Them Crooked Vultures / Them Crooked Vultures / Universal
Homme and Grohl and Jones. Oh my. Chances are you heard about this titanic collaboration some time ago but are only recently hearing the fruits of the labour sewed by these rock heavyweights. John Paul Jones’ British Invasion know-how, Homme’s psychedelic desert fuzz and Grohl’s precise drumming have created a sound that is both genuinely seventies and freshly original. Homme’s influence – he plays guitar and sings – seems to shine through the most, making Them Crooked Vultures sound more like Queens Of The Stone Age or Eagles Of Death Metal than Zeppelin or The Foo Fighters. Fronting the group, Homme is energetic and gritty, proving that he’s the right man to lead the group toward its distinctive vision of smoke-hazy tipsy grooves. ‘Super group’ gets thrown around a lot lately but, after hearing the instrumentation on this self-titled debut, it’s no wonder these men receive the respect that’s regularly shown them. ‘What’s the big deal about The Crooked Vultures?’ some may ask, well, first of all, it’s ‘Them Crooked Vultures,’ and, after a scant few listens, the answer to that question becomes crystal clear.
Download: “New Fang,” “Scumbag Blues”
Rush / Working Men / Universal
If there’s one thing Rush is known for, it’s putting on one hell of a live show. If there are two things Rush is known for, it’s releasing a lot of live albums. If there are three things Rush is known for, it’s including lots of meaning and personal history on their live album covers. Working Men, their eighth ‘live’ album, which is really a compilation of live performances from three of their most recent live albums, doesn’t disappoint any of these traditions. Right down to the cover, which features Corcovado mountain (representing their Rush in Rio concert) an ‘R30’ road sign (representing their 30th anniversary tour) and some arrows and a snake (take a wild guess), Working Men stands as yet another stellar testament to the now 35-year career of the Canadian trio. Included are their very biggest hits, one or two less familiar tracks (“Dreamline” and “Far Cry”), and one previously unreleased track called “One Little Victory.”
Download: “Closer To The Heart (From Rush In Rio),” “Subdivisions (From R30),” “Tom Sawyer (From Snakes & Arrows Live)”
AC/DC / Backtracks / Sony
If you’re a really huge AC/DC fan – and I mean ‘lining up a week in advance for concert tickets’ huge, or ‘maintaining elaborate Bon Scott murder conspiracy theories’ huge – then you might find it pretty tough not to get carried away and pick up the deluxe edition of Backtracks, even during this season of giving. The deluxe collection includes numerous CDs of live and studio rarities, live DVDs, a coffee table book, and a no-kidding functional guitar amplifier. While only 50,000 of these comprehensively compiled collections are being sold, the standard edition, which includes 1 CD of studio b-sides, 1 CD of rare live performances and a live DVD, would not only make an exceptional gift, but it would also be easier to justify buying for yourself than the package with the guitar amp would because, let’s face it, we’re not all Angus Young.
The CD of studio b-sides is a treat, filled with one little known song after another that would be right at home on rock radio alongside all the other AC/DC singles. Highlights include “Crabsody in Blue,” Scott’s ode to genital lice, and the guitar showcase that is “Down On The Borderline.”
The live disc features tracks spanning the Scott and Brian Johnston-eras, from concerts performed between 1977 and 1991. These songs threaten to soak your stereo cabinet with the sweat you can literally hear being exuded from the Australian rockers up on stage.
Download: “Down On The Borderline,” “For Those About To Rock”
Fall Out Boy / Believers Never Die: Greatest Hits / Universal
Has it really been seven years since Illinois’ Fall Out Boy came out with their first full length album? Has this band actually put together enough hits over five albums to justify a greatest hits album? And that can’t be right, can it? Five? Yes, it seems the answer to all of those phobic questions I’ve just poised is yes. All the twenty-word-titled songs the boys have been crowding up columns of the hits charts with appear on Believers Never Die, including “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me’,” “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” and “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You).” The compilation also includes their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” – which features John Mayer performing the big guitar solo, something I always thought was an indication of the prowess of the band’s own lead guitarist – and the track “Growing Up” from their 2003 debut album. This one is of note because it features the band’s original lineup and singer Patrick Stump wrote the lyrics. Since it’s the only one from the debut that appears – maybe it was for the best that Stump turned lyrical duties over to Pete Wentz all those years ago.
Download: “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me’,” “Beat It”
Hedley / The Show Must Go / Universal
If you’re anything like me, you wrote off Hedley for a long time as just another fleeting pop act. Of course, when you’re forced to write off a band over two successful albums and multiple singles you start to wonder if maybe you’re missing something. Then, in the summer of 2008, there was “Never Too Late,” an island rock single you couldn’t ignore with a video that was practically a shot-for-shot remake of Duran Duran’s iconic “Rio.” The band is doing a lot on The Show Must Go, their third full length, that is going to get them attention – certainly in Canada, but also possibly in the U.S. where success has eluded them to date. If they are able to make it big down south, it’s going to be because of their break out single “Cha Ching” which satirizes American reality TV and young Hollywood celebrities, name-dropping Kim Kardashian, TMZ, and Flavor Flav in the course of three-and-a-half minutes. It doesn’t really sound like a song a Canadian band could come up with, and that’s probably exactly what they were going for (lyrics include “The All-American dream / Is getting fifteen for free”). Likely-second single “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” a remixable dance-on-the-table type song about a lusty cougar, follows “Cha Ching,” but don’t get the impression that Hedley has sold out to Auto-tune and the club scene. On “Shelter” they bring a west coast beach ballad to the table, they emulate the last couple Bon Jovi albums on “Hands Up,” and it wouldn’t be a Hedley album if Jacob Hoggard didn’t spend some time generally hamming it up – as he does notably on “Amazing” (not an Aerosmith cover) and “Sweater Song” (not a Weezer cover).
Download: “Cha Ching,” “Shelter”