Monday, October 16, 2017

Michael Hutchence - The Last Rockstar

The details in this documentary were thin.  There was a lot of padding.  I didn't learn anything new.  Yet it was still a million times better than the mini-series that was shown a couple of years ago.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Liam Gallagher - As You Were

Liam Gallagher pretty much personifies what it means to be a rock and roll lead singer.  He’s not a dynamic front man like Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury, but whatever he sings is dripping with the essence of rock and roll.  He’s got the chops.  He’s got the style.  He’s got the attitude.  And he certainly has the swagger.  

But does he have the songs?  Received wisdom is that Oasis were so potent because they had Noel’s songs and Liam’s voice.  But Liam’s work post Oasis has been largely forgettable.  OK, remove the word “largely”.  Can anyone name a Beady Eye song?  The main question that needs to be asked is does anything change on Liam’s solo debut?   

There’s no doubt that As You Were is the best thing that Liam has done since departing Oasis (faint praise).  It may even be the best thing he’s done this century (Oasis released 4 albums post 2000 and I challenge anyone to name a single song from any of them).    It’s actually pretty good.  It might even be very good.  It is certainly in the same sonic territory as Oasis so anyone looking for an Oasis fix will find much to like here.  The first single Wall of Glass is remarkably catchy (but then again, it does have the song writing help from Greg Kurstin who has worked with Adele and Sia among others) and there are plenty of other songs that have catchy choruses that will remind fans of the Oasis glory years.   

With Noel releasing an album later in the year, it will be interesting to compare the two albums to see which is more satisfying. 

OK big brother… over to you…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Killers - Wonderful Wonderful

The Killers have always worked best when there was tension between their love of 80s UK pop (The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths) and the rock influences from their homeland (Springsteen etc).  This gave the band a unique world view with a foot in neither camp, yet a foot in both.  The problems arise when one of these influences gains ascendency over the other and they lose what is unique about the band.  Five years since their last album the Killers return with Wonderful Wonderful and it is no exception to this rule.  It works best when the euro synths meet the widescreen US rock.  Unfortunately, there are songs which stumble too close to 80s schlock (I’m thinking about bands like Journey and Boston), but there are also songs where they get the balance just right and you can remember what made them so special in the first place. 

The whole album feels very personal.  Some songs are a love letter to Brandon Flowers’ wife (Rut, Life To Come, the title track) while others are to his children (the particularly great Tyson vs Douglas).  First single “The Man” is a return to the youthful swagger of their (near perfect) debut album.   Sometimes new territory is mined – the title track is nothing like anything they’ve recorded before.  The Calling also deserves special mention for it's slow sexy groove, but at the end of the day I can’t shake the feeling that I wanted to like this album more than I actually do.  I can’t help but think that if a new band had released this album it would have disappeared without a trace.  This is a series of songs that will sit comfortably alongside the hits when they tour, but hopefully they won’t replace any of them in the setlist.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold

Rock music is pretty much out of fashion.  The charts are filled with DJs and pop stars.  These aren’t great insights.  And the charts have been like this for years so why do I even bother pointing this out? 

I guess my point is this, is rock music ever really out of fashion?  There are always people who love to hear loud guitars and the Foo Fighters have been playing guitar music for years and they’re not going to change the template now. 

Maybe the question should be: after 9 albums how do the Foo Fighters keep things interesting?  They’ve already been down the “double album” path (In Your Honour), the “back to basics” album (Wasting Light was recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage) and the “road album” – where every song was recorded in a new city (Sonic Highways).   Concrete and Gold doesn’t see the Foo Fighters stray too far from their usual recipe, but does bring in some new flavours in the form of special guests (Justin Timberlake and Paul McCartney both feature on the album) and delivers on their usual formula with some newfound vigour.  This is music that is designed to be played loud in football stadiums around the world.  I doubt it will bring in new converts to the fold, but if you like what the Foo Fighters do then there is plenty to like on Concrete and Gold.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The National - Sleep Well Beast

What makes some music special?  Why do we listen to certain pieces of music more than others?  What grabs you?  

Usually it is pop hooks - a catchy phrase here or there, a cool musical part that gets stuck in your brain.

The National, the earnest indie rockers, are not easily confused with Taylor Swift so what drags us back to repeated listening with this band?  Over seven albums the National haven't been overburdened with pop hooks, but they have enough musicianship to keep you coming back to their albums.   Whatever they've got it grabs hold of you and gets under your skin.

The disparate musical strands on Sleep Well Beast weave together and coalesce into one grand sound that is both unique and distinctive. Guitars are pushed to the front but they don’t’ overwhelm.  The vocals and lyrics are as thoughtful as usual.  The rhythms are strong and not out of place. 

I'm not sure why it works, but perhaps it is entirely the point.  Pop hooks are easily digested and easily forgotten.  You might need to work a little harder to get the rewards on this album but when they slowly reveal themselves they stay with you.  Highly recommended.