Yards and yards of boysy rock this time, of various kinds, but before we dive into that puddle, the most interesting new release of the last month or so is St Vincent’s self-titled 4th album (if you don’t count the David Byrne thing). I loved her last album, but this time everything has really come together, the songs, the beats, the vocals and that gloriously skronky guitar. I pretty much can’t stop listening to it. But now I guess we do need to talk about the rock bands.
Eagulls take a pretty robust (oh, hell, lumpen) approach to rocking. They’re pillaging the rockier end of goth, but replacing the mannered vocals with that flattened northern shouting that Arctic Monkeys have always drifted towards. Take off the vocals and Nerve Endings is the exact mid point between 17 Seconds era Cure and Dark Entries era Bauhaus. It’s pretty effective, and I guess it’s a seam that hasn’t really been mined that much, but I can’t hugely see the point of it. The slogan 20 years ago was “Indie Pop is Trad Jazz”, and I still stick with that; why plough the same furrow over and over, unless you;’re just going to accept you’re a cover band?
At least Fat White Family have a bit of a scabrous, dirty bite to them, and play some nice games with their influences; a poster on our sister talkboard described them as “a London Butthole Surfers fronted by two Algerian brothers whose father escaped from Devil’s Island”, and I can’t really improve on that.
After Fat Whites, though, you’re going to need something more restrained. Something elegantly constructed, beautifully upholstered. Something that really makes the most of that new Sony surround sound system that you bought with this year’s bonus. Luckily, elbow have a new record out. The Take Off and Landing of Everything, aside from having a truly ghastly name, is as classy as rock music ever gets these days.
Guy Garvey is still a totally compelling singer and the band roll out song after song of yearning, slightly proggy, gorgeously detailed rock. Whether it’s the optimistic and charmingly clunky New York Morning, with its “giddy aunts” and “folk” veering dangerously close to self parody, the heartbreaking title song or My Sad Captains, a song I look forward to hearing at every maudlin piss-heads funeral from now on, the album never puts a foot wrong, even if it is really terribly polite.
Equally polite and well crafted is Metronomy’s Love Letters. I really want to love Metronomy, both because they’re genuinely a really good band and out of Devon solidarity (like Muse, though, they’re south of the river – East Devon only ever produced Guru Josh and the bassist from Loop). Like The English Riviera, Love Letters is full of lovely glossy surfaces and perfectly serviceable songs, but never really comes to life. Somehow their music always feels like a dead end.
Outside of the world of Dadrock, Marc Almond’s Tyburn Tree is just lovely, a dark operatic journey into London history. Marc’s always been better at cabaret than disco, and this plays to all his strengths. If you want a mannered synthpop Tom Waits (and why on earth would you not?) then here it is.
The best things I’ve listened to this month, though, are two compilations, one of which was mostly new to me, one which was baked into my DNA 20 years ago.
Rufus Wainwright is one of the genuine originals of the past decade, and his new best of sparkles from beginning to end. It’s funnier, sadder, more touching than anything else I’ve listened to all month, as well as being the best source of car karaoke fun of the year to date (oh, my children love me).
The other big compilation release is the massive Suburban Base box set (which is even better on Spotify where you have the choice between the individual tracks and 3 really, really fantastic 70-minute mixes. There’s obviously an attempt, here, to draw lines and pull out the threads of a story, but though the completely inexplicable evolution from the aggressively sexless rush of early ‘ardkore to the most effectively sensual pop music ever recorded is fascinating, the real point of the box, for me, is to recapture the mystery of a south London pirate in 1993. 20 years on, this still sounds like the future, and if, say, Ruff Revival doesn’t move you then I can’t imagine anything would