ALBUM REVIEWS – The Streets / Chapel Club / Tim Buckley / Low
The Streets – Computers and Blues
If it’s true that this 5th Streets album is Mike Skinner’s last, then his humorous, puzzled, occasionally insightful lyrical take on modern life’s deep-seated urban decay will be missed. Topically he’s never really strayed far from the KFCs and fruit machines and lager-and-pill-fuelled weekends that made Original Pirate Material such a unique and prescient debut – but he’s always done it with wit and self-awareness and a playful and inventive musical dexterity.
Computers and Blues is a tender send-off, punctuated by a strange, middle-aged acceptance and the spectre of fatherhood, which seems at odds with his occasional forays back into the urban minutiae. Great too his trademark ability to flirt around the margins of full-on pop music – teasingly spitting out little fragments of melody – but always pulling back to that familiar, languid Street rap. Still a pop star for our times, then.
Chapel Club – Palace
Chapel Club’s obvious but well-honed debt to Echo and the Bunnymen must already have become an aural albatross to the young band. Strange, as it never did Interpol much harm and there are plenty of other influences to be heard, and enough sonic invention on this debut album to mark the 5-piece down as a genuine new Great White Rock Hope.
Singer Lewis Bowman might share Ian McCulloch’s once resonant baritone but his phrasing is often pure Morrissey and there’s a neat lyrical sophistication underneath the heavy overdubs. “Five Trees” and “All the Eastern Girls” are old-fashioned indie floorshakers, while “The Shore” and “Paper Thin” reduce the pace and borrow from Slowdive’s somnambulant guitar wash. Better than promising.
Tim Buckley – Tim Buckley (Deluxe Edition)
This audacious 1966 debut is often overlooked amongst Buckley’s sprawling, erratic but frequently brilliant 8-studio album back catalogue; but it’s a gem. Archetypal folk-rock before the term was even invented; the album was a fascinating curtain-up for a mercurial new talent. Only 19, slightly hesitant and not yet the fully-formed jazz-blues-rock Starsailor he’d become. He rarely wrote with such simple beauty again; indeed he’d come to despise pop formula, which makes the innocent charm of “Song for Janie” and “It Happens Every Time” all the more touching. Even so, “Wings” and “Song of the Magician” are nailed-down classics, all underpinned, of course, by that unique, supernatural 5-octave voice.
BURIED TREASURE … DID YOU MISS?
10 years ago this month:
Low – Things We Lost in the Fire
Although slowcore is a hideous tag, Low’s 5th album still pretty much defines the micro-genre; but it’s a crass definition for the band’s layered, unravelling, molten beauty.
Minimal, mesmeric and, yes, glacially paced, Things We Lost in the Fire stretches Low’s sonic horizons with a string section, tape loops and brass. Guitars flicker and snares tick around Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s angelic, disembodied vocals. They opened out a little after this album, became more rock-like, lost a bit of their individuality, but 10 years on, Things We Lost in the Fire remains pretty much definitive of Low’s unique, slow-burning, artistic force.