record reviews - may 2020

THE STROKES

The New Abnormal (Cult)

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The first Julian Casablanca and the crew in seven years doesn’t exactly get off to a good start with At The Door, a sluggish five minutes dominated by a simple persistent and annoying keyboards wet fart. Things pick up with Bad Decisions as the drums crash in but, as has been noted elsewhere, it basically recycles Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself but does at least share the credits, then there’s more stabbing keys with Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus which sounds like a bad Human League filler (he even sings “The ’80s bands, where did they go”) before Eternal Summer gets into bed with the Psychedelic Furs and Casablanca does his Barry Gibb falsetto bit.

There’s moments when it sparks, such as the synth burbling ballad Ode To The Mets and the motoric scurry of The Adults Are Talking, but, ending with the lose your will to live Why Are Sundays So Depressing?, this is light years away from the band that’s wept millions up in their path. As the song says, it’s Not The Same Anymore, but not in a good way. It’s produced by Rick Rubin, though you’d never know it. Maybe he was bored too. Mike Davies


CUTTING CREW

Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven (August Day)

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Released back in 1986, (I Just) Died In Your Arms was one of the bright UK beacons of 80s synth pop, even topping the US charts. Nothing else, however, measured up, the follow up, I’ve Been in Love Before stalling at #9 in the States and, the last release to chart, #24 here. Their debut album, Broadcast, was the only to chart anywhere in the world and, after the release of a third, Compus Mentus, in 1993 they split up. In 2005 singer Nick van Ede revived the name, after originally trading as Grinning Souls, going on to release two further non-charting albums.

Now, featuring Gareth Moulton, who joined in the revived version, on guitar, they’ve revisited the back catalogue but this time in the company of (as seems to be the trend these days, though usually with dead singers) a sixty piece philharmonic orchestra. Save for Climb Aboard, featuring vocals by van Eede and Moulton and which frankly opens with what sounds a like a cat in pain but does feature sax legend Gary Barnacle and feels like a bid for the soundtrack of some noir detective revival, , all the material revisits four of their five albums.

Staring with an Overture it leads straight into that hit which still has the magic and then the summery follow-up, which should have done better at the time and sounds great with the orchestral arrangement, but then, while the new lush and fuller sound does give a boost, you can understand why none of the other songs ever reignited their career. They’re mostly solid enough, with One For The Mockingbird, the swelling The Problem Child and The Broadcast, which here sounds like it might have come from a West End period drama musical, all well worth a listen, but none have the ear worm quality of their hit. And, just to underline that, the album ends with both a seven minute Overture (I Just) Died In Your Arms and then a two minute voice and orchestra impassioned reprise that again has that Phantom-esque air of Lloyd-Weber musicals majesty. Long-time fans will be delighted and newcomers who know the single and nothing else may well be pleasantly surprised, but a second coming rebirth seems unlikely. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2019