The Music Review is a weekly set of capsule reviews on the biggest releases of the previous week, all curated by myself. Each week has an Album of the Week and a Dud of the Week (although, let it be said that the Dud is rarely a particularly awful album, just the one that I deem the weakest of that week’s big releases). The format allows for more reviews to make their way into the website without laboriously long essays on each album getting published.
New, multicultural collective Cristobal and the Sea release their debut and The Killers return with their first studio album in five years…
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Wonderful Wonderful – The Killers
What makes the new Killers album such a romp is the production. The songwriting, whilst not tepid, doesn’t necessarily have the instantaneous zest of their greatest moments. But the sound of the record is wonderful, filled with luscious, full-blooded callbacks to pulsating 80s pop and Springsteenian driving rock. The Boss even gets a namedrop on the album, although it’s clear from Brandon Flowers’ impassioned performances that Bono was the closer reference point for him. He nails a pitch-perfect impression, complete with arena-sized glides from note to note and a consistent tone that sounds far cleaner than the transistor-esque, grease-flecked drawl on the group’s debut all those years ago.
The fatal flaw is in the consistency of the thing: after 8 consecutive tracks of wonder and surprising soulfulness, the final two tracks feel pretty listless, offering little more than hokey stomp-rock (‘The Calling’) and vague arena rock (‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’). Steep finishing gradient aside, Wonderful Wonderful hits a lot of the right marks for an all-round solid effort.
Highlight: ‘Tyson vs Douglas’
Exitoca – Cristobal and the Sea
What starts as a bracing, cultural infusion of Afro-beat and Eastern textures, via Talking Heads’ brainy new wave, drifts into the dream pop equivalent of The Beatles’ ‘Within You, Without You’. It’s a shame because it sounds as though it could have been so much better: opener ‘Goat Flokk’ crackles with the excitement of a multicultural collective throwing their influences into a test tube and standing back for the fireworks. Minor interlude ‘The Leaf Isn’t Turning Red’ suggests that the melting pot was still going at some point during the recording of this album. But the group’s desire to create an antidote to the ‘cold and sexless Brexit reality’, as stated in the Bandcamp liner notes for the album, just becomes dull, even through the record’s economically short runtime.
Highlight: ‘Goat Flokk’
Luciferian Towers – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
I liked that Godspeed took a more rhythmic approach to this than to their previous effort, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress on this record. It propels tracks forward more often, such as on the entire ‘Bosses Hang’ suite and the final part of ‘Anthem for No State’. In fact, on the former, it almost contradicts the grandiose magnificence of their image with cheeky, just-shy-of-rock-and-roll momentum. On the latter, it’s possibly the most bombastic, and straightforward, they’ve ever sounded. But there’s a lack of invention in that, which, while not entirely diminishing the fun of the album, does strip it of emotional weight. Coupled with a droll production that doesn’t compliment the band’s penchant for celestial experiences, and the whole thing feels muted.
Highlight: ‘Bosses Hang Pt. I’
V – The Horrors
If an album is filled with songs unable to break out of their stagnant chord progressions, making those songs twice as long as they should be doesn’t help the matter. On The Horrors’ latest LP, most of the tracks run in excess of five minutes, making the sluggish industrial glam-rock even more interminable than it is already. Their saving grace comes in the form of some neat production tricks, which at least create a richer texture of heavy percussion balanced with some nimbler treble instruments, and the closing track, ‘Something to Remember Me By’. As though it has leapt from some different album chock-full of neon-lit synth pop, the sharp drums on easily the best track from the record offer a counter to the more enveloping noise that precedes it, making it bittersweet and wonderful.
Highlight: ‘Something to Remember Me By’
DUD OF THE WEEK: Ununiform – Tricky
Profoundly unappealing and dull, Tricky’s new album is little more than a series of indistinguishable guests singing indistinguishable hooks on largely indistinguishable songs. It’s dour, absolutely no fun, unimaginative and doesn’t stick after it’s finished.
Highlight: ‘Running Wild’