IN YOUR EAR
Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
These Things Move in Threes
Sony Music Japan, 2,520 yen
Mumm-Ra are the latest British band to get musical tongues wagging and their debut long-player, These Things Move in Threes, should succeed in maintaining interest in this five-piece from the southern English town of Bexhill-on-Sea.
When a band takes its name from the chief villain of the 1980s animated TV series ThunderCats you could be forgiven for not taking them too seriously, but this collection is full of catchy numbers that suggest that Mumm-Ra will be sticking around for quite a while.
With a sound that could be described as somewhere between early Blur and Supergrass, with a bit of Coldplay thrown in, Mumm-Ra can knock out a good tune, as shown on the first three singles, "Out Of The Question," the curiously titled "What Would Steve Do?" (nothing wrong with the name, just that the line never appears in the lyrics) and "She's Got You High."
As usual the import is cheaper than the domestic version of These Things Move in Threes, but it's the local version that's definitely worth buying, as all you have to do is slip the disc into your PC and you'll be able to watch the videos for the group's three singles plus "Song B." And that's not including the five bonus tracks.
Mumm-Ra will play on the first day of this year's Fuji Rock Festival.
Life's a Riot With Spy vs Spy; Brewing Up With Billy Bragg; Talking With the Taxman About Poetry; Workers Playtime
Imperial Records, 2,600 yen each
For about four or five years in 1980s Britain, Billy Bragg was the voice of protest at a time when the Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, enacted drastic social change throughout the country.
Listening to Bragg's first four albums--reissued and repackaged for Japan in cardboard sleeves and with bonus tracks--reveals that time has done little to dilute the feeling behind his lyrics.
Each disc has its strong points, with 1983's Life's a Riot With Spy vs Spy introducing Bragg, his guitar, a bunch of good tunes and, among the bonus tracks, a version of "A13 (Trunk Road To The Sea), his adaptation of the pop standard "Route 66."
Talking With the Tax Man about Poetry is seen by many Bragg fans as the best of his early releases and "Levi Stubbs' Tears" and "Greetings To The New Brunette" (with The Smiths' Johnny Marr on guitar) are classic tracks.
Yet my recommendation of the quartet would be Brewing Up with Billy Bragg. Released in 1984, it captures Bragg's raw passion at the height of the miners' strike ("It Says Here") and with the Falklands War still fresh in the memory ("Island Of No Return").
On a lighter note, "St Swithin's Day" and "A Lover Sings" are both perfect examples of Bragg's ability to pen love songs that are intelligent and evocative.
Of the 11 bonus tracks on this album alone, the three previously unreleased songs featuring Marr are well worth a listen, especially a brave and ultimately satisfying version of the Smiths' "Back To The Old House."
Workers Playtime, released in 1988, finds Bragg in a more mature and reflective mood as he moves into his 30s. The closing track, "Waiting For The Great Leap Forward," is a singalong romp with witty, self-deprecating lyrics like, "Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is/I offer him embarrassment and the usual excuses."
A cover of the Jam's "That's Entertainment " is the pick of the bonus tracks.