Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Brutalist Bricks
For many of us, the only Elvis Costello we're happy with is the 80s punk popster, when tunes met power pop. Ted Leo has been making records for almost 20 years now, steadily improving his craft these past 10 years as Ted Leo and The Pharmacists. He has retained the Frank Turner kind of spit and fire, the angular biting guitars and almost more importantly has started to understand his own territory a lot better, rather than grabbing styles from the library shelves. While capable of some straightahead rockers, it is his explosive fire that is more appealing - like The Posies, but snottier, or The Clash but more tuneful. That is in evidence from the opener, The Mighty Sparrow, and only gets turned up on Mourning In America. The Brutalist Bricks is the best Ted Leo album, and the most Ted Leo of the bunch.
ACE rating 8/10
RISE UP is Cypress Hill’s first new album in six years and the first release issued through Priority/EMI, since being signed by Snoop Dogg. Rise Up is the follow-up to 2004’s Till Death Do Us Part, recorded over three years at B-Real’s studio, The Temple, in Los Angeles.
The band's deep grooves and hard riffs are amplified here by guest appearances from Rage Against The Machine/Street Sweeper Social Club guitarist Tom Morello, Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda, System of a Down guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian, singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, rapper Pitbull and others, including Everlast, Young De, Evidence, The Alchemist and Cheech & Chong. The net effect is to improve, rather than detract from, what is a strong set of songs - old school hip hop upgraded for 2010. Cypress Hill were the first Latino hip hop group to go platinum, and Rise Up is a welcome return to the studio.
ACE rating 9/10
Once upon a time, Annuals looked set to be the bloggers and critics' band for all time. Preceding Yeasayer and Arcade Fire, the band's ecstatic electro-hypnotic folk had an appeal all its own. Be He Me in 2006 looked set to launch the band as a massive new name. Then, the members went and did a few side projects, they self-released a weak EP in 2008, and now there is a self-released EP. While way more appealing than Such Fun, Sweet Sister does seem to lack a killer blow. It is nice enough - bouncier and breezier than what's gone before. Opener Loxtep is as good as this EP gets, with its World beats, Fleet Foxes harmonies and electro-frills all over the song. Annuals do know how to pull off this kind of thing with aplomb, and if we had an album full of such quality, all would be well with the world. However, the EP descends into some seemingly-easy retread, arrested slightly by Turncloaking. If this is a foretaste, that's a shame. If it is just a release because this stuff was sitting around, ho hum.
ACE rating 6/10