May Music Review with Django Django, the Mumfords, Du Blonde and Blur

Django albumDjango Django's first eponymous album in 2012 was a delight - close harmony vocal over a surf-pop dance sound that was engaging and hypnotic. How do you follow that? The danger is you either just repeat yourself or you do down a very different route and alienate those fans who did buy into the sound first time around.

Or you do what the band has done with Born Under Saturn. You keep what made you distinctive - the vocal sound, the unexpected mid-phrase key modulations, the sunny vibe, but you change it just enough to keep people interested. So there is more variation here, not every song has the dance rhythms in quite the same way, some sound more Crosby Still and Nash than disco, other tracks touched the Depeche Mode nodes in my brain.

It's still very instant, fun and enjoyable but I suspect it will repay more listens than its predecessor. The only negative is it can still sound a little same-y in tempo terms over 45 plus minutes, particularly given the vocal style. How about a ballad or a real punk number next time guys? But still very good stuff. 8/10

Never has the abandonment of a banjo been discussed at quite so much length as following the launch of the new Mumford and Sons album, Wilder Mind. So let me tell you my Mumford's story, with apologies if you've heard it before.

I bought Laura Marling's first album in the special edition version, which came with a ticket for a gig at the Union Chapel, Islington in July 2008. The advertised support was Johnny Flynn, now a serious stage and screen actor but then principally a folk singer. But before him, at 7.30, four scruffy young men came on stage - I think it was a stand up double bass, a banjo, a guitar and accordion. Hi, they said. We're Laura's backing band and she has let us do a few songs. We're Mumford and Sons.

I loved them immediately but I would not have invested a penny in their future career. Young guys singing folk songs - with passion and energy to be sure, but basically a band that would have been right at home at the Biddick folk club with me and John Dolan in 1975. Anyway, Wilder Mind is their  third album and takes them light years away from those origins, with the banjo and double bass gone for now at least.

And it is ... OK. There are big, strong tunes, hooks, and it is all pleasant enough. It sounds more like Don Henley's solo work than any other comparison I can make (U2, Maccabees, Kings of Leon also come to mind). The title track is very much "The Boys of Summer" with a less memorable tune and lyrics.

But I remember Reading Festival in 2010, being in an absolutely packed NME tent, and 15000 people, average age probably 19, ecstatically singing along to Little Lion Man and The Cave. I had one of those lump in the throat and tears in the eyes moments, knocked out by the power of music to make a deep emotional connection to people, which somehow the Mumfords did, banjos and all. Watch that below (still does it for me) after the track from the new album. They will sell out bigger stadia and festivals with this I suspect, but the lump in my throat has gone. 7/10.

Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny made an enjoyable quirky folk-pop album back in 2012 and were also very enjoyable live. But in a Bowie-like re-invention, Houghton (from Newcastle but you would never guess) is back as crazy rock-chick Du Blonde, naked but for a furry merkin (look it up) on the cover of Welcome Back To Milk, her new album.

It's a somewhat eccentric yet coherent collection of PJ Harvey influenced edgy, tough rock (see video), some Ziggy period Bowie touches (After the Show recalls Five Years), slightly odd Sparks-type off-kilter musical changes within songs, plus a couple of stunning ballads that are McCartney / early Elton quality in their melodic beauty. The gospel influenced Hunter is gorgeous, starting gently but building into a big finish. You can imagine this being covered on X-Factor in years to come.

Her voice is great, switching from a Karen Carpenter sweetness on Four in the Morning to a raw rock-chick sound effortlessly. But it all hangs together thanks to her personality, attitude, personal and sometimes rather rude lyrics. You will think "did I really hear that" the first time you listen to Young Entertainment (not in front of the kids, I suggest) and If You're Legal is probably a title only a female singer could get away with these days. A top-notch 8.5/10 and the album of the year so far from a British artist?

There have been many, many reviews of the new Blur album, The Magic Whip, so I'll keep this brief. It is very good indeed, it doesn't sound like an "old" band at all, and is varied, interesting, a little melancholy in places, but a great addition to their canon. Don't expect Parklife part 15, there is the occasional song that harks back to early days but it is much more influenced by what Damon Albarn has been doing on his own, from Gorillaz to his operatic work, with some recognisable Graham Coxon solo work influences too. But as a Blur fan but not a fanatic, I was very pleasantly surprised, not being much in favour of re-unions generally. 8/10.

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