Yes, I know, May is a long way from January. Having started the new year with a flourish with a top 20 album digest of 2011, a silly picture of David Bowie musing at the oldest computer in the world AND the first sitandupandlisten of 2012, I went a little bit quiet on the Western Front. Fewer trenches, but more other writing gigs, internships and the latest craze, Twitter. It’s no excuse, and I would tie myself to a gun carriage, but I can’t type at the same time.
Despite vowing to spend less money on CDs in 2012, I have already bought five. And as an olive branch, dove flying rainbow suspender, long haired, free love, white flag gesture, I thought I might share my thoughts on them. If this goes well, I don’t see why situpandlisten can’t occur by the end of the week. I mean, I’m always sitting up and listening to music. Let’s have a look shall we? Starting with We Are Augustines and Alabama Shakes and the Mystery Jets.
We Are Augustines, “Rise Ye Sunken Ships”: Oozing a dreadful, yet beautiful sadness, the Brooklyn outfit has grabbed hold of my heart during spring. Lead singer Billy McCarthy recounts his arduous family life, and his tender, strained voice sounds hoarse as if about to, or having just cried his eyes out. The debut album covers everything shiny from depression, love loss to suicide. “Book of James” and many songs on the album harks a distant and fresh-faced Bruce Springsteen. Massive tick. Possibly a smidgen of EARLY U2. Slight tick. Baby tick. Maybe just a bit of a tick (v) or (/). But like The Boss, We Are Augustines strain a flicker of euphoria through the candid tales of heartache beautifully played and sung. Opener “Chapel Song” entices you with that guitar hook, while “Juarez” will really take your breath away (he hasn’t got cathedrals in his arse, by the way), while “Headlong into the Abyss” epitomises this light at the end of the murky tunnel mentality the band have captured so well.
Alabama Shakes, “Boys and Girls”. I don’t want to sound like a really annoying person, but I HEARD THIS BAND IN AUGUST LAST YEAR AND LIKED THEM BEFORE YOU. Sorry. When I discovered the beautiful “You Ain’t Alone” they were still called The Shakes, but due to some legal voodoo mumbo-jumbo small print, they had to change it, because the other Shakes were upset and in a suey kind of mood. Cleverly they stuck their homeland in front of the title. And they really tap into that country bluesy soulful hootenanny deep-south vibe. And I love it. The charisma of lead singer Brittany Howard is a joy to listen to and everything from “Hold On” to my favouritest “Hang Loose” all makes you want to go to your nearest barn dance, or at least dance around your room or workspace. They can also do sensual “You Aint Alone” as one example but the brilliant title track demonstrates a marvelous songwriting ability and cements this album as one of the finest of 2012. Even though it’s May (sorry, sorry, sorry).
Mystery Jets, “Radlands”. People often ask me if I have a guilty pleasure. I usually say bacon fat, before I realise they’re talking about music. Mystery Jets just might be my musical bacon fat. But I don’t know why. I have always liked them. I shouldn’t feel guilty. Or should I? I don’t know. I think the Mystery Jets were a readily stable part of my youth. I made dens with them, I looked a day over 21 and felt like half my life was gone, I came up really hard and now Im often gripped with a bitter fear. They were always there in those years, when I needed some music to accompany me. And end scene. Their new album Radlands, see them depart from Eel Pie Island and take a trip to Austin, Texas. And there is a notable progress from the jangle plastic pop of the first two albums and Serotonin’s crooning ballads. It’s not all country rock and slidy steel guitar though. Dark Opener “Radlands” is far removed and more Arcade Fire than the rest of the album’s more country-ish feel. There’s a bit of double denim disco in The Hale Bop, while “The Greatest Hits”, while painfully stuck between “Stuck in the Middle of You” and “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” will swiftly become “Two Doors Down” in no time, as Blaine Harrison brilliantly describes a break up and subsequent dividing of records. “You can keep ‘No Need to Argue’ and I’ll keep ‘The Aeroplane Over the Sea’/But hold on to ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ cos I’m holding on to ‘Village Green’ ”. The quality alternates betweens high and low with the ridiculous “The Ballad of Emerson Lonestar” and the exceptional “Take Me Where the Roses Grow” (OK, I’ve found my bacon fat, I just love the harmonies on the chorus). Ultimately the Mystery Jets haven’t forgotten who they are, by trying to reinvent their sound completely, and the album marks a real progression in the music. Many bands have left the sunny shores of Blightly for a crack at the US, and many have failed. “Exile On Main Street” it ain’t , and “Aladdin Sane” no flippin’ way, but Blaine, Will, Kapil and vacant bass player position apply within (Kai left the day before the record came out on panto/soap opera proportions) have done a decent job. YEEEHAllo there.
Part two pending. I promise. Sorry, sorry, sorry.