It seems that Arctic Monkeys are quite the sensation these days, which is a rather confounding fact, since they don’t seem particularly ambitious or earth-shattering in their song craft. Instead they write fast, hard-driving, riff-filled, fairly melodic danceable rock songs.
Tiger Army Music from Regions BeyondI can’t think of a more inappropriately named album this year. I don’t know, maybe the lyrics are about death or outer space or something. I don’t know what other “regions beyond” there might be. This is high-gloss psychobilly, brought to you by Tiger Army via the Vans Warped Tour. The first three songs are fairly generic-sounding rockabilly rave-ups. Then track four, “Forever Fades Away,” enters the scene. With its auto-tuned vocals and butt-rock beat, it is seemingly designed for commercial rock radio. “Ghosts of Memory” sounds like a solid stab at Green Day-type radio rock. “As the Cold Rain Falls” seems to be a stab at getting New Order’s or The Cure’s fan base–and that’s a good thing–for it’s the only song that sounds slightly different from the rest of the album.
Arctic MonkeysFavourite Worst NightmareIt seems that Arctic Monkeys are quite the sensation these days, which is a rather confounding fact, since they don’t seem particularly ambitious or earth-shattering in their song craft. Instead they write fast, hard-driving, riff-filled, fairly melodic danceable rock songs. They do have a garage-y, shambling quality to them, unlike the arena sheen of Muse. The Arctic Monkeys come across like a neighborhood pub band that, for some reason, has captured the world’s ear at the moment. And good for them: they seem like nice chaps who enjoy playing fun music with no fuss and no muss. The singing is all heavily accented, so Anglophiles, take note of the strong Yorkshire tint throughout. Recommended for fans of: Franz Ferdinand, The Jam, The Strokes.
Black Before Red Belgrave to Kings CircleThis band seems to be pretty competent and comfortable making low-key indie-pop that’s not about setting the world on fire with creativity. Instead, they make perfectly listenable melodic songs, in the vein of Beulah, Sloan, or any number of anonymous guitar-pop groups. While never particularly interesting or exciting, Belgrave never actively irritates. This is the Austin quartet’s debut, and at times it certainly sounds like it. The “perfectionism” that their one-sheet refers to comes across as safe, stale and sanitized guitar pop. The vocals are that half-hearted, half-pitchy whine that happens so much today, with plenty of background “oohs” and “ahhs.” In the end, the album sounds sterile. Kelly Clarkson rocks harder than this and at least she sounds sincere.
The Forecast In the Shadow of Two GunmenThis is big, loud guitar rock in the vein of Jimmy Eat World or Foo Fighters. “Welcome Home” features a ton of what sounds like interview clips of the band bitching about how hard it is to be on the road. I nearly shed a tear listening to their gut-wrenching stories. Their glossy, run-of-the-mill guitar anthems seem to have caught the ear of a number of folks, but there’s really not much going on here. A generic sounding dude with a guitar sings heartily about his feelings, a female bassist sings some background vocals. Every song basically sounds the same: heavily compressed drums which are louder than almost everything in the mix, heavy rhythm guitar and bass while a lead guitar noodles over the top as boy and girl yell melodies over that. In the Shadow of Two Gunmen is a tiring listen from an unsubstantial band.
Various ArtistsInstant Karma: The Campaign to Save DarfurHere’s a well-minded album aimed at raising money or awareness (or something) for Darfur, Sudan. Amnesty International put together this compilation (methinks Bono had a large role in this too) of John Lennon covers. Tributes like this, with such a range of artists, aim to please every casual music fan. This is mostly a by-the-numbers tribute album with a wide range of well known modern pop artists. A few highlights like Regina Spektor’s version of the Lennon outtake “Real Love” and The Flaming Lips’ “(Just like) Starting Over” stand out. Youssou N’Dour’s not-entirely-English take on “Jealous Guy” proves that a brilliant melody can be captivating–even if the lyrics are a mystery. And there are some truly awful moments as well, like Aerosmith doing “Give Peace a Chance” and Black Eyed Peas version of “Power to the People” (someone take away Black Eyed Peas’ power, please!). This album is what it is and it’s for a good cause, so fans of the artists herein will be pleased with the comp. Fans of Lennon’s might be better off ignoring this, as many of the songs just serve to remind how powerful his voice really was.