Weekly Capsule Reviews: 26/03/2017


This week: Wiley, Blanck Mass, The Shins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Orwells, Drake

Older releases/Classics: The Jesus and Mary Chain, La Roux

Wiley: Godfather [CTA (self-released), 13/01/2017]

Head first in there with beats full to the crunch invigorating not just himself but even Devlin. And with the likes of Stormzy hanging on to the street-wise veneer that has curated their chart success, Wiley was letting grime pass him by simply due to lacklustre releases while the whippersnappers were biding their time honing their near-formulaic aptitude. But here we have so much flow and pace through the bars it’s like he’s starting all over again yet simultaneously giving the two fingers to the past, present, and future. Like he’s the originator and the rest are chumps. Worthy ones, but chumps all the same. The self-explanatory “Back with a Banger” sums it up to no end. This is one of the first hip-hop records I’ve heard in a while where the collaborators are almost thankful, honoured even, to be stepping foot on the record. From Jme’s gloating assurance on “Name Brand” to Ghetts’ interruptions on “Bang”, there’s almost a “let’s-do-him-proud” to this. I’m beginning to think grime’s insurgence into US territory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think he’s trying to tell us something. What’s that something? It’s a British thing. From the Blighty sad sacks of the ’80s to now, Yanks have never fully got it on the first go. And when they eventually come around, it’s too late. (8/10)

Blanck Mass: World Eater [Sacred Bones, 03/03/2017]

With so many Europhiles attempting to infiltrate black matter with every instrument conceivable in 2016 (pretty much just Nils Frahm, whom I’m not entirely distraught at the seeing the back of for a while), Benjamin John Power blasts through it with post-dubstep, drum ‘n’ bass, UK garage, and a sense of worth. Through his computer, anyway. (7/10)

The Shins: Heartworms [Columbia, 10/03/2017]

Vocally sounding like a bunch of artists such as Mass Gothic, Geddy Lee, MIKA… Bono, James Mercer is still throwing up melody to conjure nostalgia and benevolence alike. Highlights are the listening-to-the-British-rain “Mildenhall”, music-as-escape “Half a Million”, and the kiss-and-make-up “So Now What”. (7/10)

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Damage and Joy [Warner Music, 24/03/2017]

No point in telling the Reid brothers it’s been and gone for decades now. Reunions are the in thing to the detriment of the fan (in heart not head) more so than anyone else. Lining your pockets again is fine, whatever, legacy doesn’t seem to matter. It might be overrated, anyway. After all, we’re not in 1985 anymore. The feedback has even given up and thankfully they haven’t overdone it to run over the tired riffs. No point in trying. Sadder than ever, I will say. Facing up to the facts is what they do best, especially important in their perception of the world being constantly shit more than unfair. Good thing then it’s just “mellow rage” they’re exuding. (6/10)

The Orwells: Terrible Human Beings [Canvasback/Atlantic, 17/02/2017]

More guitar lads (good) out to change the world for the better. No let-up on the fapping and afternoons in bed, though. (6/10)

Drake: More Life (playlist) [OVO Sound/Young Money/Cash Money/Republic, 18/03/2017]

2016 was a year for black music like none other in the modern topography of conveyor belt pop-culture business. From “alternative” R&B to neo-soul, experimental hip-hop to grime, gospel to Africa, there isn’t much left to show the listener that this music was where it all began. But Drake has found dancehall to thrust upon us and occasionally I thank him for it. Judging by the look of things the word “album” could now be problematic stemming from Kanye’s ever-morphing The Life of Pablo to Drake’s “playlist” More Life. Envisaging an opportunity which might not be as prudent as the Brits are thinking, he jumps on the grime and British hip-hop bandwagon like a business opportunity that seems great on paper—and maybe, just maybe, with some US Anglophile-incorporating, in practice, too. Skepta and Giggs don’t care either way. Views displayed his utilitarianism in love and he sticks by that here. But when he delves into safe mode—which is most of this—I’m not interested in how much of a sweetheart he is or acts like. His collaborations outdo him, everyone out-disses him, and pretty soon he may have to re-evaluate that nice-guy pose. For his art, first and foremost. (5/10)

Older releases/Classics

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy [Blanco y Negro/Warner Music, 18/11/1985]

The Reid brothers have everything to say through the fuzzy everything. And if you stay the course it’s worth the deciphering. It’s so full of charm you almost question how they use their fuzz and reverb to preach their doom and gloom. But they do and you go along. Starting off with “Just Like Honey” is a good move, it being the most innocuous compared to the rest’s doom-as-catharsis. It hasn’t aged well, actually, but doom you can dance to is most certainly a nostrum. Socially and medicinally. (8/10)

La Roux: Trouble in Paradise [Polydor, 18/07/2014]

From synthpop to disco-sounds-like-new-wave, La Roux deliver on further promises of sounding like the 1980s. Not quite the artistes you’re thinking of on Trouble in Paradise, but good enough all the same. Metropolitan riots have never gotten a musical remembrance like “Uptight Downtown”, infidelity has never gotten a telling-off like “Sexotheque”, and sexual expediency has never had a gal blush so much (at first sight) like “Tropical Chancer”. These aforesaid tracks are tight, hook-filled, and apolitical in so many trivial ways they need studying anyway. Because of that, I can excuse the rest for being a Bananarama pastiche. (7/10)


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