ft Foo Fighters, Simple Minds, Coldplay

jameslondon_ben_solidcolorFor our last New Born for 2015, we had Ben review of a trio of albums from 3 bands that need no introductions.  Perhaps a slight biased approach this week as we know that our writer Ben (Victorian based) is a massive Simple Minds, not to mention Coldplay and Foo Fighters.  So perhaps not so much here to expand your minds in music this week but more a moment for Ben to express his opinion on his prides and joys.  Foo Fighters suprised fans with this mini release while Coldplay made no secret about there’s and although we are kind writers here at TWL and gave it a fair go, many other blogs gave it a good hiding.  Over to Ben and see you in 2016 with new writers for our beloved New Born post.

Artist Foo Fightersfoofighters

Album Saint Cecilia EP

Label Sony

Genre  Rock

Moments of  You guessed it…

Stand Out Iron Rooster

As breezy as its predecessor Sonic Highways seemed labored, Saint Cecilia was issued as a surprise free download via the Foo Fighters’ website on November 22, traditionally seen as the annual commemoration of the life of the album-monikered medieval Italian woman who played the violin. It was also marked with a long, rambling letter from front man Dave Grohl on why this was a special release to remember the people of Paris, recently gunned down in a terrorist tragedy.

After the unsure-of-where-it-stood nature of Sonic Highways, this little five-tracker finds the Foo Fighters back on form. They are also back as just themselves. No guests in the room. Just Dave Grohl (vocals, guitar), Nate Mendel (bass), Taylor Hawkins (drums), Chris Shifflett (guitar), Pat Smear (guitar) and Rami Jaffee (keyboards). And it’s free!

Track by track, opener Saint Cecilia is all right, if perhaps a little too familiar. Second-up Sean is bright, breezy, poppy, retro fun that harks back to the late 1990s Colour And The Shape days. Saviour Breath is the too-obvious obligatory scream-o-rama pick from the Grohl bag of tricks.

But the best by far here in this little selection has to be Iron Rooster. The find of the EP. A terrific, languid, Neil Young country vibe.  Closer Neverending Sigh is again a traditional, big-stomp exit strategy. Not too bad but (and this happens at least once every Fooeys record) they can play those in their sleep.

Overall though? A pleasant surprise. And it shows that sometimes, some musical artists can still produce the unexpected (a free EP, worldwide, for all, from their website, no strings attached). Best thing by the Foos since 2011’s Wasting Light? Yep. Better than Sonic Highways? Absolutely. Sometimes shorter is sweeter.

 

foofightersArtist Simple Minds

Title  Live – Big Music Tour 2015

Label Their own

Genre  Electro-pop

Moments of Glasgow’s finest at their…finest

Stand Out New Gold Dream, Stay Visible, Waterfront, White Hot Day, Book Of Brilliant Things, Let It All Come Down, etc, etc…

Aye, it’s that lot again. Hot on the heels of last year’s surprisingly solid “Big Music” studio effort, Scotland’s Simple Minds have returned to the stage over the past 12 months and collected the best of the “Big Music Tour” from the UK on this superb two-disc audio set.

Does it get any better from this group? Primarily culled from April this year at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall (and cheekily, the band has also got the entire concert up on its YouTube channel in video form, too), it’s two hours of sheer electro-swirling pop delight from Simple Minds.

The show is a stunning showcase of this new, seven-member set of talented performers. Jim Kerr (vocals), Charlie Burchill (guitar), Mel Gaynor (drums), Andy Gillespie (keyboards) and Ged Grimes (bass) are the mainstays of course. But they are well supported by Sarah Brown (backing vocals) and Catherine Davies (keyboards, backing vocals).

One might as well merely name-check the moments. Here we go. The first half kicks some serious botty indeed. From New Gold Dream we whoosh forward 20 years to Stay Visible. Same pulsing intensity present. Waterfront. Close to 30 years on. Let me see your hands says Kerr. Everyone joins in. And it’s like the 1990s never happened.

The post-intermission part two begins with a near-Kraftwerkian reinterpretation of 1980s classic White Hot Day as an instrumental by Gillespie. Any chance that Kerr would let Gillespie remix the rest of the Minds’ 80s catalog? Imagine what he could do with Big Sleep, for instance? And that’s in no way a backhander against the legendary Mike MacNeil – or even his 1990s replacement Mark Taylor.

The rest of disc two in particular is a dedicated gallop through the hits – Book Of Brilliant Things, Let It All Come Down, She’s A River. Including some stuff that hasn’t been part of the setlist for around 15 years. How can you not love that?

“Can we please play a few more? We don’t want to go home!” is Kerr’s plea to the audience after the main set ends. Predict the response. Does it matter that a small sampling of the material presented here already appeared barely three years ago on the 5x5 tour? No way. We’re past the 35th anniversary mark now, speeding almost towards 40. And 2017 should come soon enough. This is equally as good as 1987’s Live In The City Of Light. And that was 28 years ago.

Like 5×5, though, there’s ample sonic evidence that the Minds totally tilts between Burchill’s ringing, rousing guitar and the more studied, earnest polish offered by Gillespie. And if you’re a fan of these guys, there’s also a level of genuine joy about experiencing this release. A contender for album of the year for mine. Brilliant stuff.

 

Artist Coldplaycoldplay1

Album  A Head Full Of Dreams

Label Parlophone UK

Genre Pop/Rock

Moments of  Well, I keep thinking of 1980s Genesis, actually.

Stand Out Adventure Of A Lifetime, Up And Up, Everglow, Amazing Day, Army Of One

Album seven – and supposedly the last we might hear from the old London college classmates for quite a while, Coldplay’s Head Full Of Dreams is a complete about-face on the previous breakup record Ghost Stories. But does that necessarily make it a great (assumed) goodbye?

Chest off-getting right from the, er, off, folks. Over the past decade I have – to misquote the classic Cold War comedy movie – learned how to stop worrying and quite like Coldplay. Yes, really. Second album Rush Of Blood To The Head remains my personal favorite, followed by “Viva”. And, yes, I also really believe that, at their best, they more and more remind me of a 21st century Genesis. A melodic touch and a tale or two to tell to the audience.

Indeed, you can just about trace a trajectory through Coldplay’s career that matches that of Genesis, circa 1976 onward, when drummer Phil Collins turned frontman. According to that comparative logic, we’re now up to the serious pop peak of “Invisible Touch”. So is Coldplay. Only not quite serious enough about it, perhaps.

What works? Funnily enough, the second half of the record recovers and rearranges perceptions better than the first. Indeed, the initial three tracks seem way too eager to please someone – presumably either producer Rik Simpson (again) or the Parlophone Records board of directors. “Everglow” is the “Paradise”-y piano ballad of almost mid-career Collins solo variety (circa 1989’s “But Seriously”). Super single Adventure Of A Lifetime is just that. Yes, it’s very Daft Punk “Get Lucky”, but it’s also a terrific slice of pop.

Army Of One, at six minutes, is at least a robust search for something sonically broader, with off-time drumming, synthesizers and samples. But unintentionally, Will Champion (drums), Guy Berryman (bass) and Jonny Buckland (guitar) have become relegated here to being The Chris Martin Backing Band.

Give the guys credit where due, though. Finale Up And Up is even better, soaring close to seven minutes. With a Noel Gallagher guitar solo to boot. Martin isn’t Thom Yorke, however. And his personal psychodramas aren’t accompanied by music as consistently incredible or intriguing as Radiohead.

What doesn’t work? The title opener, all big thumping bass, dragged down by the obligatory “whoahs” and handclaps. Birds is all but a rework of “Close To Me” by The Cure (at least the potential crib is from a classic). And you can’t say you can’t hear the words clearly on this record. But it’s like “Ghost Stories” never existed. This is more “MX Part II”. Hymn For The Weekend completes a derivative hat-trick. It’s this LP’s “Princess Of China” (complete with Beyonce this time instead of Rhianna). It’s not Coldplay wasting their talent, just lazily deploying it at times.  “Fun” is the same, complete with PC “In The Air Tonight” electro pad drum breakdown. Maybe there was an EP’s worth of songs (shades of 2005’s “XY” album). Potential without the polish.

What now? Give Berryman a medal for his bass contribution. Give Champion more say in the lyrical and arrangement department. And give Noel Gallagher (for the chops) and Keane keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley (also for the arranging ability) to Coldplay for a full studio and tour cycle. Remember, Martin asked Rice-Oxley to join Coldplay in 1997. He declined. If all else fails, get “Viva” and “MX” engineer Jon Hopkins to smother the lot of it in electronics.

Head Full Of Dreams is not overly disappointing. Or frustrating. Just flatter than what it could have been. And failing to genuinely grab the listener. Catchy for the ears? Sure. Catchy for the heart? Rather less so. I’m not worried. And yes, I can say I still quite like Coldplay. Well, quite. Now lads, how about four years’ off? Minimum. See you again afresh? But not before 2019, please.

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