September Music Review – The 1975, Arctic Monkeys and London Grammar

Three commercially significant albums this month, all of which will also feature on many of the “best of” lists at the end of 2013. And deservedly so...

The 1975 – The 1975

The biggest new rock / indie breakthrough act of the year, with a debut album that fully lives up to the expectations set by a couple of strong singles. Lyrics about sex, drugs, whether you should steal someone else's girlfriend and whether he could beat you up if he finds out... a fairly accurate representation of the concerns of 16-21 year olds I suspect!

But it's all put over with clever, slightly dark and off kilter lyrics. The musical arrangements, with both guitars and electronic sounds, are quite complex but the overall effect is light without being simplistic, and they have that valuable knack of writing tunes that don't sound too memorable on first hearing but really get into your head - Sex and Chocolate probably the two best examples.

It’s all quite 1980s (anyone remember Haircut 100, Aztec Camera, The Cars...)?  But some of the lyrics and the final short track - an atmospheric piano ballad which could be an undiscovered Randy Newman or Leonard Cohen composition, show there may be even more to the band than this very impressive debut suggests. Ones to watch, as well as enjoying where they’re at today. Reading or Glastonbury headliners by 2017 is my prediction.  9/10

 Arctic Monkeys - AM

I may be in a minority in that their last album was perhaps my favourite of their four to date. But AM, their fifth straight top quality release confirms their place right at  the top of those best and biggest bands on the world list. My one criticism would be that the first four tracks are a little same-y, all pretty heavy rock but tuneful in their Queens of the Stone Age vein, although the use of falsetto vocal backing and a slightly more R ‘n B feel differentiates even these tracks from the “Humbug” era.

But once past these tracks, we get a whole lot more interesting variation, such as the lovely ballad  No 1 Party Anthem (which suggest a brilliant  bastard offspring of Elton John and Oasis to this listener anyway), and the laid-back groove of Mad Sounds (touches of “Groovin’” and “For What it’s Worth” anyone)? Indeed, unlike most albums, this gets better as we go through, with the last three tracks all absolute crackers - Knee Socks goes straight into my top 5 Monkeys tracks of all time I think.

Alex Turner’s lyrics have moved away from hanging around bus stops in Sheffield inevitably, but he is still one of the very best in the business, bearing comparison here to John Lennon in places. NME reckon this is the rock album of the decade – I can’t judge that yet, but having given Laura Marling, Vampire Weekend and Tegan and Sara 9.5/10 this year, I think I have to do the same here!

Slightly dodgy live video but you get the idea I hope!

 

London Grammar – If You Wait

Are they the XX but with better tunes / singing, blending minimalist and atmospheric instrumentation with emotionally engaging vocals and hummable tunes? Or another nice middle class University band, with a stunning female singer (that's her singing and her looks) and a harmless, pleasant, tasteful harmless sound that will be both hip and ubiquitous, and will go down fine at supper parties and as background music in fashion shops?

Well, a bit of both. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt - writing songs this strong, and singing so beautifully, aren't as easy as they might make it look. Very thoughtful, very sparse in places, but always held together by melody and Hannah Reid’s superb vocals, a cross between Florence Welch and Joan Armatrading (for our older readers...)  A brilliant debut and a  8.5/10.

First Voice

  1. Alex Craig:

    All excellent choices again Peter! Not listed to London Grammar yet but based on my total agreement with the other two I’ll try them out.

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