THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS REVIEWED | FEATURE
I love the way Mike Peters and co have put out this album. After 50 days from writing to recording to release, WAЯ was dropped digitally on Thurs 25 Feb; fans were given the opportunity to receive a blank CD, complete with case and artwork etc, for them to rip the tracks onto. Why go to such lengths to rush out the Alarm’s umpteenth collection of new material?
Well, the subject matter is so current that any other means would have left tracks like We Got This sounding outdated by any normal timeframe. COVID, confusion, Capitol Hill, vaccines, facemasks and fake news all form the inspiration of an album whose energy is impressive, especially considering the tracks all had to be recorded separately.
Still, it’s all a bit on the nose for me. Peters’ lyrical style has become more and more plain over the years, with lines like “None of us have ever been down a road like this before” sounding a little obvious against the backdrop of extraordinary current affairs that inspired the songs. WAЯ doesn’t match up to 2019’s SIGMA, but for rabblerousing and sheer immediacy, Mike Peters is still sounding the klaxon.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Live (International Anthem)
Recorded at Berlin JazzFest in 2019 and released stateside last October, Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood’s incendiary opus Live is finally getting a much-deserved UK physical release. A work of burningly intense, semi-improvised spiritual jazz, its sense of cathartic freedom is often quite overwhelming, as well as frequently confrontational and troubling.
Upon their arrival at Berlin, Dawid and her band [pictured top – credit Cristina Marx] found themselves subject to a succession of racially-motivated macro- and microaggressions, and this feeling of deep resentment and frustration has bled remarkably into the performance. London builds to a transcendentally violent solo section and the African rhythms of The Wicked Shall Not Prevail are played with a punishing force and sense of purpose, channelling the group’s anguish into pained cries for justice.
Dawid’s captivating voice leads album highlight Black Family, howling, as if directly to the audience, “Don’t smile at me, please affirm my family!” Here, the old notion about live performances mirroring the energy of their audience is inverted in a genuinely singular way, becoming a disturbing exercise in accusatory catharsis. Live is a bold and powerful album, not just for the musical brilliance on display, but because of the depths of its creators’ souls it lays bare.
words TOM MORGAN
As Days Get Dark (Rock Action)
Arab Strap open their first album in 16 years with a mission statement. “I don’t give a fuck about the past / Our glory days gone by / All I care about right now / Is that wee mole inside your thigh,” begins single The Turning Of Our Bones, showing the newly reformed Scottish duo back at the top of their game.
With their mixture of indie instrumentals and brutally honest lyrics about life, love and lust, Arab Strap provided the soundtrack to the struggles that come with young adulthood, vocalist Aidan Moffat’s bleak but often funny and relatable observations at the forefront of their work. After such a long time away, As Days Get Dark shows a band that have matured along with their fans.
From the screeching sax in Kebabylon to the subtle electronics in Fable Of The Urban Fox, the tracks are sonically diverse and well produced, showing how the band’s musicianship and ambition have continued to grow since the lo-fi minimalism of their earlier work. The lyrics also display a matured outlook, with themes of aging and nostalgia added to the mix. Arab Strap have returned older and wiser, and it’s great to have them back.
words MATT LEE
Do It Again (BMG)
David Steele and Andy Cox of Fine Young Cannibals had wisely chosen Roland Gift to sing for FYC, so it comes as little surprise that Steele and Cox were later asked to work some of their magic with soul sensation Gabrielle at the start of her singing career, 1993’S Find Your Way album. Daft Punk, too, were fussy about who they remixed and had no problem turning Gabrielle’s Forget About The World into a dark and sweaty club banger.
So, how are things for Gabrielle in 2021? Judging by her seventh album, Gabrielle is still very much a vocal soul force to be reckoned with. Do It Again is predominantly a covers album with a couple of self-penned new songs: Stop Right Now, one of them, is powerful enough for comparisons to be made with Aretha Franklin, ditto Can’t Hurry Love (which has absolutely nothing to do with the Phil Collins song). Her covers of Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me and Fast Car by Tracy Chapman are brave choices, ones Gabrielle takes on with a certain amount of flair on an extremely pleasing album.
words DAVID NOBAKHT
Even by the standards of press release hyperbole, the claim that an album “reinvents pop music” is exceptionally outlandish. It also does the record in question no favours by setting it up for a fall. However, while Flock stands no chance of living up to that billing, it does represent another reinvention on the part of its creator – the latest staging post in the journey of an artist who gets progressively better with each release.
The Silver Globe, from 2014, and 2017’s Modern Kosmology established Weaver as a skilled spirit guide in the realms of subtle, zone-out retropsych. As such, Modern Reputation feels familiar, a glitchy Stereolab gradually gaining momentum before finally hitting their motoric stride at the end. But Stages Of Phases is a delicious space-age Goldfrappian glam-stomper, while the intoxicating shuffle of the title track also seems new – as does wonderful single The Revolution Of Super Visions, with its funk groove, synth bass and St Vincent guitar lines.
“I will not be part of this scheme / Autonomy belongs to me,” Weaver declares on the aforementioned Modern Reputation. She’s always been an artist who does things on her own terms and is now earning the plaudits she deserves for doing so. Glossy closer Solarised points both to the dancefloor and to the possibility that next time round she really might pull that pop reinvention off.
words BEN WOOLHEAD