Wednesday, 1 June 2011

reviews: black lips, patrick wolf, night noise team

Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Black Lips - Arabia Mountain (****)

For a band prone to misinterpreting the spirit of rock and roll (examples abound online – being jerks isn’t the same as being rock stars, guys), Black Lips have no struggle nailing its sound. Asking Mark Ronson to produce your album isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll either, but it is, it transpires, inspired, with the chart-Midas a surprisingly subtle presence.

The quartet echo honky-tonk Stones on Dumpster Dive, The Ramones on Raw Meat and The Sonics on Time, confirming their continued indebtedness to figure-head influences, and while there’s zero progress to speak of, that’s OK. Arabia Mountain is more of the same in the way that every ten pound note is the same: its similarity to the last doesn’t prevent it being gratefully received, valued for what it provides. In the case of Arabia Mountain, the return is sixteen smiles; in the case of the tenner – if spent wisely – Arabia Mountain.

Out 6th June

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia (***)

What’s in a name? In the case of Patrick Wolf’s fifth record, quite a lot. The Bachelor disappointed, its harsher edge simultaneously alienating both those faithful to his earliest releases, and newer fans enamoured by the upbeat pop of The Magic Position. It started life as a double album, and after splitting the material, Wolf announced part two - The Conqueror – would soon follow. But the sister release never materialised, instead reconfigured as Lupercalia – named after a Roman festival but with clear etymological ties to debut Lycanthropy. And, as the rechristening suggests, any trace of his belligerent cyber-goth phase is dissipated, with new single The City effectively demonstrating a ruling dynamic of simple melodies rendered in unashamedly anthemic fashion. This isn’t an attention-grabbing reinvention, but a natural step forward, and while it won’t please those still pining after another Wind in the Wires, it’s got class to spare.

Out 20th June

Night Noise Team - Slow Release

Night Noise Team - Slow Release (**)

Night Noise Team launch Slow Release with real gusto, singer Sean Ormsby promising that they’ve “got something for you” on opener The Gift. Thirty-six minutes later and you may well be looking for the receipt, as the Edinburgh quartet try a variety of styles but fail to fully nail any of them. All Brutal Common Sense stands out thanks to its comparatively light touch, refreshing amidst the portentousness of Burning or the over-eager Franz-lifting You Won. But it can’t heave Slow Release out of the doldrums alone; elsewhere, Doors Are Closed sews a decent chorus to a dog’s dinner of a verse; early single Menolick proves it hasn’t aged well; while Drifting is as aimless as its title suggests. Most worryingly, a fifty-three second, stripped-down reprise of 2008’s Rideau constitutes one of the album's few remaining highlights, suggesting that, to these ears, Night Noise Team are trending in the wrong direction.

Out 20 June

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