PIL: What The World Needs Now
John Lydon is always good value, whether as a snotty punk, a reluctant celebrity on a reality show, or as Mr PiL, you can ensure entertainment and stroppiness dressed as art will be guaranteed.
Musically, I thought his time was up, but then he resurrected a hitherto unheralded line-up of PiL’s for the brilliant 2012 comeback album, This Is PiL. Three years on and the outfit have an equally cerebral and diffuse effort that both challenges and confronts.
The band doesn’t overcomplicate things, relying on the guitar/bass/drums approach of early PIL releases. This is experimentation based more on raw creativity and energy than on a deliberate desire to experiment, which isn’t such a bad thing.
The Hurriers: From Acorns, Mighty Oaks
The political soundtrack is back. Our interview with Tony Wright of this self-proclaimed Socialist band in November (click here) was both inspiring and thoughtful. The Hurriers’ positivity and thirst for justice and equality is both admirable, and sadly bereft, in an environment of ‘security’ and ideological cutbacks.
The five-piece’s debut is loud and angry, dealing with justice for beaten-up miners, and all working class people who continue to be trodden on.
They do this with a writing style that is neither Wildean poetical, nor in a tabloid style, but is appealing in a down-to-earth manner.
Blur: The Magic Whip
Blur had been promising something with their two Record Store Day-only vinyl single releases in 2010 and again two years later, but who’d have thought they’d uncork an album that seems so far removed from the so-called Britpop scene, Top of the Pops appearances and tabloid press front-pages. Instead, The Magic Whip is, kinda in a curious way, their Kid A, the album that transcends new territory. Pyongyang was eerie but magnetic, as was much of this comeback joy.
The Everlasting Yeah: Anima Rising
Four of the final line-up of That Petrol Emotion are back again, as The Everlasting Yeah and boy, do they like guitars.
Their signature sound is out-and-proud on the first chapter, A Little Bit of Uh-Huh and a Whole Lot of Oh Yeah, which is pretty much the lyrics and attitude rolled into one.
This is an album uncluttered with experimentalism or jolly tunes; it is what it is. There’s only seven tracks, but one is eight minutes long, The Grind stretches to 12 minutes, so you get your money’s worth.
Luke Haines: Adventures in Dementia: A Micro Opera
This six-song set is 15 minutes long so it’s hard to classify it as an album, or maybe even a mini album. Nevertheless, there’s no space here for semantics on what maketh what variation of a record.
These half dozen tracks includes a one-line song about British children’s television character Parsley the Lion, and a kazoo-led instrumental rendition of the radical hymn Jerusalem. But the remaining four songs tell the story of a Mark E.Smith impersonator towing a large caravan (with the other members of The Fall inside) through the British countryside who collides with another car driven by the frontman of a (real) Nazi punk band.
Somewhat bizarre, as you can imagine, and strangely enjoyable, not least for what amounts to a children’s song, and others bordering on the childlike.
The Waterboys: Modern Blues
When a Scotsman and an Irishman try to make a big impression they go to America; Nashville to be precise.
Modern Blues contains, ahem, blues influences, with Mike Scott et al getting especially rootsy on I Can See Elvis as he envisages Presley “Talking philosophy and law with Joan of Arc and Plato/ Quizzing Shakespeare on his plays/ Showing Crazy Horse and Marvin Gaye how to dance the mashed potato.”
The Girl Who Slept For Scotland is a return to the rock-ist, uplifting Waterboys sound of years ago, with a rousing, razor-sharp chorus, and on Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy) the narrator’s become deranged as he implores the woman of his affections to “lift up your skirt and flee”.
Public Service Broadcasting: The Race For Space
Samples made sexy. And samples about space too. The duo were a smash hit at WOMAD in New Plymouth in March, astounding the crowd with the way they mixed guitars, drums and clips of Yuri Gagarin taking off for space.
The first album was all about Britain in the 1930s and 40s so what will be their choice of subject for the third album? I expect it will be cricket.
Worst Album of the Year
U2: Songs of Innocence
They are legends and their legacy will never be doubted. There are, obviously, worse albums out there, pick a Justin, a Katy or an Adele for starters. But this drab affair just breaks my heart. There was always a corporate element about U2, it’s partly how they became so friggin’ famous after all, but Songs of Innocence sees them become a Coldplay tribute act. Did I just write that?! Hell yeah. Perhaps Bono is now more interested in Facebook share prices than making music that matters.