I assume this is what gives it the very nice orangy smell that lasts a very long time) and Brazilian Hot Mud. I assume the Hot Mud is the small granular objects, dont be put off by their description as they are actually very good for cleansing the skin like a facial scrub.
The smell and the mud combine to give an extremely refreshing wash that is also very invigorating, its a great way to wake up in the morning. You will certainly feel very alert after a wash using this product.
A 250ml bottle costs around £2 but it lasts a long time, even having 2 or 3 showers a week mine lasted at least 6 weeks. Obviously don't go mad when applying it, and you can make it last but a small amount is plenty to wash with as the gel is very thick indeed, it lathers well & the mud elements make for a good cleansing skin scrub.
As the gel is quite thick you will find like with most washing products the last few centimetres of the gel is very hard to squeeze out & use for a proper wash. What I did was to add a little water and shake the bottle and use the reminder for just washing my hands and face which gave the bottle an extra week of use.
I would say 7 weeks of good use and being able to use all of the product in the container for only roughly £2 is very good value indeed. I bought mine from SuperDrug but I would be pretty sure its available from all good supermarkets & pharmacies.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
Exciter is the 10th album by Depeche Mode (who at the time comprised of Dave Gahanon lead vocals, Martin Gore on guitar, keyboards & backing vocals and Andrew Fletcher on keyboards & backing vocals) and it was released by Mute records on 14 May 2001.
The albums best recorded chart position was #1 in France, Germany, Spain & Sweden reaching platinum status in Germany selling in excess of 500,000 units. The album also went gold in 4 countries (though its gold status in Austria, Canada & Sweden came from sales between 25,000 and 75,000 units so its seems gold status is fairly easy in those particular countries).
The cover of the album is a picture of an Agave plant, a type of Mexican cactus. Apparently despite suffering from writers block for 6 months all tracks were written by Martin Gore. All lead vocals are performed by Dave Gahan unless otherwise stated.
So whats on Exciter then?
1. "Dream On" - 4:19
This was the first single from the album & it was released on April 23, 2001. Its best recorded chart position was #1 in Denmark, Germany, Italy & the US on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play charts. The single version is shorter than this by almost 40 seconds.
It appears we are getting Rock DM on this album with the steel guitar backing to this, Daves delivery is almost like a rap with the breakbeat drums & understated synth line reinforcing this. Quite a mish-mash of styles, it does work and makes me think a bit of "Walking In My Shoes". I get the feeling this might grow on me quite quickly.
2. "Shine" - 5:32
Quite an ambient intro gives way Dave singing in quite a relaxed & mellow way, they are quite dream like lyrics in their imagary too. Its a shame it gives way to a bit too much of a dubstep style chorus and middle 8 as it had been quite a nice cool song. Opinions will definately be split by this track methinks, its not bad, its just not good either.
3. "The Sweetest Condition" - 3:42
Another quite heavy guitar led intro, normally I can tell if I am going to like a DM song fairly quickly and this got the thumbs down with its overly C&W feel to it. It appears with the steel guitars Martin was pursuing a different sound pallette for the band and hit Country right slap bang in the middle. I've never really liked Country or Western so I get the feeling this album isn't going to be much fun to listen to and review.
4. "When the Body Speaks" - 6:01
Now this is more like a classic DM tune but still a slight rocky U2-eque feel to it, Knox Chandler creates a great background for Daves vocal with his cello and string arrangements supported by his HUGE team of players - Todd C. Reynolds, Joyce Hammann, Natalie Cenovia Cummins, Ralph H. Harris, Leo Grinhauz seriously grooving those string instruments. A remix of this appears on the B Side of Goodnight Lovers. Its fairly low-fi, it makes me think of "With Or Without You" by U2. If I had any complaint it'd be the overly long playout that lasts over 45 seconds.
5. "The Dead of Night" - 4:50
If you haven't already begun reaching for the next track button on your cd player within 15 seconds of this starting then your a stronger man than me, the incredibly oppressive intro almost made me not bother listening to this at all. If you'd like to completely ruin your ears then listen to this with headphones but its not something I'd recommend (or repeat more than once) as the frequencies of this are VERY painful indeed.
I'm assuming Martin was aiming at Industrial but he missed it and ended up in the irritating genre instead. I'd recommend skipping this track completely, if you must listen to it I wouldn't bother with it a second time. It's like he tried to redo "I Feel You" but got everything he possibly could wrong. A remix of this appears on the B Side of Goodnight Lovers.
6. "Lovetheme" - 2:02
Great, JUST what I need after oppressive frequencies - Ridiculous bass levels. The rest of the music is fairly ambient but its ruined by the insanely low frequency bass drum track that gave me all kinds of headaches. Even at only 2 minutes and 2 seconds long it couldnt have been over soon enough for me.
7. "Freelove" - 6:10
And just when you thought the assault on your hearing couldnt get any worse? Here comes another silly & painful series of frequencies to get your teeth on edge and fists clenched ready to punch someone (I'm looking at YOU Martin Gore). I dont recommend this on headphones either. If you can get past the intro (with Airto Moreiras percussion being slightly less annoying once Dave starts singing) then this actually becomes quite a decent song, the steel guitar backing really works well.
This was the 3rd single released off the album on November 5 2001, its best recorded chart position was #1 on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. I am assuming the single version of this is a lot shorter, the song would benefit from losing the intro. Just cut straight to before Daves lyrics and this would be a really good tune, very easy to listen to.
8. "Comatose" - 3:24
Martin Gore provides a rather relaxed lead vocal delivered in a rather brilliant counterpoint torch song style to the actual tune. I can even forgive him the slightly annoying bits of backing bass, this actually feels like it would have been better suited to going on the "Songs Of Faith & Devotion" album, it feels like it would really fit well on there.
9. "I Feel Loved" - 4:20
This was the 2nd single released off the album on 30 July 2001 & its best recorded chart position was #1 on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. Airto Moreira provides percussion for a send time on this album on a very dance oriented tune. I get the feeling I've heard either the tune or the lyrics before (I think its one of the tunes that would go on to be on "Sounds Of The Universe", having checked this would become the song "Perfect"), frankly DM weren't ever great at dance style tunes even in their very early days and this just feels SO wrong in so many ways.
Yes its synthy but it makes me feel rather dirty (and not in a good way either) to the point where I felt like I needed a shower then a bath to just to wash this tune off me. So very VERY wrong. Please dont try this again. EVER.
10. "Breathe" - 5:17
I dont recommend listening to this on headphones either, that introductory low frequency bass might seriously hurt or damage your ears. It does become a Martin Gore led track giving his usual good vocal delivery. Its quite laid back, the Les Paul style guitar mixes well with the synth lines. I'd need about a dozen clearl listens (preferably WITHOUT the bassy intro) to decide if I like this or not. It could almost be a Bond theme, its rather weird - in a good way.
11. "Easy Tiger" - 2:05
This track is also the B side of the Dream On single, its incredibly minimal with Zylophones, a few atmospheric synth lines and not much more. Basically its your typical bog standard DM bathroom break instrumental. I get the feeling it was stolen from the Goldfrapp tune "Lovely Head" (which is a million times better than this will ever be).
12. "I Am You" - 5:10
Christian Eigners breakbeat drum line opens this & within 40 seconds I already had the feeling it was too long. The intro certainly was. Daves vocal is mixed really low down to give a very ambient feel over a track that would have better been sold to someone like Massive Attack but it evolves into an actual proper old school style DM track in the middle 8, its a shame it goes right back to the lo-fi ambient style right away.
A lot could be done to this track, I'm not saying its not good but it had the potential to be great. It'd probably serve as quite a good chill out song. That playout is the best bit of the track but even thats slightly too long.
13. "Goodnight Lovers" - 3:48
This was the 4th single released off the album on 11 February 2002 and its best recorded chart position was #7 on the Danish Singles Chart despite being classed as a 12 inch record due to the fact it contains 4 tracks (its B side contains 3 remixes). I rather like the breathy vocal intro, its like "Waiting For The Night To Fall", I'd decided I liked this right away. This is the kind of track Martin Gore gets a lot of stick about with the rather mushy lyrics but the actual delivery and backing vocals are what makes this song. Think "Only You" by The Flying Pickets but better, you'd be fairly close.
Theres plenty to dislike on this album, too much experimentation with new styles, too many oppressive frequencies or heavy bass drum lines. There are a couple of not awful tracks that with time might grow on you.
I dont think its the worst album the band have ever made but Martin Gores writers block really shows badly with the staggering array of crappy tune after crappy tune mixed in with moderately awful tunes you might grow to like given time. Its fair to say its a shelf filler at best for those who absolutely MUST own every Depeche Mode album.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
Ultra is the 9th album by Depeche Mode (who at the time comprised of Dave Gahan on lead vocals, Andrew Fletcher on synthesizers, samplers, backing vocals & Martin Gore on guitar, synthesizers, samplers, backing vocals and it was released by Mute Records on 14 April 1997.
The albums highest recorded position was #1 on both the German & UK Albums Chart where it made Gold status selling in excess of 500 thousand units in Germany & over 175 thousand units in the UK however its biggest purchase base was the US where despite only reaching #5 on the Billboard 200 it sold in excess of 850 thousand units also reaching Gold status. In total the record went Gold in 7 different countries, even going double Gold in Italy.
Dave was actually dead before this album was recorded having suffered heart failure for 2 minutes after a drug overdose so this was the album that very almost never happened. After the departure of Alan Wilder Depeche Mode were back to being a trio for the first time in over 15 years.
All tracks written by Martin Gore, all lead vocals by Dave Gahan unless otherwise stated.
So whats on Ultra then?
1. "Barrel of a Gun" - 5:35
This was the first single released off the album on February 3rd 1997 & its best recorded position was #1 on the Swedish Singles Chart. This has quite an old school synthy opening before the heavy drums kick in, to be honest this is the band sticking with their idea of a hard rock style sound with a little bit of an Industrial feel.
Victor Indrizzo does a great job on percussion, the synth lines feel like they came off Pretty Hate Machine (An album by Industrial band Nine Nails) & I'm sure Martin Gore would be happy to hear me comparing this track to that album. A bit too heavy for my liking, I bet the Germans absolutely love this track.
No shock that it did so well in Sweden either. "Whatever I've done, I keep staring down the barrel of a gun", yeah that'd be the fatal overdose you actually managed to survive calling your name Dave. I'd say this track is at least 2 minutes too long as I was kicking my heels getting very bored waiting for this to be over.
2. "The Love Thieves" - 6:34
Another synthy but Industrial style intro that gives way to a lovely clean guitar line, Daves voice set on laid back and lyrics set on mellow but possibly dark. This rather feels like "World In My Eyes" but a lot more minimal and relaxed. Dave sings the almost biblical lyrics like a litany of misfortune, there are some biblical themes
I love the line "but pay for their vices", boy did this band ever do that and in spades. I could see this one being used in a movie to be honest, its quite anthemic. I rather like it in that dark song taking me to places I've never been before way. Its only real fault, its overly long for the sake of it like its predecessor.
3. "Home" - 5:42
This was the 3rd single released off the album on June 16th 1997 & its best recorded position was #10 on the Swedish Singles Chart. I have to vote this as my favourite song on the album, it already has a place on my MP3 player forever. With great lead vocals by Martin Gore (for a change but he does a great job) this has a rather heavy triphop type drum intro then those amazing vocals kick in, I highly doubt Dave could hit half the notes Martin reaches here.
The vocal delivery feels almost like dub poetry, I think even the great Benjamin Zephania would be jealous of Martins performance here. The strings behind him give a perfect counterpoint especially the way they build gently & complement the vocals. You are SO playing this at my funeral when I die, the wah wah guitar at the end will slay them.
4. "It's No Good" - 5:58
This was the 2nd single released off the album on March 31st 1997 & its best recorded position was #1 on the Swedish Singles Chart & the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. A fairly plain Industrial intro, I get now that Martin Gore was trying to make a more Industrial feeling album but there are many bands who have done it longer and can do it better than Depeche Mode though I am sure Martin wont mind me comparing this track to headhunter by Front 242 mainly due to Victor Indrizzo making an outstanding contribution with his percussion track.
This also has the feel of very early Cabaret Voltaire, another comparison Martin will be happy to hear no doubt. The vocals are nothing to write home about, at best this is a mediocre track. And shock horror, yes I think this one is also too long by about 2 minutes at least as well.
5. "Uselink" - 2:21
The standard "Dave's bathroom break" instrumental featuring Daniel Miller playing the Roland System700 (a big modular analog synthesizer system), hence the rather old school classic synth feel. When you use old kit you get an old sound, it rather reminds me too much of stuff done by Japan. Its not awful but its not brilliant either. It might grow on me.
6. "Useless" - 5:12
This was the 4th single released off the album on October 20th 1997 & its best recorded position was #16 on the German & Swedish Singles Charts. The rather haunting bass line is excellently played by Doug Wimbish, bass and if the track sounds like its got lots of drums thats because both Gota Yashiki & Keith LeBlanc contributed there with Danny Cummings creating extra percussion.
I like the fairly classic feel, Dave sounds like he's never killed himself (several times), synths fill the gaps (especially that rather cool electric piano). After Home this might well be the 2nd best track on the album, it appeals to both old and new fans with a bit of a rocky feel. "You should see how it feels, with your feet on the ground" is Martin Gore trying to tell Dave Gahan something with that line?
7. "Sister of Night" - 6:04
I'm not sure how to describe the intro on this one, I'd guess very heavy Industrial but then Daves voice is so soft and gentle it totally contradicts the intro completely. This tune (post intro) and lyrics feel like Vince Clarke or Alan Wilder had a heavy hand of influence in them. Its quite a fairly laid back tune apart from that annoyingly harsh synth line (someones been listening to too much Skinny Puppy methinks).
If the intro and the break were rethought and rescored this would be a really good tune, it could be as good as Home if some reworking was done on it. It just doesnt suit the heavy bits. I'd wager the lady being referred to as "Sister" in the lyrics is in no way a frateral relation. That soft chorded layout sounds a ton like Duran Durans "The Chauffeur" in an extremely good way too.
8. "Jazz Thieves" - 2:54
Another bathroom break for Dave already with a 2nd instrumental track? And there was me thinking he'd given up the nose candy after offing himself? The trouble with Jazz is stuff can sound rubbish, not have to have an tune or chords and they can get away with it.
Just like they have here. My guess is this track is played on sequencers giving the whole band a chance to relax off stage for a few short moments. I've got to vote this possibly the worst Depeche Mode track of all time.
9. "Freestate" - 6:44
A rather Tangerine Dream style relaxed intro backed by some nice work off Danny Cummings heading the percussion train and I rather like that steel guitar that gives off a Delta Blues vibe backed then confirmed by Dave's vocal delivery. The guitars are really picking up and replacing what might have been an interesting synth line but the guitars give a totally different feel & vibe than synths would have done.
Those drums in the middle give off a rather "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" feel (Come on, I cant have been the only one singing "hoo ha, hoo ha" in my head when I heard them? No? Just me then). I could grow to quite like this I think. Another track that ran too long for my liking, I could have easily done with about a minute less at least. The 40+ second long fadeout did them no favours either.
10. "The Bottom Line" - 4:26
A rather strange double bass intro over some oddly synthesized sounds backed by the muted lead vocals by Martin Gore give an unusual opening. Its backed rather well by an understated pedal steel guitar from BJ Cole (Oh blimey, its "Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny!) and Jaki Liebezeit plays a great percussion set. Does Martin Gore like The KLF because this SO reminds me of "Build A Fire" off "The White room" by them. Very cool and oddly enjoyable.
11. "Insight" - 6:26
Hello again Nine Inch Nails! Oh no, this IS still Depeche Mode but I can be forgiven as the Industrial influence is back (although those backing wide chords absolutely REEK of "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk. I like the clean piano and the double tracked vocals of Dave & Martin. Its on the edge of muted but feels like it should be dark (I'm guessing minor 5th chords but I could be wrong, I dont read music - I am going by ear).
I know where I have heard this tune before, its "Mercy in You" from Songs Of Faith & Devotion. Just slightly reworked but it manages to hit the spot ok. Also ignore the time listed for this track because it doesnt run quite that long because after 5 minutes and 11 seconds we then get (drumroll) :-
12. "Junior Painkiller" - 2:11
Woo hoo, a hidden track! And a THIRD instrumental? Martins really been at the Kool Aid for this album, hasn't he? A few too many Lemon Sherberts Mr Gore? A rather Oriental feeling (circa "China" from Vangelis), the flutes & drums are rather cool but this style has frankly been done to death, Its not bad though.
Summing up:- 1 outstandingly brilliant track, a couple that might grow on you and a few that you have to be German (sorry Germans, nothing personal!) to like. It almost makes you wonder if Dave Gahan had stayed dead would the remaining members have continued as Depeche Mode for another outing or not.
In case you cant tell I really dont like this album, I wouldnt buy it again given the chance. It doesnt do a great deal for me and its one of the reviews I wasn't looking forward to (I guess its why I tried to get it over and done so quickly). I think after this the only place you can really hope to go is up.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
Songs of Faith and Devotion is the 8th album by the British electronic music group Depeche Mode (who at the time comprised of Dave Gahan on lead vocals, Martin Gore on guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals, Andy Fletcher on keyboards, backing vocals & Alan Wilder on keyboards, drums, piano, programming and backing vocals & it was released by Mute Records on 22 March 1993.
Its best recorded position was in the Swiss Album Chart at #1 where it went triple platinum by selling in excess of 55,000 units however its best sales came from topping the US Billboard 200 also at #1 where it only achieved platinum status but sold in excess of 1,550,000 units. It was also #1 album in Austria, France, Germany & the UK.
All tracks were written by Martin Gore, all lead vocals performed by Dave Gahan unless otherwise stated.
So whats on Songs of Faith and Devotion then?
1. "I Feel You" - 4:35
This was the 1st single released off the album on February 15 1993 and its best recorded position was #1 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart. Man how I hate, hate, HATE with a passion the squealing introduction to this, I actually hate the intro to this track so much in fact its put me off writing the actual music part of this review for over 3 months.
I really do NOT like this track, not just because of the intro but because of the country & western feel. This isn't the dark synthy Depeche Mode I know & love. Its what I call "shitkicker music", the most polite way I can think of describing country music in general.
I guess here the band were trying a new genre, admittedly its a lot more of a rock song. The drums are good, the tune apart from its country influence is so-so and Dave sounds very good.
2. "Walking in My Shoes" - 5:35
This was the 2nd single released off the album on April 26 1993 & its best recorded position was #1 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart. Now this feels more like the Depeche Mode I know, love and am thoroughly miserable to! The lyrics are very clear that Martin Gore is saying he doesnt want to be judged yet it could have equally been applied to the drug fuelled mania Dave Gahan was living through or the nervous breakdown Andrew Fletcher was trying & failing to cope with.
Frankly in the lyrics to this song you can understand exactly why Alan Wilder decided he wanted to bail on the band, given the choice between leaving or self destruction then the option that means you live is always the better one. Musically this track is brilliant with e-bowed guitars and Martin Gores kick ass bassline, its very much a rock song but its wonderfully bleak in a Depeche Mode way. Try walking in my shoes, you stumble in my footsteps. Talk about a sublime lyric. Gore might have been spending most of his time drunk beyond belief but he was still producing stuff this good.
3. "Condemnation" - 3:20
This track was the 3rd single released off the album on September 13 1993 & its best recorded position was #3 in the Swedish Singles Chart. This is a prayer, an elegy for a nearly dying band whose members were trying to destroy themselves in differing ways. How can they defend their lifestyles & actions?
"I'll suffer with with pride", again Gore was writing this stuff whilst killing any working braincells that might have been creative. Its simply beyond belief that he was able to make lyrics so powerful. The tune is like a negro spiritual, a cracking little almost blues/gospel number.
4. "Mercy in You" - 4:17
A nice guitar with a rocky synth style but its right into bleak Depeche Mode territory, its a lot like The Policy Of Truth. When Dave sings the title its hard not to feel mercifull towards him, his sirenlike tones have taken you through those dark journies travelling to the darker places so you dont have to but its fine to go along for the ride. Frankly the tune to this has got to rank up amongst the best stuff the band have ever created.
5. "Judas" - 5:14
Stefan Hanningans uilleann pipes open this rather beautifully, its a stark contrast to the 2 previous songs as the plain clear voice of Martin Gore on lead vocals are downplayed. Its a lot like some of Massive Attacks best stuff off Blue Lines (their best album ever imho), the bassline is fairly heavy and drives the tune along but the vocals and pipes are so mellow its a musical oxymoron. I can see this becoming one of those "chill out" tracks, its ideal to just lay back and relax your mind to.
By the way, 4 minutes in dont be fooled into thinking you are listening to a new song with that VERY long pause that almost suckered me into thinking I was suddenly listening to a hidden track.
6. "In Your Room" - 6:26
This was the 4th single released off the album on January 10 1994 & its best recorded position was #2 in the Swedish Singles Chart. This would be the last single & video to feature Alan Wilder who left the band on his 36th birthday. And yes its Dave in perfect form alongside those wonderfully dark synth lines, his tone emotes like crazy.
Your favourite darkness? Isn't that pretty much every bleak image Martin Gore ever came up with? I think it is. The fact it then devolves into breakbeat drums (played brilliantly by Wilder) and Gores complimentary backing vocals create a wall of sound in the middle 8 so if you want the rocky Depeche Mode that still like a synth then this little gem is your weapon of choice.
I do love the way they ask "Will I always be here", questioning their own mortality at a time when they were trying their best to put an end to it. Those wah-wah guitars at the playout are practically the cries of their tormented souls.
7. "Get Right with Me" - 3:52
Another prayer like delivery by Dave, this almost seems like someone took a trip to Ravi Shankar as this feels a lot like the The Beatles did after their meeting with the great man. It does have an Indian flavour to it (I'm not sure if thats intentional) but it ends up becoming a Christian Spritual thanks to the contributions from Bazil Meade, Hildia Campbell and Samantha Smith on backing vocals. I could have done without the stupidly long playout though.
8. "Rush" - 4:37
Oh blimey, who died and decided to follow Nine Inch Nails. I almost thought for a moment the band had abandoned standard electronica & decided to pursue the path of Industrial music again. I'm guessing I have to blame Gore for this one, its very German. I hear Propaganda (the band!), Rammstein & Skinny Puppy amongst others in the underlying themes of the tune. Dave needs to know he will never be Trent Reznor (thank god) and shouldnt try either. This one will separate fan opinions I feel. I'm not sure if I like it or not.
9. "One Caress" - 3:32
A rather unexpected string intro conducted by Will Malone but a rather soft lead vocal from Martin Gore. The strings seem to follow the wonderful discordance that the bands synth lines are normally known for. I get the feeling Gore wanted to record this for something else and the record company company decided to include it on this album as it doesnt quite feel like it fits despite its excellent barren feelings. Oddly enough it works, even with the strings its stark.
10. "Higher Love" - 5:56
An almost Sergeant Pepper style opening (circa Within Without You) that devolves into Tangerine Dream then Dave starts to weave his vocal spells, the voodoo that he do to me and you ;-) Its certainly a fairly rocky synth feel, the layered vocal is a very nice effect (especially as he sings about "The Heart Of Infinity"), this is one of those tracks your going to either need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy or it'll drag you there whether you like it or not.
The soundscape certainly fills out in the middle 8, its the classic feel Tangerine Dream fans love them for and I have no issues with the Mode hijacking it for their own purposes here. I'm willing to be dragged along, after all Dave is telling us he is moved by a higher love and I certainly felt moved - willing passenger on the journey or not.
Summing up:- Its very sad that this was Alan Wilders last hurrah with Depeche Mode but most of the songs are very good. A couple are debatable if they are up to the usual standard & output of what the band are better known & loved for. No doubt they will find fans somewhere, almost certainly Germany.
Gahan was heavily into his drugs by this album, Gore was drinking unfeasible amounts, Fletch was suffering through a nervous breakdown & Wilder had had issues with alcohol himself so decided to remove himself from the self destructive enviroment. His creativity shines in the drums on this album.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
I'd wanted to be able to record video reviews and upload stuff to Youtube for a while so I finally gave in and went looking for a USB webcam. After reading lots of recommendations I finally settled on this beastie from Logitech.
It was much smaller than I expected it to be and was super easy to set up (just a matter of reading the instructions and following them as stated) and very easy to use, only complaint is it only saves in WMV format. I understand WMV is one of the more commonly accepted video formats by Youtube but I would have liked to have had the choice to record in AVI format as well.
I've used the webcam function a few times (Look for my video review of The Wrestler, I used it to make that!) and its fairly straight forward to get used to, novice users might find it easier to use after setting the video output to mirrored so what output you see onscreen is what your actually doing instead of being reversed which is the webcams default setting.
As far as problems and niggles go its a REALLY bad idea to accept the offered online software upgrades as it can and WILL ruin your ability to record audio through the webcam - I have no idea why it does this but it does so consider yourself warned! If you do download the updates just completely uninstall the webcam then reinstall it to get your sound back.
Its also got a VERY annoying habit of automatically trying to update software, the file that does this can and WILL get corrupted and try to crash your machine by continually reloading itself every second. I had to reboot several times because of that very same issue so BEWARE.
Its the LULnchr file which I would recommend you delete or never install or uninstall as soon as the other software is unstalled as it seems notoriously unstable. Best advice would be leave the webcam unplugged and only plug it in when you are going to use it.
You can use the webcam as a standard digital camera (up to 1.3-megapixels) and image quality for both photos and video can be altered. The camera itself has a manual focus dial on the front which can be easily adjusted, it also has a rather useful and nifty stand so it can be placed on top of most monitors (good luck trying to get it at exactly eye level, thats a task in itself).
By no means is it a perfect design but if you want a cheap webcam that produces decent quality video then look no further. At just under 28 quid its well priced, has a built in mic (so no extra audio lead to plug in) and it shoots well in low light too. It can also be used on Skype as well.
(some of this review also appears on Amazon. This review also appears in Ciao!)
This was purchased to replace another Samsung rewriter which was on its last legs (after 6 years of extremely good service), it arrived with no cables or software so its only recommended if you are replacing a drive you already have. It's easy enough to get the IDE, power & audio leads you'd need online but I guess this was only so cheap because it was JUST the drive being sold.
Its very quiet and does the job (so far) 100% to my satisfaction. the black case fitted in perfectly with my IBM Lenova Thinkcentre system which is also black. It gets my thumbs up especially for the price (just under 16 quid for a dual layer rewriter!) as the last drive cost £85. I havent tried doing dual layer on it yet but its done most other stuff (cd, dvd & dvd-rw) & not one single failed burn yet.
I've had mine since early May (2010) and have had nothing but good service from it so far, burn speeds are good (adjustable in range from 2x to 52x dependant on the media format being burnt). Installation was simple, just a matter of plumbing in the appropriate cables and booting the machine - no need for drivers as most PC's will detect it and be able to start using it right away.
Obviously for actual burning you will need dedicated software but there are plenty of decent free alternatives to expensive products like Nero (I highly recommend Infra Recorder). If you were like me and had a dvd burner on its last legs or are looking to put one into a new system then give the Super WriterMaster a go, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
(some of this review also appears on Amazon. This review also appears on Ciao!)
This mouse was bought to replace a cheap Amazon purchased mouse (which I can't actually find so I can't name & shame the company who produced it) which was far too small for my hand and possibly the worst ergonomic design I'd ever encountered.
(Actually once I found the mouse again I was able to ID it from its picture on Amazon as for some reason it didnt have the brand name anywhere on it, so makers of the Lupo USB mouse consider yourselves named and shamed)
This mouse is the polar opposite, its an excellent design and fits my hand perfectly. I can't see this mouse not fitting anyone unless your a very young, small or petite person.
It doesnt give any wrist pain issues and is very reactive and wonderful to use. If you are looking for a new mouse and have a black computer I can't recommend this mouse highly enough. In fact even if your PC isn't black buy it anyway, its just THAT good.
Logitech is a well established name that can be trusted to produce good quality equipment for not much money and thats exactly what you'll get if you buy this mouse.
I've had the mouse for a couple of months now and the only issue I've had is that 2 of the feet stickers came off but its not altered the excellent performance of this mouse. The scroll wheel broke in really quickly (which is normally quite a massive bugbear with most mice) and its easy to wipe clean.
As far as installing goes simply plug it into an USB port and it's instantly detected by your PC and instantly usable too - no drivers needed. Mine cost just under £6 so you can't be unhappy at such a cheap purchase for a decent bit of kit like this.
(please note, some of this taken was from my original review of this mouse on Amazon. This review also appears on Ciao!)