Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Between My Head and the Sky

Ono’s weird and unsettling music that may once have alienated here from many mainstream pop fans is what fascinates and entertains on her new album.

“Between My Head and the Sky” is the first album to be released under the Plastic Ono Band moniker since “Feeling the Space” back in 1973, and features, amongst others, Sean Lennon.

Fearless experimental jazz, 60’s psychedelia and modern techno fuse in a bold and challenging piece that my daughter hates, but I rather like.

The XX: The XX

An intriguing debut from this London 3-piece. I was going to say 4-piece, but one of them is knackered already and gone for quick lie down. Bless.

The crisp clean repetitive and swirly guitars give a sort of early Cure or minimal Goth flavour enhanced by the seductive boy-girl lead vocal thing.

I like it.

Porcupine Tree: The Incident

Following the Prog Rock path to success is a long old road these days. Porcupine Tree have indefatigably toiled away since the early 90’s producing a string of consistently good albums and have very gradually and slowly established a sizable fan base.

Although I pine slightly for their early albums of cheeky floydish psychedelia, the rockier and more seriousness of recent albums seems to be wining them through.

The incident builds once again on the success of its predecessor with lengthy compositions interspersed heavy riff-age, gentle acoustic strum-age, and (to continue to invent my own lexicon), delicate piano-age, with of course a healthy dose of moody aural soundscapes.

Madness: The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Now that Chas and Dave have hung up their trilbies, Madness are cashing in on their Camden roots with a corking cockney classic.

I always saw Madness as masters of the 3-minute singles charts, but was a little more weary of their album output. Especially after such a long break, there’s always a worry of a reformation in order to bolster the pension fund. However, don’t be put off by such notions, this is a genuine classic Madness album.

The Liberty of Norton Folgate takes you around the streets of London on a musical journey with plenty of evidence of the old nutty-ness mixed in with musical and lyrical maturity.

A genuine and extremely pleasant surprise.

Röyksopp: Junior

Röyksopp are a brace of modern upbeat, Jean Michelle Jarre’s and their 3rd studio release provides a rather satisfactory aural happy slapping compared to my habitual dour preferences.

The Norwegian duo seems to have picked up the baton from French duo Air, whose 1998 breakthrough “Moon Safari” set the standard for this sub genre of modern electronica.

Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures

WTF, A supergroup that actually exceeds the sum of its constituent parts. And as those constituent parts include the greatest rock bassist from the greatest rock band, ever, that’s no light statement.

Work on TGV has been a fairly covert affair with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) beavering away for much of the year under the radar. And with Jonsey on this sort of form, Planty should be feeling suitably embarrassed for not wanting to come and play with his old mates.

“New Fang” has a vivacious beat that could cause you to hop around the lounge like Mr Spigott at a Tarzan audition.

“Scumbag Blues” has a Cream-like guitar and vocal introducing a sort of “Trampled Under Foot” clavinet funk that occasionally threatens to turn into the theme tune to Mission Impossible before squealing guitars steer things back on track.

Top track for me though is “Gunman” with its super solid bass-lines, last heard on Jonsey’s 2 solo albums at the start of the noughties.

I seem to have focused rather more on John Paul Jones’ bass parts than the other two contributors. Did I never mention that I’m a massive Zeppelin fan?

Mark Knopfler: Get Lucky

In terms of quantity, Knopfler’s solo output has now eclipsed his Dire Straits output. However, I don’t think many would be so quick to make the same claim for quality. It is perhaps unfair to compare Knopfler’s solo albums with his Dire Straits albums, they are essentially separate beasts, and to his credit, Knopfler has explored some different and often interesting avenues when not shackled to Dire Straits. However, in the case of Panic Crew, it seems to me that Knopfler has at times strayed into a Celtic-folk cul-de-sac.

It’s not that I’m just pinning for the rockier riffs and guitar solos of the old days, I have in fact enjoyed many of the slower more subtle pieces on his solo albums. Especially when he’s sniffing around that American Blues sound, and indeed there are some tracks on this album, such as “You Can’t Beat The House” where I am happily reminded of it.

Echo & The Bunnymen: The Fountain

Ever since Rick from the Young Ones addressed his letter of complaint to the lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen, I’ve been a fan of Ian McCulloch and his merry band of Scouse rabiteers.

However, if you’ve yet to buy an Echo and the Bunnymen album (and you really should), this is not the place to start. The album is instantly recognizable as an Echo album, but it’s a completely uninspiring set of mediocre songs covered in a dull coat of Coldplay production.

The lyrical puns embed in “Shroud of Turin” are so cringing it makes the song hard to listen to. Things do however pick up on the upbeat “Proxy” and the contemplative “Idolness of Gods” that closes the album

A great band sadly treading water.

The Editors: In This Light and On This Evening

I must confess to making the mistake of prejudging this album. I was expecting the well worked out commercially successful, but often bland indie rock standard formula to be adhered in order to maximise sales. I am however delighted to hear that this album has far more interest and originality than I anticipated.

Despite the vocals on many tracks sounding rather like a cross between Gene Pitney and Vic Reeves’ pub singer, I have to confess that this is a most agreeable album.

Although, it might be an idea to listen to the tracks in reverse order, as I reckon the tracks at the arse end of the album out shine the openers. In fact, better still, start off with, “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” as its wobbly bouncing rhythm and sing-a-long chorus should certainly engage your enthusiasm.

The Flaming Lips: Embryonic

Weird avant-garde music often requires you to put in a lot of hard groundwork, listening multiple times before the free form cacophony comes into focus. I frequently give up before I reach the fourth bobo of avant-garde musical enlightenment. However if you an persevere, once you’ve achieved this higher astral musical plane it is possible to exclusivley and meaningfully converse with ones fellow musical aficionados and sneer at the musically unenlightened rather like Dicky Dawkins poking out a bit of Christian from the tread of his shoe.

Actually, Embryonic isn’t really that hard work to get into. It is also quite early Floydian in places, which as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing.

Arctic Monkeys: Humbug

Admitedly a lot of pop culture passes me by unseen. However, even I couldn’t help notice the fanfare accompanying the release of the first two Arctic Monkeys albums. I was therefore fairly surprised when perusing the Amazon web site for some new audio delights, that there was in fact a third Arctic Monkeys album available that I was previously unaware of.

The distinctive thick bass and modern crisp and edgy guitars of Humbug’s brace of predesors are certainly still in evidence on this third offering, but it seems as though Alex Turner has also retained some of the suave 60’s sophistication of last year’s “Last Shadow Puppets” album.

I always enjoy a few good euphemisms in my lyrics, so I was of course delighted with album opener “My Propeller” which is basically a simple ode to Alex’s cock. The album lyrics in general though reflect the change in lifestyle that the success of the first two albums has afforded the band. The sharp working class humour has thankfully not been lost but reflects the circles that the band now move in.

So I’m not sure if there was less hype or if I jussed missed it, but either way the content is well worthwhile.

Try and seek out a copy with the Japanese bonus track, a nice cover of Nice Cave’s Red Right Hand.


Paramore: Brand New Eyes

In previews reviews I’ve waxed lyrical about albums that I’ve bought blind, and then been delighted to discover a great new band. Well I took a punt on this album with that in mind, but sadly it didn’t pay off on this occasion.

Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change The World With Music

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t listened to any Prefab Sprout since the 80’s, but this album has a very strong 80’s essence. Apart from a couple of exceptions, Paddy McAloon doesn’t seem to have done an awful lot since the 80’s either, and this new album of dated material (mainly composed of “lost” stuff from 1993) has certainly not been remixed for a new 21st century audience.

Actually I was never really much of fan of Prefab Sprout in the 80’s to start with. If it wasn’t for the fact that they came from a nearby village to where I lived at the time in Durham, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But this finally completed new set of songs has received much critical success so it would be rude not to give it a go.

The album is a concept covering the largest and most profound topics. The opening track starts off with the Big Bang and the topic of religion is frequently pondered throughout the album. “Ride” kicks off with a funky bass-line that could have accompanied an Art of Noise hit. But most of the album is a more sedate affair with tracks like “I Love Music”, which has a sort of 80’s, Jazzy, Broadway, Christmassy sort of thing going on, which I find quite agreeable.

Seasick Steve: Man From Another Time

More deft picking, sliding and stomping seems to be the only 3 ingredients needed to maintain his unique blues sound. As a big fan of last years , I Started Out With Nothing and Still Got Most Of It Left, I was delighted to hear a whole bunch more of the same.

Steve Wold sticks with his distinctive rough working class American blues that served him so well on last years breakthrough album and fascinated all those like me watching his rise to stardom courtesy of Mr Jools Holland.

The album kicks off with “Diddley Bo” played on, yes, you’ve guessed it, his one stringed Diddley Bow. A simple construction made from a wire a broom and a couple of cans with an output that defies its basic design.

“Big Green and Yeller” is a song that resonates well with me. As my dad worked for Cornwall Farmers and many of my school friends where farmers son’s, I frequently argued the superiority of a good John Deere over a Massey Ferguson, David Brown or Ford.

The Kittiwakes: Lofoten Calling

Lofoten Calling is a rich album of folklore and myth inspired by the Lofoten Islands above the Arctic Circle in Norway.

The Kittiwakes are a highly talented trio of musicians comprising of Kate Denny: vocals, violin, Jill Cumberbatch: violin, mandolin, octave mandola, guitar, vocals and Chris Harrison: piano, accordion, piano and vocals.

The title track however sees the Kittiwakes setting their instruments aside for a sublime and powerful harmonic performance. The mixture of solo vocals and beautiful and mesmerising harmonies paint a mystical picture of bleak haunting landscapes complete with soaring eagles and distant whale-song.

The album opens with Maelstrom, an accordion lead shanty based around local folklore and Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Decent Into the Maelstrom”. Denny’s captivating vocals create a power musical meme that is frequently stuck in my brain.

Perhaps my favourite track from the album is “Lynx”. It’s opening fiddling riff gives way to an elegant acoustic guitar and the tale of the Lynx searching for the path down to the salt salt sea. As the Lynx eventually finds the shore and places his paw in the sea the song fades with a beautiful piano outro. An interesting album footnote explains how the Norse name for the islands comes from their shape resembling a lynx footprint.

A wonderful, beautiful debut combing Nordic and British folk influences.

Wolfmother: Cosmic Egg

If like me, you respect the Sabbath, you may want to wrap your lugholes around the second studio offering from the Lupine Mater.

Like the early 70’s metallic giants they successfully ape, Wolfmother have already undergone a major line-up change, citing the classic "irreconcilable differences” for a reshuffle that simply retained guitarist and vocalist Andrew Stockdale.

As with the debut album, although the majority of the album sticks to an extremely plausible classic 70’s rock script, the game is given away by a couple of rouge contemporary tracks. Namely: “Far Away” which sails painfully close to a true rock fans most dreaded two words, power ballad. And the much better “Violence of the Sun” which is an excellent modern indie rock anthem akin to some of the latest Kasabian offerings.

These two songs aside, the rest of the album is pure unadulterated classic rock. For example “California Queen” has fast paced pounding verses before four slow snare beats hail in the heavy slow riffing and high vocal chorus where Stockdale takes on the roles of both Iommi and Osbourne concurrently.

The title track offers jerky Deep Purple riffs and more Sabbath Bloody Sabbath vocals. And why not check out the awesome “New Moon Rising” yourself. It's right here…

Super stuff. Ignore Mojo’s 3 paltry stars this is a 5 starrer.

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