TV Broke My Brain (Kobalt Label Services)
Headed up Nile Marr, son of Johnny, and also featuring Scott Strange and Callum Rogers, the agenda here is very much one of punchy, instant, pop-inflected songs, evidenced from the get go with Carsick Cars and Hi Tech Low Life (though, perhaps slightly worrying, the latter has a definite Genesis air), crunched up slightly harder on the circling guitars of the Beatles/Oasis psychedelia feel of You Never Know How It Feels.
There’s quieter, slower moments with the swayalong Everything We Miss, a mid-tempo Smithsish Raining In My Head and the self-descriptively titled six minute Slowdance, which gathers to a Stone Roses miasma in the final stretch, but otherwise the emphasis here is on energy, shooting off Verve sparks on All Mine, circling the sun for Bring Some and the choppy, bass abrasive title track. There’s an undeniably 80s retro air to proceedings, but it’s a past that promises a very bright future.
Incredibly celebrating 35 years and 19th albums, the Osaka punk trio still sounds as fresh as young whippersnappers, here reunited with original drummer Atsuko Yamano, still parading both those Ramones and more heavy rock influences in the opening Jump Into The New World and Rock n Roll T-Shirt, respectively. They’re not into the business of pushing frontiers or experimenting with a basic rock n roll sound that’s worked perfectly well for three decades, happily embracing the surf rock, doo-wop and punk pop that’s been their staple cocktail. There’s nothing here that wants to be remembered in a generation’s time, the point being that things like the bubbly Dog Fight, a chewy 60s pop Green Tangerine and the rough, distortedly noisy Tasmanian evil are in the now, instant and disposable loud and catchy fun. And sometimes that’s all you want.
Very Rarely Say Die (Kobalt)
A surfstyle quartet awash with circling, ringing guitars, pulsing keyboards, tumbling rhythms (as on Tick Tock), staccato swallowed, adenoidal vocals, some funky bass chops (She Wants) and loads of hooks, they’re not exactly original in their sound, indeed Kings of Leon and Maroon 5 are all over the album like a rash. However, given the ability to come up with such sun-soaked numbers as the pumped up rush of Know My Name, the steady march beat crowd swayer Bring The Bright Lights, soaring ballad September Song the jazzy Loa and the insanely catchy On The Road, they are clearly a lot more than the sum of their influences.
2013 (Moshi Moshi)
The former frontman with Welsh outfit ace Horses, Jones describes his solo debut as a compilation of himself over a year, a rollercoaster of highs and lows. He kicks off with the punchy Northern soul and Dexys drive of How To Recognise A Work of Art before shifting course for Don Juan, a slice of chamber pop built around woodwind, strings and harpsichord and underpinned by scuffed beats, pizzicato strings pulsing through Passionate Friend which marries the jaunty musical bounce to brooding lyrics.
It’s a rich and complex musical affair, laced with many a nod to other artists (Brian Wilson, and The Who among them), yet always maintaining an individual sound, while other influences stem from Byron and Berlioz as he wanders through tales of unrequited love (the operatic Olivia with its skittering echoes of Slavic dances), a washed up pop star clinging to faded glories on the trumpet washed Featured Artist while Love is about, well love. And commerce.
An often impressive lyricist, he’s no slouch in the arrangement department either, harp and flute put to effective use in both Rome and Rain In Rome (complete with running water and thunder) where he evokes the Renaissance court. A little too rarefied to be embraced by the masses perhaps, but those who appreciate something a little different top the mainstream run of the mill will be beguiled.
KOOL STUFF KATIE
It’s Fine (Kool Stuff Katie)
The second album from Portland garage duo Shane Blem and Saren Oliver doesn’t stray far from the template laid down by the first, so that’ll be fuzzed guitars, distortion pedal and driving drums then. However, as before they have the material to lift their heads above the genre parapets without having them blown off. They hit the ground running with the Ramonesey thrash of It’s All Your Fault and rarely pause for breath as they rattle through the likes of a lolloping Who Cares, a primitive Quo riffing You Found A Friend and The Cheap Trick-like Doesn’t Matter. It’s not all heads down, balls out stuff, It’s Fine almost verges on balladry while on So Hard Saren sounds uncannily like Chrissie Hynde if The Pretenders had been doused with itching powder.
This Path Tonight (Blue Castle)
Ok, hands up, while I have soft spot for the best of CS&N I’ve never been much of a fan of the individual components, and, while this may be Nash’s first solo album in fourteen years, this isn’t about to change with this watery affair. Yes it’s soft and pretty in places, yes there’s some gently brushed melodies, but, still anchored to the 70s, nothing excites, indeed much of soporific, though there are times when, as on Fire Down Below, the guitars summon up the effort to snarl a bit. If you’re a long time and long in the tooth fan, then I’m sure you’ll find much to enjoy with the bedtime Horlicks, but, be warned, the title track sounds scarily like Phil Collins.