Category Archives: Album Reviews

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

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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.

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.