Eels: Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire

Eels’ 7th studio album is a concept album. However, it’s one of those rather “loose” concept albums. Despite numerous listens (I was going to say countless, but thanks to iTunes I know exactly how many times I’ve listened to it), I was simply enjoying it as a collection of random songs without seeing the connection. Perhaps if my Spanish was a little better and I’d taken the time to read the album sub title, I might have realised that “Hombre Lobo” is the Spanish for werewolf, and the whole album is a follow up to Souljaker’s “Dog Faced Boy”, exploring the various types of desire through the album’s hairy protagonist.

Standout tack is “Fresh Blood” which starts off with thumping drums and a slow bass keyboard before the song title is followed by a piercing scream that leads us into a rollicking chorus with howling and declarations for the need of fresh blood. Hang on a minute, how did miss the theme of this album again. Cock.

Pearl Jam: Backspacer

The term “return to form” is a favourite amongst music journalists, and I’m sure if I read back through my old reviews, I’ll discover that I’ve abused it a fair bit too. I loved Pearl Jam’s debut album so much that the anticipation of any new material in the early to mid 90’s was always high, but with each subsequent new release the anticipation diminished until their eighth studio album that I never actually got around to buying until at least 6 months after its release. “Oh, another new Pearl Jam album, better get it, after all I’m such a completist”.

But I’m glad I didn’t waste too much time acquiring a copy of “Backspacer”, named after that outdated typewriter key. Production reigns have been handed back to Brendan O’Brien and although their Grunge roots may seem quite distant at times from this poppier and punkier direction, it seems to work, so I’m loathed to call it a sell-out.

The overall tempo has picked up from those early moody, angst soaked, slow burning classics that eventually worked their way around to the blistering guitar solos. The Coldplay styled bashing keyboards on “Unthought Known” are overlaid with Eddie Vedder’s rich vocals. “Supersonic” as the title suggests is a face-paced number with a simple punk riff that could get the less self-conscious pogoing around the lounge. But my personal favourite is “Amongst The Waves” which admittedly is one of those moody angst soaked, slow burning classics that eventually works it way around to the blistering guitar solo.

I really like the artwork on the cover too. Take note Ian Brown.

David Sylvian: Manafon

This album is so minimal it’s like Chinese water torture waiting for the next note to finally arrive. My pigeon remains unfluffed. Sorry.

Ian Brown: My Way

Ex Stone Roses front man and bipedal ape, Ian Brown, returns with his 6th solo offering. I really enjoyed Brown’s first two solo albums so I’ve kept with him, but despite retaining those familiar vocals, still undistinguishable from the Stone Roses’ classic debut, I’m left pondering what could have been.

Without John Squire on guitar, Brown, as the album title suggests, does it his way, and that way invariably involves synthesisers, loops and processed beats. There’s nothing wrong with stretching the boundaries and looking to take things in a new direction but Brown seems to have set off without a map and consequently I’m not really sure where he is right now.

Opening track “Stellify” is engaging enough with its boppy keyboard and energy levels are retained with the equally bouncy “Just Like You”.

Brown’s cover of “In the year 2525” is not terribly dissimilar to the original which make it instantly likeable, but I prefer my cover versions to add a new dimension rather than just being a facsimile.

The remainder of the album fails to provide anything to really engage me. Perhaps the most memorable thing will be the truly awful album cover. Is there a prize for worst album cover ever? If so, this has to be in the running.

Black Crowes: Before The Frost

Mid 70’s southern blues rock isn’t as fashionable now as it was in say, the mid ‘70’s, so kudos indeed to the Black Crowes for refusing to kowtow to current vogues.

There is not a single sound bite on “Before The Frost” that would identify it as a contemporary album. Recording the album in Levon Helm's Woodstock barn before a special selected close audience may well sound like a simple marketing gimmick, but it adds a cosy feel, hearing a small enthusiastic crowd in between tracks. Unless that was just a way of masking the in between track brawling noises of brothers Chris and Rich Robinson going at each other like, well two brothers in a rock band.

“Good Morning Captain” gives us a boogie-woogie piano intro into a blues rock standard that sets the scene for the entire album.

My favourite track of the album, “Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)" is a lengthy piece that gives the band the room to stray into something that sounds like a live jam with guitar, Hammond organ and harmonica taking it in turn to play the lead.

“Appaloosa” has the slow sliding guitars of an Eagles classic that slows things down again.

It may sound a little dull to the modern rock fan used to more speed and gusto, but to my ears this is perhaps their best album.

Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk


Muse: The Resistance

It’s often easy to convey the feel of an album by throwing in a few musical comparisons. This can be very easily and accurately accomplished in the case of Muse’s 5th studio offering which quite literally sounds like they’ve taken a selection of Queen and Radiohead CD’s and cleverly remixed them down into a single album.

The album kicks off with the vivacious “Uprising” and its rolling back beat, not dissimilar to the Timelords’ “Doctor and the Tardis”, punctuated with a simple guitar riff.

“United States of Eurasia” has an epic Freddie Mercury style vocal and a Brian May styled screeching guitar solo before fading into a classical piano outro.

“Guiding Light” shamelessly recycles Ultravox’s “Vienna” and adds a Thom Yorke vocal and tinkling guitars that to be honest left me pining for the sparseness or the original classic.

“Unnatural Selection” cranks it up a few gears with a clean and sharp Rush styled guitars.

The closing 16 minute classical symphony in 3 parts, “Exogenesis” proves without any shadow of doubt that Muse are so far up their own arses that an embarrassing trip to casualty will be required to bring them back to reality. The classical element of the first part is a simple repetitive Philip Glass affair with extravagant vocals and a guitar crescendo that leads into a truly moving and impressive classical piano piece. I know that sounds a little unkind, but it’s not a criticism I love a nice bit of pompous rock.

A truly grandiose rock album as pretentious as anything Yes ever accomplished in the 70’s.