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Monday, June 23, 2014

Zaine Griff - Ashes and Diamonds

Name: Zaine Griff
Album: Ashes and Diamonds
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave / Power Pop
Similar Bands: The A's, The Cars, Split Enz, Thomas Dolby
"One-Word" Review: Creepy New Wave
Based Out Of: Auckland, New Zealand
Label: Warner Bros.
Ashes and Diamonds - Cover & Record
Ashes and Diamonds - Back & Record
Ashes and Diamonds (1980)
  1. Tonight 3:11
  2. Run 2:59
  3. Ashes and Diamonds 4:42
  4. Secret Pleasure 3:14
  5. She's My Man 3:10
  6. Things You Saw 3:02 /
  7. The Scandinavian 5:00
  8. Orient3:58
  9. The Iron Curtain 4:12
  10. A Cigarette Aprea L'Amour 3:45
  11. The Sentimentalists 3:56
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Zaine Griff - Vox, Synthesizers, Mixing, Cover Concept (Human Instinct, Baby Face, Screemer, Helden, David Bowie, The Kinks)
Hans Zimmer - Keyboards, Computers (soundtracks: Lion King, Gladiator, Crimson Tide, Dark Knight, Inception, 12 Years a Slave)
Tony Visconti - Bass, Percussion, Vox, Producer, Mixing, Engineer (David Bowie)
Steve Bolton - Guitars (Atomic Rooster, Paul Young)
Andrew Clark - Keyboards (Bee-Bop Delux, Judie Tzuke, Bill Nelson, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears)
Andy Duncan - Drums (Boomtown Rats, Pet Shop Boys, Wham/George Michael, Robbie Williams)
Brian Robertson - Guitars (Thin Lizzy, Motorhead)
Ray Henriksen - Engineer
Chris Birkett - Engineer
Graham Myer - Engineer
Chalkie Davies - Photography
Chess Creative Services - Design & Artwork

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this artist, but based on the year (1980) and the photo on the cover, it seems like it will be some variation of New Wave. Thin face, glowing backlights, thin tie, slightly alien expression all seem like it wil be a solid album with keyboards, and perhaps power pop (by his hair alone). It has potential to be good, yet, since I had not heard of him, it could have failed miserably.

Album Review: This album features and was produced by long time Bowie producer Tony Visconti. Thanks to Visconti, Griff has played with Bowie on a couple of alternate tracks that were compiled as bonus tracks on a rerelease of Scary Monsters. Also of note, Hans Zimmer, of much film soundtrack fame plays on this album, although there is no real hint of The Lion King in the synthesizers here.

“Tonight” starts with a synthesizer, and new wave jitter-ness. The song just bounces and trills with a variety of synth effects. The vocals are energetic and exaggerated, reminding me of Richard Bush of The A’s. The combination of the electric guitar and the bouncing keyboards is fused perfectly, and the interplay is fun. It comes together to a complex crescendo and then just fades out.
“Run” is a slower song, not nearly as complex as the first track. It still has a driving melody, and Griff embellishes and pronounces each syllable he sings as clearly and as sharp as he can. The chorus reminds me of the cars, combining power chords, a chugging three tiered rhythm guitar and twinkling synth. There is also great use of a backing chorus of Ahh-Ahh-Ahhs in the chorus. Just a solid New Wave song.
“Ashes and Diamonds” is just a sincerely weird lyrical song. It is slower yet than the first two, and is virtually a ballad of memories after a night of intimiacy. The lyrics “I Smell Of You/it was not your perfume/or the room” reek of a sleazy or a juvenile sexual experience that the singer is never sure he will ever get back. It still has an 8-bit synth background plotting along as the background bass line. Overall, it is a really odd song.
“Secret Pleasure” has an intro of barely audible, echoing spoken word until the plucked synth sounds lay the groundwork for another juvenilely charged sexploration song. This song too, really reminds me of the Cars (musically) and the A’s (vocally). After a couple of verses, the chorus “Eyes = Yes, Lips = No” is repeated for a song ending breakdown, reworking the song down to its elements.
“She's My Man” is a great, jittery, nervous song with a down scale icy keyboard. The chorus is a driving drum filled declaration. It is a really fun song, including a chorus of deep Whoas to add another hooky element to the already sprinting song. It also adds an oddly places, but chaotically fitting fast piano solo, and again, Griff really sounds like Richard Bush from the A’s here.
“Things You Saw” also brings with a driving, chugging guitar riff, then once the A’s like vocals (I can’t get around it), a womp-womp bass synth effect oscillates in the background. The chorus is a complete building machine for the follow through, which is a great catchy carnival keyboard come down. Then it just builds right back up. The structure of the song is unconventional, but it is a solid interpretation, and makes this song, the best song on the record.

“The Scandinavian” begins the second side with a minute spacey and sterile instrumental, broken only by the electric guitar chords. Still only describable by the new wave combo of power chords and synth elements, this slower song feels a little broken or lacking in format, held together by the odd synth effect here or there. Then, at about 3 min, the song breaks form with a sunny and bright keyboard effect, and for a moment it is catchy, before it dips down into this stormy and hard pseudo metal guitar, which it never digs itself out from, having a bombastic finale of thundey and a held, sung note.
“Orient” has a power pop guitar layered under some vaguely Asian musical melodies. This sounds much more of a typical straight forward song, not deviating from the simple devised path, all the while, the bass line has a dark tone to it. The chorus is in two parts, and is not as catchy as the other songs, but it has a nice higher pitch, falsetto style vocal usage in the second part to emphasize the emotion. The song possesses an overall dreamy vibe.
“The Iron Curtain” is the third of four songs referencing a foreign place takes us to Russia, and a piano based tune, that flies along wistfully, like surveying the grand soviet land from above, and then it falls to the ground in a Mega Man like sprint for the chorus.
“A Cigarette Aprea L'Amour” begins with a watery guitar loop, sounding kinda jangle-poppy, and a dark, bass line and echoing vocals. The emotion in the chorus also feels like the A’s, but it is full of desire and memory in its sentiment. The overly produced chorus is catchy and inspiring, but dense. Which leaves the following verse feel light and sparse. The instrumental has an electric guitar that does not seem to really match the melody and temp set by the tambourine drums and bass line. And the song ends with a fade.
“The Sentimentalists” sounds like it is going to blossom into a Journey piano ballad at the get go. About 1:20, the song charges forward with an electric guitar burst. But it settles back down, feeling like “Faithfully” for the verse. The song’s theme is less sentimental, but more like the rest of the album’s sentiment: creepy stalker lyrics.

Stand Out Track: Things you Say

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