Posted by: Nick Walters | December 31, 2009

End of Year Album Review Round-Up

Here be reviews of the new albums I’ve bought during 2009 but have been too lazy to get round to writing:

Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change The World With Music

This breaks my heart for two reasons. One, the songs. They are FANTASTIC, and Paddy McAloon is a genius. When I first heard Let There Be Music, I cried, so pure, so beautiful, so wonderful it was. Almost all of the eleven songs here are as good if not better, especially I Love Music, God Watch Over You, Music Is A Princess and Sweet Gospel Music. (Yes, the song titles are cheesy, and the overuse of religious symbolism initially worrying for an atheist like myself, but the songs are so good this ceases to matter after a few listens). They are among the best songs Paddy has written. Which brings us to the second reason this breaks my heart: however much you try to ignore it, this is a demo, albeit a warmed-over one- from the early 90’s. This album was meant to follow Jordan: The Comeback but the lyrical content apparently scared off the record company. FOOLS! They denied us a full, proper version of this album, with Martin on bass, Neil on drums and Wendy on BVs! And produced by Thomas Dolby. The mere thought of what that combination of talents could have done with, for example, I Love Music brings me to tears. Heartbreaking, especially seeing as Paddy is never going to perform live and will probably never release another new record.

Muse: The Resistance

How can Muse possibly top the mad grandeur of Black Holes and Revelations? Well, by doing the same thing over again – only bigger and barmier. Stylistically, The Resistance is all over the shop. Opening track Uprising is fantastic – electro glam rock Doctor Who theme madness, and the best thing Muse have ever done. I love it! United States of Eurasia is a shameless Queen tribute, they EVEN SING “there can be ooooonly one!” during it. I Belong To You – the most critically derided track – is ace with its funky piano riff, not even a clarinet solo and French poetry can spoil it. Undisclosed Desires sounds like Justin Timberlake, and Guiding Light like Ultravox. Mental! But the whole thing never gels. Two of the tracks employ the same sort of dumb riffery Muse utilised well on Knights of Cydonia, and the final three-track epic Exogenesis Symphony is worryingly bland – I’ve heard it ten times, but cannot recall a thing about it.  There’s some dodgy “concept” about love underpinning the whole mess, but I can’t be arsed to work it out. However, despite everything, this album is never boring and Muse should be praised for trying something different.

Robin Guthrie: Carousel

For those who don’t know, Robin Guthrie was in the Cocteau Twins where he provided the musical soundscapes for Liz Frazer’s amazing vocals. Since they split in 1996 he’s done loads of collaborations and soundtrack work and a number of solo EPs and albums, of which Carousel is the latest. And it’s the nearest he’s yet come to the sound of the Cocteaus. This isn’t to say that you miss Liz’s vocals, but that this album has got the same sort of vibe as Heaven or Las Vegas or Blue Bell Knoll. It’s utterly, utterly, utterly beautiful beyond words and hence there’s nothing more I can say about it.

The Veronicas: Hook Me Up

Okay, I admit I only bought this because I am an old pervert. And I saw them perform a song on some yoof programme or something, and thought they were quite good, in a girly punk pop Shampoo sort of style.  And, honestly, look at them! Who can blame me? The dark haired one especially. I know I am over twice their age, which makes me a paeaaeeaaedoe, but, I am only human. And so I got this album with my Nectar points, not spending any real money thank God. MORE FOOL ME! They used to be in Neighbours, which should have alerted me to danger. It’s exactly the sort of overproduced, glossy, mindless pap you’d expect. To carry this sort of thing off you need some sort of talent or brain, like Shampoo or Alisha’s Attic or Kenickie or a million other bands. But this is simply shite. Sorry, girls.

Bob Dylan: Christmas In The Heart

Dylan is clearly taking the piss here, behind the get-out clause that “it’s for charity.” I bought this for my Dad for Christmas, to serve him right for being a Dylan fan! But, but, but… there’s fun to be had here. Dylan’s takes on the likes of Here Comes Santa Claus and Hark The Herald Angels Sing are hilarious, verging on William Shatner territory; and there’s something refreshing in hearing such familiar songs delivered by what sounds like Davros’s grandad with a bad attack of catarrh. Genius this is not, perverse festive fun it is.

Dan Black: Un

Dan Black was the lead singer of little-known band The Servant, who were somehow big in France, whose debut 2004 album was an insanely brilliant and catchy collection of electro-pop some of which appeared on the soundtrack to Sin City. The follow-up, How To Destroy A Relationship, was dire – all electronics had been ditched in favour of AnyBand(TM) guitar wankery, and the songwriting had gone all horribly twee (Hey Lou Reed being the worst offender). The Servant split in 2007 and Black has gone solo, to impressive effect on this album which joyously has a lot in common with early Servant. Opening track Symphonies is insanely, irresistably catchy and the rest of the album, though not quite as good, is great. Black has a sort of weird wired wide-eyed joie de vivre, a sort of dark naivete which is hard to resist.  Cheesy song titles like Ecstasy, Wonder and I Love Life abound and there are synthesised strings and satisfying bass grooves aplenty. On this showing Dan Black should be a name to watch for 2010.

Albums of the Year

Of those I have bought and reviewed on this blog, obviously.

Best album of the year: let’s give it to the Moz. He deserves it, and it is a fantastic album.

Worst album of the year: it has to be the Veronicas, but it’s probably my fault for buying the thing expecting something else. Still, it’s my blog, and so, I’m afraid girls, Hook Me Up is the worst album I’ve bought this year. Even Dylan’s Xmas horror is at least fun to listen to… in small doses.

Next Year

So what does 2010 hold musically? The new Fall album, Our Future – Your Clutter, is meant to arrive in January, but if it does, I’ll be surprised. They are on top form live and all the new songs are great, so we need the album! It seems a hell of a long time since Imperial Wax Solvent! Also eagerly awaited is the new Blue Aeroplanes album. Massive Attack’s Heligoland is apparently out in February, as is Beth Orton’s new one, and Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3’s Propellor Time touches down in March so it looks like being a good start to the year.

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