Album Review :: Robert Plant – Band of Joy

Veteran rocker and hell-raiser Robert Plant takes a different route and seeks to re-invent himself once more time.


band of joy

Robert Plant - Band of Joy © Decca/Universal Music

“Its not to hard to figure out, you see it everyday/And those that were farthest out have gone the other way.” The less than immortal words of Huey Lewis and The News’ 1986, “Hip to be Square”. Although perhaps a little more recognised as an established artist and influential figure on music than Huey, this lyric no matter perfectly describes the latest offering from Robert Plant. Arriving with the frankly hard to believe ninth solo album since 1982, the once Golden God delivers Band of Joy, a tribute to his band before joining Led Zeppelin. The rest is history of course.

Seeking to capitalise on his vastly popular and Grammy Award winning Pushing Sand with Alison Krause, Plant seeks to further himself from the harder rock and roll edge that has made him a household name and forever the envy of many teenage boys and girls for generations to come. Band of Joy however is far from a conventional rock album, its description more aptly described as folk and bluegrass. Certain buzz words such as “alternative” and “fringe” have also been notably present in general reviews and commentaries on the album, all desperately seeking to tag and brand the work of a man who is progressing through his life into his sixth decade and taking his music styles and influences with him.

The opening quadrant of songs sets a relatively calming, soothing sense of self being about the album as a whole. With songs such as “House of Cards” and “Silver Rider” championing this newfound sense of tranquillity and haunting obedience, Plant and his band deliver what is rapidly becoming the archetypal sound for the aging front man. Masterly crafted with a looming and hair rasiningly ghostly atmosphere, Robert Plant firmly stamps his foot down and eliminates any possibility that this album is another overly produced, mass marketed effort to throw on the re-hashed rock pile.

Band of Joy continues with the rich sounding “You Can’t Buy Me Love”. A much harder rock sounding song than Plant has produced in almost a decade, this track harkens back to his early solo years, not seeming out of place on an album such as Pictures At Eleven, his solo debut in the early 1980s. “Falling in Love Again” and “The Only Sound that Matters” follow, taking the sound and pace of the album to a much softer, bluegrass and delta soul direction. Pedal steel and slide guitars, provided by bluegrass legend Darrell Scott provide a meaty chunk of Americana from the Black Country rocker.

Rounding out the album is “Even this Shall Pass Away” the up-tempo, drum centric book end to the calming and soulful opening, eleven tracks previous. With a much more disjointed, highly amped and distorted guitar feel, this track gives long term fans of Plant and all of his previous incarnations and projects something to smile about. A song that would not feel out of place on a late era Zeppelin album, Plant still proves that his vocal range, although tainted by the inevitable rigors of forty years of hard living, hard drinking and harder women, is still a force to be reckoned with in the 21st Century. In all, this track is as disjointed in its sound as it is being placed on an album with a direction very opposite to its inception, something that has kept a singer like Robert Plant on top for a long time and hopefully for longer to come.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The album is available on general release. Tour info and previous discographies are available from Plant’s official website: http://www.robertplant.com

Germs Of Perfection :: Switchfoot

Sorrow

When I think Bad Religion, Christian Rock is the last thing that comes to mind. Well the latest band to add to Germs Of Perfection are Switchfoot. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of these guys and Christian Rock, generally, sucks.  Regardless, I remained open minded.

The San Diego-based band are apparently known for their rowdiness, but have delivered a slowed-down, more chilled out cover here. Unlike other artists contributing to this record, Switchfoot decided to put their own spin on a more modern Bad Religion song and it turned out really well. ‘Sorrow’ is taken from 2002’s The Process Of Belief – Bad Religion’s 12th studio album. You can listen to Switchfoot’s take on ‘Sorrow’ here.

Germs Of Perfection :: Guttermouth

Pity

Guttermouth, I haven’t heard that name in a while. The last time I listened to those guys I was trying to work out the words to one of their songs. I think it was something about bullets…who knows? Well they’re the latest band to add to this wonderful Bad Religion compilation. These guys have almost been around as long as Brett Gurewitz and co.

For their contribution they’ve gone for one of Bad Religion’s early anthems, ‘Pity’. The original track was on the band’s, 1982 album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse. The same album features, the iconic, ‘We’re Only Gonna Die’ and ‘Fuck Armageddon…This Is Hell’. Check out Guttermouth’s interpretation on a Bad Religion classic here.

Germs Of Perfection :: Cheap Girls

Kerosene

Cheap Girls are the lastest additon to the Germs Of Perfection roster and they don’t dissappoint. The ‘classic rock’ take on Bad Religion’s ‘Kerosene’ is not what I expected from the Michigan-based pop-punkers, but they’ve managed to provide another great, interesting addition to MySpace and Spin Magazine’s tribute album.

‘Kerosene’ is taken from Bad Religion’s eponymous Recipe For Hate album, an album of choice for many of the featured artists on this compilation. I first heard about these fine fellows the other night from Above Them. They’ve released a split with them on All In Vinyl, and you know what, it’s really bloody good. Cheap Girls can definitely consider me a fan.

Be sure to check out their cover on MySpace. You can get their split EP with Above Them right here.

Germs Of Perfection :: The Weakerthans

Sanity

Canada, eh? That’s where the next band to cover Bad Religion hail from. The Weakerthan’s have been compared to bands like Against Me! for their punk rock take on folk music and they’re really bloody good. Yet another band that I’ve heard of, but not heard much by. Then again, that’s what compilations like this are for aren’t they? Well, besides being a fitting tribute to one of the best punk bands going.

The guys have covered ‘Sanity’ from Bad Religion’s fourth album No Control, released in 1989. It’s a chilled out take on the classic song and, again, isn’t something I’d expect on a compilation like this. Be sure to check it out.

Germs Of Perfection :: William Elliot Whitmore

Don’t Pray On Me

We’ve had auto-tuned Danish punk from New Politics, the down tempo, acoustic, stylings of Tegan & Sara and now Bad Religion goes country with William Elliot Whitmore. Whitmore’s soulful, Blues infused, voice, with it’s wonderful Southern twang, may be the best and most interesting song on the album thus far. I’d go as far as saying I love it.

The Iowa-born singer/songwriter has covered ‘Don’t Pray On Me’, originally recorded for Bad Religion’s 1993 album Recipe For Hate. You can check it out here and be sure to check out William Elliot Whitmore on MySpace too.

Promo :: Under Stars & Gutters

2010

Irish punk rock band Under Stars and Gutters have released their first EP Soundtrack To This City today on Death To False Hope records. The 5 track EP is available for download for free or donation from here

The band also have plans to tour the UK in January/ February so be sure to catch them live.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Patton

Germs Of Perfection :: Ted Leo

Much like a certain Mr. Turner, Ted Leo is a punk rock troubadour. The Indiana native has provided a track for MySpace and Spin Magazine’s Bad Religion tribute album and he’s found yet another fan in me. His style is not quite that of Frank or Chuck Ragan, but is definitely working in a similar vein.

Ted has covered ‘Against The Grain’ from Bad Religon’s 1990 album of the same name. That album features tracks like ‘New Age Society’ and the original recording of 21st Century (Digital Boy)’.

You can listen to Ted’s cover here.

Germs Of Perfection :: Riverboat Gamblers

Riverboat Gamblers are one of those bands that I’ve heard a lot about, but never actually listened to. Shame on me I know, but now I have and, I have to say, I’m impressed. Very impressed indeed. The Dallas-based punk outfit’s rowdy, balls to wall sound is a perfect fit for a collection like this. If fast-paced drink-fuelled punk songs are for you, check these guys out.

They’ve covered ‘Heaven Is Falling’ from Bad Religion’s 1992 album Generator, and it’s fantastic. Bad Religion fans must admit, there’s not been a foot put wrong yet on this collection. This track is one of my favorites, let’s hope the streak continues, eh?

You can listen to the track here.

Going Underground :: Refuse to Lose! (With The Arteries, Bangers & Above Them)

Has it really been 5, 6 or 7 weeks since the last Going Underground? I don’t know, I don’t care and neither should you.

This installment has a bit of a twist as it’s promoting three bands, a gig featuring those three bands and the fucking awesome monthly night this gig is taking place. Intense right? Let’s see how it goes.


Refuse to Lose is a monthly event in Manchester at the Retro Bar, a pub, I’m sure, quite a few are familiar with. If you enjoy good music, good fast hard punk rock music, as I do, then it event is for you. the Anniversary, Lawrence Arms, Against Me! Jawbreaker, Texas is the Reason, the list goes on. In fact, the list never seems to end, with none of the obscure requests I bring to the DJ booth being met with rejection. So if you miss this RTL, there’s always next time.

But don’t miss this one.

It’s this Saturday, 02/10/10, doors are at about 9pm, 21:00 hours soldier! It’s only four pound sterling in and after the bands there’s a party til 3am, will worth 400 pennies.

I’m not entirely sure what order the bands are playing so I’ll just wing it.

Above Them have already been mega vamped within the Going Underground section so go back and read that or check them on their MySpace.

The Arteries are, unfortunately, a southern band, haling from Swansea. I say unfortunately, but it seems to more bands I here from down south, the more I feel like I should live there. To list there influences would be a cliché, repetitious process, so I’ll just say they’re really ace and play some wholesome kick balls punk rock. Check them out.

Bangers are from Falmouth, which is located somewhere in the UK, but I could not tell you were. Google maps it. Another band keeping the groove of 90’s punk alive all the way into the………10’s? Anyway, another is not used in the sense that there are too many bands making this music or that it has gone stale, quite the opposite. There is something very special about Bangers, as there music floods into my ears I imagine Hot Water Music starting out there first tour…….but like, being from the U.K. Fuck it. Here’s their MySpace.

So come down to the show! If you don’t I’ll punch you. All the bands, Refuse to Lose, Retro Bar, everyone involved, everyone who turns up and in fact, everyone on the fucking planet (except Barlow) get’s 5/5 special brews because I love all these bands that fucking much.

Details about the show can be found on Facebook.

The Arteries and the Bangers are releasing a split next month with, the super babe duo of, El Morgan and Kelly Kemp, you can buy that here. Read Barlow’s review of it too.

Above Them’s Album, Blueprint For A Better Time, can be bought here or on iTunes