Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The pros and cons of new albums by members of classic bands (in descending order)

The Breeders: Mountain Battle

8/ 10

FORMER PIXIES bassist and late eighties/ early nineties pin up Kim Deal shows new pretenders to female led pop how it’s done on the Breeders’ fourth album. ‘Bang On’ is closest to the brief, dumb punk pop anthems of her grungy old band, power chords dramatically overstating teenage preoccupations like “I want no-one/ No-one wants me”, whilst ‘Overglazed’ is a succinct girly pop song bands like The Duke Spirit can only dream of writing.

Like Frank Black’s recent work, though, Deal also mellows out into alt-country. On ‘We’re Gonna Rise’ Deal’s moribund, barely there tones recall the teasing ‘Mad Lucas’ from The Breeders’ 1993 album Last Splash. The far away vocal, spread guitar chords and crepuscular bass of ‘Night of Joy’, too, descend like the dusky reds and oranges of end of day sunshine, in a hot, dusty milieu set by the Spanish sung ‘Regalame Este Noche’.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Real Emotional Trash

7/ 10

IN THE 1990s, Stephen Malkmus and Pavement made slacker-grunge-indie that summed up how it was to be young, bold and literate. Seven years, and four varied albums under his own name later, only the openers to Real Emotional Trash, ‘Dragonfly Pie’ and ‘Hopscotch Willy’, match anything off Malkmus’ promising first solo record. The remaining long jams offer little to grasp onto.

Whereas Pavement’s knowing irony and smirking cleverness, a musical raised eyebrow, alienate some listeners, this is Malkmus by numbers. Malkmus’ dry, can’t -be-bothered vocals lope over wiry, ear scraping guitar, but it seems he’s gone back to school for inspiration, not least in the song titles. The topsy-turvy motion of ‘Dragonfly Pie’ unsettles stepping stone, nursery rhyme melodies, and ‘Hopscotch Willy’ sounds like counting games based around a feedback version of the solo from ‘Light My Fire’ by The Doors.

Bob Mould: District Line

6/ 10

SOME ARTISTS retain musical credibility on their own terms when striking out solo and leaving their old band behind. Of those who came of age in the 1980s, for example, Evan Dando, J Mascis and Frank Black have continued to present a new generation with solo records that, while never matching their heyday, are a lot better than those of their imitators.

Then, there are those, Bob Mould from Husker Du for example, of whom it’s tempting to think ‘they just need to contribute to their pension’. Whilst he tries to fall back on Lemonheads slacker drums, Dinosaur Jr whining and Pixies bass throttle, too often Mould ends up reliving the worst bits of the past decade - Nickleback and Staind ‘nu-grunge’.

My advice: buy Husker Du’s seminal double LP Zen Arcade and hear Bob Mould at his ferocious best.

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