March Music Review – Josh T Pearson, REM, Elbow, Vaccines…

A lot to get through this month;

Josh T Pearson; with The last of the country gentlemen. At last, a singer who makes Leonard Cohen sound like Boney M. Josh has been getting ecstatic reviews for this album, despite breaking the first Smith musical commandment (“though shalt not record a popular music song over 4 minutes long without my express permission. Unless you’re Springsteen. Or Dylan.”) Josh trashes the rule in convincing fashion with 4 tracks over 10 minutes in length. It is intensely personal; singer-songwriter, man with guitar and voice using his music as therapy and a means of facing demons. “I ain’t your saviour or your Christ” he sings and he means it. Or how about 13 minutes of marrying the wrong woman and suffering for it... Impressive although I sort of feel I‘m not quite depressed enough at the moment to really appreciate it. If you like Nick Drake, Johnny Cash, Bon Iver, or Cohen, it’s worth checking out though. 7.5 /10

What about The Vaccines with their ironically titled album What did you expect from the Vaccines? I had high hopes, even featured their first single here. And for a couple of tracks, it’s great stuff, the polar opposite to Pearson, punky indie with nods to the Ramones, Glasvegas without the air of doom, and back to a 60s Spector-type sound. But then it just doesn't really develop. There’s little light or shade, it just drifts by as a pleasant retro-indie noise...it’s an enjoyable and fun listen but doesn't live up to he hype unfortunately. They’ll be good at the festivals this summer I suspect but only 7/10 I’m afraid.

If REM were a new band, Collapse into now would be getting rave reviews. It is their best for years, even if some tracks, although great, sound like cover versions of much earlier REM tracks (going right back to the early days.) But there is energetic rock with tracks such as Discover; some that sound like they could have come from Reckoning; and a ‘Losing my religion’ feel to a couple of tracks; guests such as Patti Smith actually add something other than just a gimmick. But my only issue is that the Decemberists album from January has so many early REM influences (and Peter Buck of REM on guitar) and on balance better tunes, it actually overshadows this very slightly! 8/10.

The success of Elbow is heart-warming. Good guys, struggled for years, then suddenly with Seldom Seen Kid they went from playing to a few hundred fans to filling stadiums. And there’s no sell out on their new album, Build a rocket boys. In fact, it is less commercial than ‘Kid’, with a feeling of nostalgia and introspection to some of the tracks. There’s even an old bloke singing about his childhood... But it stays just the right side of sentimentality although I could have done with less of the massed choir on ‘With love’ . The debt to early Genesis is more obvious than ever; but the warmth in Guy Garvey’s voice and lyrics ("Jesus is a Rochdale girl"is beautiful), and their gift for soaring melodies and interesting instrumentation makes it still very accessible music. Perhaps not a contender for album of the year; but one I suspect I’ll come back to and enjoy for years to come. 8/10

Beady Eye – Liam Gallagher’s’ new band. Decent pub rock. Wouldn't have got released if he wasn't a Gallagher.  6/10 (But please don’t tell him I said that though.. or where I live....)

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