Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs' third album, released in 2014, is an extraordinary beast.  On first listen it seems to drift by, each track running into each other with little variation.  Similarly on subsequent listens.  However after some time it burrows its way into your brain BECAUSE each track runs into each other with little variation.  Ok, enough of the smart-assery.  The album opens with the tone setting Under The Pressure, all ringing, liquid guitars and a positively euphoric sounding Adam Granduciel on vocals.  A huge anthemic sound.  Even more anthemic is the following track Red Eyes, with soaring keyboards washing across the track.

Suffering is slower, sparser, like a slowed down spaced out version of the first two tracks, with the palette of sound very much drawn from Under The Pressure, featuring some gorgeous shimmering keyboards.  By the net track An Ocean In Between the pace has picked up to sort of mid-eighties Don Henley standard (think: Boys of Summer).  All of this is quite unremarkable except for the actual playing, the musicianship in this album is superb.  On the aforementioned track lies a guitar solo that really lifts it to the heights of the rest of the album.  Disappearing is the centrepiece.  It's nearly seven minutes of absolute lushness, a laid-back atmosphere, beautiful keyboards and gorgeously simple chord changes.  At seven minutes it's just not long enough.

Eyes To The Wind and the title track are more rootsy, Granduciel doing his best Bob Dylan impression but the sound is full and uplifting.  On the other hand The Haunting Idle is more mood setting atmospherics than any of the previous tracks  Burning is like U2's Bad on speed, crossed with some guitar out of The Cure's Disintegration, and the album finishes with the Tunnel of Love era Springsteen of In Reverse.

It's the stadium rock it's ok to like.  Built from some arguably pedestrian influences, they are blended to thrilling effect.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Supergrass - In It For The Money

Prior to the release of Supergrass' second album in 1997, it seemed that they were almost a novelty act with upbeat perky tunes.  However In It For The Money showed a band who had grown hairs on their chest and were prepared to rock, and rock hard.  After the brief title track which introduces the album the cobwebs are obliterated by the hard-riffing Richard III, which is almost like Nirvana in comparison to earlier tunes such as Caught By The Fuzz or Alright.

From here on the album settles into a rocky groove with tracks like Tonight, G-Song and Going Out which are built around a steadily repeated riff.  Late In The Day starts off acoustic but builds to a soaring electric guitar solo at its climax, the aural equivalent of the sun rising over the hills.  Sun Hits The Sky is another hard riffer with some superb guitar work by singer Gaz Coombes.  Some of the latter tracks could be classed as filler - It's Not Me, Cheapskate, Hollow Little Reign.  You Can See Me is a late highlight, opening with a pulsing keyboard it builds to a barnstorming track.  But overall on this album, they sound like a proper 'rock' band, who CAN be taken seriously.  One of the better 'Britpop' era releases.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Album Review: The Cowboy Junkies - The Trinity Session

The Cowboy Junkies' second album, released in 1988 was recorded in an old church in Canada ,which gives it a sort of open, spacey sound.  It starts off with the acapella Mining for Gold, which works due to Margo Timmins' fine voice.  It settles into a drowsy country vibe over the likes of Misguided Angel, but some of the high points on this album are actually cover versions, with three particular high points.  The first of these is Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis), which uses the Elvis Presley version of Blue Moon as its base.  Michael Timmins' sparse, echoey guitar provides the backdrop for a fine Margo Timmins vocal.  Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is another, it's certainly the best cover of this song.  With subtle, hesitant phrasing, the song creeps along at a snail's pace, with a gorgeous, lazy pedal steel guitar midway through.  

Another high point is a cover of The Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane.  Again, it's slowed right down to narcoleptic pace with a soaring vocal, which arguably betters the original.  It's not all covers, the dark lament To Love Is To Bury conveys enormous yearning in an understated vocal.  200 More Miles is sassier, a kind of bluesy sway with a sort of a bitter tinge, as Timmins sings "there'll be no warm sheets or welcoming arms to fall into tonight".  One or two tracks drag towards the end, but otherwise it's a pretty special album.  Even many years on, its one of the finer exponents of spooked-out country.