album list


Hanne Boel  (Denmark)

Private Eye  (2007,  52.29)  **½

Going by the evidence presented here, Hanne Boel plays a kind of soulful Americana, fine in small doses, but tiring over the course of a whole album. H.H. Præstbro's credited with Mellotron on Boel's cover of Al Stewart's Year Of The Cat, but... no.

Jim Boggia  (US)

Fidelity is the Enemy  (2001,  46.18)  ****

Jim Boggia co-wrote a number one hit for CCM artist Jaci Velasquez, but we won't hold it against him, as Fidelity is the Enemy is quite excellent. It's not all top-notch, but material of the quality of Bubblegum 45s, Several Thousand, Nothing Wrong With Me and Peter Pan make this a prime powerpop release, albeit one coming from a singer-songwriter perspective, as against a genre fan copying his idols. Although Boggia supposedly plays Mellotron on the album, the upfront flutes on opener So Full, That For Me Is You (particularly obviously) and others give the lie to the claim.

The Bogmen  (US)

Closed Captioned Radio  (1998,  52.03)  **½

Closed Captioned Radio was The Bogmen's second and last album, a textbook example of late-period '90s alt.rock, at its least dull on opener Falling Systems, the vaguely R.E.M.-ish Speedfreak Lullaby and Mad Larry. Mellotron? Brendan Ryan's strings on You Are My Destiny sound like nothing more exciting than generic orchestral samples. Mellotron my arse.

Bolywool  (Sweden)

Through a Century  (2009,  36.00)  **½

Bolywool seem to be little-known outside Scandinavia; odd, as their mainstream, English-language indie could easily pick up an international audience. It wouldn't include me, but, as anyone who's read much of this site will know, I'm not an indie fan. Through a Century is the second of the band's three known samplotron releases, the others being 2006's Modern Strive EP and 2011's Thoughts in Arpeggio. It is very dull. No fewer than three musicians don't play Mellotron, Oskar Erlandsson, Jonas Odhner and Ramo Spatalovic, with (amongst other use) flutes on The Ballad Of A Gun and Sleep Today Away and choirs and strings on Save My Soul.

Bombs of Hades  (Sweden)

Death Mask Replica  (2016,  36.17)  ***

Bombs of Hades' most recent album to date, Death Mask Replica, continues the progressive death metal experiment of 2014's Atomic Temples, at its best on the opening title track and Tombsday. Despite appearing to use real Mellotron on earlier releases (I do say, 'appearing'), it sounds sampled this time round, with octave strings (often a sample giveaway) on the opening title track, choirs, strings and a flute melody on Burning Angel (Uhuru), choir stabs on Old Fires Die and more octave strings and a suspiciously speedy flute melody on the fade on closer Mad Shadows.

Haley Bonar  (US)

Big Star  (2008,  31.16)  ***

South Dakotan Haley Bonar's fifth album (including her early, self-released work), 2008's Big Star, presumably named in honour of, sits somewhere between 'alt.', 'singer-songwriter' and 'Americana', highlights including the haunted Mayday and closer Tiger Boy. Like so many similar, though, she's guilty of trying too hard in places, tackling upbeat alt.rock-type material (Something Great, Queen Of Everything) that doesn't fully suit her voice. Bonar plays well-arranged, samplotron flutes on Tiger Boy, to decent effect.

Pierre Bondu  (France)

Quelqu'un Quelque Part  (2004,  38.50)  **½

Can I tell you much about Pierre Bondu? Not really, no; he's from Nantes, in Western France and he's made three albums to date, the second of which is 2004's Quelqu'un Quelque Part. In many ways a typical chanson release, it occasionally takes unexpected turns, not least odd upbeat part that punctuates the generally low-key material and the full-on orchestral strings part that closes the album. Bondu plays Mellotron on La Vie Qu'on Avait, with a gentle polyphonic flute part, complete with pitchbend, although it seems it's sampled.

Brian Bonz & the Dot Hongs  (US)

From Sumi to Japan  (2009,  34.36)  **

Brooklynite Brian Bonz (not to mention his amusingly-named Dot Hongs) sits pretty firmly in the 'indie' category, going by 2009's From Sumi to Japan, capturing that weak-as-water-rhythms-with-airy-fairy-vocal-melodies thing perfectly. Downsides? Most of the album, frankly; closer Goodnight, Captain Revelstoke is easily the most adventurous thing here, featuring what sounds like a manic hammer dulcimer part, playing the record out, but most of it bored me senseless. Bonz is credited with Mellotron, with strings on opener Two Three Blockade, upfront strings and cellos on Kid Shit and an effective flute melody on Christa McCauliffe's Cacophony (Reprise), sounding sampled to my ears.

Benjamin Booker  (US)

Benjamin Booker  (2014,  44.27)  ***

Benjamin Booker plays a raw, authentic kind of soul/garage/blues, if you can imagine such a mixture. His eponymous 2014 debut combines his major influences in a way that, say, Black Keys fans looking for more of the same, but more so, might appreciate. Best tracks? I'll admit that the album doesn't especially appeal to me, but opener Violent Shiver, Slow Coming and Have You Seen My Son? seem to do the most with their component parts. Ben Trimble's credited with Mellotron. Where? I think I heard a background something that wasn't the album's ubiquitous Hammond, but, given that the recording venue, 'all-analog' Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter, doesn't own one, I think the chances of there being any genuine tape-replay involvement are minimal. Good at what it does, then, assuming you like what it does.

Torsten Borg  (Finland)

Junebug  (2012,  36.18)  **½

Torsten Borg's Junebug straddles the powerpop, Americana and mainstream pop/rock genres, at its best on Did You Know It All Along and I Don't Wanna Fall In Love Again, maybe, those being the nearest to powerpop the album has to offer. Pekka Gröhn is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, which is a bit of a giveaway (at least, outside the States) in itself, as so few of these machines have made it out of their home country. Anyway, all I can hear is some rather unconvincing flutes and strings on Love Comes Back Around.

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles  (US)

Diamonds in the Dark  (2007,  40.29)  ***
The Stars Are Out  (2009,  34.46)  ***

Sarah Borges (with or without her Broken Singles) is the kind of country singer it's vaguely acceptable to like in hip circles; influenced more by X than, say, Patsy Cline (although I believe she's acceptable-to-hipsters, too), her punk sensibilities lurch through the otherwise calm surface of her second album, Diamonds in the Dark. The rest of the album's taken up with low-fi maudlin 'cry in your beer'-type alt.country, which, while doubtless entirely unacceptable to the poor sods who grew up with this stuff for real, is actually listenable to those of us to whom C&W is a quaint diversion from another country. Er, so to speak. Paul Q. Kolderie is credited with Mellotron, but assuming it's actually present at all, it's so expertly hidden in the mix that it's entirely inaudible, at least to my ears, so 'samples' it is. Her/their follow-up, 2009's The Stars Are Out, while still essentially alt.country, is a far more rocking proposition than its predecessor, the more rock'n'roll end of things including opener Do It For Free and the harmonica-fuelled I'll Show You How, while better ballads included Ride With Me and closer Symphony. Someone calling himself Jabe "Charlie the Bubble Palantino" Beyer allegedly plays Mellotron, with what sounds like sampled strings under real ones on Symphony, although the strings on No One Will Ever Love You are quite clearly real.

Boris  (Netherlands)

Holy Pleasure  (2006,  51.41)  *½
Live My Life  (2009,  47.47)  **

Boris (Titulaer) is a Dutch soul singer who owes much of his fame to winning the local version of Pop Idol in 2002. He's got a perfectly good voice for his chosen style, but there's no point in pretending that 2006's Holy Pleasure even remotely matches his antecedents; it's a pretty perfunctory pop/soul/funk album that says nothing new whatsoever. In fairness, less appalling tracks include Those Things You Do, the harpsichord-driven (!) Break Free and closer Waiting, although Girl is particularly obnoxious, just to balance the books. Mellotron-wise, we get a nice (sampled) flute part on the balladic Beautiful Day from Blair Mackichan, but it does little to make up for the horrors of the bulk of the album. Titulaer followed up with 2009's Live My Life, a more varied and therefore less irritating album, as he tackling reggae (One World), Clavinet funk (Loosen Up) and blues (I'm Sorry), none of which are enough to actually make it, y'know, any good. Once again, as if to make up for the album's better features, its one credited Mellotron track (from Anthony Tolsma this time), Loosen Up, is apparently tape-replay-free, unless the occasional flutey thing's what we're after, so 'samples' it is.

Boris  (Japan)

Attention Please  (2011,  41.16)  ***

Boris (not to be confused with any other Boris) are a noted prolific Japanese psych/drone/electronica/etc. outfit, whose seventeenth album (and third release of the year), 2011's Attention Please, features a bewildering array of psych-related styles, from the breathy motorik feedback of the opening title track through the psych-metal of Hope and Party Boy to the trippy dronefests of You and closer Hand In Hand. But is it any good? I hear you ask. Er, s'pose so, yeah, although at forty-odd minutes it's a good ten minutes too long for the ideas contained therein. That's what happens when you spit out three albums a year, I suppose. Wata plays fakeotron strings on Hope, which makes me wonder just how authentic his Mellotron use is on his collaboration with Ai Aso (note: it isn't). Anyway, one for psychonauts everywhere, although how you choose which of Boris' multifarious releases to start with is beyond me. This one?

Boris Garcia  (US)

Once More Into the Bliss  (2008,  55.15)  ***½

Philadelphia's Boris Garcia are a band, as you might've guessed, given that they're filed under 'B'. Essentially a folk outfit, Once More Into the Bliss (their second?) sees them shift between several related styles, at its best on the splendid Lover Tonight, River Man (Fairport's/Richard Thompson's Crazy Man Michael, anyone?) and the excellent, nine-minute, proper 'ballad form' The Ballad Of Captain Jack, (bag)pipes and all. Bud Burroughs' background Mellotron strings and in-yer-face flutes on Everything's Going To Be Fine aren't, the latter proving their sample origin.

Adrian Borland  (UK)

The Amsterdam Tapes  (2006,  52.34)  **

Adrian Borland was mainman of post-punk outfit The Sound, going on to work with other musicians, not least Tim Smith of Cardiacs, to my surprise. He released several solo albums through the '90s, tragically committing suicide in 1999, after battling depression for over a decade. 2006's The Amsterdam Tapes is his third (and to date, last) posthumous album, apparently partially re-recorded from Dutch sessions in 1992; some of its contents were re-recorded for later albums. I have to say, for someone with such a level of critical acclaim, I fail to see what all the fuss is about; to my ears, this is a soft rock album, far too easy on the ear for its own good. Is this why Borland rejected it for release at the time? It has some lyrical depth, but the music sounds too much like the wetter end of, say, Simple Minds for me to take this at all seriously. Bart van Poppel is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, opener Fast Blue World and Liberation Day, but the only sound that even comes close is a vague flutey thing on the latter, which I distrust heavily. Was anyone in the Netherlands using a real Mellotron in '92? Anyway, I'm not even convinced these are samples (too early, possibly), let alone a real Mellotron, but this goes here until/if I get any more information.

Boss Martians  (US)

Making the Rounds  (2002,  41.14)  ***

The Boss Martians apparently started as a heavily surf-influenced band, although by 2002's Making the Rounds, they'd fully shifted into the 'garage rock'n'roll' demi-monde. It's actually a bloody good album at what it does, as long as you accept its limitations, i.e. it's Hammond/Farfisa-driven garage rock, with little originality but some cool songs, consistent (or unvarying) enough to make it difficult to pick out highlights. Johnny Sangster's credited with Mellotron, although the only place it even might be found is a rising string line on Feel It Like Everyone, although it doesn't sound especially Mellotronic to me.

De Bossen  (Belgium)

Feel the Beating...  (2000,  44.04)  ***

By Antwerpians De Bossen's second album, Feel the Beating... (presumably 'of the heart', as against an S&M reference), they were a two girls/one guy trio, their ramshackle sound sitting somewhere in between power pop, punk and '90s indie. It's at its best on the slowburn Lara's T.H.E.M.E., Taste The Floor and closer Train, although someone calling themselves Eelco's alleged Mellotron on the last-named really isn't.

Bostich & Fussible  (Mexico)

Nortec Collective Presents: Bulevar 2000  (2010,  45.06)  **½

The oddly-named Bostich & Fussible seem to be one facet of Tijuana's Nortec Collective, ...Presents: Bulevar 2000 being something like their eleventh album in a decade or so. Latin electronica, anyone? No obvious highlights; I've only given it **½ because it isn't actively awful. Aiko Yamada's Chamberlin is not only inaudible, but most likely inauthentic, too.

Botanica  (US)

Berlin Hi-Fi  (2006,  51.11)  **½

Botanica are led by Paul Wallfisch of Firewater, although going by their fourth release, 2006's Berlin Hi-Fi, they mostly lack that band's bonkers eclecticism. To be honest, the bulk of the album is tedious 'alt.rock', until we get to the manic, klezmer-influenced How and mournful, violin-led closer This Perfect Spot that sound like they could be by a different band. Wallfisch is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things, but I'd love to know what he's supposed to be playing. The exceedingly background 'is it/isn't it' choirs on one track? If so, it's got to be sampled; there really isn't anything here resembling a genuine Mellotron. So; a couple of tracks near the end aside, a pretty dullsville release. Let's hope their other albums are better.

Chris Bottomley  (Canada)

Knotty Bits  (2003,  70.31)  **½

For some reason, I'd expected Chris Bottomley to be a sensitive singer-songwriter type, but I now know he's a Toronto-based bassist, working mainly in the reggae field, going by Knotty Bits. The album's probably at its best when it diversifies, from the soca of World Of Dreams to the jazzy Floating & Drifting and the straight jazz of Trouble Makin' Freak. But why, oh why is it seventy minutes long? Forty's quite enough, thank you. I have absolutely no idea why Ken Myhr is credited with Mellotron.

Bowman  (US)

Living to Dream  (2004,  50.23)  ***½

I don't know if Boston's Bill Bowman's Bowman (try saying that quickly) are a proper band or his solo project, but the only album I've heard by him/them, Living to Dream, is a rather splendid powerpop release, highlights including Enemy, All This, Something's Wrong and Thanksgiving, amongst others. Downsides? It's a little too long for comfortable listening in one hit. Bowman, Dave Ramsey and Tom L. Smith are all credited with Mellotron, with flute and string parts on So Many Ways To Say Goodbye and All This (and vibes on closer Nothing?), but the held flute note at the end of All This gives the sample game away for definite.

Tim Bowness  (UK)

My Hotel Year  (2004,  39.56)  ***½

Tim Bowness is a core member of No-Man, along with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, also playing in Samuel Smiles, Henry Fool and others. Oh and singing at a mutual friend's wedding last year, in the best and most unusual reception music entertainment I've ever encountered. After all this group activity, 2004's My Hotel Year is actually his first solo album, not sounding so different to No-Man, maybe unsurprisingly, a downbeat feel pervading the record, possibly working best on opener Last Year's Tattoo, Made See-Through and Ian McShane. If I had to categorise this, I'd more than likely put it into 'singer-songwriter', rather than any other genre, Bowness' lyrics being at least as important as the music. Henry Fool's Stephen Bennett is credited with Mellotron, but although 'some' of the Mellotron on the Henry Fool album is real, I strongly suspect that none of it is here. Anyway, we get flutes on Last Year's Tattoo, choirs on Ian McShane and distant strings on Making A Mess In A Clean Place and Sleepwalker, all working well within the confines of the pieces. Not everyone's going to like this, but anyone's who's heard and liked a No-Man album should give this a chance. Should I ever discover that the Mellotron's real, I shall, of course, move this review.

Boy Omega  (Sweden)

Hope on the Horizon  (2007,  43.29)  **½

Gothenburg's Martin Henrik "Boy Omega" Gustafsson has had optimistic Elliott Smith comparisons thrown at him, though going by 2007's Hope on the Horizon, I'm afraid I have to question certain reviewers' ears; try 'singer-songwriter crossed with rather average US indie' and you might be a little closer. While some of the album's tracks attempt to echo Smith's forlorn approach (notably lengthy closer True Heaven), the bulk of the record tries (and fails) to sound jaunty, leaving it in a musical no-man's-land, unsure of what it's really trying to be. Gustafsson is credited with Mellotron on three tracks, although there's nothing audible on either The Blues And The Bee Sting or Keep That Flame, while Change Of Plans has naught but some (very) background flutes, most likely sampled.

Boy With a Fish  (US)

I Put My Tongue on the Window  (2011,  50.28)  **½

The curiously-named I Put My Tongue on the Window, by the also curiously-named Boy With a Fish, is the kind of album that reviewers describe as 'Americana' or 'folk', while ignoring the band's hefty indie influence. Perhaps thirty-five minutes of this would be OK, but fifty's really pushing it; they could lose overlong closer How Will I Go straight away and save nearly seven minutes. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Claus is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on The Neighbors fail to convince.

Bozzio Levin Stevens  (US)

Situation Dangerous  (2000,  48.24)  ***½

Do any of Bozzio Levin Stevens really need any introduction? Well, just in case... Drummer Terry Bozzio (Zappa, Missing Persons), Bassist/Stick man Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, a million sessions) and Steve "Stevens" Schneider (er, Billy Idol) elected to work together as a trio in the late '90s. Once upon a time, an album by such a renowned grouping would've been snapped up by a major and would probably have sold in reasonable quantities; as it is, they released their albums on the estimable-but-rather-small Magna Carta imprint and only sold to the faithful few. 2000's Situation Dangerous is their second (and, to date, last) album, full of exactly the kind of seventh dan ninja playing you'd expect. However, it's also highly melodic, which, given that it's at least partially improvised, is a minor miracle, top tracks including ripping opener Dangerous, the (relatively) gentle Spiral and the flamenco-influenced Tziganne, Marcus Nand guesting on guitar. No-one's actually credited with keyboards, so there's a good chance the Mellotron samples (string parts all over Dangerous and the middle section of Endless) are triggered from one of the credited instruments. I haven't heard the trio's debut, 1997's Black Light Syndrome, but I can recommend this to anyone who delights in fiery, yet tasteful playing. Very listenable.

Brainpool  (Sweden)

Stay Free  (1996,  46.42)  ***

Lund's Brainpool (linked with Per Gessle and Roxette) are a pretty mainstream bunch, as you'd expect from a band signed to a major (sad but true). 1996's Stay Free was their third album (the last to feature their original vocalist, Jan "Janne" Kask) and is actually better than you might expect, combining powerpop with a kind of post-grunge rockism, best displayed on the likes of Sister C'mon, The King Of Georgia and Smallville, while lengthy closer Low actually borders prog. No, really. Bassist Christoffer Lundquist plays 'Mellotron', with strings and flutes on High, string lines on The King Of Georgia (way above the instrument's range, giving the sample game away) and Free Ride and choirs all over Low.

Doyle Bramhall II  (US)

Doyle Bramhall II  (1996,  53.50)  ***

Doyle Bramhall II has a lot in common with his ex-bandmate Charlie Sexton, being another young guitarist influenced by the blues and soul greats, rather than his previous generation of players. He's a relatively unusual case of a leftie who learnt on a right-handed instrument flipped over, so his strings are upside down, which hasn't stopped him from playing in Eric Clapton's band for several years. His eponymous solo debut mix'n'matches his influences, from the funky Ain't Goin' Down Slow through the more contemporary True Emotion and the Appalachian folk of Time to the jazz/soul of closer Stay A While, making for a diverse showcase for Bramhall's talents. Lisa Coleman (of Wendy & Lisa fame) plays samplotron on several tracks, with smooth strings on opener Song From The Grave and choppy ones on Ain't Goin' Down Slow and Part II, although the background strings on The Reason I Live sound like an analogue synth.

Branko  (Netherlands)

My World Electric  (2005,  43.32)  ***

Branko freely admit that their sound straddles the divide between '80s electro-pop and '90s grunge, although I remain to be convinced that it's a divide that needs straddling. 2005's My World Electric (their debut? And lone release?) is at its best on material such as opener Wonder Woman, the vaguely U2-isms of Let It Go and Love = A Fading Star, maybe, but this is quite possibly too eclectic for its own good. Ben Franswa plays samplotron strings and cellos on Not Like You, although all other Mellotronalikes almost certainly aren't. Should you be yearning for an electro/grunge crossover, you've just found your new favourite band. As for the rest of us...

Jeffry Braun  (US)

Rust From Rain  (2005,  44.09)  **½

Jeffry Braun plays a kind of lightweight Americana (note: not country), clearly intended to cross over to the adult contemporary market. A couple of definite samplotron tracks, with stabby flutes on opener Hang In The Balance and cellos and strings on Say Goodbye, with possible others.

Brazzaville  (US)

Rouge on Pockmarked Cheeks  (2002,  61.16)  ***
Hastings Street  (2004,  49.03)  **½

Formed by sometime Beck sideman David Brown in the late '90s, the LA-based Brazzaville have a world-weary air about them, (very) roughly analogous to the UK's Saint Etienne, maybe, or Stereolab if you took away the cheap synths. Apparently, Brown is a seasoned traveller, picking up influences from South America, Africa and continental Europe, making for an eclectic stylistic mix, which is probably where the Stereolab comparisons come in. The excellently-titled Rouge on Pockmarked Cheeks is their third album, sounding like a lounge lizard's dream across most of its length, with the jarring exception of the full-on rock'n'roll of Queenie, a song out of place if ever there were one. One notable criticism I would make of the album is its length; this kind of music really doesn't lend itself to overlong albums and several tracks are longer (far longer in the case of closer Late Night Lullaby) than their content demands. Samplotron from Brown and pianist Mike Boito, with a lovely flute part on 1980 and more muted (mixed?) strings on Genoa.

2004's Hastings Street isn't dissimilar to its predecessor, although it fails to hold this listener's attention, despite being over ten minutes shorter, with few obviously memorable tracks, the exceptions, Interlude and Lagos Slums, being grouped together in the middle of the record. It apparently takes two musicians, Brown and Greg Kurstin (Ben Harper), to add the samplotron strings to Left Out.

Breakup Society  (US)

Nobody Likes a Winner  (2007,  45.21)  ***

Pittsburgh's Breakup Society morphed out of the Frampton Brothers, Nobody Likes a Winner being their second release, a punk-end-of-powerpop album, at its best on 13th Angry Man, By A Thread and Forget The Past, maybe. Producer Bob Hoag plays majorly fakey chordal 'Mellotron' flutes on How Failure Saved Me From Myself and Strictly Biological Heart.

Billy Bremner  (UK)

No ifs, Buts, Maybes  (2006,  44.19)  ***

Billy Bremner sometimes used noms-de-plume in the '70s, to avoid being confused with the (now late) footballer of the same name, although I can't imagine it's been a problem for some time. He's your classic sideman, playing in Dave Edmunds' Rockpile, alongside Nick Lowe, also playing on both musicians' solo albums and with The Pretenders, Shakin' Stevens and many others. No ifs, Buts, Maybes is his third solo album in over two decades, a collection of breezy pop/rock, a little like an '80s Pretenders album without the hideous production, at its best on the Rockpile-ish Knocked Me Over With A Feather, the title track and The Biggest Fool In Town. Dan Hylander plays fairly obvious fakeotron, with background flutes on opener The Real Problem and more upfront ones on The Picture We Painted.

Dennis Brennan  (US)

Iodine in the Wine  (1997,  47.39)  ***

Dennis Brennan's Iodine in the Wine is a decent rock-end-of-Americana album, at its best on opener Familiar Surroundings, the dark acousticity of Lies and Ones & Fours. The nearest it comes to anything Mellotronic (Duke Levine is credited), though, is a hint of background strings, er, somewhere, that could have emanated from almost anything.

Jake Brennan & the Confidence Men  (US)

Love & Bombs  (2004,  40.55)  ***

Love & Bombs is a pretty decent Americana album, at its best on raucous opener Shake 'Em On Down, It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman Until I Started Looking For Mine) and In My Stepdad's Truck, maybe. Mike Gent and Scott Janovitz are both credited with Chamberlin on Original Mixed Up Kid, but the only thing it even might be is a couple of seconds of a flutey something at the beginning of the track. Samples, then.

Brian Jonestown Massacre  (US)

Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request  (1996,  73.53)  **½
Bravery, Repetition & Noise  (2002,  43.29)  **

The Brian Jonestown Massacre may have one of the greatest names ever, but the smacked-out, stoner psych of their second album, the wittily-titled Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request is something of a disappointment, I have to say. Maybe if you're looking for a cross between early '90s shoegaze and late '60s psych, you might be happy, but its hazy drones left this particular listener cold. It goes almost without saying that, at over seventy minutes, the album's horrifically overlong, too; slash thirty minutes from this and it might actually be palatable. Band leader Anton Newcombe apparently plays most of the album's instrumentation, although several other members are credited. The liner notes refer to a Mellotron, but given that 2001's Bravery, Repetition & Noise uses confirmed samples and the 'Mellotron' sounds here are muted shadows of the real thing, it seems highly likely that it's samples we're looking at. Cue outraged e-mail from the band protesting it's a real, badly-maintained machine... Various string and flute sounds crop up on several tracks, notably the brief 'flute' solo piece Baby (Prepraise), which highlights just how poor the Mellotron sounds are here.

2002's Bravery, Repetition & Noise is no improvement, frankly; eleven songs (and a pointless remix) of smacked-out lethargy, full of weakly strummed acoustic guitars and Newcombe's lazy (and not in a good way) vocals. I'd be lying if I said that this slack, druggy kind of stuff appeals to me at all, so I shan't. Despite subsequent genuine Mellotron use, Robert Campanella (The Quarter After, Lovetones) tells me that his Mellotron flute credit on opener Just For Today is (and I quote), "A pretty lame sample"; in fact, it's a pretty lame Mellotron string sample, but let's not be picky, eh? It seems to crop up again on Leave Nothing For Sancho, but it could be merely a generic string patch; I'm not sure there's a lot of difference, to be honest. So; drugged-out psych. As it should be, surely? Only it isn't. This lot have a reasonable following, I'm led to believe, but I'd put money on most of them being young enough to see the band's immediate forebears as iconic, not tediously inept. Plenty of muffled Mellotron sounds across these two releases, but that's hardly a recommendation.

Bright Eyes  (US)

Fevers & Mirrors  (2000,  55.11)  ***
Oh Holy Fools  [split with Son, Ambulance]  (2001,  40.31)  ***
One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels  [Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova]  (2004,  21.51)  ***
The People's Key  (2011,  46.58)  **½

I'll be quite honest here; I really can't make Bright Eyes out at all. Are they named for that hideous Art Garfunkel song? Why are their song titles so much more interesting than their music? Are they really that miserable all the time? 'Net reviewers seem to be equally split between unstinting praise and utter opprobrium; brilliant or shite? Don't ask me, I don't get it. Mainman Conor Oberst seems to inspire fanatical devotion as much as he inspires utter loathing; maybe we've finally found the real 'love 'em or hate 'em' band? Fevers & Mirrors seems to be pretty typical fare for the band; understated, ultra-melancholy low-finess, with Oberst's super-personal lyrics taking precedence, or so it seems, over the music much of the time. Personal; yeah, that's it - that's the appeal. The band's fans feel that Oberst is speaking to them directly, for better or worse; he's voicing their own hopes and fears, often almost choking up with emotion as he does so. I find it completely impossible to pick better or worse tracks; although it's really only singer-songwriter fare, this music is so far from my own understanding of what it's about that I really can't judge it at all. Anyway, plenty of samplotron flutes from Andy LeMaster on The Movement Of A Hand, with an unexpected background choir part on Arienette.

The following year, Bright Eyes released an EP split with Saddle Creek labelmates Son, Ambulance, Oh Holy Fools, the bands taking the rather unusual step of playing alternate tracks. Son, Ambulance have a far less irritating singer in Joe Knapp, who doesn't whine and therefore can't be Emo, although his bright(-ish) folk rock still isn't particularly to my taste and, by the third or fourth track, begins to set my teeth on edge. Flutes (again) on Going For The Gold and a shrieky sort of string part on Kathy With A K's Song are the only samplotron definites, possibly from LeMaster again, although two or three other tracks by both bands have a vague Mellotronic feel to them. 2004's One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels EP was a collaboration with Neva Dinova (a band, not a person); it seems 2004 was the year of Bright Eyes collaborations. Despite their input, the music's pretty much the same old same old, with Oberst's irritating voice holding sway. Nice samplotron flutes yet again on Tripped, running most of the way through the song, possibly played by Nick White.

2011's The People's Key, their first album in four years, is slightly more adventurous than the dreary-indie-by-numbers of their earlier work, an occasional Cardiacs influence even making itself felt. Opener Firewall consists of little more than, for want of a better phrase, a 'total nutjob' (sorry, technical term) expounding upon the history of mankind, from an, er, 'somewhat skewed' perspective, over drifting guitar and keys, reappearing throughout, but the handful of better tracks are dragged down by the likes of closer One For You, One For Me, which made me lose the will to live. Nathaniel Walcott is credited with Mellotron throughout, but I'd be amazed if the exceedingly background strings on a few tracks, notably A Machine Spiritual (In The People's Key), emanated from a genuine machine. I'm afraid I absolutely don't get what Bright Eyes are doing, although it seems they're pretty cool politically, refusing to deal with Clear Channel and touring with Springsteen. What I can tell you is that they've used samplotron on a handful of tracks over four releases. Oh, and what I can also tell you (thanks for this, Emily) is that the band name is almost certainly a quote from Poe's Annabel Lee, referenced in Bright Eyes' Jetsabel Removes The Undesirables, available on some editions of Fevers & Mirrors, though clearly not the one I reviewed.

Brighton MA  (US)

Brighton MA  (2007,  32.21)  **

Brighton MA's Dylan-esque indie eponymous EP/mini-album's six overlong, unoriginal songs (opener Bet You Never Thought is a dead-ringer for Bowie's "Heroes") are deeply uninspiring, while Jim Tuerk's polyphonic 'Mellotron' flutes and possible strings on Good Kind Of Crazy simply aren't.

Brimstone Solar Radiation Band  (Norway)

Solstice  (2005,  45.22)  ****

The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band are a wonderful throwback to that early '70s psych/prog/hard rock crossover era, evolving from Bergen's metal scene in the '90s. 2005's Solstice is their second full-lengther, apparently a distinct step up from their fraught debut, top tracks including opener Back In The Days (1970 revisited), psych/prog epic The Spirit Of The Airborne Hogweed (ho ho) and Where Is Your Love, while Øystein Fosshagen's violin work on Norwaii Five-O (ho ho again) adds a welcome folky ingredient to the mix. The Mellotron strings fakery on Back In The Days, If Man Is Still Alive and Neon Darkness is perfectly understandable, as the chances of the band tracking down a real machine at that point were infinitesimal. Overall, then, a fine album for modern psychsters, with some decent samplotron work thrown in for good measure.

Catherine Britt  (Australia)

Catherine Britt  (2010,  42.08)  ***

Catherine Britt is an Australian country singer who apparently spent several years in Nashville, presumably honing her authenticity and boosting her credentials. Her eponymous 2010 release is actually her fourth album, a varied set incorporating electric blues/rock (opener I Want You Back, Under My Thumb), upbeat country/pop/rock (Can't Change A Thing), acoustic slide blues (Holy River) and several examples of perfectly acceptable balladry, not least Sweet Emmylou. Shane Nicholson plays Mellotron, with a polyphonic flute part on Anywhere You Are, sounding somewhat sampled.

Broadcast  (UK)

Tender Buttons  (2005,  40.32)  **½

Broadcast are a British female-fronted indie outfit with influences from the pre-psych '60s and modern electronica. Did I hear anyone say 'Stereolab'? Or 'Saint Etienne', for that matter? 2005's Tender Buttons is their third album, mixing electronic glitches with rather insipid indie songwriting to no great effect, to be honest. The rumoured Mellotron on Tears In The Typing Pool (from James Cargill) turns out to be distorted Mellotron flute samples, on the nearest the album gets to a good song. Generally speaking, you're probably not going to like this any more than me, while one track of messed-about Mellotron samples isn't going to change your mind.

Brødrene Olsen  (Denmark)

Songs  (2002,  44.54)  **

Or, The Brothers Olsen, active since the '60s. Songs is precisely that, a collection of (I presume) favourites from their respective youths, including material by The Byrds, The Beatles, The Kinks, the Monkees, even Elvis, all turned into blandola, easy-listening versions, presumably designed not to offend anyone. Think: the Danish Everlys at their most anodyne, so it's no surprise that they eventually tackle All I Have To Do Is Dream. Olle Nyberg's 'Mellotron' strings barely even qualify as samples.

Chuck Brodsky  (US)

Last of the Old Time  (2000,  43.14)  ***

Chuck Brodsky is a country artist, known for his humorous and insightful lyrical approach. Highlights of his fourth album, Last of the Old Time, include environmentally-themed opener Take It Out Back, In The Country and the amusing Schmoozing. Brandon Bush supposedly plays Mellotron.