Sunday, 26 June 2011

reviews: foster the people, junior boys, shonen knife

Foster the People - Torches

Foster the People - Torches (***)

Foster the People’s sudden popularity and indie-disco affinities have prompted comparisons to MGMT, a resemblance sustained by their debut’s lop-sidedness. Just as Kids and Time to Pretend enveloped everything in their vicinity, lead single Pumped Up Kicks (already a sizable hit in the US and enjoying considerable radio play here) has the potential to extinguish the rest of Torches. It’s a cracking summer jam (if you overlook grim lyrics detailing a Columbine-style massacre), and is comfortably Foster the People’s choicest four-minutes. But, also like MGMT, the Californians deserve credit for not clinging too tightly to a tested template, with Helena Beat rocking a Peter, Bjorn and Justice vibe; Don’t Stop (Colour on the Walls) recalling The Kinks at their most perky; and Call It What You Want entering Scissor Sisters territory. Sadly (again, alas, like MGMT), their debut is ultimately underwhelming, but they’re nonetheless off to a decent start.

Out 27th June

Junior Boys - It's All True

Junior Boys - It's All True (****)

It’s All True was written and recorded in Shanghai, Berlin and Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton goes without saying; it’s the town the Boys call home. Berlin too: what electronic artist hasn’t spent time in the city? (Incidentally, Kick the Can echoes Krautrock stylings to great effect). Shanghai is a less obvious locale, though its influence is felt on opener Itchy Fingers, particularly a middle-eight featuring Chinese musicians that interjects novel textures to the shuddering synth and bass workout.

The globe-trotting is typical – Junior Boys have never stood still. Their influences are legion, and their ability to amalgamate sharply-honed. It is therefore unsurprising that Playtime jumps track, and though its minimal, morose ballad is less immediately satisfying that the opener, it establishes the album’s scope. But the real highlights are left for last: ep ploughs a seductive soul groove, while single Banana Ripple shimmies through nine opulent minutes of premier disco-pop.

Out 4th July

Shonen Knife - Free Time

Shonen Knife - Free Time (****)

Despite multiple line-up changes, Shonen Knife’s set up and style has been unswerving across their thirty year existence: three girls, three chords, and an irreverent streak a mile wide. On An Old Stationary Shop, remaining original member Naoko Yamano mentions buying a notebook so she can write down lyrics, and they’re keepers alright – her first all-English set, they’re characteristically bizarre and childishly charming. “Rolled cake, I want to sleep in it” goes Rock n Roll Cake, while Monster Jellyfish turns the tables on their kaiju foes by recommending “the more you chew them, the more flavourful they become.” Amongst such fluffy nonsense, the title of Economic Crisis stands out, but fiscal soothsaying is swiftly quashed by a riff cribbed from Ace of Spades and some rough feedback. They continue to be deep as a puddle, but stupendously so; here’s hoping that they refuse to grow up for another thirty years.

Out 11th July

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