Friday, 7 April 2017

Father John Misty - Pure Comedy Review

Allow me to postulate a ridiculous theory for a moment.  Father John Misty and Kendrick Lamar have been waging a secret backstage war against one another for their entire careers.  Good Kid M.A.A.D City was released a few months before Fear Fun, To Pimp a Butterfly in the same month as I Love You, Honeybear, and now Pure Comedy is set to compete with Kendrick’s latest effort scheduled to be released this month.  “But there’s literally no similarities in their music” I hear you say.  I can think of one similarity however, that being that, to my mind, no one can compete with either of them.  In any genre.  In this hypothetical, obviously imaginary, competition I would say Kendrick has emerged the victor of the first two encounters.  But I can’t fathom a way in which he could out do Tillman after listening to Pure Comedy.

I’m racking my brains to think of an album with a vaster scope than Pure Comedy.  Even Prog classics like Dark Side of the Moon seem surface level in their analysis of humanities place in the universe when compared to opener and title track Pure Comedy.  The lyrics describe an absurdist view of birth and gender roles in its first verse, denigrates religious ignorance in its second and a certain head of state in it’s third.  Every word is delivered with cool detachment, as if Tillman is a curious, often horrified observer.  He’s above it all, and can only stand back and watch as the less intelligent among us destroy everything we’ve built.  By the time the final chorus reaches its climax Tillman is describing reality as “something that a mad man would conceive”, and given the eloquence of his argument up until now it’s hard to argue otherwise.

The second track is the controversial Total Entertainment Forever, which opens with the line “Bedding Taylor Swift, every night inside the Oculus Rift”.  The instrumental is reminiscent of the upbeat, sunny indie rock of Fear Fun classics Nancy From Now On and Fun Times in Babylon with its brass riffs and intricate drumming.  Tillman laments that, “When historians find us we’ll be in our homes, plugged into our hubs, skin and bones”.  Things That Would Be Helpful Know Before the Revolution opts for a similar tone as the title track, but tackles more closely our detachment from one another in an age where all interaction is automated.  Oh, also it seems global warming has ended civilisation as we know it.  Which I imagine would make interaction more strained.  Tillman remains as wryly detached from the impending doom however, saying, “I’ll admit some of resentment, for the sudden lack of convenience around here”, before describing Earth as a “Godless rock that refuses to die”.  Ballad of the Dying Man paints a truly bleak portrait of the insignificant nature of human life.  The eponymous dying man laments that all his trials and goals and achievements will be washed away after his passing, and that the “homophobes, hipsters and 1%” will have no one to critique them once he’s dead.  Tillman croons, “In no time at all this’ll be the distant past”, suggesting this could almost be a sequel to his Fear Fun classic Now I’m Learning to Love the War.  It certainly discusses the same themes, the fragility of every individual’s life and legacy, and how the things we create and love in life will eventually crumble and fade. 

Birdie opens with Tillman imploring a “little winged creature” to take off, and asking it if it’s “really as free as the great songs would have me believe”.  It seems Tillman is pining for a more care free life, free of bureaucracy and its detriments. 

Leaving L.A deserves its own paragraph.  I hope one day to achieve the level of self-awareness Tillman displays on this sprawling, epic ballad.  It’s instrumental is perfect and sparse, being comprised almost entirely of a string section and Tillman’s acoustic guitar.  The focus is, and should be, the ingenious lyrics.  The apocalyptic tone doesn’t let up, “You can hear it all over the airwaves, the manufactured gasp of the final days”.  It’s almost as if Tillman is trying to outrun the end of the world, despite knowing that leaving L.A isn’t going to be enough to distance him from the coming devastation.  He continues in his description of the panic ensuing in the streets, “Anything else you can get online, a creation myth or a .45, you’re gonna need one or the other to survive, where only the armed or the funny make it out alive”.  The aforementioned self-awareness appears again as Tillman describes himself as “just another white guy in 2017, who takes himself so goddamn seriously”, perhaps mocking his curmudgeonly persona cultivated in the media.  His early career is subjected to scrutiny as he describes how he “dreamt of garnering a rave review, just believably a little north of gods own truth, he’s a national treasure now and here’s the proof, the form of his major label debut.”  The following lyrics are achingly honest, almost painful to listen to, “A little less human with each release, closing the gap between the mask and me, I swear I never do this, but is it okay, don’t wanna be that guy but it’s my birthday”.  I may be spending too much time on this one song, but it’s about 10 minutes long, and there’s no chorus. 

A Bigger Paper Bag may be slightly more digestible in terms of its length and subject matter.  Note the use of the word slightly.  It’s still primarily about the presentation and understanding of the self, I don’t know how digestible that is.  Tillman does however once again cement the idea that he is an observant outsider, singing, “I’ve got the world by the balls am I supposed to behave?”.  When the God of Love Returns, There’ll Be Hell To Pay, is my favourite song from the album.  The piano instrumental is serene, yet driving enough to propel the song.  Tillman opens with the lines, “When the god of love returns, there’ll be hell to pay, though the world may be out of excuses, I know just what I would say”, and “Let’s take you on a quick tour of your creations handy work”, before making the excuse that it’s just “human nature”, and that we “crawled out of the darkness and endured your impatience”.  He accuses god of not knowing “the first thing about human beings, we’re the world’s most soulful predators” and suggests hilariously that he “try something less ambitious the next time you get bored”. I’ve no doubt that Tillman isn’t suggesting he should be the one to commune with god should he ever return, but given the fervour and fluency of his argument I would elect him as our representative given the chance.  Above all else, this is the only truly hopeful song on the album, with Tillman describing how we as a species “just want light in the dark, some warmth in the cold, and to make something out of nothing sounds like someone else I know”.  It’s that sort of lyric that places Tillman alongside Cohen and Dylan in my estimations.

I consider this album an unsurpassable achievement, and expect it to be my album of the year.  Every line could be pored over for hidden details and meanings, every piece of rhyming wisdom praised for its intelligence, but this review is already really long so I’ll just qualify that it’s very very good and continue with my meaningless march towards death…

Charlie McCartney

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree Review

As someone who’s never suffered a truly tragic loss, I can’t fully begin to fathom the level of agony
Nick Cave was experiencing during the writing and composition of certain parts of “Skeleton Tree”.  Every inch of the album is drenched in the most focused sorrow I’ve heard put to music in perhaps my entire life. 

“Jesus Alone” opens the album, a rich tapestry of both seething, cryptic anger and despondent melancholy, with subtle allusions to the tragedy that befell Cave and his family in 2015, with lines like, “You’re a young man, waking in a pool of blood that is not your own”.  “Rings of Saturn” follows, and is comparably bright when juxtaposed with “Jesus Alone”, with its tuneful keyboard flashes scuttling throughout the background of the instrumental arrangement. 

The forlorn piano chords that open “Girl in Amber” are extremely tonally and thematically appropriate when underlying lyrics like, “Some go on, some stay behind, some never move at all, girl in amber trapped forever spinning down my hall”.  The airy spaciousness of the opening of “Magneto” is almost a respite from the clawing nihilism on display, until Cave’s broken vocals enter.  On the chorus of this song Cave’s voice sounds barely capable of singing without breaking.  The lyrics are jarringly violent, “The urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming”, perhaps documenting the indignation one feels at being singled out for tragedy. 

“Distant Sky” affected me more than any song has in recent memory.  From the harrowing but mesmerizingly beautiful drone that opens the song, to the slow post rock style building of the various ethereal instrumental threads I was gripped by the raw emotion of every aspect.  The lyrics too are immersed in a kind of poignant melancholy I have never experienced before.  Lines like, “They told us our dreams would outlive us, they told us our gods would outlive us, but they lied”, is a clear reference to Cave’s personal adversity, but lines like, “Let us go now, my only companion, set out for the distant sky”, and, “Soon the children will be rising, this is not for our eyes”, suggests Cave has increased his vision in this song to the concept of raising children as a whole, and recognising that once this work is done, life is simply about allowing them to take their own course in life.

It seems entirely inappropriate to say I “enjoyed” Skeleton Tree”.  I appreciate it’s honesty, frailty, unapologetic sadness and artistic merit in ways I can’t recall doing so for some time.  It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece, a stroke of tortured genius, inspired by the greatest tragedy a person can suffer.  It’s a contender for my Album of the Year, as well as something of an instant classic for me personally.

Charlie McCartney

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Max Ferrier - That's All I Have To Say Review

“Pretty miserable…”.  So reads the caption at the top of the soundcloud page belonging to Folk
Singer-Songwriter Max Ferrier.  While it fairly appropriately encapsulates the general atmosphere of the smattering of Jeff Mangum style home recorded demos that can be found in Ferrier’s catalogue, I’d argue he’s selling himself somewhat short. 

Ferrier’s most comprehensive and focused piece of work is the three song demo “That’s All I Have to Say”, which opens with the grief stricken “Stable”.  Comprised sonically of merely Ferrier’s voice and acoustic guitar recorded on cheap equipment, the instrumental part is as bare and despairing as the heart breaking lyrics.  Flashes of real poetry are on display here, with lines such as, “Far into the orchard I’ve run, I’d hear you’re call and catch you before you fall”, being amongst those that perfectly convey a sense of loss inspired by true devotion to a previous lover.  The often off-kilter and sporadic guitar playing lends the song a sense of frantic desperation, affording it yet another dimension of youthful teenage heartbreak. 

“Mistress of Manipulation” follows, which opens with Ferrier destitute in his admission that “I’ve lost faith in me and you, subconsciously I always knew, what you were.”  He bitterly extends the claim that his former lover is a “Mistress of manipulation” as the title suggests.  “Drumshantie” opens with a guitar passage that wouldn’t have been amiss on Sufjan Stevens “Carrie and Lowell”.  It envisions Ferrier adrift at sea, floundering amongst the waves in search of a current that will carry him to safety, and begging, “please don’t leave me here to drown”. 

In the creatively lucrative world of depressing indie folk music, Ferrier is certainly worthy of considerable acclaim.  Deeply confessional and honest sonnets for fans of Bon Iver, I recommend streaming this demo and keeping an eye on this future talent.

Charlie McCartney

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Jake Bugg - On My One Review

It seems cruel to consign Jake Bugg to the indie scrap heap so early into his career.  The fact that his debut received such commercial and critical acclaim is almost a testament to the garbled, hilarious mess that was Shangri-La, with it’s benign, bland guitar passages and horribly strained vocal lines.  Bug admits himself that “On My One” is a make or break album, and as far as I can see he isn’t likely to bounce back from this. 

Title track and opening song “On My One” opens with a sombre guitar tone, drenched in melancholy twanging atmosphere.  Lyrically it’s rather twee, and also blatantly about 5 years out of date.  Jake Bugg is many things but “A poor boy from Nottingham” is something he hasn’t been for quite some time.  Either way, the genuine emotion and tonal consistency make this one of the more bearable, if slightly forgettable, songs on the album.  The following track is what I imagine would have happened if “XTRMNTR” era Primal Scream had collaborated with Vanilla Ice.  “Gimme The Love” sees Bugg awkwardly rapping banal lyrics over a blatantly generic indie rock riff, as well as spring boarding away from the fairly appropriate tone of “On My One” into territories he’s clearly not familiar with.

The bluesy fuzzed out guitar riff of “Love, Hope and Misery” feels like Bugg is taking cues from the ridiculously dramatic Last Shadow Puppets album.  Over arranged and totally out of character for both Bugg and the album.  The chorus is fairly catchy if nothing else.  The only song that manages to recapture the melancholia of the title track is “Never Wanna Dance”, however Bugg is once again straining his voice to limits it was clearly never designed to push.  The line, “And if suddenly you leave, I will understand, ‘cause you don’t need a guy like me, who never wants to dance” is genuine and extremely evocative however, an insight into the kind of poetry Bugg is capable of when he’s not rapping about how mental his nights out in Nottingham used to be.

“Ain’t No Rhyme” is a shambles.  Skip it if you want to leave this album with your respect for Bugg intact.  “All That” is quite probably the highlight of the album.  The simplistic heart-wrenching vocals, that are actually in Buggs range for once, coupled with the descriptive lyrics are the aspects of Buggs work that could revive his career and regain him the critical acclaim he once had.

Overall this album doesn’t know whether it wants to be a sorrowful indie-folk album about crushed dreams or an acid rock infused hip hop album.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, leaves it feeling unfocused, confused and schizophrenic.  However, Bugg proves in a number of places that he’s more than capable of being a truly expressive lyricist, and that gives me hope for his future.  I would recommend you stream this album and skip his Beastie Boys impressions.

Charlie McCartney

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Weezer - The White Album Review

If, like me, you are a huge fan of Weezer and consider the Blue Album to be their finest work, then Christmas has come in April.  Their latest eponymous album comes closer to the crunching hooks and anthemic appeal of their debut than anything they’ve released this millennium.

The first few singles released in the run up to The White Album indicated this.  The personal and revelatory nature of “King of the World” perfectly encapsulates what made songs like “Undone” absolutely stellar.  It avoids the kind of uncomfortable oversharing that made listening to certain songs on Pinkerton so cringe inducing.  The main refrain of “If I was king of the world, you’d be my girl, you wouldn’t have to shed a single tear unless you wanted to” would feel cliché in the hands of any songwriter less self-deprecating and insightful than Rivers Cuomo.  “Do You Want to Get High?” is tonally darker, both lyrically and instrumentally.  The guitars are noticeably grungier and deeper.

The album opens with “California Kids”, the kind of title that wouldn’t be amiss on a Red Hot Chilli Peppers album.  The song is upbeat and joyful, right up until the chorus, at which point the beat halves in tempo.  This constitutes a poor decision in my opinion, allowing the energy built up by this point to dissipate.  “Wind in Our Sail” is a straight up pop radio hit, kitted out with tinny piano chords.  Even when the guitars do enter, they are decidedly less abrasive than on “California Kids”.  This is absolutely fine however, as the song succeeds in being yet another ear worm in Weezer’s catalogue. 

“Thank God for Girls” is lyrically fairly intriguing, with Rivers spraying a stream of consciousness in rhyming couplets over high piano chords.  The chorus is one of the densest on the album, but overall the minor key and general lack of joy makes it one of my least favourite songs on the album.  “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori”, “Jacked Up” and “Endless Bummer” up the tempo sufficiently despite the latter two being far more acoustic in tone. 

Not since Pinkerton have Weezer released an album as engineered towards crowd pleasing as The White Album.  Hard hitting guitar tones drenched in distortion complemented by memorable choruses make this an album that hard core fans will love, and newcomers will find extremely easy to get into.  I recommend buying this album on CD.

Charlie McCartney

Monday, 25 April 2016

Lovespeake - DNA - Album Review

Whether it is in their oil wealth, their comprehensive welfare state or their general “good guy” persona Norway is pretty much most people’s second favourite country and this seems to be spreading into their music, especially electronic, with people like Röyksopp, Kygo and Lemaitre all being amongst the most innovative, most popular and most fun music out there. It would appear that Lovespeake are firmly joining in with this Nordic feel good spirit.

Born from the ashes of previous project “Eye Emma Jedi” Lovespeake appears baring many similarities to their previous iteration despite a dropping of the indie rock vibes replacing them with some cool blippy electro sounds. This is a smart move and allows Lovespeake to feel far more direct and unique. Their disco influenced psych pop is infinitely danceable and throughout this record its light electro beats are competitive amongst the very best in the business.

The lead single also titled “DNA” is the most out and out pop record on this album and its disco focused beats can easily see it at home on the radio or blasting out of festival speakers.

“Dreamer” also impressed with its high pace and distorted vocals sounding like a more commercial Grimes song which is far from a bad thing.

Unfortunately however the album does suffer from a bit of repetition in places, tracks like “Every Day Electric” with its much slower 60s inspired pace and “Hello’s” minimalistic electronic sounds that allow the soaring vocals to shine through shows the ways in which the album could have been more varied. It would be good to see a differing sound throughout this album that can let every song’s qualities shine through to an even greater extent.

This album shows a hell of a lot of promise with a high chance that due to the accessibility and infectiousness of this record you will see many of these tracks being the background to many indie summer moves and advertisements in the months to come. Lovespeake have shown some impeccable beats and impressive production and I am very excited to hear more from them in the future.

I would recommend you get a physical copy of this record.

Dominic Allan.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project Review

Allow me to utterly discredit myself as a fan of music and let everyone in on a secret.  I’ve never
listened to PJ Harvey before.  I heard Let England Shake was pretty great, but I’ve simply never gotten around to listening to her somewhat impenetrable discography of what is now 9 albums.  Perhaps it’ll be interesting to review the work of such a prolific artist in a vacuum.  Perhaps I’ll stumble through blindly committing indie faux pas and outing myself as a fool.  Only time will tell.

The album starts extremely strongly, with “The Community of Hope”.  The guitar tones are both distorted and grungy, yet possess an uplifting ethereal dreaminess that is absolutely captivating the second it starts bouncing around my ear drums.  The lyrics are wryly observant of a deprived area, tinged with political dissent.  The vocals are intense, commanding and distinctly 90s.  The distortion is amped up on “The Ministry of Defence”, as are the political statements, with lines such as, “This is the ministry of defence, stairs and walls are all that’s left, mortar holes let through the air”.  The tone darkens as the album progresses through “A line in the Sand” and “Chain of Keys”. 

“River Anacostia” opens with soulful harmonising male voices before succumbing to tribal drum beats and Harvey’s absolutely chilling vocal passages.  I felt the quality dipped ever so slightly with “Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln” and “The Orange Monkey”, both songs being perhaps the most forgettable on the album.  It swiftly picks back up on the haunting “Medicinals”, and remains consistently spell-binding through more politically charged angst on “The Ministry of Social Affairs”.  “The Wheel” has an air of classic rock swagger to it, and is kitted out with a driving beat, brass section and fiery guitar solos. 

The final song “Dollar, Dollar” begins with a sample of a busy street that goes on for an aggravatingly long time, before sensuous organ tones float in and out of focus, while Harvey’s vocals pierce through the dreamy haze.  Experimental stabs of either Saxophones or Bassoons enter to complete the odd final songs instrumental. 

If, like me, this is your first time hearing PJ Harvey’s music, I struggle to imagine anything you could find to dislike.  Artfully crafted and genuinely inventive art-rock instrumentals peppered with incisive and intelligent lyrics backed up by commanding vocals.  I recommend you get this album on vinyl.

Charlie McCartney

Monday, 11 April 2016

Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo - Album Review

The mainstream attitude approaching the release of Kanye West’s seventh studio album will almost certainly be perplexing in years to come and the question of whether or not this attitude is natural or in some way shaped by West himself is sure to join a catalogue of unanswered questions regarding the most discussed, most hated and most enamoured artist of the 21st Century. Looking solely at music it would be impossible to understand how public perception following album’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus and more recently tracks like Only One, FourFiveSeconds and All Day could be anything but wholly positive with almost all music released by West in this time being hugely critically acclaimed and commercially successful. To look only at the music surrounding this release however is almost as naïve as not looking at the music at all. The culture surrounding The Life Of Pablo and its many aliases is fraught with controversy, some the product of ever excreting new media sensationalism and others the product of downright stupidity by West and his team. In the months which veered into over a year of waiting for this album things like album name changes, West’s insistence on his main focus being the fashion world, weekly private listening sessions with various famous faces, the release of Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly all led many to believe that West had been usurped with the troubled release leading to a collective expectation that West would drop his first substandard album.

With The Life Of Pablo now more widely available on Spotify and available for purchase on his website it can now be seen that the album (in a way mirroring its troubled release) does not conform to what might have been expected of it. It is by no means some horrible, unforgivably bad album and it also by no means a troubled brilliant opus (as some West fans optimistically dreamed of) instead contenting itself with being yet another excellent Kanye West album that has some of the best sampling, the worst lyrics and perhaps the most interesting discussion of his career.

Ultralight Beam with its strong gospel elements harkens back to The College Dropout and in it West respectively takes a back seat to allow Chance the Rapper to continue his exceptional rise with one of the best verses on the entire album showing in just a few verses an incisive catchy edge than in many ways West is missing throughout this record
Parts 1 and 2 of Father, Stretch My Hands show a return to the jagged, eclectic brilliance of Yeezus, especially the Caroline Shaw bridge which closes this record. This element settles the range of complexities regarding religion and his parenthood in a way which allows the listener to contemplate fully the various traumas he reflects on throughout these two tracks. The Desiigner sample however was a poor choice, is the worst on the record and with the quality of sampling being so high throughout I would expect something more interesting from West.

There can be a real argument that Famous is the most frustrating and most typical “Kanye” song of his entire career. If it was lyrically superior there would be far less reason to feel the need to asterisk the song’s brilliance with buts and compromises. The Swift referencing line despite the controversy over the line’s permission or significance is all in all just not very good. If it were worded with more intelligence there could be more cause to feel the need to defend West from the obvious criticism which would come with writing such charged lyrics but they simply comes off as brutish and lacking the self-awareness that is expected of West at this point in his career. This leads to frustration in truly complimenting the absolute delight that is the music and sampling present here. In particular the sample of Sister Nancy which glides into the song and is an instant burst of utter bliss that is a testament to sampling as an art form and is my clear highlight of the entire album.

The next few songs on this album are one of the major reasons the album does feel bloated. It seems extremely surprising that The Life Of Pablo actually clocks in at over ten minutes shorter than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with tracks like Lowlights, Highlights, Freestyle 4 and Facts not impressing greatly. A shorter more direct approach would have complimented the sound of the album to a greater extent and left the project feeling far more cohesive.

 I Love Kanye does deserve a mention with its inclusion being an interesting pastiche of self-reference that we have yet to see explored by Kanye West and although being no more than what is basically a skit would be interesting to see in a fully-fledged song.

The four songs following on from this all share a minimalist feel and feature some of the best features and rapping from West himself in the entire album. West’s second verse on Waves is excellent and Chris Brown sounds as good as he has since his early, Jackson-esque roots. On FML The Weeknd sounds almost unrecognisable to the sound which has deservedly seen him rise to fame and West’s verses rise in pace, in anger and in merit. On Real Friends and Wolves West reflects on his struggles in hopelessness and his relationship with his family and friends. Its openness is not unusual for West and on Wolves the Vic Mensa, Sia and Frank Ocean features are all among the best on the album.

The final few tracks on the album impress in various ways, 30 hours sampling and the story associated with the song are truly captivating , with Wests most competitive lyrics coming in No More Parties in LA facing the almost undisputed best current rapper  Kendrick Lamar. He certainly does not trounce Lamar as some may have suggested but he does firmly hold his own and rather than focus on competing it is a better idea to sit back and enjoy two of the greatest creators of our generation at the top of their games.

West concludes the album with a masterclass in sampling, Fade sonically sounds excellent however the lyrics all around from Ty Dolla $ign, Post Malone and West himself don’t hold up in comparison to the sampling something which is unfortunately is a theme throughout this album.

This album will likely grow on many as it finally enters the public eye in a bigger way. Once given enough opportunity the genius which is present all over this album will rise to notoriety. Unfortunately the genius on this record is not ever present. There is a fair few times where we can see West at his absolute weakest with chunks of the album feeling tacked on and many of the lyrics not keeping up with the standards expected of the best in modern hip-hop. This album leaves West at an interesting crossroads with West at the most efficient we have seen him in many years yet also public expectation of his work could be seen to be at its lowest.

Throughout this album there is enough material to fit two sides of vinyl that would be easily amongst the best of his career, however I can only recommend you get a hard copy of this in its current state (If one is ever released.)

Dominic Allan.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come to Expect Review

The latest outing from Alex Turner and his sidekick Miles Kane isn’t what I would have expected or wanted around the time Humbug and The Age of the Understatement were being released.  Certainly not from Turner anyway.  While The Age of Understatement was drenched in self-deprecating incisive brilliance, Turners music has progressively become more cringe inducingly tone deaf since the release of AM, an album that I consider to be the low point in his career.

Apologies to the Miles Kane fans if I seem to focusing somewhat on Alex, but judging by the two’s other output, basically everything good about The Last Shadow Puppets is due to the involvement of Turner.  If anything, I tend to blame Kane for this rock star façade he’s adopted, and the absolutely awful music he’s produced as a result of it.  So admittedly, I had fairly low expectations for this new project by the two of them. 

However, having said that, I will admit to having been somewhat pleasantly surprised by the level of self-reflection and insecurity on display in some of these songs.  I don’t know of anyone who wanted Alex Turner to become the exact vacuous rock star he mocked in Fake Tales of San Francisco, but it’s nice to see he’s dropped the lothario rock god image to an extent.  On the title track, Turner sings in a melancholy tone, “I just can’t get the thought of you and him out of my head”, the kind of lyric that wouldn’t be out of place on Suck it and See if were slightly more articulate.  “Element of Surprise” opens with the line, “There’s a set of rickety stairs, in between my heart and my head, and there ain’t much that ever bothers going up them”, lyrics that lend a level of nuance to the kind of self-assured superstar Alex portends to be.  Miles manages to almost derail the album entirely with “Bad Habits” a song with almost know musical or lyrical merit that I can excavate from its rank corpse.  It’s songs like this that make me wonder what Turner sees in Kane, and why he doesn’t just have a solo career writing more albums like Submarine, but I suppose we all have that one friend our mum makes us hang about with. 

For every song that develops a level of depth to Turners clearly very interesting psyche, there are two that involve Miles Kane pretending that being friends with a rock star makes him one too, and singing about “little girls” and doing other weird creepy things he likes to do.  It certainly isn’t a bad record, and it’s an improvement from AM in almost every respect.  But Turner could do so much better alone. 

Charlie McCartney 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The 1975 - I like it when you sleep etc. Review

Perhaps the most efficient way to review this record would be to describe the aspects of it which
aren’t horribly misjudged or insufferably smug.  There are a handful of passable instrumental parts, and whoever made Matt Healy’s vocals sound remotely listenable deserves an award of some kind.  That’s about all I have to say that’s remotely positive about the obnoxiously titled “I Like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it”. 

Opening with what sounds like a choral excerpt from “The Life of Pablo” that was deemed too pretentious for even Kanye, the album is instantly too grandiose for its own good.  Things take a nose dive as the album segues awkwardly into “Love Me”, on which Healy displays his ability to be putrid pretty excellently.  Lines like “you’ve got a beautiful face but nothing to say”, really make you wonder what kind of ego he’s sporting, especially given the subject matter of the song being as hypocritical and desperate as they come.  This latest attempt by a pseudo indie band to tap into the “real music wanker” mentality has managed to even transcend music, and finds Healy railing against just pop-culture in general, in an attempt to make himself seem like the talented and astute outsider, but falls flat in almost every self-satisfied line.  The instrumental for “UGH” doesn’t help his case by being about as basic as pop music comes. 

“A Change of Heart” contains some of the most ham-fisted and jarringly awkward lyricism I’ve ever heard.  “Was it your breasts from the start?  They played a part.”  Smooth Healy.  Smooth.  He later seemingly justifies a break up with the line, “You used to have, a face straight out of a magazine, now you just look like anyone.”  “She’s American” has a pretty infectious groove to it, and is actually probably the highlight of the album, given that the lyrics are basically functional.  Healy’s vocals are slightly grating at times, but that’s essentially unavoidable.

For the most part, my issues with the album lie as much in the pseudo visionary instrumentals as the lyrics.  “Please be naked” is one such piece of drawling ambient pop that leave the album feeling bloated and more than a bit pompous.  “Lostmyhead” may as well fall into this category as well given the lack of remotely interesting or substantial lyrics. 

In fact, the approach to every song past the halfway point on this album seems to have been how can it be made as needlessly long and bland as possible.  “Somebody Else” and the title track are as meandering and directionless as any pop song I’ve heard this year, and the former has some of that classic Healy narcissism.  Things get somewhat back on track with another of the passable songs “The Sound”, on which the catchy instrumental does just enough to hold my attention until the end of the album, despite the closing end being as dreadful as the beginning.

If the laughable sexual posturing of their debut wasn’t for you, then, like me, you probably don’t need any more reason to dislike this band.  If you totally bought that Matt Healy was an androgynous sex icon, then stop reading this review and go away.  I’m surprised you’re even still here.

Charlie McCartney