Monday, 30 November 2009

Adult Contemporary Essentials 29.11.09

Cymbals Eat Guitars
Why There Are Mountains
Memphis Industries
Only one question you need to ask about yourself before dipping in here – do you like the kind of sloppy, loose, indie that spends no time at all explaining itself? The genre was defined by Pavement, and picked up more recently by Modest Mouse, and has always had a core, small audience – people who hate, absolutely hate, the idea of polish and single-minded songs. Why There Are Mountains can be abrasive on first listen, as the ideas come ten to the pound, like some 90s indie band retro-find.

However, there are times, when you’ve dipped in, when you can’t imagine pulling away – when Cold Spring starts, you’re there for the duration. The imagination and pure joy expressed in the massed instrumentation and lo fi recording are wonderful. Similarly, with Wind Phoenix, it is hard to avoid the feeling that a band that could really play this with polish would ineffably spoil the experience – the amateurish delivery adds immeasurably to the charm – when it comes in all excited and buzzing, you believe every word, hang on every guitar thrash and go with the song’s many mood changes. There’s nothing really ‘good’ about anything on this album except the fact that it exists, and is full of great songs.

ACE rating 8/10

Benjy Ferree
Come Back To The Five And Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee
On the intellectually-stimulating Ferree’s second album, he takes inspiration from Bobby Driscoll, the child star who portrayed Peter Pan in the 1953 Disney film, who was then fired as puberty and a bad case of acne hit. Bobby Dee struggled to find work and fell into a life-long
battle with drugs until ultimately dying homeless and broke in a Manhattan tenement at the age of 31. With police unable to identify his body, the one-time Academy Award winner ended up in an unmarked mass grave on New York’s Hart Island. “Heavy weighs the burden of Brother Dee,” Ferree sings on the album’s opening track, Tired Of Being Good. Musically, Ferree mixes rock and roll and Americana like a hopped up Ryan Adams, or a more soaring Richard Swift. With country, passionate blues pounding, Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury and the balladry of Nick Cave all in there, Come Back To The Five And Dime is a riot of styles and inspiration. Denying genres is paying off for Ferree.

ACE rating 8/10

Keep Calm And Carry On
Stereophonics’ sprint from any hint of alternative or indie has coincided with their increasing popularity, so it is perhaps no surprise that their seventh album, Keep Calm And Carry On, sounds like a ‘Robbie Williams does 80s rock’ pastiche. There is a good song on here that might stand next to their best work from the first two (three at a push) albums: 100MPH. Elsewhere, drum machines, McFly-style poppiness and sterile emoting are the order of the day, carrying on from the insipid sixth album, Pull The Pin. While fans of the band are claiming this is a return to form, it is not the form that made the band. Instead, it is simply better vanilla than the cheap vanilla of its predecessor, and it is hard to avoid the feeling of contractual obligation being the driving force behind this recording, rather than any intense desire to have these songs see the light of day. It is hard to see Keep Calm garnering new fans for the band, but the existing fans keep them coming back with more.

ACE rating 6/10

Adult Contemporary Essentials rating
9-10 Essential purchase
7-8 Good, definite buy if you've liked this artist in the past
5-6 OK only, don't say I didn't warn you
3-4 Poor, even for this artist
1-2 Awful

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