Summer Album Review part 2 – The Chillis, Cat’s Eyes and Let’s Eat Grandma

We’re back with part 2 of our summer catch-up album review, with three more to consider. We’ve saved the best (and strangest) till last too!

Many casual music fans probably think The Red Hot Chilli Peppers disappeared years ago, but they’re back with The Getaway, the first new music for five years, and indeed are headlining the Leeds / Reading Festivals this year. Their Reading day is the only one which has sold out at time of writing, indicating the strength of their fan base. I’ve never been as big a fan as wife and daughter, and had pretty low expectations here, but actually – it’s pretty good. There are tracks that instantly sound like classic Chillis, there are a generous 13 tracks, most around the 4-minute mark and there is little of the sometimes self-indulgent soloing and musical grandstanding they can slip into. Towards the end we get a couple of interesting detours from the normal Chillis sound -  whilst most albums fade, for me this one got better.  7/10

Treasure House from Cat’s Eyes is an unexpected delight. Cat’s Eyes is made up of Faris Badwan, the main man in goth-rock stars The Horrors, with his partner (in both senses) Rachel Zeffira, a classically trained composer, opera singer and musician. It sounds like a very odd pairing but absolutely works. Together they make beautiful music, with lovely tunes, orchestral flourishes and a sensual, evocative retro feel harking back to Spector girl groups, Scott Walker, classical chamber music, the softer side of psychedelia, and 1960’s film soundtracks. But there is a darker edginess here too. When Zeffira, a vocalist who can express many different moods, sings “The things we do when we're together / If they ever knew, they would keep us apart” on Drag, it takes your brain off into all sorts of interesting places.  Then she sings “Be Careful Where You Park Your Car” and sounds like the sort of vengeful ex-girlfriend you would really want to avoid. It’s an unusual album but hangs together well despite the variety -   8.5/10

Finally, we get to I Gemini from Let’s Eat Grandma. This is a longer review than usual – because this is a very strange but brilliant album. Two best friends from Norwich, 16 when the album was recorded, who have produced one of the oddest, most creative and engrossing albums I’ve heard in years. Using glockenspiel, recorders, organ, sax, as well as more conventional instruments, they create a child’s dream-like world of fairy stories, chimpanzees, chocolate cake and shitake mushrooms.

It all sounds very twee but it’s not – there is a faint air of menace, they can rap pretty convincingly, and the dreams turn into nightmares very easily. “My cat is dead, my father hit me, I ran away, I’m really hungry” they wail on Rapunzel. Typically, this comes after a simple and lovely tinkly piano solo. Indeed, some tracks meander almost randomly, and sound like at least two separate songs glued together but it works somehow – you really don’t know what is coming next, that is for sure.

So Chocolate Sludge Cake starts with a two-minute recorder duet before turning into a synth and percussion driven slice of vaguely dance-pop, before slowing down at the end into a weird fairground hurdy-gurdy effect. But they can do more conventional too. Chimpanzees in Canopies is lovely – mandolin, violin and a vaguely Lindisfarne / Mumfords folk feel with the girls harmonising beautifully.

We should warn you though – my wife and my closest colleague (Nancy) both really dislike this. They hate the little girl voices used at times (often sounding like 8 year-olds, never mind 16) and what they perceive as a “look at me” showing-off self-awareness. I disagree – these are clever girls, clearly, but I just feel they are experimenting, trying out different ideas. And the little girl voices thing; they have said that many of the songs were written when they were just 13, and almost all are resolutely pre-pubescent lyrically and emotionally. I cannot find a single reference to boys, love, sex, or being an adult really in the lyrics. So maybe the voices are their way of reflecting that basis for the songs?

As well as loving this for what it is, it is fascinating to think about where they go next. They could move into the Grime / FKA Twigs innovative electronic dance-pop world. They could go mainstream Florence and fill arenas. Or follow Lara Marling into the reflective folk-rock space. Or just continue to do what the heck they want to do, and hopefully make some more brilliant music. But they certainly won’t make another album quite like this. 9/10

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