We let a few new borns get away this week including Thurston Moore’s album, The Best Day that has him go back to his punkier roots, the return of the very underrated UK band, The Coral who released The Curse of Love last week, it is a true gem and should remind us how important this band was come 12 years back and their relevance today. This is accomplished timeless music. This week we decided to honour the old time rocker Billy Idol, on the eve of his memoirs, the 80s rocker who owns the quivering rock upper lip and what more can you say, but good for him. He still has a bit of rock to give. Cold War Kids on the other hand, despite such excitement on their latest album Hold My Home, had us feeling a little disheartened, is this really what we can expect from a band whose debut album was fresh, necessary and unique. The suprise draw this week is an album by Ultimate Painting, a bringing together of two guitarists who met on tour and decided an album would be conceived. The result, a little gem indeed.
Artist_ Billy Idol
Album Title_ Kings and Queens of The Underground
Genre_ Punk Rock
Moments Of _ Leonard Cohen, The Pretenders, Boomtown Rats
Stand Out_ Ghosts In My Guitar
He is the consummate punk rock legend. William Broad better known among the bourgeois circuit as Billy Idol has released his first studio album after a 9-year hiatus. Still dripping in all that charismatic swag, pilfered directly from the 80s in all it’s understated, hairspray – laden glory. Kings and Queens of the Underground is a loaded, ephemeral and consistent addition to such a distinctive backlog of material, neither offensively progressive nor incorrigibly stale. This week, I got reacquainted with the punk rock royal and rediscovered just how blimmin’ good that peroxided crooner could actually be.
Its kind of unfair and somewhat biased of me to say what I’m about to but ahhh, to be a product of the 80s. A simpler time. A time where shoulder pads were fashion de jour and leg warmers were the outfit equivalent of a snapback – not entirely functional however still very much essential all the same. Things were just plain bigger – bigger hair, bigger ballads, and even bigger moustaches. Yet arguably the most unforgettable aspect of the 80s was without a doubt, its music. And nestled amongst all that dross of hairspray and reinforced spandex emerged a very different kind of heartthrob, one that was really bad but wanted so desperately to be really good at the same time.
In 1976 an enthusiastic young Billy experienced his first liaison with fame courtesy of Generation X then subsequently going on to pursue a solo career in 1981. You cannot pick up an 80’s best of without stumbling across either White Wedding, Hot In The City or Eyes Without a Face. Idol’s new album sees him return back to his pop – punk roots, but waxing lyrical about lessons learned along the way. There is nostalgia occasionally harking back to earlier times but for the most part, its reflected, intermittently against a pensive and confessional backdrop. It’s personal, mildly candid and solemn, all at once. The likes of Can’t Break Me Down and Bitter Pill pay homage to the classic Idol sound of the 80’s whilst Ghosts in My Guitar is not your stock standard Idol by any stretch, replete with acoustic guitars and noticeably clean vocals but not without that signature Idol vibrato. Nothing To Fear is a rusty, carnal refrain that evokes all the heady 80s nostalgia associated with Flesh For Fantasy and Hot In The City. Trevor Horn assisted heavily on production here and in some points admittedly it felt predictable for me. Its straddling a fine line between harking back to glory days passed and wanting us to seriously consider that there may very well be another side to Billy Idol … and I mean the one that is serious and desperately wants us to listen to him sing about his woes. At times I did find that hard to reconcile but I suppose even rock stars too must age.
The verdict? It’s his first album in several years and there are in some point’s feeble attempts to linger in the yesteryear of Idolmania but technically sound and a must have for fans.
Artist_ Cold War Kids
Album Title_ Hold My Home
Label_ Downtown Records
Genre_ Alternative, Indie Rock, Pop/Rock
Moments Of_ Modest Mouse, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, White Rabbits
Stand Out_ All This Could Be Yours, Go Quietly
Another loud and proud album to add to their repertoire, Californian indie rock band Cold War Kids have released their 5th studio album, Hold My Home. 10 years since their formation, Nathan Willett continues to lead the show with his high pitched energy and unmistakable vocals. Since replacing a couple of band members with Dann Gallucci and Joe Plummer from Modest Mouse, their latest release may seem either further away from their creative work in Robbers And Cowards, their debut album hit produced in 2006.
As a heavily touring and live performing indie rock band, no doubt the bands fan base has vastly grown over the last 10 years and probably seen original fans disappear, and young radio listeners latch on. Due to my ever changing music taste and what up and coming bands and artists are producing and being noticed for, it seems to me that music listeners today are after something off centre and completely different to the genre norms; new sounds that are at first challenging, but intriguing, and offer a collection of unique melodies, new instrumental sounds and prominent vocals. As a band that is made up of very talented musicians and a lead singer who is confident, powerful and versatile, Cold War Kids would be very capable of creating something of this kind. However they have evidently chosen to go down the mainstream music path, getting louder and faster, and leaning away from indie rock, and touching more on indie pop.
There is a strong presence and intensity in Hold My Home, as though it was specifically made for the stadium or Arena. That has to be what the band was going for. The evident strain in his vocals has me envisioning Nathan Willett screaming down the mic in front of thousands of fans, with hand clapping and sing alongs. The tracks ‘Hotel Anywhere’ and ‘Nights And Weekends’ draw many similarities with U2; way too Pop/Rock for my liking. Even the catchy second track ‘First’, incorporates the anthem hand clap to get the crowd going. ‘All This Could Be Yours’ is the first track, and an obvious crowd pleaser. As soon as the piano kicks off, then the drums enter, and the vocals kick in, I instantly know I’m listening to Cold War Kids and am reminded of their very first hit album, Robbers And Cowards. Great first track, and excellent energy. What a shame it gets to the chorus and Willett bellows the same line 6 times, and then repeats every chorus. Not to mention this is backed up with repeated “ooh, oh oh’s”.
A standout track of mine is ‘Go Quietly’. It’s minimal, and that’s what I love about it. It also showcases Willett’s vocal qualities, as he confidently experiments with his vocal range, singing most of the song in falsetto. The track slows down the pace of the album and cuts the frenzy, also exhibiting that intriguing aspect of music that creates curiosity amongst listeners and the desire to hear the song again.
To be honest, this has definitely been the hardest review for me to write. There was something I disliked about every song, so all that would pour out of me was negativity. It’s not a bad album, but it’s just not that good, and for me it will be quickly forgotten.
Artist_ Ultimate Painting
Album Title_ Ultimate Painting
Label_ Trouble In Mind Records
Moments Of_ Real Estate, Pavement, Courtney Barnett, Velvet Underground, Parquet Courts
Stand Out_Central Park Blues, Ten Street
Ultimate Painting will probably be a one-off album (let me explain later), created by two guitarists of the alternative type who happened to click while on tour and like with any natural duet of great minds, this happy chappy of an album was born. James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Jack Cooper of Mazes met while touring together and post a few guitar lick exchanges, removed themselves from their respective bands in both body and influence. The result is an album full of laid back 60s inspired pop.
Judging from articles read about this album, Ultimate Painting may surely be a one off album, but it oozes satisfaction from two quite accomplished guitarist judging by this, shall we call it, collaboration then a band. Having really enjoyed Veronica Falls unique take of 60s moody pop and hearing some of Mazes recent work, there was a level of expectation.
Opening track Can’t You See slackers its way to the ears with it’s almost lethargic, but strangely Nirvana sounding sloppiness, however when duet harmonies kick in, the dimension flips to complete blissed out slurs.
Is it by coincidence that Central Park Blues takes the tone of Courtney Barnett, with its cute narrative vocal as a Velvet Underground strum and shuffling bass and drum carry the story of a meeting a girl in Central Park. It kind of reads as a day in the life of the boys as they dictate their day in New York, it’s a day of confusion and the mundane way that our lives can play out.
With the discovery of any new music, we head straight to google to explore what they are all about, so with fingers at the ready and search in place, Ultimate Painting returns very little, a live video clip (below), a community of Ultimate Painting and a very simple Tumblr page of the band. It is a reminder on what music has become, these collaborations are becoming far more popular as we are very close to leaving the days of groupies and band loyalty behind. Perhaps it really doesn’t matter anymore, music is so accessible, bands tour more to make a living and with that comes experiences, like-minded meetings.
Ten Street brings the strength of the two together and comes across as the track that brought it all together, a stand out, it struts along with 60s licks, honey dripping harmonies and all the groove the lads can muster.
Actually to pin-point and discuss each track seems rather pointless, every track just melts into the next with its laid-back coolness, it is always rather effortless and to think that the two brought all this together while on tour is a testament and reminder that when you take ideas out of their context, shuffle them together you never what you gonna get. In the case of Ultimate Painting, the results are rather good. The album takes all the goodness from Veronica Falls and Mazes and rolls it into this little pleaser.
I may well put this album on the shelf in months to come, but right now, as we lead into a breezy start to summer in Australia, it will be getting a few spins in this little head of mine. For the record, 6.5 may not be a reflective rating for an album I took great pleasure in listening too, more a rating of memorable albums in 2014, perhaps Ill revise in a year to come.