EP Review :: Bop – Remix Your Mind (Med School Records)

You know that kind of music where you listen to it, and you startyi tyikping withdoutg reiaodng it bask becoaouse youefre ennjoying iit thaft mcucvh? This EP will more than likely have that effect, although I don’t have any black and white proof that this actually happens.

Of all places, Russia is leading the way in chilled DnB/Dubstep hybrid material. What’s even more striking is that as far as Discogs goes, you’ll be hard pressed to find any more than the real names and, if you’re lucky, a 4 word description of the artists on this remix-of-an-original EP. This begs the question; where exactly did they fucking come from? As it happens, this is the result of a remix competition held by Med School Records, Hospital Record’s (see: Liquid Drum N Bass) sister record label. If you’re a music producer, you’ve probably entered something similar at some point. It’s probably a good job you didn’t enter this one – I dare say you would have lost disastrously – but don’t despair yet. This is a good sign – new talent is always emerging, and by the looks of things, big labels are looking to push them. It’s about time to shake off the tired shackles of Jump Up and Wobble Bass, and delve into the realms of the weird, the dark, the original, the artistic, the intense.

Two words sum this 5-tracker up for me, and probably for you too; Soul Food. True power in music is possessing the ability to alter someone’s state of mind, and that’s exactly what this does. I don’t want to drop tired clichés (god knows there’s probably enough of them already,) but just like in the video – wait until night, get in your car, turn it up, and  just drive. It’s something special.

BUY: http://shop.hospitalrecords.com/product/medic19

Bop “Remix Your Mind” EP (Med School Music)
http://www.medschoolmusic.com

Album Review :: Jamiroquai – Rock Dust Light Star

Jamiroquai have been around for 18 years and have produced some dancefloor classics. Now, they are back after a five year break but does ‘Rock Dust Light Star’ live up to any expectations we might have had after their previous albums?

Jamiroquai’s music has rarely fallen outside the “acid-funk” genre that best describes their sound and has generally been a hit across the board with young and old listeners alike. The changing faces of the collaborators have always been fronted by the effervescent Jay Kay and his outlandish hats. It has been argued that Jay Kay is best known for those hats, his love of fast cars and his penchant for famous (or not so) women, however, in terms of his music, there’s no denying there’s some clear songwriting ability, knowledge of how to seduce people with some of the best bass riffs around and some sustainable funk that’s maintained the band’s presence in the music industry for almost 2 decades.

Rock Dust Light Star has echoes of early 80’s disco combined with the synthesisers and technological tricks of today’s electric generation. Jay Kay’s vocal is, as always, up to scratch and the lyrics are (mostly) imaginative and interesting.

The majority of this album, the 7th for Jamiroquai, has a Saturday night pre-drinks vibe with a whiff of a lazy Sunday afternoon; a good album for the weekend. It’s the kind of album that may grace the Radio 2 playlist or an ’easy-listening for the over 30’s’ album but you’ll probably hear a track or two track on Radio 1 or have seen Jay Kay’s (awkward – after insulting the show’s judges) performance of “White Knuckle Ride” on the X Factor. All things considered, Jamiroquai seem to know how to create music for the masses and are understated but seemingly popular, with this album debuting at number 7 in the UK album chart.

After listening to the album a few times, the band have certainly found comfort in the familiar disco-ball funk that we would expect from them, with songs such as ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and ‘All Good In The Hood’ combining funky bass-riffs, falsetto vocals and sultry saxophones but unfortunately, songs such as ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Never Gonna Be Another’, which stray from the usual dance-material and creep into the clichéd-pop category , fall short of the mark.

The opening and end of the album are good, with catchy songs and memorable instrumentals but there is a slight dip in the middle. Jay Kay singing cheesey ballads isn’t something I would expect and for me, doesn’t work, but the typical Jamiroquai funk will make me listen to the album, just not on repeat.

Perhaps it’s time, after 18 years, for the funk-veterans to move over and let new dubstep and electro bands take over the dancefloor? [J]

Thanks to Mercury Music for sending the album for review.

http://jamiroquai.co.uk/

Album Review :: Brett Detar – Bird in the Tangle

Grab your stetson and lasso and let them wagons roll as Brett Detar takes us out into the wide blue yonder for some camp fire classics


Brett Detar

Bird in the Tangle © Brett Detar

Contrary to the less than profound and heart-warmingly cutesy-poo blurb above, Brett Detar’s Bird in the Tangle is not a saturated, Malborough Man oriented country album. Instead Detar’s obvious talents, and love for a genre that has often been at the butt end of jokes for its over romanticized notions, are lent more towards a deliciously sinister and vibrantly honest approach to country music.


With a career that is deceptively longer than his 32 years would suggest, Brett Detar’s musical journey has seen him helm and participate in a number of bands such as Pensive and Zao in the later half of the 1990s. It was not until he formed a side-project with fellow musicians Chad Alan, Joshua Fiedler, Neil Hebrank, and Jeremiah Momper forming The Juliana Theory that Detar would find stability in his musical direction. Touring and recording material for nine years up until 2006 with a spate of recent reunion shows having taken place in August of this year.

With this vast musical resume behind him, Detar now ventures into the solo artist world. Since the breakup of The Juliana Project, Detar amassed a number of songs from his every day dealings and with the financial backing and time ready to dedicate to such a project, Bird in the Tangle is the end result.

The album opens with a trio of vastly different and highly enjoyable country numbers; “Empty House on a Famous Hill,” “The Devil’s Gotta’ Earn,” and “It’s Only the Night” a hauntingly serene ode to the long gone, misty eyed past of the old west debauchery and lament. These opening tracks have a wonderfully gifted infusion of alternative country mixed with traditional slide and guitar techniques normally associated with this type of music. However, Detar’s lonesome vocals give a 21st century indie feel to the overall concept and subject matters.

“Coasts,” and “Cocaine Whiskey and Heroin” are much more upbeat, enjoyable ventures into Bluegrass and Americana anthems. The latter of which is a wonderful pseudo lament to the foibles of the human condition, a vague warning that the vices and enjoyment of dizzying highs can be all too much for one person to endure. It’s up tempo and toe tapping optimism however flashes a roguish wink to the listener and audience that it might not all be bad.

Closing the album are a trio of sinister sounding, raspingly vocal tracks shine as wonderful examples of Detar’s passion and raw musical ability leant to a 21st century twist on country music. “We’re Broken but we’ll Never Be Alone,” and the final track “This World aint got Nothing” are two microcosms of Detar’s sound and ambience the artist has created for himself and listeners.

Although this frankly realistic and post post modern take on a genre littered with self detaching clichés is refreshingly honest, Bird on the Tangle tends to let itself down a little on the originality front. Standing at an adventurous eleven tracks long there is a stark sense of repetition when it comes to both subject matter and delivery of tone, vocal and musical arrangement. The tracks “Empty House on a Famous Hill,” “Caged Bird” and “This World aint got Nothing,” all have the same slow, lethargic pace that feels all to familiar by the time the album closes. This is of course a staple of the Country and Americana genres but to be placed on a debut album does not entirely encourage listeners to pursue further avenues.

The album on a whole however is a very enjoyable and interesting twist on a scene that can be often overlooked as being a serious and inspiring collection of artists and work. Too often is the country genre associated with the rose tinted spectacles of Kenny Baker, Dolly Parton and Glen Campell, each with their crotch hugging, bra bursting rhinestone outfits and perfectly permed hair leering at us from the stage singing about dead dogs. Bird in the Tangle is a much more realistic, deeply brooding album filled with eclectic and indolent tracks that would be more at place amongst the dysentery riddled high plains. Indeed this is an album more suited to 2011’s “True Grit” audience than the 1969 version.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The album is available for a short period of time on free download via the official site. This is also home to all the usual tour, bio, discography and album sales information: http://www.brettdetar.com/

Album Review :: Tinashé – Saved

Tinashé’s debut album, released earlier this year, would best be summarised as a colourful and varied collection of indie-pop tracks, lyrically reflecting the geographical journey from his birthplace in Zimbabwe to locations in the UK and his experiences throughout.

I first saw Tinashé last year when he supported Noisettes at the O2 Academy in Liverpool.  Some supporting acts blend into the background and are muted by mindless chatter from the crowd as they eagerly await the main performer but with Tinashé, I found myself listening intently and making a conscious effort to remember his name and follow his progress long after the gig was over. Not only was he an animated, confident and engaging performer; he showcased a selection of soulful, catchy and upbeat tracks that left me intrigued as to what material, if any, he’d released, what he was working on and his music in general.

Disappointed, after the gig, that I couldn’t find much of his music online, I sat tight and waited for his debut album and what an album he produced…’Saved’ is a triumph of a debut.

Although difficult to compare Tinashé to one specific musician or artist, a cocktail of comparisons may give you an idea of his sound: If you added a cheeky dash of early Hoosiers to a pint of Jack Penate, poured it over ice, slipped in a bit of Bloc Party and added a thick slice of Jamie T to your glass for decoration, you’d get a taste of Tinashé.

Bearing those comparisons in mind, Tinashé’s drawn his sound from a blend of many musical influences, which are hinted at on the album, from artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson, who Tinashé enjoyed as a child, to the story-telling of 90’s RnB artists like the Notorious BIG who intrigued Tinashé whilst growing up in London.  This fusion of classic musicality and great songwriting is what gives ‘Saved’ an edge. It successfully binds traditional concepts like strong guitar riffs, pounding pianos and some strategic strings with an upbeat and captivating vocal performance throughout.

‘Saved’ would easily please pop-lovers and certainly intrigue the indie-folk. There’s elements of hearty RnB lyrics and noughties experimental indie-pop. You could read into every single line of all the songs on the album, or delve into the “About” section on Tinashé’s website (linked below) which will tell you the ins and outs of his varied upbringing and specific occurrences that influenced him but I think it’s best to listen to the album and read into it what you will; apply it to yourself or listen freely to the music without thinking too much. Either way, I guarantee you’ll find yourself nodding along or subconsciously remembering the catchy refrains.

Despite being a well-rounded album, I think the stand-out tracks are: Saved, The Feeling, Good Times, Mr. Presumption & Every Single Day.

It was when thinking about my favourite albums of this year that I listened to ‘Saved’ again and decided to look online to see how it had been received. There was little in the way of reviews or opinions so I figured I would bring some to the table and hopefully invite others to give him a listen. The album was released in early 2010 so this article isn’t really a “Just released!” – “New Album Review!” – “Fantastic New Music!” type of post, more  “Why haven’t we heard a lot more about this guy?!”.

Tinashé is now continuing his journey, gigging in the UK following his debut release. If you get chance to see him, go!

http://www.tinashe.co.uk/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtfYWJFjS_U

Tinashé’s album is also on i-Tunes and Spotify.

[JC]

Album Review :: Buffoon – Familiar Sounds

Belgian indie veterans come together to release their first fully fledged CD in an attempt to broaden their listenership and our horizons.


Buffoon

Buffoon - Familiar Sounds © BUFFOON recordings/Jesus Factory Records

The country of Belgium is famous for numerous things. Chocolates, canals, Tintin and Trappist Monk beer. They are therefore not entirely synonymous with music beyond their flat borders. This is perhaps about to change however as the first fully loaded, fully comprehensible album from the band Buffoon goes on general sale. Poignantly titled Familiar Sounds, this latest effort from a Belgian band who are considered a super group in their homeland has a sound that is worthy of the international market.


Formed by their enigmatic leader, Peter Vleugels, a self styled and taught musician who learned to love music in the hazy days of the late 80s, Buffoon has become somewhat a popular alternative choice in Belgium in general. Formed from members of bands that could be loosely labeled indie, the lineup of Niels Hendrix on guitar, Mimi Van Den Put on bass and Dave Schroyen on drums, this amalgamation of talented young artists from the Belgian independent scene soon found their voice and direction, forming the band that appears in its entirety now.

With this latest offering in a long line of independent EPs and self published material, Familiar Sounds is a stomping introduction for a much wider audience than the band is used to. The initial interpretations of the band are not the usual eyes rolled response to yet another mainland European act desperately trying to conquer the already mass populated British and international market. Instead, a refreshingly original take on a relatively harder sounding indie theme greets the listener in a pristine, shimmering presence and production.

The opening track “Twisters” has about as much in common with the pre-formed stereotypes and skeptical nuances associated with Euro music as McDonalds has with gyms. The audience is instead treated to a roaring, up beat, high octane guitar anthem infused with a large dosage of electronica for good measure. The theme continues on with “Act as If” and “Did We Forget”, a more relaxed, slowed tempo rock lament. The eclectic guitar and bass of Hendrix and Van Den Put illict sweet memories of early Rolling Stones and Beck. Vleugels’ vocals, timing and tone make the audience weep at every note. The closing solo satisfies the listener as the damaged soul of the protagonist bleeds through the watts of the amplifiers.

Familiar Sounds closes with two contrasting tracks that perfectly sum up the album and band as a whole. “Strange” is another lazy, sun kissed rock number, excellently executed by a band that could quite easily be mistakenly taken from coming from an era and place far from their homes. Conversely the concluding track “Did We Forget? (Appendix)” serves as a less than harmonic, all together bizarre conclusion to an album that otherwise has a structural and musical hospitability. Possibly born out of Vleugels’ love for electronica and the musical freedom he has enjoyed under the blanket of international anonymity, “Did We Forget (The Appendix)” is a track that caters to the bands own preferences and in truth feels more like an in joke than a professional output to potential fans and album buys.

In all Familiar Sounds is an excellent introduction to a band that is perhaps unknown to most listeners within the UK and international listening communities. With a plethora of talent both on and off stage, Buffoon stands a competitive chance at making some headway in their quest for recognition. In a digitally dominated age such as this, bands like Buffoon have more than a good chance of breaking into the mainstream and with material like Familiar Sounds then they are in good stead.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For more information on the band, tours and availability of the album, check out their website: http://www.myspace.com/buffoontherockband

Album Review :: N*E*R*D – Nothing

Nothing Special

With the release of In Search Of… N*E*R*D offered hip-hop fans something different. It was rap with a bit of substance, with real instruments and great production. It wasn’t like anything else out there at the time, and these guys knew that. They definitely haven’t lost it, but they seem to have misplaced it. Nothing is far from a bad album, but it’s not what I’ve come to expect from Pharrell and co.


I’d love to think that was because, as a genre, hip-hop has gotten wise to this new movement; that a shift in the way rap music is made is why this doesn’t feel as fresh as it used to. It’s not though, is it? For the most part modern hip-hop has become the same cookie cutter bleeps and bloops as new R&B, with a few more rhymes involved. Nothing is definitely not like that, but it’s leaning in that direction.

N*E*R*D were providers of great, well produced, party tunes, that were contrasted with a semi-punk rock take on hip-hop. The latter seems to have taken a backseat and, for me, that’s a problem. Tracks like ‘Help Me’ still keep that part of the band alive, but Nothing is riddled R&B style ‘slow jams’ that can’t be to anyone’s taste. I thought it’d be clear to Mr. Williams by now that he can’t sing. Surely someone must have told him that his whiny falsetto tones just don’t work? I guess not. There’s nothing here that’s on par with the likes of ‘Fly Or Die’ or, breakout hit, ‘Rockstar’ and that’s a shame.

The highlight of the album is definitely the production. Everything Pharell touches turns to gold and he really pulled it out here. Even the more R&B-esque tracks have good beats behind them. Songs like ‘Hot-N-Fun’ and ‘Party People’ (believe it or not) are bound to get you on your feet, and are really catchy. I even liked T.I.’s inclusion on the album’s opener. Don’t get me wrong this is not a bad album, it just relies to heavily on it’s singles. Those are great, but almost everything else pails in comparison to what they’ve done before. There’s a lot of funk-infused stuff here that’s a bit hit or miss. ‘Perfect Defect’ is a great example of this done well, but for the most part it seems like an album filled with ideas that aren’t all well thought out.

When a band have got such a great back catalog, it’s a shame when they release something even the slightest bit sub-par. I think high expectations spoiled this record for me. Whilst the previous albums were far from perfect, they seemed to get the balance right. Here it feels like the guys have made something directed at a more mainstream audience. I can’t fault the production and the singles are great but, as a package, it falls short of the standard N*E*R*D have set.



Album Review :: Dave Arcari – Devil’s Left Hand

Delivering more of his bar room brawling music, Dave Arcari sets fret boards and stages alight with another offering of trademark blues.

As a follow up to his hugely successful Got Me Electric, delta bluesman Dave Arcari delivers his latest offering, Devil’s Left Hand. Combining his now trademark fusion of traditional pre-war delta blues based riffs and a voice that feels at home down on the bayou, Arcari pleases both fans and newcomers with this latest album, his sixth in total.


With the impressive and wonderfully accurate tag of “Scotland’s answer to Seasick Steve” hanging over his head, a lesser musician would be swallowed up by such a hallowed compliment. Dave Arcari, however, is not a lesser musician. Rather than shy away from this pseudo sycophantic compliment, Arcari instead relishes in the spotlight and the accolades that follow a statement like that around.

In this latest collection of material, Arcari once again demonstrates the vast wealth of musical talent and knowledge from which he regular draws upon. With a unique ability to combine the sweet, soothing sound of the American Deep South with the more folk and vague rock elements of traditional Scottish music, Devil’s Left Hand once again aptly demonstrates the Scots guitarists best assets and love of what he does.

Kicking off the album is the eponymous “Devil’s Left Hand”, a traditional sounding delta blues based song that immediately illicts the sights, sounds, smells and anything else affiliated to the blues. Perfectly picking up where Got Me Electric left off, this track, along with “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “One Side Blind” have the almost boyish enthusiasm for the music that makes the man himself tick. “Blue Train” and the wonderfully titles “Come to my Kitchen” continue along this line of thought. The effortlessly smooth and indefatigably cool sound of the slide steel guitar rasping the sound into the listeners’ ears. If the devil could play guitar then it would truly sound like this.

Once again, Arcari features a traditional Scots folk song on an album, this time the wonderfully paced and highly charged “MacPherson’s Lament”. However, as is becoming a regular feature of Dave Arcari, any traditional element and rose tinted, Walter Scott romantic visions of shortbread boxes and roaming in the gloamin’ are shattered in a cocktail of gravel toned vocals and malevolent guitar. Perhaps this is a sign of the modern society in which we live but the furiously updated and harder, nastier sounding version of a folk song dating back to the seventeenth century certainly fires up the blood.

In all, Devil’s Left Hand is an album of which many things can be taken from. For fans of Arcari and his original and unique approach to both Scots folk music and the blues, this is more of what has been experienced before. For new listeners, the album serves as a fantastic introduction, not only to Dave Arcari as an artist but also to a genre that is progressively moving towards a tighter, more enclosed niche market. With artists like Arcari and his contemporaries, hopefully the blues, and specifically folk and delta blues, will not disappear entirely from gig venues all over the country and world.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The album is on general sale now and Dave is currently touring the UK. For details, visit his official website: http://www.davearcari.com

Album Review :: Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

Bad Religion have been kicking some major dick for the past 30 years and with The Dissent Of Man, their 15th full length studio release. I’m hoping the awesome punk rock has not diminished one iota.

It has to be said, if I went off the general consensus of Bad Religion albums, I could probably write this without even listening. The band themselves have not really adapted their sound much from their initial release How Could Hell Be Any Worse, with the same quote on quote 3 chord punk rock, fast paced drums and politically driven vocals release after release. I’m making them sound like they’ve gone stale, trapped making music for a scene that has long since past, but this for some bizarre reason, is not the case.


Bad Religion, in some incredible way, have managed to keep their same sound without it becoming repetitive or un-inventive, and TDOM is no exception. If it ain’t broke don’t fix, right?

From the get go, it’s business as usual. Opener, ‘The Day The Earth Stalled’ is a minute and a half slice of glory, with lyrics that denounce that the band are “looking back”; with opening lines: “Do you remember when? We were young, adventure had no end? Those were the days, my friend. But I’m not talking about that at all.” This is Bad Religion at their best, as much intensity as can be fit into the 1:27 royal rumble of punk rock chaos. The vocal harmonies on the chorus aren’t anything new to old BR fans, but I’ll be damned if they still don’t please me immensely.

The lyrical content has not been put on a back burner for this album.  ‘Won’t Somebody’, a personal favorite, really put this album on a level with the best of Bad Religion as far as word play goes. Lines like: Won’t somebody please come up with something , ‘cuz Jesus just don’t seem to be impartially working” and “Just a moment of bliss amid all of the waste. The despair and oblivion of our precarious race. It’s ours to face now,” shows that the intellectual outspoken views on society the band hold so dear are still prominent in their minds and souls. The first single, ‘The Devil in Stitches’, is no different. Other than being from the slightly more popped up spectrum of the BR scale, which makes it an obvious choice for being the single, it is still a hard hitting sing-a-long anthem with an awesome array of vocal melodies.

The musicality of this album gets a good dose of insanity with the track ‘Meeting of the Minds’ – a song which follows in a similar vein as ‘1,000 More Fools’ from, legendary album, Suffer – has a very raw stripped down sound which, even though the production values of Bad Religion albums have increased a whole lot since 1988. The listener finds themselves transported back to an era where Greg Graffin had a full head of hair and Epitaph was just there to sell Bad Religion records.

If I had to pick a weak track on the album, I guess it would be ‘Cyanide’. It’s my least favourite, but not a weak track in any sense, in fact, it’s pretty good. That’s all I have to say about that!

Throughout the album it is clear that the many years of singing in a band has done nothing but good for the vocal talents of Greg Graffin and the rest of the band. At a number of different points throughout the album a surprising shock of vocalism is injected into the mix, with Graffin pushing the vocal octaves higher than any previous Bad Religion effort.

The album seems to slow in tempo nearer to the end, but the heavy sound is not lost. With the exception of ‘I Won’t Say Anything’, which features an acoustic guitar, its nothing but distortion all the way. The Dissent Of Man is an album that truly does not stop. Oh wait, it just did. Luckily I can just hit play and listen all over again.

Album Review :: Morrissey – Bona Drag (20th Anniversary Edition)

“Re-issue, re-package, re-package”

When I hear on the TV that Pixie Lott has got a ‘deluxe’ or ‘expanded’ edition of her debut album, I can’t help but ask what she or her album have done to deserve such treatment. It’s not that I don’t think she’s talented, and this definitely doesn’t just apply to her, but does a year (or less) old album really need a re-release? No, I didn’t think so. That’s not the case here. Morrissey’s eponymous solo compilation, Bona Drag, has clocked up twenty gruesome years, and the arrogant king of indie rock has decided it’s time to unleash it upon the world again. This time, with a host of unreleased tracks and bonus content.


The man who sang about the tacky, needless practice of re-releasing songs with The Smiths is now on his fourth solo re-release, and there’s not a hint of irony about it. Whilst some, myself included, decree Mozzer’s constant contradictions, I can’t help but love this expanded and remastered version of a classic indie album. Morrissey is known for his perfectionism, and it was under his watchful eye that Bona Drag was given a new lease of life. The quality of each track has been improved, and in some cases extended, to create one of the finest remasters I’ve ever heard.

Though it may be a B-side collection, Bona Drag contains some of Morrissey’s finest solo tracks. Those who dismiss his solo work as lacking in comparison to The Smiths may be surprised to find they enjoy this. Tracks like ‘Hairdresser On Fire’, ‘The Last Of The Famous International Playboys’ and ‘Picadilly Palare’ all feature and sound fantastic. The real ‘meat’ (bad choice of words really) of the album comes from it’s bonus material. Some tracks have been extended, for better or worse, but some previously unreleased tracks have been included too.

Outside of the a brand new release, it’s rare for a fan like myself to find a Morrissey track I haven’t heard. This re-issue contains 6 previously unreleased songs from Manchester’s most famous son. Seeing as this is a twenty year old album, it’s hard to review it on the merits of the original tracks. I mean you’ve had two decades to listen to them. With the bonus stuff, it’s a different story. All six tracks are good and each were recorded around the time of the original release, something that definitely helps keep things cohesive. ‘Lifeguard On Duty’ and ‘The Bed Took Fire’ (an early recording of ‘At Amber’) are the standouts, alongside ‘Please Help The Cause Against Lonliness’. By far the best of the bonus material, it was written by Morrissey but recorded by Sandie Shaw. A demo was recorded during the Viva Hate sessions, and that’s what’s on offer here. It’s great and I can’t see why it was never properly recorded.

Despite this being a re-release, it’s something every Morrissey fan should be buying. The remasters are some of the best I’ve ever heard. They alone should be worth price of entry. The bonus material just puts the icing on the cake. If you felt a bit burned after Mozzer’s recent re-issuing, fear not. This is not just the same again.

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