Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Slow Readers Club


The Slow Readers Club are my new favourite band.  Or maybe I should phrase that my favourite new band.  They are from Manchester and have released two albums (self-titled and Cavalcade).  Both albums are pretty great – the band have an indie electro sound that isn’t a million miles away from bands like Joy Division, The Temper Trap or the Editors.  The most pleasing thing is that while the debut album is good, the follow up is even better. 

Cranberries - Something Else

The Cranberries have doing the classic “let’s release an acoustic album move” to reinvigorate their career (because who has thought about the Cranberries in about 2 decades???)
What interests me about this album is that the new versions made me really listen to the lyrics for the first time.  Or it made me “hear” them for the first time.  I felt that this album would be just a cynical rehashing of old glories, but the new versions really put a positive spin on the back catalogue. 
File under: Pleasantly Surprised

Gorillaz - Humanz

Humanz is the kind of album made for your ipod.  One where you dip into, pick the songs you like and make your own playlist.  This is kind of strange - because the conceit behind the album is that it is a bit of a concept piece about the aftermath of a world changing event.  It’s been sold as a “party-album-for-a-world-gone-mad”.  So the album has an overarching theme.  It also has songs that tackle racism, mental illness, the self-absorbed views of the internet, military intervention … etc., etc., etc. … but it best experienced in small doses. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Depeche Mode - Spirit

When looking for a band to make a “state of the nation” address, Depeche Mode isn’t the first band to spring to mind.  If you are looking for songs about relationships, sex or religion, then they’re your band.   

On this, their 14th album, The Mode have turned their gaze outward rather than inward.  New producer James Ford has obviously inspired the band to rise to new levels, rarely seen this millennium. It is new, yet familiar.  It is chunky and gritty but also soulful and electronic. 

First single Where’s the Revolution is easily the catchiest single they’ve released in years and it is a great indication as to the topics the band has focused on for this album.   Thematically the album talks about the state of the world.  It’s hard not to think about Trump and Brexit when hearing lines like “going backwards, to a caveman mentality” (Going Backwards), “there’s a lynching in the square, you'll have to join us” , "uneducated readers" (The Worst Crime), “Where’s the revolution, come on people you’re letting me down” (the call to arms Where’s the revolution) “Corporations get the breaks”, “when will it trickle down” (Poorman) and Fail ends the album on a depressing note “Oh, we’re f**ked” (yes, really). 

But not everything is concerned about the going on in the world.  Songs such as Poison Heart, Cover Me, You Move and So Much Love cover familiar lyrical ground (this is a good thing by the way).  You Move (the first song ever co-written by Martin Gore and Dave Gahan), will certainly do what it says on the tin and has a chorus that will get stuck in your head for days.  Even better is Scum.  Over a pulsing rhythm it feels that the band have taken matters about the world into their own hands.  The “pull the trigger” hook is hard to dislodge from your brain.

Historically, Martin Gore has been the sole songwriter for Depeche Mode.  On recent albums Dave Gahan contributed a few songs, but the results have always been a bit patchy.  On Spirit, however, it is hard to tell who wrote which song.   The album, while not having an over abundance of hooks, is filled with a gloomy and atmospheric mood that allows you to wallow in the recordings and let them wash over you. 

If I were to have one criticism of Spirit it would be that James Ford reportedly wanted a shorter album (10 songs), while the band wanted a longer one (12 songs).  I can’t help but feel that he’s right.  A couple of songs shaved from the track listing would have strengthened the album from being good to being great.  Still, Spirit shows a band very much on the top of their game.  It might not surpass the classics the band made from 1986-1997, but it can certainly stand confidently next to them.