Muse – The Resistance (Warner Bros)

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When researching conspiracy theories ahead of this album, frontman Matt Bellamy became so absorbed he convinced himself the world was on the verge of destruction. To ensure his survival in the upcoming apocalypse, he bought 50 tins of beans and an axe! Perhaps this explains Muse’s oddest album to date.
Bellamy’s increasing eccentricities reveal themselves throughout The Resistance, on quite possibly the kookiest concoction of an album you will hear this year. It’s likely to split the masses, even losing Muse a few fans. Not that they are likely to care. They’ve made this album for no-one but themselves. And that’s good news, because The Resistance is an album of sheer genius.

Opener and single ‘Uprising’ sounds like a mighty clash between the Dr Who theme and Blondie’s ‘Call Me’. On paper that sounds as appealing as a collaboration between Westlife and Jay-Z, but hearing is believing. It’s pure indulgent catchiness. You can even imagine the stars of Wayne’s World head-banging along in their car!

In fact, the album does have a distinctive Queen vibe going on. Particularly in ‘United States of Eurasia’. This has an uncanny splash of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, with a big Aladdin style Arabian piano frenzy thrown in. But Muse haven’t gone out to make a Queen inspired album. This is more like a theatrical concoction of every piece of music Muse have ever liked. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.

‘Resistance’ is influenced by the forbidden love of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ characters Winston and Julia. In it, Winston concluded that the biggest resistance against the oppressive regime of Big Brother was love and sex – the ultimate forbidden act.

Nothing quite prepares you for ‘I Belong to You’ though. A song that can only be described as a upbeat love song straight out of a Christmas pantomime. It’s arguably the best song here. Bellamy sings “I’ve travelled half the world to say, you are my mu…” just missing out the ‘se’ before going into a random verse of French singing. Complete madness.

You have to hand it to this band, they certainly know how to keep things fresh and exciting. ‘Undisclosed Desires’ should be in your top 5 singles of the year while the ‘Exogenesis’ trilogy is nothing short of epic. In fact, this entire album is epic. Muse have excelled themselves yet again making THE album of 2009.

Rating: 5/5

Austin Beede Alberta Cross Interview

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Ahead of their first headline tour, The Music Magazine caught up with Alberta Cross drummer Austin Beede on the morning of September 23 for a chat about all things AC.

Hey Austin, how are you?
I’m good thanks, how are you?

TMM are very well thanks. So where are you right now?
We are down in London at the moment. We have a show tonight. [Alberta Cross are playing a one-off secret show tonight to showcase their new album Broken Side Of Time]

Tell us, what’s the story behind Alberta Cross… Where did it all start?
Well Petter (Ericson Stakee) and Terry (Wolfers) met years ago at one of Terry’s friend’s bar. They were both there and they just hit it off. So they started writing music together and then the rest of us – the other three of us – met when they moved to New York. We just kinda hopped on when they moved out there. We all tried out and became a band about a year and a half ago.

Alberta Cross is a pretty interesting name. What inspired that?
I’m not sure what inspired it. There are some rumours that it came from a street name. There are a bunch of different stories on how the name came about. I have no idea to be quite honest (laughs).

What would you say are the band’s influences?
We all listen to older rock music and older soul music. You know music from the sixties/seventies like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Stevie Wonder. Petter is really into Depeche Mode and Nick Cave. He’s into a whole bunch of stuff. We are all into our own stuff but collectively we are all really into our sixties and seventies stuff.

And personally what bands do you like?
Oh tonnes of bands. I like anything from ummm lets see I like everything [TMM appear to have put Austin on the spot here]. I like French-pop bands like Air and stuff like that. I like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and um what else do I like? Oh and Shuggie Otis. Do you know who Shuggie Otis is? [TMM at this point shamefully admits that no we have not heard of such a person]. Well he’s a guy kinda like Californian psychedelic soul stuff from the seventies – he’s really good. [TMM assures Austin we will Google him immediately]. Let’s see… I could list off so many bands here. I guess recent bands who I would be into would be Flaming Lips who I like a lot. I like Mew’s new record, have you heard of Mew? [Thankfully TMM has heard of Mew! We love Mew].

How would you describe where Alberta Cross come from, what with all the members growing up in such different places?
Well basically that’s what it is. We are all from all different areas but we all met in New York and that’s where everything happens. We all live there and we all practise there. When we think of the band we all think of New York. That’s our home base. But we are definitely like a United Nation of band. We are from all over. I’m from California, our guitar player is from California, our keyboard player is from Minnesota and England – he’s kinda half American and half English. Then Petter was born in Sweden then moved to London and Terry is from London. So we all had different upbringings. But I think that’s good for us – it keeps things fresh you know?

Sure, it gives you that variation, right?
Yeah, we get a different outlook on everything as we all grew up in different areas. We are all very different but we all get along so it’s good.

For people unfamiliar with Alberta Cross how would you describe your sound?
Musically I would say there is a touch of gospel, there’s a touch of rock. There’s probably a lot more rock and a darker vibe on this new album. I tend to describe us as rock with a little hint of everything (laughs).

Have you got a personal favourite on the new album?
I think my personal favourite would be Rise From The Shadows [TMM has a bit of a gush here about that being our favourite track too – or Taking Control we haven’t quite decided]. Yeah, Rise From The Shadows was written down in Charlottestown, Virginia. When we first wrote it it was a lot faster but we decided to strip it down and make it feel like more like a soul track.

What with you supporting a lot of bands in the UK is it exciting to be starting your own headline tour in November?
Oh yeah. It’s certainly going to be different playing a headline tour. We’ve been basically supporting bands in the UK and America so it will be our first real headline tour. It will be interesting to see who comes out so we see who is actually fans of the band and not just fans of who we are opening for.

How intimidating was it supporting a supergroup such as Oasis?
The first show with them was a little bit scary as the crowd were really loud and they obviously just wanna see the main band. So they were all just throwing beer in the air, people yelling and that kind of stuff but I think we kind of won them over by the time we finished our set. They were getting really into it. All bobbing along – it was really good. It all seems so long ago now. It was scary at first but ended up being a really good experience for us.

So when can the TMM readers expect to hear some new material?
Right now we are basically concentrating on the album and touring. There is a couple of songs that we’ve started to write but they’re in the very early stages. There are also a couple of songs which we didn’t put on the album which will probably be on the next record which are really good.

OK before you leave us, what band or artist would you recommend to TMM’s readers?
Ooo let’s see. Can it be anything? [TMM: ANYTHING you want] In that case I’d have to say Shuggie Otis again, he really is brilliant.

Mew – No More Stories… (Columbia)

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Europe is a place of art and beauty. Everything there is edgy, fashionable and exceptionally inaccessible. The films are all rooted in symbolism and fantasy, American sitcoms are frowned upon for their mindless mulch and the 12 year olds are all wine connoisseurs. Of course this all excludes the UK which has always been considered the drunken and vulgar black sheep of the European family – 12 year olds here are happy being Buckfast groupies.

So when it comes to music Europe really know how to produce a conundrum of a band. You see Mew aren’t your regular rock band, nor would they ever want to be. They aren’t even rock. Indie perhaps, alternative definitely, progressive rock at a push, they even sound a bit electro-pop at times but who knows really? You see the trick to Mew’s latest album, No More Stories…, is not to try and analyse it or second guess it. Just listen to it.

You see if you’re looking for simple, accessible and nicely chorused music then No More Stories… is not the album for you. This album is a schizophrenic jumble of genres, emotions and tempos. It’s impossible to follow and you’ll never be able to sing along to it at a show. Yet given the chance this album is quite wonderful.

This is artsy without being pretentious, upbeat but not cheesy, beautiful yet not sappy – No More Stories… is everything you’ve been looking for in an album without ever realising it.

Mew are pure European art. If you don’t get it don’t worry, you’re probably just one of those ignorant art philistines. But that’s OK, I hear the Enemy are writing a new album. For everyone else just lie back, press play and let the culture embrace you.

NB: The full title for this release is No More Stories / Are Told Today / I’m Sorry / They Washed Away / No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I’m Tired / Let’s Wash Away, but it’s far too long to use as the title for this piece.

Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador)

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Yo La Tengo aren’t exactly new on the musical scene; they formed way back in 1984 and latest offering Popular Songs is their twelfth full length studio album to date. Yet they have received almost no mainstream success since their formation. So what’s kept this band going for the past 25 years? Well Yo La Tengo have a seriously immense cult following in the world of music.

A band with no mainstream success but a major cult following. Odd right? Well Yo La Tengo are not your regular band. You see it’s not in Yo La Tengo’s nature to be instantly likeable. This is a band you have to really work at understanding. And for your regular Joe music fan that just isn’t their cup of tea.

On first listen Popular Songs comes across as boring indie-pop. At this point most people will reject this album to the bin. A veteran Yo La Tengo fan like myself, however, knows that you need to put a little more effort than that into Popular Songs. You really need to listen to this album a good three or four times before you will truly start to ‘get’ this album.

And when you do you will discover songs like When It’s Dark, All Your Secrets and in particular If It’s True. All classic Yo La Tengo creations that you will listen to over and over.

Although, ultimately, this album is nowhere near as good as Yo La Tengo’s previous album, I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, this is still an album worthy of some good old effort. You might be surprised at just how much you end up liking it.

Liam Frost – We Ain’t Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain (Emperor)

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Liam Frost is the ultimate musical puzzle master. We Ain’t Got Money, Honey, But We Got Rain is a 1000 piece jigsaw of genres, tempos, metaphors and clichés. Frost has created an album which is utterly confusing yet immensely intriguing. Here we have a man with the lyrical drama of Connor Oberst who sounds a bit like a Gallagher brother. Madness, yet oddly it works.

Of course like the works of Connor Oberst you shouldn’t take Frost’s lyrics too seriously. They are full of dead metaphors, emotiveness and a rather large batch of clichés. For instance, Two Hearts, a song so overfilled with metaphors it’s practically drowning in them. Take the line, “we are the architects of our own disasters but never would two hearts have beaten faster”, it’s hardly poetry at its most original or best, Frost is a clear fan of rhyming at all costs no matter how cringe-worthy they come across.

But that is not to say every lyric Frost has written is particularly bad – at times he shows the working of a lyrical genius. Again in Two Hearts, between the cheese and cliché he comes out with the line “I’ve been chasing your ghost across the black and white notes” a simple yet effectively beautiful way to describe writing songs about a past love. It is times like these that this album shows hints of the lyrical mastery that this 22 year old could achieve in more mature years to come.

The main problem with this album is that at first listen you’re left with that ‘what the fudge’ feeling. Frost really does mash and contort as many genres as possible into its songs. Pop, punk, indie even big band Frank Sinatra type swing. This album sees it all. Your Hand In Mine, by far the album’s weakest track, is a train crash of fast drums and horns mixed with intense lyrics – which at such a fast tempo are crushed together without any real breathing space. Enough to give anyone a headache.

Similarly the albums opening track Held Tightly In Your Fist is another too-fast song, although not quite a train crash like the last – think more a bicycle crash. Fortunately this song mixes fast with slow and it is these slower parts that Frost shows the potential of being a great recording artist. Taking his time works best with Frost’s voice and lyrics making him sound like a British Jason Mraz but with a little less jazz and more added indie-pop spunk.

Tracks Shipwrecks, Skylark Avenue and Orchestra Of Love are thankfully slowed right down. And all the better for it. Here the music and lyrics seamlessly join and complement each other. But this doesn’t mean the songs lose any of their power. In Shripwrecks the snare drum backs every word amazingly and Frost’s voice is stronger than on any other track. Easily the best song on the album, it echoes the sheer talent and epicness of bands like Brand New. This song alone should be enough to win you over.

Clearly this is an album of two halves. Some of it being nothing more than mediocre pop but at times Liam Frost shows that in songs like Shipwrecks and Skylark Avenue his talent could potentially be limitless. Realistically this isn’t the greatest album of the year but given the chance it’s a real grower and definitely worth the trouble of a few listens.

Mirrorkicks – Turning Up (Fruit Pie Music)

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The UK is over-indulged with various indie-rock bands, all creating the same by-numbers tracks day in day out. Thankfully, Mirrorkicks are not safe in any way. This South London band’s debut single, ‘Turning Up’, takes indie-rock to a new, darker place with its grungy guitar licks.

It’s very apparent from the single that Mirrorkicks’ are straddling that thin line between indie-rock and just plain rock. But it’s the vocals which pull this song back into the indie ranks. Soft and sweet, Anil Kamalagharan’s voice is distinctive and perfect for a frontman. This is a band that are really bringing excitement back into the world of indie-rock.

Put it this way. If this band were American they might be called Weezer. Yes, that’s how much of a hidden gem Mirrorkicks are. For a debut single ‘Turning Up’ mirrors the confidence of a band on their third or fourth album. Can you imagine just how good this band will sound live? Hopefully there will be a full UK tour before the year’s out.

Rating: 3/5

Alberta Cross – Borken Side of Time (Ark Recordings)

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A lazy critic might write Alberta Cross off as a poor Kings of Leon clone. True, there are substantial similarities between the two bands; both have created bluesy rock albums, both have singers with highly distinctive voices and both make music laced with heavily harmonised guitars. But do not be fooled, Alberta Cross are so much more than some band that sound a bit like some other band. Alberta Cross are undoubtedly going to be superstars of the future.

‘Broken Side Of Time’ is the band’s first full length album but that’s not to say Alberta Cross are particularly new on the scene. They’ve already released the highly acclaimed EP ‘The Heartbreaker And The Thief’ and supported bands like Oasis, Bat For Lashes and The Shins to name a few.

Which all sounds pretty impressive, but doesn’t really give any substantial reason to why this band are going to be massive. That’s because the proof, my friends, is in the pudding. It only takes one listen of Broken Side Of Time to realise just how incredible this band really are. ‘Song Three Blues’, the opening track of the album, is both beautiful and haunting. Singer Petter Ericson Stakee has a voice that was created just to send shivers down your spine. This man really knows how to channel raw emotion through his voice but crucially without sounding like a screechy, over-zealous Corey Taylor. Anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Stakee from the second he howls “I just wanna live, is that a crime?” is either lying or just heartless.

Title track ‘Broken Side Of Time’ is equally as haunting but ever the more powerful. The drum beat and guitar screech battling each other the opening second before fading out to allow Stakee’s voice to wail out his woes; it’s a twisting journey led by the band. They channel their music right through your soul and it is utterly inspiring.

Latest single ‘ATX’ sounds almost Muse like in its ferocity but with the added hint of Kasabian while previous single ‘Leave Us And Forgive Us’ is more reminiscent of The Airborne Toxic Event. But none of these comparisons even come close to having the voice of Stakee which is what really makes this band stand out amongst the crowd. Stakee’s voice alone is nothing less than infectious. In fact, it is breath-taking.

Arguably, this album is one of 2009’s best offerings. A definite top five contender. You seriously need to experience this album for yourself and share it with everyone you know. In a few years’ time you’ll be able to take full credit for introducing them to one of the biggest bands around.