Jimmy Somerville • Homage
When Jimmy Somerville announced he was doing a pure disco album, I think most of us thought — wait, when was Jimmy Somerville ever NOT disco? He remade disco classics like ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ and ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ for the new wave generation and the 12-inch singles for originals like ‘Smalltown Boy’ shoulda come packed with a glitter ball.
By the time Jimmy started promoting Homage, he was getting downright cocky: ““A homage to disco is something I always wanted to do. I never really thought I could pull it off but I did, and it’s a really brilliant album to be perfectly honest”. Well boogie to the boogie to be if he didn’t pull it off.
Homage just might be one of the greatest disco albums ever, let alone succeeding where Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor tried and failed. Now Madge certainly had some big hits on that album, but the rest was album filler (which ironically has the polar opposite effect on an actual dance floor). Homage, however, thunders from track to track faithfully employing all of the studio tricks of the day — rubbery bass lines, horn sections (or synths that sound like horn sections), overproduced string sections (holy crap, he hired an actual string section). But kitch will only get you so far. Somerville delivers some of the best vocal performances of his career on Homage. Songwriting sets this album apart, beyond the genre exercise, it still feels like a modern album with things to say and endless ways to bring the sexy back. Homage is a single album party starter, right up there with that last Daft Punk LP. Its a shoo in for 2015’s Disco Album of the Year unless the upcoming Giorgio Moroder album (the one with Kylie, Britney, Charli and Sia) absolutely slays.
Pick up the limited edition Homage on “black vinyl replica CD” with an embossed sleeve exclusively at Cherry Red.
Extra props for Homage‘s fabulous CD booklet — it’s the first time I have ever seen the production credits include photos of every session musician and singer. Every album should celebrate these unsung — make that well sung — heroes.
The Fall • Sub-Lingual Tablet
31 albums in 39 years with 1/4 the population of England serving time in the band at one time or another, is there any reason to even review a Fall album? It’s either your cup of tea or bucket of piss. Guitars clanging. Feedback feeding. Bass lines skidding into walls. Mark E Smith ranting down the hall. What the fuck is he saying? Some bit about a big man pushing a little pram (‘Stout Man’)? It’s all like a Hunter S. Thompson fever dream or 11 butt dial voice mails from your well-read drunk uncle. Pretentious art rock acts try to sound this cool, but they forget to have fun and Tablet is endlessly listenable and enjoyable — in one of those Tones on Tail meets Jim Carroll meets Joy Division kinda ways — hell, the only real musical reference the Fall can lean on is the Fall.
One would think you were listening to Bend Sinister‘s long lost bonus disc had it not been for modern titles like ‘Facebook Troll’ and ‘Quit iPhone’. Is it the best post post post punk outta the Fall since ‘Bingo Masters Break Out’? All I know is this whole stinkin’ lot’s just utterly, utterly brilliant if you’re into chaos you can dance to.
Why don’t we just let Mark E Smith explain it all to you:
The Fall’s Sub-Lingual Tablet is out May 25th on Cherry Red.
Rachel Potter • Not So Black and White
Taylor Swift left a huge vacuum on country radio when she left Nashville for New York City and the pop charts. While everyone’s waiting anxiously for Maddie and Tae (‘Girl in a Country Song‘) to finish their debut album, a worthy heiress to the throne just released her fan-funded country breakthrough. Rachel Potter may not have won over Simon Cowell the way Carrie Underwood once did, but she charmed enough X Factor viewers to help crowd source Not So Black and White.
On the album cover, Potter rocks a short white lace dress, which seems to be the country music industry’s standard issue uniform for young starlets. On the album, she hits nothing but right notes while hitting all of the standard country music lyrical themes and radio-friendly tempos. There’s not a track on the album that shouldn’t be a hit — if she can navigate Nashville’s good ole boy political landscape and shake hundreds of DJ and music director hands at country radio stations from coast to coast.
While Potter has stunned on Broadway (Evita, The Addams Family) and held her own as a Christian and pop singer, she has the voice and persona built for modern country pop. She’s a feisty spitfire when she needs to be (kindred to Maria McKee and Reba McEntire) and can also hit the big notes in the monster ballads.
I’m one of those atheists whose world views are probably closer aligned to the teachings of Christ than most God Fearing Christians and Right Wing Evangelicals, which is why Potter’s ‘Jesus and Jezebel’ is such a revelation. In it, Potter bucks blind faith to share her personal relationship with her Faith, one uncorrupted by hatred, ignorance, exclusion, fear and Greed.
It’s melodically gorgeous and lyrically bold and just might be the song to unite a divided country on the Gay Marriage issue — plus you can dance to it.
As a bonus track, Potter adds a studio version of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’, the country reworking that helped her sail into the X Factor Top 40. As more critics join the fan fare on the Potter bandwagon, labels and radio will surely notice. But why wait?
Pick up Not So Black and White on Amazon today.
Local H • Hey, Killer
Even though I live in Seattle now and never plan on leaving, I’m happy to say I was in Chicago in the 90’s as the “Seattle Scene” imploded in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide and the Windy City rose from the ashes to take over the world. The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Liz Phair, Material Issue and Local H ruled all, well, until it all went to hell.
Scott Lucas has been soldiering as a 2-piece on all these years, marching to different drummers era to era. Hey, Killer marks his first long player with new stickman Ryan Harding and the first since Lucas was brutally mugged in Russia resulting in vocal cord damage (from which he thankfully recovered). ‘City of Knives’ sounds like a Pocketwatch-era Dave Grohl demo, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. ‘Freshly Fucked’ is two minutes of hardcore nirvana not to mention a damn good Nirvana. The whole album is a blistering, boot kick in the wuss-rock crotch that’s so sorely needed in this era of imagined dragons, fostered people and lame Blink 182 offshoots. It’s raw, unpolished and it works. Even if you’ve never heard sonic candy like ‘High Fiving MF‘ (from 1996’s As Good As Dead), there is a lot to love here be you a newbie or a Local H townie.
Pick up Hey, Killer April 14.
Echosmith • Talking Dreams
While it might seem very strange to have a 2013 album listed in a “hot new albums of 2015” round-up, Toluca Lake’s Echosmith have been steadily building heat for the disc ever since its long ago release on Warner Brothers. While most bands used to hone their craft for years in clubs before getting discovered and making an album, these days the process is in reverse. Get signed, make a record and then hit the road and learn how to sell it live.
Echosmith is comprised of four siblings in or fresh out of high school, and they already have two Warped Tours under their belt and a mostly sold out headline theater tour that is well underway. A good friend saw the show in Portland and was underwhelmed, which just about backs up the reviews from Seattle and elsewhere and what I’ve seen online. The band is still gelling as a live unit and could use some assistance with amps and effects pedals to fill out their sound on stage. Last week I saw a single guitarist for !!! (Chk Chk Chk) muscle more energy out of a single instrument than all of the Sierota siblings seem to muster live. Fans are forgiving — but for how long? Hopefully someone can stream It Might Get Loud for them on the tour bus — especially the parts where Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page explain who they summon their signature sounds in concert.
The record, Talking Dreams, is a whole other story. Producer Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Pink, Nelly Furtado and POPDOSE favorite Kate Voegele) polishes Echosmith’s sound to fill stadiums — every instrument crackles and the songs, co-written with their father, Jeffery David, are a masters class in modern pop.
The band name is a reference to how they aim to craft sound the way a blacksmith crafts steel — but it could just as easily be a nod to their clear musical influences: The Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen, not to mention Fleetwood Mac, Paramore and Ellie Goulding. ‘Cool Kids’ is their well-deserved multi-platinum single, but waiting in the wings is ‘Let’s Love’, a big bright duet fueled by shimmering Chameleons-eque guitars in the chorus and New Order Low Life-era guitars on the bridge (Echosmith covers ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ in their set). ‘March Into The Sun’ is as fun as anything fun. ever put out and will likely wind up in a Carnival Cruise ad someday. ‘Talking Dreams’ is a majestic stunner where Sydney sings “Let’s run, not walk, through this beautiful life.” There’s no stopping this band once their show catches up to their incredible album.
Pick up Talking Dreams immediately.
The Monochrome Set • Spaces Everywhere
Could 2015 finally be the year The Monochrome Set breaks through the clutter and becomes a mainstream sensation? Well, if there ever is an album to do it, Spaces Everywhere is the one.
The Monochrome Set was one of two bands to spring from the ashes of The B Sides, the other being Adam & The Ants. While the Ants burned brighter and flamed out quickly, The Monochrome Set soldiered on for most of the past 35 or so years. Longtime home Cherry Red recently brought their long out of print Blanco y Negro album, The Lost Weekend, to CD and included ‘The Jet Set Junta’ on Disc One of their epic Sacred To Get Happy: A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989 collection. And now Tapete Records (home to kindred spirits Bill Pritchard and Lloyd Cole) releases the band’s 12th official album, Spaces Everywhere.
If you’re a fan of classic UK jangle indie guitar pop (The Mighty Lemon Drops, Close Lobsters, Friends Again) or their modern offspring (Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Belle & Sebastian) there is a LOT to love on this album. Just like masterful recent albums by The Woodentops (Granular Tales) and Inspiral Carpets, The Monochrome Set in 2015 sound ageless and urgent. Bid’s voice is in fine form and his lyrics are as dark, wry and witty as ever. The organ-fueled guitar jangler ‘Fantasy Creatures’ is utterly charming and off kilter all at once. ‘Avenue’ owes as much to Yes’s ‘Roundabout’ as ‘Blurred Lines’ does to Marvin Gaye, but no need to get get litigious fellas, there’s enough of that delicious organ hook for everyone. There’s also a blistering flute solo in the album’s title track, but instead of going all proggy, the Set keeps each of the album’s 10 stellar songs packed into 3 and 4 minute splashes of pop perfection.
Pick up Spaces Everywhere right here.