September Music Review – the XX, Two Door Cinema Club, Vaccines and the Killers

As we said last week, this has been an amazing month for new rock albums – the most significant releases I can remember for years. We’ve got four more today, and we still haven’t touched Dylan, Grizzly Bear, Band of Horses, or Lucy Rose, let alone the mega releases from Mumford and Sons, Green Day or Muse, due out in the next week or so.

Anyway..  “All the Things That I Have Done” is one of my favourite songs ever, but somehow the Killers new album Battle Born sounds a bit ..weary. It’s inoffensive, pleasant enough, designed for stadia pop rock, but the debt to Springsteen at times, both lyrically and musically, (as in the case of the current single “Runaway”) is almost embarrassing. Jackson Browne gets a few homages as well, all blended with a bit of 80s UK electro pop.  It’s all OK, nothing too unpleasant, but a little sad. And if you like this, and haven’t heard Springsteen’s  Darkness on the Edge of Town.. go listen!  6/10.

I’m not really the target market for Two Door Cinema Club. The 15-25, heavily female demographic is their sweet spot, with tuneful, danceable indie-pop, combining keyboards and chiming guitars with a touch of African rhythms at times. Led by Alex Trimble, newly famous after performing at the Olympic opening ceremony, who sings with a pleasant light tenor, (“you can hear all the words” would be my mum’s comment about his voice...) - it’s pleasant background music for all ages. The tunes are infectious, with good use of major / minor keys to change the mood within and between songs. Nothing hits you as a “wow” moment or song, but the lyrics are a little more interesting than your pop norm, and it’s a step on from their debut. It will certainly propel them towards the top of the indie pecking order.  7.5/10

Now the XX with Coexist - I’m struggling with this. I listened a couple of times last weekend on a stream, it’s not on Spotify and I haven’t bought it yet (probably will). And.. it sort of washed over me, as the songs whisper and shimmer, just out of reach. Like their highly acclaimed debut XX, which won the Mercury Music Prize, it is highly atmospheric – it’s about the spaces between as much as the words and notes themselves, and repays listening on a decent musical source i.e. not your laptop.  Some reviews talked about more variety than the previous album – I’m not sure that particularly hit me, but I need more time with it I think. However, if you liked the debut (which I did) you’ll enjoy this, and the single Angels has already wormed its way into my brain – I suspect other tracks will too. Let’s go for a provisional 7.5/10 at the moment.

Finally, the Vaccines with Come of Age. I enjoyed the first Vaccines album, with its slightly cartoon-like approach  – it was all good fun with their Ramones meet the Libertines thing, a self consciously dumbed-down approach. You then got the feeling they were as surprised as anyone when it all took off in quite such a big way and they ended up headlining major gigs and festivals. So how do you follow that?

Well, quite successfully. They haven’t thrown away those stupidly catchy pop-punk tunes (No Hope, Teenage Idol) but there’s enough development to keep things interesting. At times, they’re harking much further back then 70s punk into 60s merseybeat and surf guitar (All in Vain). Ghost Town recalls the Cramps, and Aftershave Ocean is Oasis meets Blur! So nothing revolutionary, no 8 minute long trombone and synth ballads here, but it’s a strong collection of songs, with enough variety to keep it growing on me with repeated listening – a good sign.  8/10.

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