April music reviews

Thought we should lighten the mood of election fever and the future of public procurement with a few album reviews. But it is a tough month actually for a reviewer; a couple of new albums that I feel ideally you would want to live with for a while before commenting on.

Paul Weller has had rave reviews for Wake up the Nation (should still be streamed here).   And that is not surprising; it is a remarkable work for anyone, let alone a 52 year old who most of us would have said peaked in about 1978.  It is a hugely varied album, from the brilliant Walker Brothers pastiche  "No Tears to Cry"  to the Costello / Parker punk blues of Moonshine.  "Find the Torch, burn the planes"  sounds like mid period Bowie covering a Kaiser Chiefs song.  Andromeda is another track that is typical in its atypicality; a beautiful tune, Damon Albarn-like vocals, a sudden weird ELO type string section intervention...and all within one minute 53 seconds.

Now, I invented the 4 minute rule many years ago, which was a proposal (not taken up by the music industry unfortunately) that any artist who wanted to feature a song of more than 4 minutes length would have to get my personal permission first.  But for the first time ever, I'm listening to an album thinking, "I wish several of these songs were twice as long!"

Aladdin Sane piano keeps popping up; oh listen, there's a harp! And a recorder!  and a backwards tape effect...But a couple of songs don't work.  Trees is just plain weird; 4 minutes long but sounds like about 5 different songs glued together.  And my other issue is how listenable this would be over time?  I might want to put different tracks into different play lists - not sure when and if I would ever want to listen to the whole thing.  But overall this is the most interesting and occasionally perplexing album I've heard for ages;  I'm swinging between  7  and 8 /10.

Thirteen Senses are one of those bands that are only a hairsbreadth away from Coldplay / Keane adult, intelligent rock stardom; you feel they just need that one big "Yellow" or "Everybody Changes" and that could be them at the V Festival with the crowd singing along....but unfortunately, their third album, Crystal Sounds (streamed here) isn't going to do it.  Big choruses, anthemic, exemplary musicianship - but no track that grabs you by the throat.   But if you like this sort of music, you will enjoy it - great background music (in the nicest possible sense) and a perhaps slightly generous 7/10.

MGMT - most reviewers have commented that "Congratulations" lacks the killer tracks ( Time to Pretend, Kids) of their first album and I agree. Most reviewers have also said "but it is pretty good anyway".  I disagree.  I can only quote Jane's comments as I was listening

  1. "Sounds like bad Beach Boys"
  2. "That's not indie, it's pop".
  3. "Is that still MGMT?"
  4. "Tedious - isn't it finished yet?".

Now, I hesitate, because I would like to give it a few more listens; it might be a grower, and there are occasional moments of beauty in there...but at this point in time (as we say) I can't really go more than a 5/10.

Put it this way, I would FAR rather listen to the Fame Monster.  And of course the big news is that Kylie is back soon!

First Voice

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