Weekly Capsule Reviews: 08/01/2017


This week: Run the Jewels, Brian Eno, Dropkick Murphys, Gone Is Gone, You Me at Six

Older releases/Classics: Grimes, X (2)

Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 [Run the Jewels, Inc. (self-released), 24/12/2016 and 13/01/2017]

Thrust upon us out of the blue Christmas Eve, Run the Jewels has stuck to the formula they know works—mechanicalised beats and the notion of self-worth, which I dig given their description of the album’s artwork being your morph into the jewel; there’s no more to take, you are you. A neat sentiment. “Stay Gold” hammers this home—self-worth is garnered through their hard work and the money doesn’t seem to matter as much. I call bull on that but I understand the sentiment nonetheless. Even the opener “Down”, with its hooky chorus, gives to us the usual I-was-down-and-out-but-made-it rhetoric. I’m a bit of a sucker for it I’ll admit, if the hook is just right. Killer Mike’s cadence always wins out over El-P’s. I find the latter’s forced. Just check out the second verse of “Hey Kids (Bumaye)”. They had to join in with the jazz-rap aficionados, didn’t they? And why not? It’s the in-thing and Kamasi Washington does a fine job even if unobtrusive. (8/10)

Brian Eno: Reflection [Warp, 01/01/2017]

A quick turnaround after last April’s The Ship, which didn’t float my boat… Sorry… Eno now offers up one track in just under an hour (being fifty-four minutes); a never- yet ever-changing state of nostalgia-sounding ambience, a meditative trance as easy-listening as anything he can conjure. And it can even be accompanied by an app that changes the music depending on the time of day. How generative of him! (7/10)

Dropkick Murphys: 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory [Born & Bred (self-released), 06/01/2017]

The usual stories—rebels with a cause, the “fighting” Irish and all that crap. I don’t even care that they’re ripping “Irish culture”, nearly everyone’s a Paddy these days, but maybe not as blatantly plastic as this lot. If it reinvigorates some sort of punk aesthetic I’m okay-ish with it. It did have moments—”4-15-13″ is the Boston Marathon bombings, “Rebels with a Cause” states “Don’t blame the kids/Blame the creed”, and “Blood” portrays their sonic sentiments nicely: a chant of pastiche violence they probably mean but would never put into practice. Probably for the best. (6/10)

Gone Is Gone: Echolocation [Rise, 06/01/2017]

The supergroup consisting of Mastodon singer and bassist Troy Sanders, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, drummer for At the Drive-In Tony Hajjar, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin release their studio-album debut. These guys are hurrying up post-rock, if that makes sense? A post-rock landscape without the pretensions of the long-winded build-ups. Djent minus the djent, even if they’re trying their best to slip it in there (intro to “Pawns”). A supergroup less the super. (5/10)

You Me at Six: Night People [Infectious, 06/01/2017]

Blasting out their emotions via screamo minus the screams, they have little time for melody. It doesn’t matter. It’s kind of the Paramore/Evanescene effect—heavy and emotional for the twelve-year-olds, generic-yet-listenable pap for the rest of us. It mildly improved towards the end with the final trio of tracks, I got the vocals a bit more. The instruments are chuggy with little craft, the lyrics are exactly what we’re used to, and though I want more “traditional” guitar music in the world, I think we should keep it away from the pure commercial boundaries of this. Please. (5/10)

Older releases/Classics

Grimes: Art Angels [4AD, 06/11/2015]

One of my favourite pop releases this decade—Claire Boucher’s fourth studio album is a triumph in eccentric production. Her casual feminism is met with angelic and sugary-sweet deception colliding with a passive-aggressive tone through song and words and then back to the angel in the drop of a hat, not giving you enough time to soak it in but leaving you content with what just went by. “Kill V. Maim”, as she puts it herself, is a “complete mess of unprofessionalism” wherein she pitches an old guitar down an octave and plays a single-note bassline to lay the foundation for the banger beats and strange subject matter to follow—a chauvinistic show of self-indulgent illusionism where the unrelenting music is met with her unrelenting imagination of Al Pacino as a gender-switching vampire. Your guess is as good as mine. She even has time for the emotional stuff, too—the sycophants clinging to her success is scrupulously laid out in “Easily” and “REALiTi” is the struggles of everyday life with a neat wake-up call: “Oh, baby, every morning there are mountains to climb/Taking all my time, oh, when I get up this is what I see/Welcome to reality”. Outlandishly hooky, hyperactive, innately weird, and passive-aggressive in a way that every cherub who wishes to make a point should hold. Yeah the first third of the album is a little shaky—still pretty damn good—but it’s a very easy compromise to make for what’s to follow. (9/10)

X: Los Angeles [Slash, 26/04/1980]

X was representing punk rock on the West Coast along with the likes of Dead Kennedys and Germs at the time. The straight punk sound may have been old hat in the UK and a good portion of the US, but groups such as the aforementioned bands seemed to carry it forward past its sell-by date. When I say “sell-by date” it was still okay for consumption, just some didn’t risk it. Hardcore punk was rearing its very ugly and fast-paced head so some diehards wished to keep the traditional form of the medium intact while the rest followed the hard-hitting Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Bad Brains. On Los Angeles, X’s debut, Billy Zoom and Exene Cervenka offered up authenticity through “nonconformity”, simple riffs and chord progressions that handed to you the inspiration that punk was still for all. Nine gloriously accessible tracks in under a half an hour representing a seemingly dying epoch in its original form. The simple musical concepts and lyrical content of Bohemian sexuality and loathing are what make this quick-digest one of the great punk records even if we didn’t need to hear it all again. (9/10)

X: Wild Gift [Slash, May 1981]

Similar themes to Los Angeles from the sophomore Wild Gift—the riffs are more projected making the doomed-with-love-and-doomed-without-it words easier to grasp this time. Check out “In This House That I Call Home”. A more country rock/roots rock vibe is evident here showing off what may come as natural to them along with the punk exterior. Though many old-school critics rank Wild Gift ahead of its predecessor for its mix of a love vibe merged with punk rock, I don’t think I can place it ahead of Los Angeles; it isn’t far behind by any stretch. I love the conciseness of the debut too much. (8/10)


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