What’s going on? 27th February 2022
What’s on our turntable right now? Here are a few albums, new and old, getting heavy rotation.
The Tipping Point - Tears For Fears
I saw Tears For Fears back in 2019. The gig was good, but the interaction between Roland and Curt was at best limited. At worst, it looked like they avoided each other at all costs. Not easy to do during a gig, yet they succeeded. So expectations for a new album were low.
But tragedy is a strange thing. Roland’s wife died in 2017, following a battle with alcoholism and mental health issues. This probably explains the tension. But that same tragedy has helped them emerge triumphant.
Following that not great tour, attempts were made to make an album that Curt did not feel comfortable making, working with new writers who thought they knew what a TFF album should sound like. Reading between the lines, you suspect Curt caught the full force of Roland’s grief. Both walked away from the album, but returned when things calmed down. Somehow they kept talking and scrapped the original album, save a few songs. They then properly co-wrote most of the material that made the cut (Roland wrote all those hits way back in my teens). Against the odds, they have made an astonishing album.
The album tackles Roland’s grief full on. Title track The Tipping Point is fabulous, the pop thrills of the 80s are back, Back, BACK. It’s catchy as hell, despite its difficult subject matter. Please Be Happy, an ode to Roland’s late wife is an open wound, sung beautifully by Curt, his voice as naked and raw as the grief he conveys.
Master Plan is all Beatles nods (no change there), Break The Man is Curt’s attack on the patriarchy (managing to avoid mansplaining, I think), My Demons is a stomper (“Cause my demons don't get out that much”) and opener No Small Thing starts as a campfire acoustic strum, but builds and builds, as the Wurlitzer organs and thundering drums come in.
For an album that explores the trauma of loss, the pressure this brings on wider relationships as you lash out and take your grief on others, it’s a hugely uplifting, positive and life affirming record. I am on my fifth listen since buying it yesterday. It’s brilliant.
angel in realtime. - Gang Of Youths
This third album by Australian band Gang Of Youths is another album dealing with death and grief, the lyrics reflecting singer David Le’aupepe coming to terms with his father dying - “this record’s gonna be about my father and how he died, and how he lived, and everything I found out about him. That’s the only thing I can really write about. It’s gonna be about him … and about people I love."
The album crackles along like The National, with the most brilliant drumming and heavy on the orchestral backing. The music is exuberant despite its difficult subject matter.
you in everything opens proceedings and sets the scene “it will torture me at first, then it will hurt a little less”, and “I kissed the hands that raised me for the last time” ring true, remembering those final moments with my own father. It’s a baroque’n’roll belter that has the kitchen sink thrown in, using a full-blown 42-piece string section recorded in Budapest and the Auckland Gospel Choir. It’s lovely and it’s huge.
Elsewhere it explores the truths his father had hidden from his family, including being ten years older than he had claimed, and more seriously that he had two other sons, who in turn thought their father long dead. He lied about being mixed race, in fact being fully Samoan. The father he thought he knew was someone quite different. brothers explores these lies and revelations, but it leaves you with this incredible sense of forgiveness and acceptance of this new, wider family David knew nothing about. His brother met him, telling him how he was abandoned at birth by their father but has forgiven him - so David can too.
“I know our father had his reasons, but that can never make it right or fair. And I hate myself for stealing all his love when my brothers thought that he was dead. So as I dig through the collateral, the secrets hid throughout the years, I know I'll hardly ever answer them, but it's the way to keep him near”
It’s raw, but the startling lyrics and tremendous music never allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the grief and revelations they are processing. returner again deals with his father’s revelations “The innocence died in waves of quiet things, nothing feels right or quite the same”, the strings swirling again as a Peter Hook style bass line soars. the kingdom is within you even has a scat vocal at one point that does not send you running for the hills, its lyrics looking at the challenges his father faced in his life, searching for understanding, rather than judging or condemning him.
The only missteps are tend the garden, which soars dangerously close to Bruce Hornsby’s That’s Just The Way It Is and also joining this ridiculous fad for having all the song titles in lower case.
But these are small complaints for what is a revealing, autobiographical a story of grief, acceptance and absolution. It’s a stone cold classic.
Reprise - Moby
Moby’s Play album back in 1999 was ubiquitous. Radio, adverts, tv, compilations - you couldn’t avoid it. But it managed that rare trick of never getting boring or tired. Live in 2000, he was stunning. His subsequent albums have been less rewarding, more inconsistent. But there are moments of gold still.
This album is a series of reworked orchestral and acoustic arrangements of songs from his career, performed by the Budapest Art Orchestra, a string quartet, plus with guest artists including Gregory Porter, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, the late Mark Lanegan and Kris Kristofferson.
It’s a more open affair than his normal albums, with a strong live feel to the songs. I can’t stand Gregory Porter normally, but this version of Natural Blues is just fantastic. Well worth a listen.
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
In 2004, Take Me Out announced this fabulous new band. I remember finding them on a compilation, including Bloc Party and The Libertines. They sounded like Orange Juice being played by The Strokes.
They were funky, punky, arty and quirky. I have seen them since - both as themselves and also as FFS, their collaboration with Sparks.
I picked this up at a record fair in Leamington Spa (as one does). Listening back to the album, it’s still great 18 years on. Take Me Out is genuinely fresh still, catchy, smart and its guitars still fizz with excitement.
Darts Of Pleasure is scratchy and bursting with confidence (“I will have fantastic passion”), whilst referencing Terry Wogan on The Dark Of The Matinee (“So I'm on BBC Two nowTelling Terry Wogan how I made it") is brilliantly on the money still.
Wonderful stuff. Still.
As I Try Not To Fall Apart - White Lies
2019’s FIVE album was great, a blast of 80s goth electronica 25 years too late, but all the better for it. In the past, their Joy Division, Interpol and New Order influences have been dominant, but this album has touches of ABC (a good thing), acid house (less good) and The Killers (why sound like a band that also sounds like your original influences?).
Am I Really Going To Die is a solid starter with its ABC indebted keyboard riff and New Order meets Chic guitar, followed quickly by first single As I Try Not To Fall Apart, both containing their long standing obsession with death and cracking up. They are great. Breathe sounds like late 80s Tears For Fears, without the oomph. It’s nice, but doesn’t really go anywhere.
I Don’t Want To Go To Mars rails against the vanity space projects of Elon Musk and Richard Branson - I agree with the sentiment, but the lyrics are a bit teenage angst for a band in their 30s.
It’s all ok, just a bit “been there and done that”. If this was homework, it would get a 6/10 - must try harder….
New albums by:
Spoon (though UPS seem to have lost my copy, they are f***ing useless)
Johnny Marr (Mrs JO’B has bought me a signed copy!)
The Boo Radleys (which based on the songs we saw live in October last year and the tracks released so far, will be stupendous)
Frankie Rose (covering the whole of The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds album),
the new Pip Blom album (if they ever get the record made - vinyl production issues have delayed it yet again)
and of course, the new album by MARILLION! So excited…
Stay safe, x