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Hammers and Anvils

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Audio CD, August 28, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

The dawn of the 21st century is the era of New Zealand comebacks; The Clean, Go-Betweens, and Robert Scott have all resurfaced. Now Graeme Downes, the founder of New Zealand's almost famous Verlaines (and guru of the rock degree at Otago University), is adding new twists to his own still-thriving legacy. You may think Downes, who plays all the instruments on his solo debut, has a multiple personality disorder given his alternating loyalties to piano-bar tunes, woodsy guitar jangle, orchestral passages, and urban guitar squeal--but it's his loose yet articulate craftsmanship, and his mastery of the relation between phrasing, hook, and lyric, that holds Hammers and Anvils together. For maximum impact, you'll return repeatedly to the opening and title track, a jarring, sparse guitar lament referencing the singer's own "dismemberment" and drunkenness, as he's "crawling in vomit and slime." Soon after, you'll appreciate the more subtle and sublime charms throughout. Hammers and Anvils is all over the map, but it will get you there. --Cyndi Elliott

1. Hammers And Anvils
2. Cole Porter
3. Alright By Me
4. January Song
5. Cattle, Cars And Chainsaws
6. Day Of The Dead
7. Shoreleave
8. Song For A Hollywood Road Movie
9. Gucci
10. Getting Out Of It
11. Sunday's Kickaround
12. Rock 'N' Roll Hero
13. Mastercontrol

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 28, 2001)
  • Original Release Date: 2001
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Matador Records
  • ASIN: B00005N8U3
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,127 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By WrtnWrd on November 17, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Hammers and Anvils, the first solo release by ex-Verlaines leader Graeme Downes, is reminiscent of his band's best and another artist, Lou Reed, both alone and with The Velvet Underground. A monastic intensity clings to these 13 tracks. Hammers and Anvils opens with the title track: a complaint against love and the industry accompanied by stark solo guitars. It ends 40 minutes later on a vamp, "Mastercontrol", about hedonism's last stand. In between, Downes revs ("Alright by Me", "Cattle, Cars and Chainsaws") and ruminates (the gorgeous "Song for a Hollywood Road Movie") with equal compassion. His attentive, impressionistic lyrics avoid cliché. He delivers salient observations about disparate subjects - Cole Porter, Gucci, aimless Sunday afternoons, AIDS - which never feel fractious or incongruous. Casting his net wide, on Hammers and Anvils Graeme Downes captures a bounty.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bridget on October 19, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Well, I ordered this CD fully hoping to love it... I read about it, and thought that the bits of lyrics I read sounded quite lovely. Well, I will still give him that - some of his lyrics are pretty profound and interesting, but the's just not very listener-friendly. Everything sounds jangled and unplanned, unpredictable (and not in a good way), uncoordinated. It sounds sloppy and lacks a solid sense of rhythm. None of the songs really even have attempts at hooks. His voice is lacking in quality, which would be ok if he made up for it with emotion, but he does not. I'm just struggling to find a "feel" for this album, because it just sounds more like musical noise aspiring to be something beautiful, and...well, failing. Sorry...would have loved to be more positive!
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