Search This Blog


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cheap Trick: Busted


1) Back 'n' Blue; 2) I Can't Understand It; 3) Wherever Would I Be; 4) If You Need Me; 5) Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love; 6) Busted; 7) Walk Away; 8) You Drive, I'll Steer; 9) When You Need Someone; 10) Had To Make You Mine; 11) Rock'n'Roll Tonight; 12) Big Bang.

Foreword/spoiler: I do indeed fully and completely conform to the general consensus that Busted is the worst Cheap Trick album, ever — with one important addition: most of the time, it does not even feel as if I'm listening to a Cheap Trick album here. This is more like a Bon-Jovi-meet-Michael-Bolton album, for some unexplained reason given to Cheap Trick to record. Where The Doctor was at least «rambunctious» — loud, cartoonish, irreverent, kicking up the dust, even if it did it all in a sonically disgusting manner — Busted is well-combed, sterile, polite, one hundred percent predictable adult pop. For all I know, these guys could get behind Celine Dion on one of her «rockier» nights out and nobody would even notice.

Of course, it all has to do with the success of ʽThe Flameʼ. The music industry saw that it was good (because it sold), and wasted no time in moving in for the kill, saddling Cheap Trick with tons of power ballads and sentimental rockers to confirm and expand the suave image — and no matter how much they would complain about it in the future, at the time they seemed happy to oblige, because much of that schlock was written by the band members themselves. Outside songwriters still remain involved on a casual basis, though, including Diane Warren, who gets the chance to rectify her silly mistake with ʽGhost Townʼ (i. e., writing a decent retro-pop song) and come up with a solid, bullet-proof, totally reliable musical atrocity called ʽWherever Would I Beʼ (amazingly, it didn't sell all that well — probably needed a brain-numbing Hollywood block­buster to go along with it, with Rick Nielsen starring as Bruce Willis).

The boys themselves turn out to be strong competitors for Diane the Terrible, contributing ʽCan't Stop Fallin' Into Loveʼ — never mind that "falling into love" is not wholly grammatical, but any romantic power ballad that begins with the line "hey little ladies, there's some cool young dude" is guilty before it has a chance to get to the bridge, let alone the chorus. That said, the chorus is an overblown nightmare in itself — bringing on visions of the National Football League singing it in unison at the Super Bowl rather than anything subtle and emotional. Not that subtle and emotio­nal had ever been Cheap Trick's forte, but this is the first album where their understanding of «love» completely eludes both subtlety and irony, leaving only power. If you were a girl and you had to marry Zander in 1990, I'd bet he'd never let you out of the gym.

Other notable details: (a) the first song is co-written with Taylor Rhodes, who later went on to co-write ʽCryin'ʼ with Aerosmith and some other shit with Celine Dion; (b) the fourth song is co-written with Foreigner's Mick Jones, who also plays guest guitar so that it would sound even more like Foreigner; (c) the ninth song is co-written with Rick Kelly, whose musical talents are described on his own website in the following words: "Rick Kelly has the kind of voice and a knack for melody that is both richly and warmly familiar, ranging from the pop styles of Adam Levine to John Mayer to Billy Joel". In case you might be wondering, the track itself (ʽWhen You Need Someoneʼ) does sound «warmly familiar» — as in, when you've just finished barfing and whatever you puked up is still warm on the floor... okay, sorry, got a bit carried away there.

So, anything good here? Well, if you put a gun to my head and demanded to extract at least one track for a comprehensive anthology or something like that, I would probably go along with ʽI Can't Understand Itʼ, free of outside songwriters and basically functioning as a normal power pop song, still spoiled by production (the drums are too loud, the guitars too out of focus, etc.) but at least upbeat, catchy, and mildly funny. Their cover of Roy Wood's ʽRock'n'Roll Tonightʼ, round­ing out the record, is also OK, although, unfortunately, it comes round way too late to save the day — it's in the vein of ʽCalifornia Manʼ, and it shows that the boys can still have moderately tasteful fun when they put their minds to it. Also, ʽWalk Awayʼ is sort of an okay ballad, with that nostalgic chord progression and retro-pop harmonies, arguably the only one that you can listen on here without getting the urge to... well, you know.

Interestingly, one of the guest stars is Sparks' Russell Mael himself, but his presence is largely wasted on the glam-rock swaggerfest ʽYou Drive, I'll Steerʼ (admittedly, this particular period was not the hottest one in the history of Sparks, either). All I manage to remember about the song is that every time Zander and Mael duet on the line "I'm in the lap of luxury", I always hear "I'm living at the grocery", which, if it were true, could, perhaps, partially explain the abysmal quality of the album — at least, you'd really have to give it away as a freebie at the local grocery to get anybody interested. Anyway, a complete and total disaster here, critical, commercial, and artistic, best summed up in the band's own words in the prophetic title track: "Busted, busted for what I did / I didn't think it so wrong". Thumbs down with a vengeance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Carole King: Colour Of Your Dreams


1) Lay Down My Life; 2) Hold Out For Love; 3) Standing In The Rain; 4) Now And Forever; 5) Wishful Thinking; 6) Colour Of Your Dreams; 7) Tears Falling Down On Me; 8) Friday's Tie-Dye Nightmare; 9) Just One Thing; 10) Do You Feel Love; 11) It's Never Too Late.

This is quite a sad story, really. The early Nineties saw plenty of (at least temporary) comebacks by veterans, revitalized by the general «shredding of the excesses» of the previous decade — and one could have sincerely hoped that Carole King could fall in that category. Unfortunately, it did not happen: Colour Of Your Dreams (yes, the full British spelling is quite explicit on the cover) is about as inspiring and coloUrful as its album cover, which, like City Streets, seems to be making yet another point of Carole as «tough street girl», sort of the female equivalent of Bruce Springsteen in his «tough street guy» incarnation. But it looks fake and cheap, and so does the overall style of the songs.

Bad news arrive immediately — the first five seconds of the record, when a few seemingly Casio chords boink against a thin cobweb of cheap drum machine beats, may be enough to turn you off immediately, «now and forever», to quote one of the song titles. And while it does get better than that eventually, this is still a true sign that production issues have not been normalized — much of the record remains inescapably stuck in plastic adult contemporary mode (no surprise, really, considering that Rudy Guess is retained as co-producer from last time). In 1983 or even 1989, this could have merely meant yielding to fashionable pressure; alas, in 1993 this means that the artist is not sensing any problem with such an approach, and what could be technically forgiven several years back (horrible production back then could still somehow agree with decent melodies, see Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night, for instance), is now a crime against humanity.

Not that the record is particularly lazy or anything. Carole tries her hand at several different styles, alternating between quiet piano ballads (or synth ballads), loud idealistic anthems (ʽHold Out For Loveʼ, with Mr. Slash himself making a guest appearance), soft-pop-rockers (title track, fast tempo and tough attitude attached), odd Dylanesque blues-rock tell-tales (ʽFriday's Tie-Dye Night­mareʼ), and then there's even a couple of nostalgic pushbacks with ex-husband Goffin, re­sulting in ʽStanding In The Rainʼ (supposedly a follow-up to ʽCrying In The Rainʼ?) and ʽIt's Never Too Lateʼ, whose title clearly echoes ʽIt's Too Lateʼ, yet the song itself is like a carbon copy, mood-wise and style-wise, of ʽNatural Womanʼ, what with the tempo, the broken piano patterns, the musical ascension, the gospel harmonies — everything.

But I don't feel as if any of that stuff really works. The Goffin/King numbers are precisely what they are — faint, unconvincing echoes of former glories, way too self-conscious and too bent on looking into the past for inspiration. The pseudo-Dylan song is an embarassment — she is trying to throw up a heap of nonsensical lyrics as if she were Bob circa '65, and she might just as well be trying her hand at a Handel-style oratorio. The title track is bland and inoffensive at best. And the most recognizable tune of 'em all, ʽNow And Foreverʼ, may only be so because it was used in A League Of Their Own, a corny baseball melodrama with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis with Billy Joel and James Taylor on the soundtrack to complete the curdled milk effect.

The only good thing I can say is that the voice is still intact, along with the overall radiance, idealism, and charisma: spiritually, Carole King never grows old, and that's adorable — and on a personal basis, probably more important than still being able to come up with unforgettable melo­dies. However, this does not save the album from a thumbs down assessment. The least she could have done in this situation was to make all the record sound like ʽIt's Never Too Lateʼ — even if the genius has departed, this might have been a tasteful, if still forgettable, trip down nos­talgia lane. As it is, it's a rather glum mix of nostalgia with banality and corniness, hardly for­givable for a songwriter of Carole's stature even in her later years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Canned Heat: Blues Band (1997)


1) Stranger; 2) Quiet Woman; 3) Iron Horse; 4) Jr.'s Shuffle; 5) Creole Queen; 6) Keep It To Yourself; 7) Boogie Music; 8) Goin' Up The Country; 9) See These Tears; 10) One Kind Favour; 11) Oh Baby; 12) Gorgo Boogie.

We're going to speed up a bit with these ever-closer-to-our-days reviews, considering that with each new album, there's less and less Canned Heat and more and more stereotypical modern blues rock playing — the kind that sounds great together with some pulled pork and gumbo in B. B. King's Blues Club on a relaxed New York weekend, but has little use in anybody's record col­lection, apart from the most diligent blues aficionados. And I'm just saying that only because I have seen a few positively glowing accounts of these post-Canned Heat incarnations — as if, you know, these guys not merely managed to pull it together, but actually succeeded in putting a new, outstanding angle on traditional material. Well — no, not that I've really noticed.

On this 1997 Europe-only release, the band's triple guitar lineup consists of Vestine, Junior Watson, and relative newcomer Robert Lucas, who seemingly takes over the duties of James Thornbury, including lead vocals (which are quite similar to Thornbury's) and some of the song­writing, uh, I mean, song-doctoring (as usual, the «originals» are just slight melodic and lyrical modifications of traditional blues numbers). Larry Taylor remains attached to acoustic bass, and Gregg Kage replaces Ron Shumake on electric.

Again, the main lowlights are those cases where they try to re-record old Heat classics — in this instance, ʽBoogie Musicʼ, done very closely, but predictably inferior-ly, to the original, and, in a moment of bizarre, totally uncalled for blasphemy, a version of ʽGoin' Up The Countryʼ done as a generic acoustic blues with gruff vocals. The only two reasons why anybody paid any attention to the song in the first place were Alan Wilson's falsetto and the flute playing, and now that both of these are gone, it's a good exercise in humility — that is, making something very ordinary out of something quite extraordinary.

Other than that, the rocking numbers are predictably pulled off without a hitch: I think that ʽStrangerʼ, opening the album on a riff copped from ʽI Wish You Wouldʼ, features all three lead guitarists, with Lucas playing the slide, Junior Watson playing the first, «softer», solo, and Vestine on the second, «harsher» one, but I may be totally wrong about that — in any case, the track alternates between three very different styles of playing, two bluesier ones and one rockier one, and that makes it a standout. Unfortunately, the only other standout is the final instrumental ʽGorgo Boogieʼ, an overdriven fuzzy vamp with minimal rhythm support — spotlighting Robert Lucas doing flamenco hand-picks in a rather unique style and making that guitar sound like a highly drunk police siren taking on a life of its own.

Actually, Robert Lucas is a very good guitarist — not that Canned Heat ever hired any bad ones — and if you manage to let down your «who the hell listens to generic blues-rock in the 1990s, let alone the 2010s?» safeguard, every track here is nice and cool. But if you don't, you don't, and that's okay, too. The saddest news of all is that this happened to be the last album to feature any­thing by Henry Vestine — the last really-mattering musician of the classic Heat lineup passed away on October 20, 1997. Said to be heart failure, but I'm pretty sure drugs must have had something to do with this, too. Every member of Canned Heat is supposed to die from drugs, it's, like, in the Scriptures out there somewhere.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cher: Black Rose


1) Never Should've Started; 2) Julie; 3) Take It From The Boys; 3) We All Fly Home; 4) 88 Degrees; 5) You Know It; 6) Young And Pretty; 7) Fast Company.

Cher as an «anonymous» member of a fresh young rock band? Come on, you're not fooling anyone — in fact, in 1991, when the album was finally prepared for CD release, the Spec­trum label recklessly slapped Cher's face and name on the front cover. But in 1980, somebody some­where thought that it might be a good idea to re-model Cher after Blondie — a naughty girl fronting a band of dashing, hot-blooded young men: they provide the innovative modern music and she provides the... umm... atmosphere, or something like that.

The basic partnership was between Cher and Les Dudek, an aspiring guitarist who'd already had several unsuccessful solo albums to his name and had played with Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller, among others — meaning that, even though he was eight years younger than Cher herself, there was really no talk of any truly «modernistic» New Wave approach here. The rest of the «Black Rose» band were not that different, either — mostly some unknown session players, occasionally aided by the same players from Toto that had already contributed to previous Cher albums. Who knows, maybe if she'd bothered to find herself a less bland team, the project might have been more successful, or, at the very least, Black Rose might have become one of those «cult» records that certain types of people are fond of rediscovering and reevaluating.

As it is, it's not too bad, but heck, if you're risking your neck on a project like this, you really shouldn't be calling the first track on your first album ʽNever Should've Startedʼ, right? Most of the songs sound like relatively safe, family-friendly late 1970s pop-rock, far heavier on the key­boards than necessary and neither too heavy on the hooks (bad news for lovers of pop) nor on the anger / kick-ass aspect (not surprising, since Cher was never that much of a certified rocker). But on the positive side, there are hooks, and everything is surprisingly listenable, not to mention that it's kinda fun to see Cher loosen up: on ʽNever Should've Startedʼ, she goes from a perturbed falsetto in the quiet first section to a Debbie Harry-like wild cat as the song picks up steam, and that's probably more of a transformation within one song than on any other tune from any pre­vious stage of her career. If only the guitar work were up to that level, and the synthesizers were not so obnoxious, this could have started something.

Arguably the main highlight is ʽJulieʼ, notoriously written by major glam-rock songwriter Mike Chapman with lyrics provided by Bernie Taupin himself (that is where you end when you tem­porarily suspend your relationship with Elton) — you can sort of tell this ain't no ordinary enter­prise with lines like "Well now I know / Julie you're the shape of sin / But I can strut like Bowie / When the line dance begins", not to mention Cher openly calling the protagonist a "lying bitch" (yes, we all know how strongly Bernie feels about women). Throw in the most modern-sounding arrangement on the whole album, with big electronic drums, weirdly warbled guitars, and a subtle robotic effect on Cher's vocals — and you just might have something there. Why wasn't this track released as a single? If you're gonna go odd on your audience, you might as well go all the way.

The other songs all trot along nicely, but there isn't much I could say about them. Cher barks and snaps as best as she can to imitate a tough rock'n'roll girl (especially on ʽTake It From The Boysʼ), but this is never outbalanced with any sense of humor or irony; and when the best riff on the album (ʽFast Companyʼ), upon being turned over to your core memory department, turns out to be a minor variation on Mick Ronson's riff on Bowie's ʽHang On To Yourselfʼ, you know they just aren't doing a very good job nohow. The Dudek dude takes lead vocals on one song (ʽYou Knowʼ), dueting with Cher, but he's one of those deadpan-sincere-sounding romantic guys with a decent set of pipes that all seem like inferior clones of Lou Gramm, so no.

Not that, had they kept it up, this could not have turned into something more impressive... then again, they'd probably have to replace most of the players and start bringing in more daring and competent songwriters, and that would end up an impossibility anyway. Still, whatever be, kudos to Cher anyway for taking the wise decision to break out of the disco trap (an easy decision, con­sidering the overall backlash of 1980) and to not go all electro-pop or «modern R&B» on our asses (a much harder decision, considering that would have probably been the most natural choice for her at the moment, following in the footsteps of many other «divas»). At the very least, this is kind of like a white stone instead of a black one in her career, even if it still does not deserve a proper thumbs up. But look up ʽJulieʼ if you have three and a half minutes of free time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (IAS #42)

Here's an old favorite:

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin

And an announcement to boot (reprinted from the FB page):

Upon uploading this last review, I am discontinuing the "Important Album Series", at least for the time being. It turns out that the IAS review, in the format in which it currently exists, is eating up way too much of my time, compared to the usual reviewing process, and leaves me physically drained much more often than I can really afford.
However, do not despair, because in its place I will try to reserve the Sunday for a slightly less cumbersome project - the "Important Artist Series". Basically, this will be the day when I'm still ready to forsake the alphabetical series and post one regular review of an important non-alphabetical artist. In the usual blog format - not as large as the ones on the regular site pages. This way, there will also be no doubling of the reviews (no, no more Beatles or Beach Boys or Bob Dylan reviews). As for the new artists to cover, the order is still under consideration. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Autechre: Elseq 5


1) pendulu casual; 2) spTh; 3) spaces how V; 4) freulaeux; 5) oneum.

I wish I could say that Autechre have saved the best for last, but this sort of implies that I have an idea of what is best for Autechre, and I do not. I am, however, almost ready to say that they saved the most diverse bunch of tracks for us — on this fifth volume, there is no single overriding theme, rather a little bit of everything, in a final recapitulation of all the sides of their musical philosophy that matter. Or pretend to matter.

So, the first track is more wind whistling down the naked electric wire, along with some more wind fluttering in the electronic sails of a ship that takes nine minutes to get nowhere in particu­lar, with each of the nine minutes completely equivalent to any other one. Then, ʽspThʼ kicks in with some rhythm, and the sonic snaps and blasts take on a slightly more melodic quality, if you can take «resonance», «reverberation», and «echo» as synonyms for «melody», that is. ʽSpaces how Vʼ, accidentally true to a part of its title, does throw you out in space, with an astral perspective represented by the usual means (canvas synth hum + quasi-randomized bleeps and beeps of passing unidentified flying objects). ʽFreulauexʼ is the liveliest track of them all, with a deconst­ructed techno rhythm that still remains marginally danceable, while in the background somebody seems to be conducting research on dynamite at a distance of about fifty miles away.

Finally, ʽoneumʼ could be called the «grand finale» — not only of the fifth volume, but of the entire project in general, as it is the most sonically fleshed out, loud, grand, and ominous track of them all, with a high-pitched, disturbing, but solemn electronic pattern running uninterrupted in the background and auxiliary broken up mini-patterns quickly rising to the surface and extingui­shing themselves in the foreground. Does this make it sound grand? It's not that grand, really. It's the kind of track that they could probably knock off in a couple of hours these days, given their overall expertise and stuff. But it has a familiar emotional ring, unlike so many of these Elseq sequences that have no emotional ring whatsoever.

All of which leads us to the final question — so was this project really worth it? Five CDs worth of new material, was this some sort of big, ambitious, rejuvenating musical statement to shatter the bounds and coils of modern electronica? Well, don't take my words at face value, given that my electronic expertise still remains limited, but I dare say bull. There are some moments on this mammoth (most of them contained on the promising, but disappointing first volume) that could rank up there with Autechre's best, but on the whole, this is simply the hugest demonstration that Confield brought the duo to a dead end — as off-putting and puzzling as that release was, not a single Autechre album since that time has truly built up on its reputation and promise, and this is just the latest and greatest in a series of attempts to jump over their own heads. A futile enter­prise, that, considering that they lost their heads with Confield. At least in 2001, this was exciting. In 2016, for the most part, this is boring — and bland. They are not pushing any boundaries for­ward; they are still working within a set formula, except we are still sometimes trapped by the illusion that there's some sort of revolution going on when there isn't. Of course, if you are one of the few for whom listening to Confield is as normal and ordinary a practice as to others it is listening to Mozart, or the Beatles, or even Miley Cyrus, that gives you an entirely different perspective; but that's a highly specialized thing, and I hate getting into that sort of nuances. I just hope they won't take five more years and come out with a 20-volume album — if this «more Autechre is better Autechre» shit ain't stopping any time soon, I'm definitely not going to bother.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Catherine Wheel: Happy Days


1) God Inside My Head; 2) Waydown; 3) Little Muscle; 4) Heal; 5) Empty Head; 6) Receive; 7) My Exhibition; 8) Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck; 9) Shocking; 10) Love Tips Up; 11) Judy Staring At The Sun; 12) Hole; 13) Fizzy Love; 14) Kill My Soul.

As the first guitar chords of ʽGod Inside My Headʼ appear on the horizon, the horrible thought enters your mind — «Christ! They must have swapped my copy with a bootleg of Metallica outtakes!» Relief will come pretty soon, but the chugging opening is fairly symbolic: it represents Catherine Wheel's ultimate denial of the atmospheric shoegaze ideology and their further advance into the realm of modern heavy rock. Thrash influences are actually quite thin here, compared to the power-chord based grunge / alt-rock legacy, but overall, it is clear that they want to try their hand at «brute force psychedelia» now, rather than simply «distorted guitar psychedelia».

Veteran fans and critics, as far as I can tell in retrospect, despised this decision, but honestly, it was just a fairly logical continuation of the evolution that had already started on Chrome. Per­haps they really were trying to sell out, taking after Bush rather than My Bloody Valentine, but the most important element of the Catherine Wheel sound, the Dickinson/Futter guitar interplay, remains firmly in place, so all they really did was take some focus off the atmosphere and invest it in riffage and power. Admittedly, I cannot insist that it was a correct decision: Dickinson is no heavy metal riffmeister, and I have a hard time trying to remember if there was at least one heavy guitar pattern on this entire record that rocked me to the bone like a Nirvana or an Alice In Chains song can often do. (ʽHoleʼ probably comes closest, but still not close enough).

But let us begin with the singles. ʽJudy Staring At The Sunʼ was the first one, with a title more fit for a Belle & Sebastian record, perhaps, and very little of the band's usual sonic inventiveness — the song puts far more trust in the romantic repetitiveness of its title, where Dickinson is joined by Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses in the quest to raise a little band of angels in support of the world's latest imaginary spiritual martyr ("Judy's day passed out of sight, Judy will be suffering tonight", because it serves you right to suffer, as John Lee Hooker told us earlier). It's not a bad song, except that one or one dozen or one hundred more or less like it was probably written by every British guitar band in the 1990s, and this one, I must admit, does not even make good use of the Dickinson/Futter combo (just the same predictable distortion / jangle pairing throughout, without any attempts to change direction).

The real low point was probably the second single, only released briefly for promotional purposes: ʽLittle Muscleʼ is about... no, it's not about what you probably think (you pervert! I thought about it earlier than you anyway!), it's about, hmm, licking a letter to one's lover with one's tongue, which is sort of the most natural thing to do for a Catherine Wheel song protagonist. The song is short, silly, alternates between quiet and loud passages just like Blur's ʽSong 2ʼ, but without any shades of irony or parody. I suppose that if we really start judging the merits of the album by this kind of song, all criticisms are justified... then again, it was one of the singles. And so was ʽWay­downʼ, which really sounds like a weak attempt to ape the structural and emotional style of Nevermind — loud, quiet, loud, quiet, scream, desperation, noisy guitar break, post-teen angst, but they still can't nail it with as much conviction as Cobain could, maybe perhaps, unlike Kurt, Mr. Dickinson really does not have a gun (fortunately for him, in the long run).

Yet again, this does not mean these loud, short, and totally non-outstanding songs are completely typical of the album. Its centerpiece, for instance, is an eight-minute Talk Talk-ish epic (the least Talk Talk-ish thing about it is its offensive title — ʽEat My Dust You Insensitive Fuckʼ) that's all atmosphere, alternating between soft and subtle guitar/organ textures and squeaky-swampy har­monica breaks with dark side overtones. Another highlight is ʽHealʼ, with a beautifully modulated vocal part from Dickinson: fulfilling the «power ballad» role on this album, it knows when to tone down the grinding distortion and place its faith in the old-fashioned Hammond organ, and the quiet "everyone needs someone" coda has that soulful-melancholic Peter Gabriel / Mark Hollis vibe to it; I wish there were more moments like these on the record, because if you're going to copycat anyway, why not choose the right models?

Besides, it's not as if the album is simple enough to fit into the «if it's long, it's atmospheric and mesmerizing; if it's short, it's stupid and boring» formula. I really like ʽHoleʼ, for instance, which sounds nothing like the real Hole, but is a shapelier alt-rocker than most of the other ones, funkier and with some sneery arrogance in the chorus melody to add to the generic paranoid / pissed-off alt-rock feel. And elsewhere I just wait for the instrumental break, because Futter still dutifully solos like a beast every now and then, saving the band's reputation as best as he can (ʽEmpty Headʼ, for instance). On the whole, you know, I couldn't really bet my head that Happy Days is an objective letdown, in terms of composition, after Chrome — and Catherine Wheel were never about pure atmosphere from the very beginning, either. It does, however, place them in the rather insecure and risky position of diluting their identity, which was never all that outstanding in the first place — and, of course, once we shake the cobwebs away and realize that 1995 was also the year of The Bends, well... there's only so much space in one's head that one should feel free to allocate to music like this, and for 1995, Radiohead occupy most of it anyway.