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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Aztec Camera - Stray

Band: Aztec Camera
Album: Stray
Year: 1990
Style: Adult Alternative & British Rock/Pop
Similar Bands: Trash Can Sinatras, Elvis Costello & Squeeze - lite, Tears For Fears
"One Word" Review: Bi-Polar-Acoustic Lounge-Pop
Based Out Of: Glasgow, Scotland
Label: Sire, Reprise, Warner

Stray: Cover Side
Stray (1990)
  1. Stray 5.35 (sample)
  2. Crying Scene 3.37 (sample)
  3. Get Outta London 3.41 (sample)
  4. Over My Head 5.54 (sample)/
  5. Good Morning Britain 4.05 (sample)
  6. How it Is 3.58 (sample)
  7. Gentle Kind 5.34 (sample)
  8. Notting Hill Blues 6.42 (sample)
  9. Song for a Friend 2.32 (sample)
Album Rating (1-10):

Members & Other Bands:Roddy Frame - Guitars Vox, Production
Paul Powell - Bass
Gary Sanctuary - Keyboards
Frank Tontoh - Drums & Backing Vox
Paul Carrack - Guitar (Ace, Mike & the Mechanics, Squeeze)
Edwyn Collins
Mickey Gallagher
Mick Jones (Clash, Big Audio Dynamite)
Steve Sidelnyk - Percussion
Eric Calvi - Producer, Engineer
Simon Dawson - Engineer
Cameron Jenkins - Asst Engineer
Nick Davies - Mix Engineer
Chris Blair - Mastered
Recorded @ Rockfield, Monmouth & Powerplant, London
Richard Burns - Photography

Unknown-ness: I believe I had heard the name Aztec Camera before I got this tape, but I was not sure what they were like. I was under the impression that they were just another brit-wave band from the late 80's early 90's, with mellow yet complex songs, and smoothly produced vocals. The look in the eye on the cover looks of boredom, complacency, and twee-ness, so I am anticipating moody, tedious songs.

Album Review: The first track is a quiet, very Jellyfish-like song. It creates the mood of comfortably waking up, rubbing the crust from your eyes, to a rich, youthful, perfect bedroom. A slow bass line gently guides the song, along with minimal quiet piano & cymbal percussion. The acoustic guitar adds dimension, but does not draw attention to itself. It also is reminiscent of Elvis Costello's Juliet Letters in production. The second song wakes you up. More aggressive, but smooth vocals cover over a fake-electric guitar. A slow bass builds foundation in the background. The hook in the chorus certifies the tune as a catchy little pop number. "Get Outta London" starts off with just vocals and bass. But it builds in aggression and pace. This is an anthemic track; the syllables are exaggerated to put emphasis on each and every piece of every word. And it ends with an XTC like reprise of the chorus. Over My Head is a rainy ballad, which starts off with a minute and a half of guitar, sailing lovingly along before vocals come in just as slow and caressively as the guitar. Piano and bass are added, creating a slow slow jazz ensemble. The song creates the same mood and is remarkably similar to Elvis's version of "My Funny Valentine."

An Australian-sounding fuzz-bass begins side 2: "Good Morning Britain." This is another Anthemic song, sung with Mick Jones (of B.A.D. & The Clash) in a wrap around call back rap style. There is even a hint of electronic mixed down in this song. The song has a driving musical base and the chorus is slow yet strong, holding onto each word, stretching it over the driving music. This sounds somewhat like the Alarm and James. The next song begins just as rocking, with an electric whiny guitar, familiar to John Cougar Mellencamp songs. In fact, this song has the feel of and is sung like a mid-western small-town rock song. "Gentle Kind" is much lighter, like adult contemporary alternative. This is the burned out, grown up voice of a formerly angsty kid. Very much like Squeeze in their latter days. The album gets even quieter with the six and a half minute "Notting Hill Blues:" A loungy, echo-y lament. A quiet organ and slow jazz bass float the song along. The mood is sad, but it still seems to hold onto an optimistic point of view. His voice sounds a little like Duran Duran and George Michaels at the same time when his lament takes on a louder, more emotional nature toward the end of the song. And the album ends with a folky, acoustic campfire ballad. This song shows a more confident, knowledgeable, grown up, and aware voice.

Stand Out Track:
Crying Scene


  1. Tapes? Holy hell, I didn't know you still owned any of those.

  2. Come now, Matt. You know me. I don't get rid of anything. Plus tapes are usually the cheapest form of music...even better than records. On the other hand, they do "give out" quicker & more often than CDs or records, which can make it very frustrating when trying to burn a tape to CD.