The Tab music team fortnightly round up of the new releases.
Slash – Slash
His very name drips with rock and roll cool. His image is iconic – irreverent top-hat, unfathomably huge hair, cigarette balanced with insouciance between pouting lips. For fans of Rock music, Slash epitomises that rare figure – the living legend. Achieving fame with Guns and Roses, he penned some of the most recognisable riffs in the modern cannon. In stark contrast to a certain former band mate, Slash has taken a commendably dignified route – while Axl Rose assembled a band which serves as little more than a vehicle for an ego trip of Super Hans proportions, Slash played lead guitar for the very respectable Velvet Revolver. This album, however, was going to be entitled ‘Slash and Friends’, featuring as it does a star-studded selection of guests – the dropping of ‘friends’ initially lead me to fear a similarly self-obsessed outing. Fortunately, this is not entirely true, though the album leaves you in little doubt as to who occupies centre stage.
The first song opens with a riff which instantly evokes ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ – recalling arguably his finest hour could have backfired massively, but Slash just about pulls it off, despite a forgettable vocal performance from Ian Astbury. Before too long, the inevitable occurs – the first solo is a triumphant affair, screeching and sliding with the best of them, showing off without ever sounding forced. From this point onwards, it is clear that Slash intends to foreground his musicianship – the production insists upon his guitar lines by pushing them high in the mix.
Ozzy Osborne pitches up next, with a vocal line which is much stronger than his laughable duet with his daughter. Another big riff chugs along, before the second solo revs up and takes off. Next, it’s Fergie! From the Black Eyed Peas! As unlikely as that may sound, she stars on what is the standout track – ‘Beautiful Dangerous’ boasts a swaggering verse and soaring chorus. Although her self-consciously ‘rock’ delivery does grate a little, this is an undeniably great track. As yet another solo got going, I must confess that my heart sank a little; I suppose Slash super-fans would feel cheated if the guitar masturbation quota wasn’t filled.
Other notable tunes include an instrumental turn featuring Dave Grohl, unquestionably Rock’s most visible yet still believable musician, in which he reprises his role as drummer extraordinaire. Lemmy from Motorhead also makes an appearance, and although he is considerably older than my parents, he still growls menacingly – the snarling “I ain’t gonna tow the line” is delivered with more conviction than most anaemic American ‘punk’ bands can manage in the course of a career. There are false moves – the Maroon 5 vocalist puts in a wet showing, as stadium bothering strings wail in the background, while ‘Starlight’ sounds like something one would hear in a particularly depressing pool hall. Iggy Pop, who genuinely was cool before those awful car insurance adverts, also disappoints, offering the frankly silly line “pee on the ground, and jump around”.
Ultimately, the album doesn’t quite escape the suspicion that this is a mere vanity project, as several tracks fail to live long in the memory, or sound like anything more than a canvas against which Slash can shred. That being said, it is a solid listen, with a handful of tracks seriously impressing. The great man’s place in the hall of fame is secure, regardless; though there is a collaboration with Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls on the Brazilian release, which I haven’t managed to get hold of. Perhaps that was for the best.
Kids in Glass Houses – Dirt
Kids in Glass Houses seem to be following a similar path into the mainstream as fellow pop punk band You Me At Six. Both increased their profile by touring for much of last year, and both have released second albums, which appear to be pulling in the album sales. It even sounds like You Me At Six’s ‘Hold Me Down’ – perhaps not so surprising, since Aled Philps featured on album track ‘There’s No Such Thing as an Accidental Infidelity’ (clearly they’ve never been to Cindies). It is, however, a better album than ‘Hold Me Down’. Singles ‘Youngblood’, ‘Matters At All’ and ‘Hunt the Haunted’ demonstrate great potential, and represent a significant progression from their debut ‘Smart Casual’. Opener ‘Artbreaker’ is another highlight, a muscular track that would sit well on a release from Welsh cousins Lostprophets.
Their hard work on the album is sadly undone to some extent by the terrible ‘Undercover Lover’. Featuring Frankie of The Saturdays on vocals, it is a blatant attempt to entice fans of saccharine pop, a move which jars with the rock ethos of the other tracks. If anything, this will turn off current fans. That aside, ‘Dirt’ is a decent effort, one which will probably free Kids in Glass Houses from Lostprophet’s coat-tails, allowing them a headline tour of their own. However, as Aled sings on track two “the best is yet to come.”
MGMT – Congratulations
Though ‘Congratulations’ is not officially released for another week, most dedicated fan have already heard the album on the internet after the band themselves posted it on their official website. It is a gutsy follow up to debut ‘Oracular Spectacular’ – as promised they have turned their backs on their core following. It appears they were not comfortable with the fame brought by their debut.
There is not a single track on ‘Congratulations’ which could attract a Justice remix, and with no singles being put on sale before the release, it is clear that MGMT wanted the album to be taken as a whole. The result is nothing short of brilliant. Building on the album tracks of their debut, they have produced a cohesive psychedelic pop classic which true fans will rate, but which fake fans that just downloaded hit single ‘Kids’ from the last album will slate. From the opening note of ‘It’s Working’, MGMT take the listener on a mind-bending ride, one which reveals more with every listen. ‘Flash Delerium’ is surely the highlight of the album, an ambitious track that climaxes to a powerful ending. ‘Siberian Breaks’ is more daring, and could easily be divided into at least three different songs. Closing track ‘Congratulations’ is yet another highlight. Ironically thumbing their noses at past success, the track ends with sarcastic applause. Producer Sonic Boom seems to have been the perfect choice for the duo – congratulations are in order, MGMT.
Jónsi – Go
That I first heard this album’s lead single on prime-time Radio One may come as a shock to the purists; this is, after all, the lead singer of cult band Sigur Rós. In reality, that band has been drifting towards the mainstream for a while now, and mass appeal need not entail a loss of quality. As if to prove my point, Jónsi has created a captivating record, cerebral and melodic in equal measure. The main attraction is undoubtedly the singer’s otherworldly delivery – he achieves a startlingly pure tone, even in his trademark falsetto. English is audibly not his mother tongue; the awkward pronunciation lends an ethereal quality to proceedings, inviting the listener to appreciate the voice as an instrument in its own right.
As you may have guessed, this is not typical Top 40 fare, and intriguingly, the most accessible numbers are placed at the beginning of the record. Single ‘Go Do’ is enigmatic enough to deserve repeated listens, and sets the tone for the rest of the album; every song drips with wide-eyed, childlike innocence, communicated without a hint of affectation or calculation. ‘Animal Arithmetic’ is a joyously weird stomp, boasting an infectious, up-tempo chorus. Thereafter, ‘Go’ becomes increasingly esoteric. A handful of tracks even mine the post-rock territory Jónsi mapped so gorgeously with his now-on-hiatus band mates. I am tempted to interpret this as a deliberate ploy, aiming to draw the uninitiated listener in to the Icelander’s fantastical world; here’s hoping a few will want to stay.
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
The lead single from “This Is Happening” – LCD Soundsystem’s third, and final album, if the rumours are to be believed – may mislead many listeners. “Drunk Girls” is a raucous parody of a frat-boy anthem, channelling the sort of energy and carefree attitude heard on “TV Party” by Black Flag. The rest of the album, however, is a much more melancholy and thoughtful affair. James Murphy, the brains behind LCD Soundsystem, arguably perfected the art of crafting an album with their 2007 output “Sound of Silver”, and “This Is Happening” showcases a similar structure. The album’s first and last tracks ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ and ‘Home’ are slow burning epics, and like the last two albums, “This Is Happening” deals with themes such as growing older, belonging and the music industry itself.
The sound of the album will be familiar to anyone who has heard LCD Soundsystem’s other work – for the uninitiated, the band sound like a whistle-stop tour of the 70’s and 80’s via the medium of electronic music. “All I Want” would not sound amiss on a Lou Reed album, while at other points the influence of Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Talking Heads can be clearly heard. The diverse sounds, however, are all tied together by Murphy’s voice – an ever-reliable tour-guide, pointing out the landmarks along the way. LCD Soundsystem prove once again that their music is not quite like anything else around today. “You Wanted A Hit” illustrates this perfectly, acting as a two fingers to the music industry. In it Murphy drawls, “You wanted a hit/ Well maybe we don’t do hits.” LCD Soundsystem continue to do things their way, and we love them for it.