Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

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Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby SteveC » Tue Nov 25, 2014 6:40 pm

This is Abozo's choice: Please keep thread free for the introduction and the reviews.


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abozo

Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby abozo » Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:48 am

Thanks, Steve.

Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - 2002 - "Experimental Rock"

Why? - I deliberated considerably before making this choice.  Remembering that my musical tastes have been described as "weird," I honestly tried to consider the fact that many people will be investing their valuable time listening to whatever I choose.  What a responsibility.  I hope this isn't too "weird."  It will be too dark for some, but as some CUers already know, I don't really do jolly music. 

Personally - 15ish years ago I was in a pub that always hosted interesting live bands.  I didn't even know who was going to be playing that night, nor did anyone else.  But that was possibly the best gig I have ever been to, from the first chord that exploded.  A young kid stood up, played his guitar and sung like his heart was breaking.  A hugely professional sound from an unknown band in a small pub.  Normally the pub starts emptying after a few songs.  This time, the pub filled to capacity and then kept filling.  After the gig, he was packing up and I asked him his name.  Martin Grech.

What's it like? - A simplistic description is that this is the Radiohead album that was expected to follow OK Computer.  But there is much more here than simple, affectionate imitation.  Here you can find creativity and open-minded music. That said, if you don't like Radiohead...sorry.

History - At a time when Thom Yorke gave us Kid A, saying that we "needed to learn how to listen to music all over again," an unknown 19 year old Radiohead fan shocked the critics and ended up with this album's title track on a Lexus TV advert.  Check the reviews for this album.

Lyrics - I suppose lyrically some will argue that it's not very strong.  As always for me, I'm here for the music; poetry is just the icing on the cake for me.  But I feel the lyrics and the music blend perfectly.  It's all very dark and heart felt.

Structure - The first three tracks are "showcases." A possibly disconnected collection of stunning songs.  After track three the style settles down a bit and the album proper begins.  Here's where we really enter the Zoo to stare at Martin Grech's Open Heart, which, in my opinion, is as much on display as Joni's was in Blue.

Recommendations - If you don't like loud noises, try skipping Dali, or maybe even starting at track 4, but you'll be missing an absolute treat.  I use the title track as one of my Hi-Fi test pieces.

Happy listening, David.

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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby SteveC » Sun Dec 07, 2014 11:17 pm

Gentle reminder.  One week to go!
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby Robert » Mon Dec 08, 2014 1:36 pm

Damn fine choice, superb album. I think I have everything by Martin Grech. Seen him play twice. Captivating. Spoke to him for a while about his recording techniques, very self effacing (if that's the right term)
I don't think he has repeated the quality of this album since. Think he's currently residing in the US and who knows when new material might surface.
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby SteveC » Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:10 pm

[quote="Robert"]
Damn fine choice, superb album. I think I have everything by Martin Grech. Seen him play twice. Captivating. Spoke to him for a while about his recording techniques, very self effacing (if that's the right term)
I don't think he has repeated the quality of this album since. Think he's currently residing in the US and who knows when new material might surface.
[/quote]

Robert, read the original thread.  I think that you are ahead of time on the review!  If you want to comment, about the choices, feel free to use the Classi Album Sunday's thread.  In face can you mpve both these threads across?

Thanks,

Steve
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby crimsondonkey » Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:24 pm

Surely we don't have to wait till Sunday to write a review?!
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby SteveC » Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:58 pm

[quote="crimsondonkey"]
Surely we don't have to wait till Sunday to write a review?!
[/quote]

Write it when you like Wayne!

If everyone posts on Sunday, having prepared them earlier, then it avoids people's reviews being influenced by others'.  This was part of the original proposal, which everyone who commented said was fine.
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby SteveC » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:15 am

Format CD and streamed.

I have listened to this album about seven times, having not heard it at all previously.

A good choice by Abozo.  I would probably not have persevered,  after track three, after first listening, if it had not been for my determination to prepare a review.

The album is undoubtedly well recorded and emerges with a determined clarity from the speakers.  Indeed, as the album progresses, there is plenty to delight and intrigue.  There is, perhaps, too much electronic processing of Martin Grech’s voice.  I much prefer to hear him sing, with a more natural acoustic, but that is not what he is.

Here it comes.  Not a bad start.  A blend of complex rhythms and Martin Grech’s distinctive voice, supplemented with a variety of electronic touches.

Open Heart Zoo.  A haunting track, which grows on me every time I listen.  One of the more accessible tracks on the album.

Dali.  Hated this track at first, but found, after repeated listening that I was drawn in by the hypnotic bass line, which thunders in from time to time.

Tonight.  I really like this track.  Heartfelt vocals and some great hooks.

Push. Another track which has grown on me. Very morose.

Only One Listening.  Probably the most accessible track on the album, and my favourite.  I can imagine it being a highlight of a live performance.  Simple melody, with big orchestral-type crescendoes for the chorus. Sounds like it could have been a single, maybe it was.

Notorious.  I love the beginning, quite beautiful guitar and, whatever is playing out of the left speaker, contrasts with MG’s tortured voice.  A definite No.2.

Penicillin.  Another track I really like.  Good lyrics and an anthemic quality, I grew to appreciate.

Catch Up.  For some strange reason this track made me think of musical theatre, when the hero is reflecting on events.  Another grower.

Twin.  Not into this track yet.  Sounds like he is in the depths of despair.

Death of a Loved One/III.  I have never understood why artists occasionally feel the need to make a track sound like bad vinyl.  To me this superfluous device spoilt what is a perfectly good track.  The other device, used by many, which I fail to understand, is the ten minutes of silence before the last track.  Once the pops and crackles have abated the track sounds pretty good, then they come back again.  The last track, after the silence, is actually very good.  The first time voice harmonies are used, if I recall correctly.

Overall, for me, not an album to enjoy, more to experience and appreciate. 

The discipline of forcing myself to listen critically to an album is something I haven’t experienced since I only had half a dozen albums, when I was a teenager,  Then I listened to every track on every album, probably tens of times.  I knew the album intimately, and could probably list all the tracks, on an album, in order.  Also I probably knew the backstory to the album and even the individual tracks.  It is good to go back to that intensity of critical listening.
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby Robert » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:27 am

I have an article somewhere, about the recording of this album, from a magazine that centres on the recording techniques etc. I'll scan it and post it here, as its v interesting.

If you like the vocals and want to hear more stripped back bare acoustic, then skip to album 3 "march of the lonely"
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby blair207 » Sun Dec 14, 2014 10:27 am

Martin Grech  Open Heart Zoo
Listened to on Spotify through PC on headphones.

This is the first time of my listening to this artist. Immediate comparisons with Radiohead and Muse spring to mind. It’s difficult not to damn this album with faint praise. I found it well recorded with a lot going on in the instrumentation, the vocals are good and the songs are enjoyable. I am a big Radiohead fan and there is a lot for me to enjoy, but ultimately it’s a homage to music the artist likes.  Frontloaded with the rockier numbers the album slows down as it progresses and the numbers become progressively more like slower Radiohead. At the end we have an acoustic hidden song or a continuation of the last song with a long pause, the lyrics of which must rank up there with top wrist slitters of all time. Overall, an interesting listen but not a classic. Perhaps I would be more enthusiastic about this album if I had heard it at its release rather than now.

Favourite track, Open Heart Zoo. Although very plagiaristic its very good.

Least favourite track, Penicillin. A total No Surprises rip off.

Outstanding moment, vocals on Open Heart Zoo.
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby STodd » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:18 am

Format: CD rip FLAC, 44.1k/16bit
Recording quality: very good

Another month, another album I'd never heard...only this time, I'd never heard of the artist either. I'd read the comments about it being the Radiohead-follow-up-that-never-was, and the opening bars of the album had me thinking that. But then something strange happened...I got bored.

I do like a bit of Radiohead (parts of 'The Bends' and 'OK Computer' still make the hair stand up on my neck from the memories), but I'm afraid I just didn't 'get' this. The vocals seemed a cross between Thom Yorke and Chris Martin in the main, but on occasion I caught Jeff Buckley too - no bad thing in itself, but not really a patch on the originals.

To be fair, I was transplanted to a 50s film noir by the title track, picturing a foggy Paris in black and white, lamplight on a street corner, Bogey with a fag on the go, so all good. In other places though, I was just reminded of other people's songs. For example, on 'Penicillin', I just couldn't get  Ennio Morricone's 'The Mission' main title theme tune out of my head (you know the one, the haunting repetitive flute playing de, du, du, de), albeit played more slowly here.

Highlights for me were 'Open Heart Zoo' and 'Notorious', but overall not my cup of tea. It was just a little too slow and I'm afraid it just didn't engage me much at all - not one that will get much more play here (anyone want a secondhand CD copy for the car?)

2/5 from the Weybridge jury - hoping for better luck next month.

PS Who actually managed to make it right to the end of 'Death Of A Loved One' after the (frankly unnecessary) gap..?!
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby julianh » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:40 pm

Listened on AIFF 16/44.1 rip from CD.

I've listened to the entire album twice , but to be honest I just don't get this type of music. The morose delivery of the vocals just grates to my ears. The only real highlight me is the music in the background is pretty good, just completely spoiled by the vocal delivery. Oh, and the 7 minutes or so of silence between the last track and the hidden track which reminds me of John Cage's 4'33".

This could well replace Leonard Cohen as the album of choice should I ever feel the desire to sit in a warm bath with a sharp blade.  8)

Apologies for the overly negative review but I find it difficult to say anything positive about this album.
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby billyray » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:34 pm

I had ordered this album, but unfortunately it didn't arrive  So I have listened a few times on Spotify.

I'm pretty impressed with a great deal of it, but I'm afraid the teenage angst and that wingy, whiney voice just get in the way. Like Julian I have never been able to get on with this style of music.

What I do like is the range in the backing track.  I gave both tweeters and woofers a workout!!

No real favourite track - I tried. I listened to the whole thing twice and went back and listened to individual tracks. Couldn't get it.

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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby crimsondonkey » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:35 pm

I wanted to like this.  I like Radiohead so it should be a no brainer.

However....

If I was Thom Yorke I would either sue the guy or go round his house and punch him in the nose when he opened the door  ;D

This isn't homage or flattery dressed up as imitation - in very many parts its downright theft, and studied burgalry at that.  Grech has so slavishly tried to reproduce the vocal style and nasal whine of the Radiohead frontman, that if anything ever happened to the Radiohead frontman they could probably call up Grech and get him in the studio for the next album and few would be the wiser - as long as some-one else writes the words, bloody hell 'Penicillin' was awful.

It sounds like the lost bloody B-sides to OK Computer, without any of the spark or cleverness that enabled RH to sell melancholy so effectively to the masses.  It doesn't help that he hasn't got Johnny Greenwood in his corner either as he is a complete musician and arranger - whereas Grech has not got that kind of firepower whatsoever.

Okay I'll give the guy a break, there's some nice musical sequences here and there but somehow Grech manages to spoil them all - usually by trying  to sing during them - 'Catch up' being a prime example. 

There's really only two problems with this (no, more than just the words and the music!) ,  first the fact is Radiohead already exist and conquered the world with a sound all of their own which Grech has slavishly tried to counterfeit;  secondly if Radiohead had never existed then this album doesn't have enough charm, wit or magic to have taken their place and capture people's imagination.

Oh and 'Death of a loved one' would be so much improved as an instrumental.

I am reporting this immediately to actionfraud.org.uk!
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Re: Classic Albums: Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo - Review date Sunday 14th December

Postby mickbald » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:50 pm

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