Ned's Atomic Dustbin


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The final Ned's Atomic Dustbin studio album found the band decisively stepping beyond their straight-up thrash/pop roots to embrace a variety of styles and approaches -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But as an overall listen, Brainbloodvolume trumps Are You Normal? as an exciting, involving release brimming with energy and a willingness to experiment while retaining the yearning heart that informed so many of the group's early classics. It's a pity the album was absolutely lost upon release -- in a severe irony, it was released in the U.S. well before it surfaced in the U.K., and even then couldn't compete against the tidal wave of Brit-pop driving all before it. The absolutely massive guitar blast and partially sampled metallic percussion that drives opening track "All I Ask of Myself Is That I Hold Together," with John Penney's always-reliable vocals riding the chaos with increasing desperation, serves notice that the quintet isn't into doing anything half-assed. Other instances of the band's ear for newer approaches can readily be heard in "Floote" (which, besides including the titular instrument, adds an attractive sitar filigree for a trippily fierce crunch) and the epic but not overbearing collapse of "Your Only Joke" and "I Want It Over." Some moves are obvious -- the sped-up "Funky Drummer" loop at the heart of the tender "Premonition" can't help but being clichéd through over-use, though the combination of acoustic guitar and a quietly hyperactive keyboard techno riff makes up for it. Guitarist Rat really steps to the fore at many points, with he and on occasion Alex Griffin indulging in crisper, sometimes-abstract performances that suggest early-'80s post-punk à la New Order and the Cure. The combination of heavily processed wash and gentler chime on "...To Be Right" really stands out, as does John Penney's fine vocal turn, suiting the song wonderfully.

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