by Jim Eaton-Terry
This month we have new records from two of the most interesting big names in pop, what the editor tells me is sludge-metal from Mastodon and some laughable overreaching from Florence Welch. Because I don’t actually get paid for this, I haven’t subjected myself to more than 30 seconds of Loutallica, but I have listened to David Lynch’s album…
Björk – Biophilia
MostlyFilm don’t do expense accounts, so I’m having to review Björk’s new album Biophilia, as a record rather than the multi-media game/world/album/university it was intended to be. what I’ve seen of the app makes it look like one of those old CD-ROM things from the 90s, so that’s probably not the worst thing in the world.
Without ever spending the time and money to become as obsessive as she probably deserves, I’m a massive Björk fan. Looking back over her careers since Debut, it’s hard to think of a run of albums by any single artist that’s as long, as diverse, and as brilliant (actually I can think of one, of which more later). 20* years into her solo career, you would expect Björk to have settled into a safe groove or fallen away – 20 years after The Laughing Gnome, Bowie was on the Glass Spider tour [Files away point to figure out later – Ed] – but Biophilia is utterly beautiful. Like every Björk album it takes certain themes – nature, the sea, the outer world – and puts that voice against a succession of backdrops built from a range of instruments from the ancient to those she appears to have invented in the studio, and creates a completely unique and essential pop record. Always different, always the same, as they say.
Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer
Like a lot of people, I’ve drifted away from Fiery Furnaces since their dazzling first album, Gallowsbird’s Bark in 2002. I held onto the balloon through Blueberry Boat but after that I’m not sure I’ve listened to a complete FF record. Whenever I heard a track here or there I was hooked by Eleanor Friedberger’s voice, but found the sheer number of ideas being thrown at each track overwhelmed the songs.
Last Summer gives the impression that maybe she felt the same, as it’s a completely straight collection of pop songs. They’re gorgeously crafted, her voice is still beautiful, and the album hangs together as one of the best of the year. Being spoilt, however, I can’t help regretting the loss of some of the eccentricity that made the Fiery Furnaces stand out when they first appeared
Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials
This is the last (and least interesting) more or less eccentric female solo artist this month. Florence Welch has always sounded to me like an X-Factor runner up, and this album doesn’t do much to change my mind. It’s perfectly pleasant, with echoes of All About Eve, but there’s really nothing there. I chose the song above at random because after 3 listens there’s not one track on the album I could remember.
Mastodon – The Hunter
Mastodon are one of those acts that people who like metal tend to mention to people who write the whole genre off as being made by and for fat blokes working through their insecurities through the medium of shouting. I’m in the latter camp, in case that’s not clear.
The Hunter is, apparently, sludge-metal. This means it’s heavier than Whitesnake but less intense than those Norwegian bands who all keep killing each other. From an outside perspective, it just sounds like particularly technical grunge – this is where Mudhoney would have been if they’d been able to play really, really fast solos and spent a fortune on studio time. It’s worth a listen, though I’m struggling to imagine how often I’m going to listen to it in the future.
David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time
I’m also really not sure when I’m ever going to listen to David Lynch’s new album again. I’m not sure what I expected from a David Lynch album, or indeed how to describe this. It’s great, I think, and it certainly has to be heard to be believed, but it’s almost impossible to describe. If anyone else had recorded it, you’d probably say it was Lynchian.
Tom Waits – Bad as Me
Like Björk, Tom Waits has decades of brilliantly eccentric releases behind him, though unlike Björk he’s been past his very best for a long time. These days his records bring the pleasure of slight variations on his basic models (which he himself defined as Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards). Bad as Me has more bawlers than anything since 2002’s Alice, which makes it my favourite Waits album in almost a decade, but by this stage you know whether you’ll bother investing in it. It’s more worth buying than Real Gone, but if you’re not the sort of person who buys all his albums, then you’re better off spending your money on Blue Valentine or Alice.
The other interesting thing about the Tom Waits album is his refusal to put it on Spotify, due to the tiny amount of revenue he makes from the streaming service. This has made Bad As Me the the first record I’ve actually bought in order to review it here. So in my case, Tom’s made some money out of me, but for example Coldplay – who have also refused to allow Spotify to stream their new album – have lost out. But I avoided having to listen to a Coldplay album, so there’s an upside to everything
Jim Eaton-Terry tweets on occasion and will probably end up listening to nothing at all released in 2012 at this rate.