Tag Archives: listen

Record review: Placebo – Loud Like Love (2013, LP)

PLACEBO_LOUD-LIKE-LOVE

They may have been around since 1994, but Loud Like Love is – somewhat surprisingly – only Placebo’s seventh studio album, and first full-length record in four years. So, are the English alt-rock veterans growing old gracefully, or making musical fools of themselves? The answer is a little bit of both, as this ten-track album has some good moments, and some pretty bland filler. In the first few years of their existence the band had an edge that quickly smoothed out after the turn of the millennium, and they haven’t again hit the heights of tracks like ‘Pure Morning’ or ‘Teenage Angst’. In saying that, there are some solid tunes here; the title track and piano and strings-led closer ‘Bosco’ being good examples, but for every good song, there are two bad ones. Lines like “My computer thinks I’m gay, I threw that piece of junk away, on the Champs Elysées” on ‘Too Many Friends’ show that frontman Brian Molko is still primarily milking the subjects of blurred sexuality and alienation for lyrical content, and his flat attempts at social commentary on tracks like ‘Rob The Bank’ leave him wide open to criticism. His addition of spoken-word lyrics on ‘Hold On To Me’ seems like an attempt at some sort of Tolkien-esque middle-earth fantasy, and the electronic elements on ‘Purify’ are a little grating. Die-hard fans of the band might find a fair bit to like on this latest addition to Placebo’s catalogue, but it’s not an album you’ll likely to still be spinning in the coming weeks and months. (Universal)

Record review: Big Scary – Not Art (2013, LP)

Melbourne duo Tom Iansek and Jo Syme – a.k.a. Big Scary – aren’t a band to be restricted by genre. On their 2011 debut Vacation, they jumped between minimalist musical styles with ridiculous ease; from White Stripes-esque rockers to moody piano ballads, and they’re back with more of the same on Not Art. Describing their music as alternative pop, the pair have talent dripping from every pore, and they have an album with so much quality and versatility to surely make them more of a household name, both at home and overseas. It’s a slow-burning journey from the start, and one that will reward the patient listener for multiple listens, as Iansek switches between piano, guitar, whispered verses, and big choruses, and Syme hits the drums almost like a lead instrument in a way few drummers before have dared to do before, without ever being a detriment to the song. They can even make a Phil Collins homage sound cool on lead single ‘Phil Collins’, and question the validity of their music as an art-form on ‘Luck Now’. The boy-girl vocals and playful piano tinkling on ‘Twin Rivers’ are a joy to behold, as is harmonic piano ballad ‘Invest’. ‘Belgian Blues’ veers into Jeff Buckley territory, before ‘Final Thoughts With Tom and Jo’ closes the album with a final dose of piano-tinkling, accompanied by a sludgy synth. There is no obviously catchy single, and while they claim their album is not art, it should be appreciated as a whole. It’s most certainly Big, and it’s definitely not Scary; Not Art is quite the masterpiece. (Pieater)

Record review: Maps – Vicissitude (2013, LP)

Back in 2007, the powers that be saw fit to nominate Northampton native James Chapman’s (a.k.a. Maps) debut album We Can Create for the Mercury Music Prize, among such esteemed company as Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, and eventual winners Klaxons. Six years and two albums later, and it’s hard to see what could have possibly possessed that year’s panel of experts; one has to assume it was a pretty lean year for British music, outside of a few big albums. That album at least had a relatively fresh sound for the time; the electronic shoe-gaze approach to making music being fairly uncharted territory in a year that saw a resurgence in beardy indie bands. The truth is, listening to Vicissitude is a tiring and insipid affair. Opener ‘A.M.A.’ sets the scene for what’s to come by evoking nothing but a face-cracking yawn, as waves of sickly, over-pleasant muzak waft over gentle vocals, and second track ‘Built To Last’ follows in a similar and almost indistinguishable vein. ‘Nicholas’ is probably the worst effort; getting through its six minutes of dull, repetitive dirge is a challenge to test the strongest of constitutions. The only positive thing that can be said about Vicissitude is that it could make pretty good background music in a situation when you don’t need to notice it, but that’s hardly much of a compliment, is it? It has to be assumed that making this album cost someone quite a lot of money, when really they shouldn’t have bothered. (EMI)

Record review: Grant Hart – The Argument (2013, LP)

Formerly sticksman for legendary ’80s hardcore band Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart moved from the drumstool to the singer-guitarist position long before Dave Grohl successfully did the same, but his subsequent career has enjoyed much less attention than the former Nirvana man. The Argument is Hart’s fourth solo album, following 2009’s excellent Hot Wax, and is a concept album about the epic poem Paradise Lost by 17th century poet John Milton, and Hart’s friendship with notorious beat poet William Burroughs. Sounds heavy, right? In some ways it is, and twenty songs and seventy-two minutes is a lot to get through, but like all Hart’s solo work, it’s laced with a variety of sounds, psychedelic fantasy, literary references, and grand themes; which is enough to keep you interested, and his song-writing is, as ever, first rate throughout. Opener ‘Out Of Chaos’ sees Hart indulging in some spoken-word theatrics, ‘Morningstar’ is a catchy lo-fi pop number, and ‘Letting Me Out’ is a jaunty rockabilly tune, while ‘If We Have The Will’ can only be described as a science-fiction polka. The melancholy ‘Is The Sky The Limit?’ is unquestionably Milton-inspired, as is the wonderfully off-kilter ‘(It Was A) Most Disturbing Dream’, as biblical themes involving the Fall of Man are explored. Translating these songs into forms that can be played live will surely be a major headache for Hart, but The Argument is a unique and brilliant album that showcases an artist who clearly has complete control over every aspect of his work, and the freedom to do exactly what he wants. (Domino)