This Week’s Albums
August 28th, 2015
IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…
that doesn’t rhyme. “ I do a D.J. gig every week; I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts)- in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose). Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; from FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun. I get to talk to people (about music); play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds (well, I try to). I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you had forgotten about.
The Old: The Rolling Stones- Sticky Fingers (1969)
Having turned-in Let It Bleed (in 1969) – the band’s most accomplished album up until that point- Sticky Fingers exceeded expectations. Packed with punch and panache, the album tangled fury and anger- cuts like Bitch and Dead Flowers harked back to their early days- whereas Brown Sugar and Wild Horses rank as two (of the band’s best songs) to that point. Filled with sex and raunchiness; attitude and confidence, the album saw the band at their peak- their creative levels firing on all cylinders. Tangling Blues, Soul and Hard-Rock, the album enflamed and overwhelmed critics. Jagger’s voice is at its most electrifying and rampant: tracks like Can’t You Hear Me Knocking bristle with energy and attitude; the Richards-led guitar groove is infectious. With congas, brass and guitars entangled in a clatter of epic proportions, it is a stand-out riot. The Rolling Stones showed a softer side (on numbers like Wild Horses); cranked the sweat levels up to 11- the emotional balance was perfectly-realised. The band was in the middle of a creative hot-streak: they would follow Sticky Fingers with Exile on Main St. – argued as their very finest album. For those looking for reminders at how good ‘60s music could be, check out a true masterpiece- one that has seldom been topped.
The New: Royal Headache- High (2015)
For the second week running (the best release) of the week is both Australian-bred and utterly fantastic. Whereas Totally Mild (last week’s pick) mixed Electro.-Pop sounds with emotive lyrics and stunning vocals; Royal Headache are a different bag- they portray classic Punk sounds, wrapped around the unique vocals of front-man Shogun. Back in 2011- when the Sydney band released their debut album- the band hit a crisis; their internal struggle and upheaval led to a break-up. Back in the fold, the guys sound focused and compelling. Their instrumentation is feverish and nervy; completely intoxicating and urgent- perfectly balanced by Shogun’s fiery and nuanced voice. Another World boasts meaty hooks and plenty of Punk hammer; Carolina fused teary-Soul with heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band have clearly reconciled; peace is back in the camp: they sound tighter and more passionate (than their debut); working with one another, rather than against. Not contented to be labelled a Hardcore or Punk band, the Australians offer plenty of breeze, soulfulness and romance- a heady brew that is hard to ignore. In a week where the likes of The Strypes have disappointed- investigate a band that live up to the hype.
The Influencer: Public Enemy- It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Last week I reviewed Maxinquaye (by Trip-Hop maestro Tricky). Its key song (the peerless Black Steel) was a cover of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos– one of It Takes’ standout moments. One of the most influential Rap albums of all-time, its political messages (and social commentary) compelled a generation of Rap wannabes- bands like Beastie Boys and Jurassic 5 have sampled (Public Enemy’s) music. Revolution-mixology and smack-down beats sparred with socially-aware lyrics; sample-crammed moments and a staggering sense of grandeur. Chuck D. (the band’s leader) looks at white supremacy and race issues; self-empowerment (for black artists) and musical exploitation. With Chuck D.’s boundless vocabulary and dazzling rhetoric, the songs not only stood out alone- their messages inspired legions of listeners (who felt oppressed and discriminated against). Throw in Flavour Flav’s machine gun-frenzied jokes and what remains is an album truly representative of its time. Other Hip-Hop acts have attempted to match It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back– it has never been equaled. Not just for lovers of the genres, its diversity and intelligent will appeal to all music-lovers; few have an excuse (to pass this album) by.
The ‘Other One’: En Vogue- Funky Divas (1992)
In an age where girl bands boasted credibility, influence and mesmirising tracks- as opposed to today’s severe draught and questionable examples- En Vogue stood at the top of the genre. The girls’ insatiable harmonies define the album: each number is elevated to spiritual levels; when combined in voice they elicit a heavenly high. My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) stands as their finest hour: a rampant and f***-you anthem of sass and independence. Free Your Mind– in addition to brimming with Rock-hard attitude and swagger- addresses the issue of race and discrimination- in the song, our heroine cannot go anywhere without being watched and judged. A call against narrow-minded judgement and bigotry, it is a stunning cut. Whilst the album sags towards the end- it is a top-loaded L.P. – there is enough ammunition to please existing fans (and new listeners). One listen to tracks like My Lovin’; recollections and nostalgia flows; those choruses lodge in the head- you are powerless to resists their allure. One of the finest girl groups ever- who would go on to inspire a host of upcoming bands- Funky Divas is an essential cut; guaranteed to lift the spirit- and get the voice singing loud and proud.