The Albion Band – The Vice of the People - (Released April 30th)
As a legendary band for forty years within folk circles, to record a new album without a single original member, instead utilising a new, youthful line-up is either inspired bravery or foolhardy in the extreme. A tenuous connection does exist between the present incarnation and the myriad of Albion Band line-up’s afforded over the last four decades, bass player and band leader Ashley Hutchings son, Blair Dunlop takes over the reins from Dad. That can be construed in a number of ways, although it could be argued, does this constitute much difference to a family business being passed to the next generation? That question could be more vehemently explored if “The Vice of People” didn’t prove such an unequivocal success. Blair, along with folk award nominee Katriona Gilmore -fiddle and vocals, concertina player and guitarist Gavin Davenport, drummer Tom Wright, Tim Yates - bass and lead guitarist Benjamin Trott have produced an album constructed from new material, interpretations of traditional folk songs and a couple of covers including a refreshing, rockier “Roll Over Vaughn Williams” Richard Thompson’s classic and more unusually, a version of the Nik Kershaw song “Faces.” In context with the album title and other material, perhaps this doesn’t prove such a strange choice. Although “Thieves Song” is written in Olde Worlde language, emphasis perhaps suggests sympathy with the Occupy movement, “So put no faith in rich men, though gold they have in store, for now they have a taste of it, they’ll want it ten times more.”
Agree with the premise of 2012’s version of The Albion Band or not, what can’t be denied is “The Vice of the People” is a genuinely great collection of folk rock tracks played by a group of hugely talented musicians. Disregard your pre-conceptions and simply enjoy. www.thealbionband.com
The Wedding Present – Valentina (Released on March 19th)
Eighth studio album from The Wedding Present, spanning 27 years and the bard of the North, David Gedge, shows no sign of losing his lyrical dexterity and wry observational style, particularly in reference to relationships. Although Graeme Ramsey is credited as co-writer on all but one of the tracks on “Valentina” Gedge’s name is stamped all over the wordy compositions. His mastery not hidden in ambiguity, rather portrayed plainly and simply but also poetically, albeit of an urban dialect. “You’re Dead” highlights the struggle is to detach romantically from a plainly unsuitable partner “But how come during times like this, I still want your touch and I want your kiss, it’s insane and I, can’t explain why. You’re not the one for me, oh no, but I just can’t seem to let you go, you abhor me, ok call me.”
Britain has produced numerous excellent lyricists over the years, although few with a grasp of gritty realism produced on such a regular basis as David Gedge. “The Girl from the DDR” suggests a dalliance never to progress beyond that level “So I’ve been using you all this time, it’s not that I don’t adore you, cos I do, but I’ve realised that I don’t think I’m, ever going to leave my girlfriend for you.” In the early Wedding Present days, their sound pioneered jangly indie, although latter day albums, including “Valentina” encompass heavier aspects around the guitar and bass, “Deer in the Headlights” and End Credits” potential live favourites on the coming world tour. A return to yore can be heard however within “You Jane” and “Back a bit…..stop” in particular, slightly reminiscent of “Brassneck.”
Generally eight albums down the line, or even sooner, cracks are beginning to show, ideas not flowing quite a easily as in their youth, definitely not the case with The Wedding Present, no requirement for sonic Polycell in Leeds just yet. www.scopitones.co.uk
Killing Joke - MMX11 – Released on April 2nd
Jaz Coleman is at great pains in interviews to deny the end of the world is nigh, although feeling we have commenced and can expect a continued rough ride throughout 2012. His beliefs centre round the end of a cycle predicted by the Mayan, Inca and Rosicrucian calendars, heavily influencing the new, exceptionally dark Killing Joke album “MMX11”.
Their sound has always revolved around a gloomy, menacing atmosphere created by relatively simplistic, dense musical compositions, this time round, possibly in even heavier mode, “Colony Collapse” intimating towards the rhythms and structure of Black Sabbaths “Children of the Grave.” The nature of Killing Joke’s music is somewhat surprising, taking into account Coleman’s classical background, a trained violinist spending time away from the band involved in orchestration. Killing Joke provides however a cathartic outlet for Jaz, Youth, Geordie and Big Paul to rail against the world’s injustices. Unsurprisingly, capitalism takes a battering in “Corporate Elect” and “Fema Camp” lambasts the notion of concentration camps in the U.S.A although “In Cythera” allows the access of more tender emotions. The song inspired by the break-up of his eighteen year relationship and the death of Big Paul’s father and a reference to love and loss based around a painting of the Greek island of Cythera by French Rococo artist Wattain. For Coleman, once a man prone to physical confrontation, surely a sign of mellowing in later life.
Don’t expect a drastic change in direction from Killing Joke, their mould cast and set many years ago, instilling deep devotion in their followers, which continues to this day. Comes a point, change is neither option or requirement. http://www.killingjoke.com
The Stranglers - Giants
As a major fan of prog rock, punk initially passed me by, a bunch of talentless upstarts unworthy of my teenage attention. With time and a more open mind, I realised punk essential to changing the whole musical outlook of the U.K, perhaps the world, which had, for many bands of the early to mid 70’s become completely overblown and elitist.
One of the first of the punk bands to garner my attention, The Stranglers, two names from their ranks in particular beginning to crop up within my sphere of vision. Jean Jacques Burnel and Dave Greenfield, appearing from apparently nowhere to sit alongside my heroes in music paper polls, usually dominated by the Chris Squire, Roger Glover, Geddy Lee, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson’s of this world. Perhaps I had foolishly banished a whole genre from my closed mind, without any due consideration.
Now, thirty eight years after conception, the band release a new album “Giants” their seventeenth, with both Greenfield and particularly Burnel once again heavily at the forefront. While Baz Warne on vocals and guitar doesn’t provide the vitriolic tones of a Hugh Cornwell, in their advancing years a more measured approach proves more suiting. “Giants” includes a gamut of styles, opening with blues based instrumental “Another Camden Afternoon” Burnel at the forefront of the mix with deeply booming bass lines and the stirring swirls of Greenfield’s Hammond Organ, complementing perfectly Warne’s guitar work. “Adios Tango” as the name suggests, revolves around a tango rhythm incorporating Spanish lyrics and contrasting guitar, “Time Was Once on My Side” (I know the feeling guys) incorporates an impressive opening riff with a distorted vocal while album highlight “Mercury Rising” as the lyrics suggest, crackles and fizzes, Jean Jacques underpinning and enriching the track, the bass being used as an additional lead instrument.
Within “Giants” The Stranglers utilise all their experience and skills, providing an enthusing collection of pop songs, underscoring them as a force still to be reckoned with. www.thestranglers.net
Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)
Sinead O’ Connor is a complex character, new album “How About I be Me (And You Be You)” fully demonstrating her physiognomies. Lyrically intensity blended amongst a wide range of tone and mood, “4th and Vine” finding the Irish Chanteuse in buoyant, nay, cheerful mode, donning her pink dress, doing her hair up tight, heading to the church to be married. Cue immediate about turn within “Reason with Me” stealing and selling your Grandma’s rosary for 50p, a narrative outlining the life of a junkie, eternally hopeful of making the necessary call for help one of these days. A bizarre cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark,” makes an appearance, it’s expressive and vitriolic nature pure Sinead, although a song written very much from a male perspective. “I Had a Baby” outlines the joys of parenthood, before “V.I.P” digs deep into the ribs of celebrity and their perceived importance, the whispered dialogue ending outlining the importance of faith before dissolving into laughter, further establishing the slightly surreal atmosphere.
Within her vocal performance however, O’Connor demonstrates admirable restraint, an example of less is much more to numerous wailing and warbling female singers. Using her strong voice sparingly and far more effectively, she delivers an album which although perplexing is ultimately an impressive and enthralling reappearance.