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Pop - Released March 28, 2012 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released December 1, 2008 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released November 25, 2008 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released November 25, 2008 | Stiff Records

Irrepressibly quirky or frankly eccentric? Either way, an hour-plus in the company of the best of Jona Lewie is sufficient to induce fits of gleeful air piano playing in the most discriminating listener -- an hour-plus, that is, in the thrall of such offbeat pop classics as "Stop the Cavalry" and "Louise," the demented travelogue of "Hallelujah Europa," the wallflowering anthem of "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties," then on and on for 22 tracks until you reach the closing cover of Devo's "Be Stiff" -- and you thought the Mothersbaugh brothers were weird? Charting Lewie's entire Stiff label career from the opening single, "The Baby, She's on the Street" (later covered by Ian Matthews), and democratically dividing the tracks between each of the ensuing albums, The Best of Jona Lewie falters only in that democracy. Arguably, the collection would have been served had it absorbed his On the Other Hand There's a Fist debut album in its entirety (four tracks are missing), while the period B-side "Police Trap" is also conspicuous by its absence. There is great joy, however, in being reacquainted with later gems "I Think I'll Get My Hair Cut," "Rearranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic," and "The Seed That Always Died," and the upshot is, if you enjoy the first half of The Best of Jona Lewie, there's nothing to prevent you enjoying the rest. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 25, 2008 | Stiff Records

First brought to fame as a member of the idiosyncratically named Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs, U.K. hitmakers in the early '70s, Jona Lewie proved that band's oddball output was no fluke when he materialized within the Stiff Records roster at the end of the decade. An unlikely attraction on the label's second package tours, rubbing shoulders with acts as disparate as Detroit art goddess Lene Lovich and the inestimable Wreckless Eric, Lewie then scored a minor cult hit with the insistent "The Baby, She's on the Street," before unleashing his debut album in 1980. "The Baby" remains one of the easiest entries into On the Other Hand There's a Fist, a set that otherwise plays out like a nouveau-cabaret act, tight and cohesive, infused with good humor and the light pattered songs that Lewie did best -- the menacing title certainly belies the content. Leaping into the fray with the catchy pop of his U.K. Top 20 "(You'll Always Find Me in The) Kitchen at Parties," which features Kirsty MacColl in the backing chorus (and again on "A Bit Higher"), it's only a matter of time before he reaches the sweet, old-time love song "God Bless Whoever Made You," a marriage of '60s innocence with blistered guitar that ultimately emerges a Stiff trademark -- interesting quirk. Elsewhere, he hits streets with "On the Road" and the bluesy piss-fest "I'll Get by in Pittsburgh," which just leaves one of the album's few sour moments, "Feelin' Stupid" -- which ultimately sounds stupid too. Plying his wonderful voice like another instrument in his band, Lewie adds his own uniquely styled verve to an already eccentric generation of vocalists. Although probably unknown in the United States, Lewie is a voice to be sought out, and reckoned with. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 19, 2008 | Stiff Records

If Stiff Records wanted to market Rachel Sweet as an ironic sex symbol, they succeeded only at the irony of forbidden fruit; the picture of her on the back of this disc in a rugby shirt and jeans, head cocked, hands on hips, could grace the cover of Lolita's next edition. Sweet was fully sweet 16 in 1978, though, and pictures aside, "the little girl with the big voice," as the bosses billed her, lived up to that description. Belting, whooping, pleading, and near-weeping through the speakers, she rides the crest of Liam Sternberg and his Spector-ized production (that feel of a marching brass band keeping warm on a snowy morning), embodying the tough, rowdy sides of Brenda Lee and Wanda Jackson, though not so genre-bound as the latter. Sternberg's "Wildwood Saloon" and Elvis Costello's letter-perfect "Stranger in My House" hearken back to Sweet's childhood country records, but Carla Thomas' gleeful "B-A-B-Y," Del Shannon's mournfully up-tempo "I Go to Pieces," and Dusty Springfield's desperate "Stay Awhile" pulsate into new life through her throat, a crackerjack band including Brinsley Schwartz and Lene Lovich swirling faithfully along. Another Sternberg original, "Who Does Lisa Like?," opens with, "Sittin' around in the Firestone parking lot/It's alright!," and climaxes by insisting on the primacy of the title question over starvation in India and war in Baghdad. Only a true believer touched with the power of imputing her true belief could run that one back for a touchdown. © Andrew Hamlin /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 22, 2008 | Stiff Records

With Wreckless Eric back on Stiff Records for the first time in 30 years, it was easy for various listeners to say he was back on form as well. Ha! He never lost form. Indeed, the chain of albums that divides Big Smash! way back when, from Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby today, represents one of the most startling adroit voyages in modern rock, as the occasionally novelty minded auteur behind "Waxworks," "Personal Hygiene," and "Pop Song" developed such a weary eye for modern nonsense that civilization itself should have hung its head in shame. Blessed with a tongue so tart you could serve it for dessert, Eric long ago established himself among the most important songwriters of his generation and, sharing the spotlight with a conspirator who seems just as brusque as he is, he maintains that proud status here. Songs are divided unequally between the pair, Rigby writes five, Eric two, and the partnership meets for three more. But every one hovers around the same darkened corners of discomfort and damage, and though Eric all but threatens autobiography with the ferocious "The Downside of Being a Fuck-Up," you know he wouldn't have it any other way. As usual with latter-day Eric albums, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby is not the easiest listen, sparse and Spartan, with the harmonies not so much layered against one another, as splattered across your ears. But dissolution quickly dissolves into compulsion, and "Another Drive in Saturday" is the best slice of drifting, haunting nostalgia you've heard since Bobby Goldsboro recalled "Summer the First Time," or Eric himself revisited "Lureland." The result is a masterpiece, and a master class in what songwriting is really all about. Songs. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 8, 2008 | Stiff Records

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Ambient/New Age - Released October 15, 2007 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released September 17, 2007 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released September 10, 2007 | Stiff Records

In 1998, at the time he was promoting his I Love This Town album, Clive Gregson indicated that his former '80s pop band, Any Trouble, would re-form only if original guitarist Chris Parks were involved. Thankfully, 25 years after the early lineup had last played together, the planets aligned and Gregson, Parks, bassist Phil Barnes, and drummer Martin Hughes were able to re-form and perform live for the first time since 1981. With renewed interest in the band, they set about recording a new studio album, although Barnes (who had played on all four of AT's original albums) had to opt out and was replaced by Plainsong bassist Mark Griffiths. The results are everything an Any Trouble and Clive Gregson fan could ever wish for...except not quite as fast. Longtime fans will always cherish the band's folk-inspired guitar pop played at breakneck speeds, but on Life in Reverse, Clive and the boys manage to keep the tempo upbeat but with more heart and less hustle. "That Sound" is the perfect leadoff track, a song that straddles the line between Clive's folkier solo work and the classic AT "sound." "What Do I Have to Do?" features stellar guitar work from Parks, who still plays fresh, crisp, and clean guitar lines that truly sing. "The Man I Used to Be" has a soulful groove accented by great organ work. "Tremolo" could have fit on the band's debut, Where Are All the Nice Girls?, but still sounds thoroughly modern. And so it goes on -- while not every track is spine-tingling, they are all worthwhile additions to the Any Trouble catalog. The album's overall vibe is closer to their debut and steers away from the slightly dark feel of their sophomore album, Wheels in Motion. Life in Reverse celebrates the past while also looking forward and is an album the band (and its fans) should be very pleased with. These are talented guys who never received the fame that they so deserved, but it's never too late, is it? © Steve Schnee /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 3, 2007 | Stiff Records

Led by singer Eddie Tudor, Tenpole Tudor emerged in the post-punk era, but the good-humored, drunken-party feel of their records had more in common with the U.K. pub-rock sound that predated punk. This collection puts their first two albums for Stiff Records together in one place, as the band combines a raffish punk sensibility with rockabilly roots and a tart tongue planted firmly in their collective cheek. © TiVo
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Pop - Released February 12, 2007 | Stiff Records

Being one of the most idiosyncratically British record companies ever, it's no great surprise that the folks at Stiff Records had curious taste in Americans, but the Yankee acts signed to the label were generally pretty good (among them Rachel Sweet, Joe "King" Carrasco, the Feelies and Devo), and one of the best U.S. acts to record for Stiff were Dirty Looks. A tight, nervy and admirably hooky trio from Staten Island, Dirty Looks recorded two albums for Stiff, and both LPs (along with a fistful of bonus tracks) are featured in full on this two-disc set. 1980s self-titled debut is a firecracker set of rock & roll that hits just a shade too hard to be called power pop; the songs are great, the band is on fire throughout, and in a better world, "Let Go" and "They Got Me Covered" would have been Top Ten singles. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the band's second and final album, Turn It Up. Nick Garvey of the Motors was the producer, but the energy and razor-edged guitar sound of the previous disc are curiously absent, and the result is an album that's lighter and more approachable, but not nearly as fun or exciting as their first go-round, though the band still play with no small skill. The whole of disc two in this set is devoted to Turn It Up, while the first CD not only features the superior Dirty Looks, but some fine bonus numbers -- three non-LP single sides, and four live cuts from the 1980 Son of Stiff package tour, including a fiery cover of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation." This set brings together everything Dirty Looks released during their lifetime, and while you might not pull disc two out of the case all that often, the first half of this package is mighty music that merits the deluxe treatment it has been given on this two-fer. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released December 17, 2006 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released May 30, 2006 | Stiff Records

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Rock - Released May 30, 2006 | Stiff Records

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Blues - Released April 20, 2006 | Stiff Records

Lee Brilleaux invested in the groundbreaking British independent label Stiff when it was being launched in the mid-'70s, so it is sort of appropriate that Dr. Feelgood eventually recorded for the label. The only trouble is, it wasn't in 1976, when Stiff and Feelgood were at their peak; it was in 1986, as Stiff was sliding toward bankruptcy and Feelgood were far from their popular heyday. Dave Robinson, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the way to restore both his label and the band to their proper glories was by refashioning them as radio-ready, R&B-tinged popsters. Of course, that ran contrary to the group's entire career, but they decided to follow his advice, and with producer Will Birch, the group assembled their most eclectic batch of songs ever. Although the smoother sound strips much of Feelgood's gritty essence, Brilleaux remains a varied, entertaining record -- it's a welcome change of pace from the driving rockers, even if it wasn't welcomed by radio as originally planned. [The 2006 CD reissue includes bonus tracks.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Blues - Released April 20, 2006 | Stiff Records

By 1987, Dr. Feelgood had been churning out their raw variety of Canvey R&B for so long that even the newest songs sounded ferociously familiar. But Classic probably wasn't the most aptly named album in their canon, simply because it is anything but. No complaints about the music, even allowing for a less-than-enthused take on "See You Later, Alligator." A gritty cover of Dylan's "Highway 61" is utterly inspired, while Will Birch and Kevin Morris had moved firmly ahead as the band's most dynamic source of new material. Even astride the broadest stage on the planet, the Feelgoods were a bar band, grinding out their gravel-edged blues with a bottle in one hand and a switchblade in the other, and Classic's contents spell that out from the start. But somewhere between stage and studio, it all went horribly wrong, and Classic emerges so absurdly over-produced that you need to physically hack your way through the horns and backing singers in the hope of finding the band...yes, that's them, that bad-tempered grumble at the back of the room, somewhere behind producer Pip Williams' apparent conviction that a song the caliber of "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" has spent its entire life crying out for a keyboard wash. The Feelgoods made a lot of great albums and a lot of so-so ones. Classic, however, is the first that can be called truly awful. And it seems to know it as well -- the best song is called "Quit While You're Behind." © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 20, 2006 | Stiff Records

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Pop - Released April 20, 2006 | Stiff Records