Album Reviews – 31/8/09
fun. / Aim and Ignite / Self-Released
Aim and Ignite, the self-released debut from New York group fun., is far more confident – vocally and instrumentally – than most indie debuts. That’s because the players involved in fun. are not new to writing, recording, and performing; the group includes members of Anathallo, Steel Train, and the now defunct The Format – all groups that began near the turn of the millennium. Songs on Aim and Ignite feature ambitious arrangements composed of strings and horns that are always pleasing to listen to, but the most consistently impressive sound on the album is definitely the vocals of lead singer Nate Ruess (formerly of The Format). At the opening of “Benson Hedges,” Ruess, backed by a gospel chorus, sounds like Colin McDonald from the Trews. Moments later, the chorus disappears, leaving Ruess alone in a vacuum with a subtle piano, this time sounding like a near-tears Damien Rice. The band has a distinct chameleon quality to its sound that keeps the listening interesting. They’re as genuine and believable on “The Gambler,” which is positively chamber music, as they are on the light-hearted, steel drum accented “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be).”
Download: “Benson Hedges”, “All The Pretty Girls”, “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)”
Arctic Monkeys / Humbug / Domino
For their third full-length studio album, the Arctic Monkeys take a slower, far grungier approach than fans familiar with songs like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” will be used to. Songs are still often provided a strong spine in the form of a thudding bass line, but always one with a slow tempo; not a speed conducive to kicking off a party on the right foot the way older hits like “From The Ritz To The Rubble” or “Brianstorm” could; and not with the charming, wallflower optimism present on songs like “A Certain Romance.” No, on Humbug, the band, with help from producer Josh Homme, paint a darker portrait of themselves. Guitars whirl and wail in the distance with a haunted surf-rock vibe, and even Alex Turner’s vocals have a ghostly, ethereal quality on tracks like “The Fire and The Thud.” Meanwhile, “Dangerous Animals” and “Pretty Visitors,” angry, dissonant and cacophonous, are show-stealing must-hears.
Download: “Dangerous Animals”, “Pretty Visitors”
Oh, Sleeper / Son Of The Morning / Solid State Records
Oh, Sleeper is a Texas metalcore band that pins its Christian influences a little more prominently on its chest than some others out there. Rather than just representing these values unconnectedly in their songs however, they’ve aimed to achieve more on Son Of The Morning. This album conceptually represents a battle between the devil and God, with the eventual de-horning of the devil, as hinted at by the broken pentagram on the album’s cover. From an English geek perspective, this concept makes it fun to draw comparisons between lyrics in songs like “Son of The Morning” (“If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything”) and John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost (which details Satan and the rebel angels’ fall from Heaven). But concept or no, a lot of the album rehashes the same old metalcore clichés with not much innovation. Their sweeping solos and angry thrashing can be quite ear-catching, but the band is more impressive during the calm interludes of “In All Honesty” and “Reveries of Flight” that sound remarkably similar to Alchemy Index-era Thrice.
Download: “Son Of The Morning”, “The New Breed”, “Reveries of Flight”
John Fogerty / The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again / Verve Music Group
Because this is a John Fogerty record, and I’ve long idolized the beautiful perfection captured on Cosmo’s Factory and Green River, I’m willing to forgive the subject-verb agreement problem in the album’s title. Rides Again serves as a continuation of Fogerty’s 1973 album The Blue Ridge Rangers, which he produced. On Rides Again, as on the original album, Fogerty covers a variety of his favourite rock and country songs, singing and playing multiple instruments on every track. Fogerty’s soothing swamp rock treatment of these hits is inspired and capable of bringing out the grizzled farmer in anyone. Try and find this on a cassette so you can listen to it in your old beat-up pickup.
Download: “When Will I Be Loved (With Bruce Springsteen)”
Farewell / Run It Up The Flagpole / Epitaph
Pop punk isn’t all bad. If a band comes forth with a legitimate original message to spread to the youth of the world then they should be commended for the effort they put in setting that message to three power chords and a snappy drum beat. If they’re just recycling all the same old standards, on the other hand, well, I’m sure the kids will still come to the shows but as for me, I’d just as soon pass. On the track “Devoid (That’s What I Think About It)” the North Carolina band rails against cookie cutter bands and asks “when did rock and roll become this fucking fashion show?” First of all, Run It Up The Flagpole is probably the most ‘cookie cutter’ album I’ve heard all year. Second of all, I’d say rock and roll turned into a fashion show somewhere in between Elvis Presley’s gold lamé suit and KISS’s notoriously gawdy stage show. On the opening track of the album, in an attempt at an anthem, the band sings, “We all fall down.” It could be a moving hymn to not giving up – if it wasn’t just ripped from the lyrics of the nursery rhyme “Ring Around The Rosie.” There’s really not much going on in this album, and it’s enough for me to not wish this group a fond farewell. Quite the opposite.
Download: “Sucker Bait”