New albums: U2, Bjork and more
NEW ALBUM REVIEWS
Here's some of the best new releases from the last week
Songs of Experience (Universal)
Even U2 wonder if the world needs another U2 album.
After some wound-licking with gifting Songs Of Innocence to iTunes listeners, the belated companion album will be discussed on what it contains, not how it's delivered.
Single You're the Best Thing About Me got them back on rock radio. Indeed as they did with All That You Can't Leave Behind, their 14th album sees them reclaim their trademark sound, considering it's still the template for modern rock bands to take on the world.
But it's far from U2 on autopilot. Love Is All We Have Left is a minimal ballad with Bono's voice being deliberately distorted by robotic autotune.
Single-in-waiting Lights Of Home is restrained stadium rock with a recycled Haim riff. It builds to a singalong-ready gospel moment with the Edge's intergalactic guitar.
Get Out Of Your Own Way sounds like U2 doing The Killers doing U2. Great, vintage Edge guitar break too. 13 (There Is a Light) instantly reminds you of U2 fanboys Coldplay, who are always close to the Edge.
Red Flag Day (aside from a guitar riff which recalls Daryl Braithwaite's One Summer) flashes back to the spiky U2 of War era, minus the earnestness.
Political mode Bono coins up the term "refu-Jesus" on the hit and miss American Soul.
Landlady is Bono's latest song for his wife (he has a long memory - he sings "when I was broke it was you that always paid the rent") and has a song designed to prod the haters called The Showman, all about himself, or at least his night job.
He sings "There's a level of shallow you just can't fake, but you know that I know" and "I lie for a living ... but you make it true when you sing along".
Consider the good ship U2 back on track, once again. /CAMERON ADAMS
VERDICT the one you would have loved to get for free
Slum Sociable (Liberation)
Some singers sing as if their lives depend on it. Miller Upchurch is one. He has Cordrazine-esque pipes and mercurial self-esteem. This is a super-slinky album of beats that Caribou fans would crave. Rusty is an instrumental hip-shaker, Name Call is as rich as Adriano Zumbo dessert and they've nailed every take, capturing the live show that killed it at Sugar Mountain. "I can never get the words out," he pleads on Castle over bronze shades of Tricky's Maxinquaye opus. We're lucky he did. / MIKEY CAHILL
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKE ...
N.E.R.D, The Avalanches
Iceland's first lady of song, Björk, had an illuminating discussion with Sir David Attenborough where he noted that human voiceboxes are actually made for singing, not speaking. It made Björk very happy to hear this. "So we're always nattering on when we should be singing!?" she interrobanged. Björk spends a lot of her ninth studio album half-singing, half-talking when you really want her to let that wild voice slash the sky open and let all the planets splash
into the ocean.
Utopia is Björk's "Tinder" album after her disastrous breakup with Matthew Barney. Her previous album Vulnicura was a jagged document-ation of
the many shards of her broken heart. Uneasy listening. Bjork is once again under the thrall of introverted, beats-obsessed producer Arca - she co-wrote 14 of these songs with him. Björk also formed a 12-piece Icelandic female flute orchestra, which she arranged for and conducted.
Certain lines stick out wonderfully as she lets us into her fascinating corner of
the earth: "Sending each other MP3s/ falling in love to a song," on Blissing Me. Lead single The Gate would sound great on a stage as a sonnet, sure, here it feels like an endless 6min34sec song that never goes where you want it to go (which is anywhere).
The title track has shades of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite with added fauna mating calls, traipsing the countryside on a flute as Björk sings (yea!) and rrrrolls her rrrs. Body Memory has a beat you can dance to as she curses "this f---king mist, these cliffs are just showing off". She's very funny when she's making fun of herself. Tabula Rasa sees her voice echo and kick wildly as she makes peace with her past and moves to a green meadow, taking the moral high ground, talking (hmmph), not singing about it. MC
VERDICT Björk has found her happy place, post-split
NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
Who Built the Moon? (Sour Mash/Caroline)
Noel has finally made his experimental album. Subversive producer Dave Holmes detonates the Oasis star's comfort zone, without losing the plot. Holy Mountain is Let's Stay Together meets She Bangs.Keep On Reaching is Oasis on acid, The Man Who Built the Moon is a gothic Wonderwall. This record wasn't designed to have hit singles - he's had enough. But, as an insurance policy, Dead In the Water is an old-school ballad. / CAMERON ADAMS
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKE ...
Death in Vegas, Doves
The Architect (Sony)
Brit soul-popster Paloma Faith is curiously both hyper-MOR and flamboyantly avant-garde. Following 2014's A Perfect Contradiction (which launched Only Love Can Hurt Like This), she's valiantly conceived a socio-political album - forebodingly introduced by actor Samuel L Jackson. And the star pulls it off. Inspired by motherhood, Faith offers less "social observation" (that's PJ Harvey's MO) than an emotional response to global volatility and reactionary ideology. Yet The Architect isn't heavy or pretentious. It has lavish arrangements - and guest John Legend. The single Crybaby aims to ameliorate repressed masculinity with daytime disco. Still, Faith's (Sia-penned) power-ballad Warrior is too much like a Hollywood soundtrack to refugee experience./ CYCLONE WEHNER
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKE
Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Janelle Monae
Universe (Pool House)
Australia does sad-girl pop very well. Emma Russack, Liz Stringer and Jess Locke make moping charming and extend beyond that neat pigeonhole into expansive emotional territory. Check the line: "I feel better when I'm watching other people
f--- up" on Better-Bitter. Violent Turn unsettles with tales of waking up in an unknown bed "two grown men standing in the living room". This is an album of gorgeous guitars and multi-layered vocals, mostly mid-tempo (but never MOR) rock record. A real creeper. / MC