I promised regular, and I suppose this might be stretching it a bit, but here’s my first thoughts on the new albums that I’ve picked up over the last month or so, or at least the ones worth mentioning.
The Hot Rats – Turn Ons
Supergrass were fun we’re they? They might have had a stab at being more serious recently but that Gaz is just way too cheeky looking, no matter how big a frown he pulls. For me they’ll always be young and free, having a laugh after getting pulled over for having a “roll your own” that was on the fragrant side of legality. The Hot Rats (being essentially Supergrass minus the little, dumpy, moody looking one) are fun too, but less in a wacky “new Monkees” sense and more in that heart-warming way of a bunch of mates sat down playing their favourite songs.
Which shouldn’t be surprising as that’ basically what you’re getting here. The lads take you on a tour of the more obvious corners of their record collections. Everything here is familiar and the nearest that “Turn Ons” gets to sticking it’s neck on the line is a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for the Right…” that should be prefaced with a sample of Louis Walsh saying “You made the song your own” and Simon Cowell honestly saying that “It was brave, but it didn’t work”.
But (I assume) this album isn’t about critical acclaim, on that score it’s a bunch of Supergrass b-sides and live show favourites, it’s something that probably works better live than it does on record, it’s about paying tribute and having fun. There’s no denying that the album works on that level and whether it’s The Doors, Velvets or Who; Bowie, Costello or Squeeze, the band obviously love these songs and loved recording them.
That’s endearing on first listen, but I doubt whether it will be enduring unless you’re a big Supergrass fan to start off with.
Nice shoes, shame about the vocals? Let’s be honest, indie music started to get a bit rubbish around 1990 when it exploded into the mainstream, it’s got worse with every trend or scene since. Worse and rubbish, are wrong words actually, there’s just more of it, it’s over-produce and has a bigger advertising budget. In 1986 Good Shoes might have got a couple of Peel Sessions and a cult local following.
These days they get to their 3rd album without breaking sweat, maybe it’s because they are Londoners, I don’t know.
I probably being a bit mean on them “No Hope, No Future” is a bit better than the title suggests, there’s a certain post punk charm about the music and when the vocalist drops the “I’m the cockernee Mark E Smith” act, such as on closer “City by the Sea” things fit together that bit better and show promise rather than sounding like a gang of musicians who’ve let their mate sing so he doesn’t feel left out.
The vocals definitely make this album an acquired taste, if I was twenty years younger and my trousers were a few inches tighter then I might love it, but I’m not and they’re not so I’m filing this under potential grower.
My parents hit adulthood in the early 70s, and I followed along shortly after. Their record collection featured Deep Purple, the Moody Blues and Jeff Wayne, to name three. I know a concept album when I see one. Usually they’re too long, have bizarrely themes to the songs that repeat themselves every now and again and they’re never quite as good as you suspect that the band could be. I wasn’t really checking on the second point, but Measure definitely ticks the other two boxes.
Sometimes as bands improve, they lose their sharp edges, but sometimes it’s the sharp edges that attracted you in the first place. Add in a bit of pomp, some over dramatisation and you can turn an interesting band into something rather dull. I really don’t like (pop) music that sounds like it’s trying to tell me a story in three minutes, let alone over 20 tracks and that’s how I feel about this album.
Some bands are popular, some bands are good, some bands get called geniuses, and then there’s the real thing. Massive Attack undoubtedly fit into the latter category. The Bristolian veterans may not have maintained their early chart success but I can’t remember having ever read a bad review of anything they’ve done and I’m not about to change that by writing one.
It somewhat defeats the object of a first lesson review to call a record a grower, but sometimes you can tell. Heligoland isn’t the best thing they’ve done. It doesn’t particularly brood or weigh heavy on the heart and mind, like Massive Attack should, but it’s still Massive Attack. It’s the sound of giants flexing their muscles and it’s still ten times better than most of the electronic music on offer today.
Put simply, genius warming up is better than stupidity in full flow and sometimes even genius has to pay the bills. Oh, and it gave me cause to look up Martina Topley-Bird again, so bonus points all round.
Next time there’ll be Two Door Cinema Club, Chew Lips, Gil Scott Heron and, if my fingers aren’t hurting, more besides. Until then, happy listening.
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