February Album Reviews

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Wrong Creatures

Even if you didn’t know of its origins as the name of Johnny’s gang in The Wild One, it would still be a band name to conjure with. From the outset, this was as much about the pose that was being struck as the sound that was being made. This is rock n’ roll as defiance.

However, the trouble with responding to the question ‘what are you rebelling against?’ with the answer ‘whadda got?’ is that the rage against the machine ends up as dissipated and vague where it should be taut and focused. So it is here. Anyone who can trace a line from Link Wray through the Velvets to The Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride will spot the musical tropes on which Wrong Creatures is built. It’s built sturdily, though, and there’s swagger and snarl in abundance to give it a compelling feel throughout. That’s no bad thing. There is music that transcends the moment, leaps into your life, and writes itself as the soundtrack of a given moment. And then there’s music that you reach for to fit a particular mood or moment. If you want the former, this might not be your bag. If you want an edgy snarl that’s comfortingly familiar, this is for you.

Aaron Jackson 7/10

Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending

Franz Ferdinand have always strived to defy convention, whether that be by collaborating with pop weirdos Sparks or ditching their post-punk sensibilities for a more dance-oriented sound. New album Always Ascending is yet another lurch forward for the band.

The title track matches a funky beat with a thoroughly modern breakdown. It works. Indeed, the whole album is infected with filthy beats that recall This is Hardcore-era Pulp or classic Talking Heads. Singer Alex Kapranos sounds like he is having a ball throughout, never more so than on Lazy Boy’s hypnotic refrain or in the jaunty chorus of Glimpse of Love.

The impressive thing here is that there are moments in which Franz Ferdinand sound like a different band entirely. Paper Cages is timelessly melodic while still managing to sound completely fresh. As with any Franz album, there is also a bit of filler. ‘Finally’ is uninspiring Franz-by-numbers and ‘Lois Lane’ doesn’t have the melody to back up its interesting ideas.

However, the inspired moments on the band’s fifth album ensure that it must be considered a triumph. ‘Huck and Jim’ sees Kapranos crooning about going to America “to tell them about the NHS”; it’s weird and brilliant and pure Franz Ferdinand. ‘Feel The Love Go’ recalls the bands era as kings of the indie disco and the mournful ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’ is a gorgeous ballad that is sure to become a monster track on the live circuit.

It would be disingenuous to say Franz Ferdinand are back because they never truly went away. They are still bloody good, though…

8/10 Roger Johnson

Nightmares on Wax – Shape the Future

If I fancied a meze of lazy-day soul, tender trip-hop and a side of sinuous trumpets, all daubed with a rubbery bassline, I would have zero apprehension in turning to the musical archive of Nightmares on Wax.

2013 was the last time we saw George Evelyn release a record. From then until now, it has been a period where tastes and musical fancies have gallantly fluctuated, which has left me thinking, ‘Will his authentic soulful slumping sound continue to such a comforting degree?’

Soulful and slumping, yes, yet Shape the Future seems to carry a much more mature ethic than his 1995 Wax Trax! Smoker’s Delight LP. The initial track, ‘Back to Nature’, is a beautiful and vocally adept introduction, with Kuauhtli Vasquez performing a mantra synonymous of the record title, denoting how we as humans can essentially shape the guture. ‘On It Maestro’ has to be the track with most beauty; it’s how Evelyn carefully keeps his cool with a subtle funky bassline and combines it with twinkly piano riffs. ‘Tomorrow’ is reminiscent of his rooted trip-hop formula, which we all cannot help but love, and ‘The Othership’ is filled with meandering guitars and a soothing piano, taking us back to his hazy days of sinking deep into Nights Introlude.

It’s always an enlightening experience once you’ve listened to a Nightmares on Wax record. Although this is no Carboot Soul, it’s nice to have the maestro back.

7/10 Georgia Smith

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