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The excellent Carnival of Light is a "light"-weight departure indeed (compared to Nowhere and Going Blank Again), if three or four listens can be trusted. But in contrast, the side-two opening "Birdman" is a powerful single, which, when it was released before the LP in April, portended much louder things. As advertised, it's a new Ride not seen before, the usual mysterious swirls played down and augmented by a stabbing guitar line and epic song structure. The drums rattle like thunder as they build to the final verse. Even the lack of discernible pop chorus and not-so-super lyrics from Andy Bell are irrelevant with this kind of burgeoning sizzler, a pretty damn dramatic track. Like the pre-LP single last time, "Leave Them All Behind," this should have opened the proceedings. Producer John Leckie shows here, if not on the album, how he transformed the Stone Roses (and in a different way, XTC's the Dukes of Stratosphear) from average Joes to a building phenomenon. Two of the three non-LP B-sides are also of great value, superior to the LP tracks they could have replaced. "Rolling Thunder," which appears in slightly different form on the LP, is a bit of a waste, an unappealing, ineffectual acoustic instrumental that does nothing and goes nowhere; considering it shares a name with the famous mid-'70s Bob Dylan-led package tour, it's even sadder. But both the brassy, horn-laden (think early '70s Stones before they stunk) "Let's Get Lost" and the pure pop, golden-hooked "Don't Let It Die" (the only song here by Mark Gardener instead of Bell) are sharp tracks, blustering brilliance and confident songs that don't rely on their former shoegaze haze. Great EP.

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