Tuesday, May 26, 2015

If It's Tuesday, I'm Just Catching Up On Some New Music

I caught up on some new music this weekend. It wasn't all bad.

The Darkness have a new record, "Last Of Our Kind," due on June 2nd. Their last record "Hot Cakes" still gets very heavy rotation in my house. This was a record that seemed to be made for me. Miraculous hard rock riffs, enough hooks to snag a flounder, all with that Sparks and Bowie flamboyancy and harmonies Freddie Mercury would die (again) for. But "Last Of Our Kind," at least after one focused pass, falls short. It's more of the same, so that's a plus, but the material just didn't move me the way "Hot Cakes" moved me, especially this track:

Paul Weller has a new record, "Saturns Pattern." His 2008 and 2010 releases "22 Dreams" and "Wake Up The Nation," respectively, had some of the best music of his long career. But Weller lost me for a bit with 2012's unlistenable "Sonic Kicks." I am happy to say, Paul Weller has found his mojo for "Saturns Pattern." The songs have more structure and the melodies are stronger and feel less like some tossed off experiments. There are hints of rhythm and blues, a bit of pop psychedelia and more than enough moments that will remind you of solo Paul McCartney. Here's the whole shebang.

Bruce Handy wrote a terrific piece for Vanity Fair about some singer-songwriters he refers to as "Joni's Girls"- Laura Marling, who has recently released her fourth record and who I have loved since her debut, Australia's Courtney Barnett, who has been hyped to Mars and back, Jessica Pratt, who makes Nick Drake sound like Tom Jones, and Natalie Prass, my favorite of the last three, whose self-titled record dabbles in a bit of Memphis country and soul that would make Dan Penn proud. (She is from Nashville. I know.)

I couldn't make it through all of Jessica Pratt's record, which made me twitch. I was loving Courtney Barnett. The opening track "Elevator Operator" knocked me out, feeling a bit like a great lost track from the classic NY punk days of the late 70s, but then, as usual, I was bored by the 5th or 6th track, as it began to sound like more style than substance, though I can absolutely see the appeal. Barnett can write. I just don't like the sound of the record.

With Natalie Prass, I had the opposite feeling. I love the sound of the record but the songs bored me. Still, it would be wrong of me to just dismiss Prass. There is some truly great music here and I look forward to her next record.


William Repsher said...

And here's your conundrum again with new "alternative" music ... these albums by the female artists aren't terrific. They're good, from what I've heard. (I've heard all of Marling, her last few albums actually, and Barnett, but not so much Pratt and Prass, whom I'll gladly check out.) "Terrific" would be Laura Marling coming up with something that rivals Blue in terms of creativity and talent ... as opposed to doing a very nice job of mimicking her heavy influence. No offense to your love of The Black Crowes, but they did much the same with the Faces/Humble Pie influence: a great job of getting the style down, and I'd say in their case writing songs that could rival some of the best of their influences.

I'm not hearing anyone challenging their influences, and maybe that's what we're looking for as older fans. I hear artists who "get it" -- which seems like a miraculous rain of talent from the heavens these days -- but that's not the same as taking an influence and adding to it via whatever your own talents may be. I'd rather encourage than discourage artists like this from trying -- they're showing signs of having what it takes. But these days showing signs of having what it takes puts you on roughly the same shelf as innovators and great talents of the past, and I'm not so kosher with that. Badfinger did a nice job of mimicking The Beatles, but they weren't The Beatles. Maybe this all started there, in the early 70's? When you had genuinely good-to-great bands who were notch lower than their influences but still trying to do the same thing?

Sal Nunziato said...

"But these days showing signs of having what it takes puts you on roughly the same shelf as innovators and great talents of the past, and I'm not so kosher with that."

Neither am I. From a personal viewpoint, I wonder how many more new artists I'd enjoy if the table was set with "This isn't bad" instead of "This is amazing!"

Shriner said...

As always, I am looking forward to a new album by The Darkness. I need to get it and put it in the pile of things I haven't listened to yet, but want to (like the Paul Weller and the new Sufjan...)

What did you think of "This is the Sonics", btw? I thought it was pretty f'n awesome (and, frankly, inspiring to me as an approaching-50 guitar player...) Yeah, basic 3-chord riff-heavy stuff done 100 times elsewhere, but it got me off my chair (and not much does that these days...)

dogbreath said...

Looking forward to Weller's new album & am encouraged by your comments as well as seeing him perform a few tracks on TV to plug the new release. I concur with your view of "Sonic Kicks" but overlook that misfire because of his pedigree & track history. Unreasonably hesitant as I've been over The Darkness, nevertheless after your kind words about their last album I dug out my copy of "Hot Cakes" to listen to while driving & couldn't have had a better time if I'd tried. Sometimes revisiting does pay dividends. I still recall tweaking every knob (good title for a Darkness song) and dial when I first played their debut cd as I thought my speakers must be acting up but it was only Justin Hawkins's falsetto which caused my eardrums to burst. Anyway, I'm up for giving the new disc a chance to do likewise.

Sal Nunziato said...

Shriner, loved This Is The Sonics. Just a big, blast of rock and roll. What's not to love?