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  Samsara's Grip  

Bill Madden

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  Indoor Miner  

"The New Censorship Morality Police Arrest" is the headline on the notes that accompanied Samsara's Grip. "Blimey," I thought. "What's all this about?"

Well, it turns out there's what we in these parts call a big hoo-ha about the album cover, because there's a photo of little lad in his swimming trunks on the front. So what, I thought until I realised that the youngster's knob is protruding from those trunks. Now, Bill seems to think that he's making some kind of statement here. Something about retaining the innocence of kids, rather than just being in the hands of paedophiles, I guess. It's like the way that, over here a few years back, people tried to reclaim the Union Jack flag from extreme right organisations. That's all well and good and I'm really sorry that Bill thinks that post-9/11 America is "embracing a nationalistic, over-zealous mind-set that is so unbending, narrow-minded and myopic that it reminds me of the mentality that permeated 1930's Germany". But, that doesn't mean I want to see a picture of child exposing his todger every time I play an album any more than I fear that Bill Madden is in danger of suddenly being rounded up by Nazi's in sunny California.

It's fortunate then that I won't be listening to this album too much in the future, because, taking the kids' genitals debate and the alleged mind-set of the USA out of the equation, there's not much else here for discussion. For someone's who's trying to come on all radical, too much of the music here is tired old-school rock that could have been made in 1973.

Now I'm not for one moment suggesting that every record released has to be some cutting edge experience. However, while Eric Loren's recent Soul Migration showed what could be done within a mainstream singer/songwriter framework (good songs, with imaginative arrangements), and the songs on Greg Parker's 50's influenced On The Break EP sparkled and made you feel good to be alive, too many tracks here are dirgey rock numbers that we've all heard a million times before.

It all starts quite promising though. The opening track, Om Tatsat, a mid-paced number that is similar in mood to Street Legal-era Dylan, is melodically strong and nicely arranged. However, no matter how heartfelt Bill's sentiments are, "The world is goin' crazy and the state of affairs is very sad, the newscast is a tabloid, even CNN is part of the fad" lyrically sound almost as clumsy when sang as when read.

And whereas Madden's Bob-like vocals -- albeit the altogether more croaky Dylan of latter years -- suit this track, he really should have done another take on Fools Parade. And I say this as a fan of Mark E Smith of The Fall! There are other highlights here though. First there's the title track, and then the Fleetwood Mac-like 19 Miles, which builds nicely. There's also a couple of numbers towards the end (Shrink The Guru and the closing track, Experience) where the Dylan comparisons go out of the window as, somewhat bizarrely after what has preceded it, Bill comes on all Living Color. Shrink the Guru, in particular, has a similar feel to Love Rears It's Ugly Head.

But there's too many other moments here where Bill tries to come across all 'Big Emotion' as he endlessly repeats seemingly important statements like "Masterpiece is your life", "So long, what for, another consequence of war", and "The world just is what it is" which are probably somewhat less profound than the writer imagines. Maybe he should listen to David Byrne's advice on Once In A Lifetime, "Say something once, why say it again?" And whilst we're asking questions, I must ask if the over-the-top guitar wailing on Consequence of War is really necessary? The next time the guitar player launches into a solo like that, Bill, I suggest you tell him it's not big, it's not clever, and then slap him across the head with a wet towel.

As to whether Bill's capable of that I don't know, because I only know what he looks like as a kid. Yes, you guessed it, the little boy on the cover is, wait for it, young Bill. Which leads me to one final question: is Bill really promoting innocence here or is there a little bit of bragging going down? "Look folks, I was capable of the odd stiffie even at that age!"

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