Spanish Model (UME)
Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it. Most of us haven’t been holding out for the Spanish language release of Elvis Costello’s second album, 1978’s This Year’s Model, so to call it a surprise success is no exaggeration.
After hearing This Year’s Girl sung in Spanish for a TV show, Costello and producer Sebastian Krys hit on the idea of rerecording the entire album with Spanish-language singers – but with The Attractions’ original backings accompanying the guest artists. Not only that, but some of the songs are extended cuts and the recordings have been remixed to create an even more energetic performance from Costello’s backing band.
As for the guests, the female vocalists win out by far. The higher range and biting delivery of the translated lyrics capture all the energy and attack of early Costello, whereas most of the male performances opt for too soft an approach. It sounds like one for the completists, but Spanish Model is an old album with a new sound that will find a new, maybe unsuspecting, audience.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
The Ultra Vivid Lament (Sony)
If there’s a key lyric on the Manics’ 14th LP, it’s on Into The Waves Of Love: “I don’t know what it is that I believe in / But it involves misery and keeping still.” While the second line implies that Nicky Wire rather enjoyed lockdown (see also penultimate track Happy Bored Alone), the first is a more significant admission for a band so often derided and dismissed as preachy polemicists.
Quest For Ancient Colour tells a similar story: “I used to make sense, but now I am confused.” A reaction to the increasingly polarised nature of public debate, it seems – but it’s still disconcerting to hear former firebrand James Dean Bradfield proclaim “I defend the middle ground” on Complicated Illusions.
The Ultra Vivid Lament is musically MOR too: a slick and intermittently successful jaunt through pop’s golden decades that remains resolutely radio-friendly while dialling down the dog-whistle anthemicism. The Secret He Had Missed cribs nicely from Abba, right down to the Waterloo piano line, while the comedown disco of Afterending is a stirring state-of-the-nation take on a Benny‘n’Bjorn sadbanger.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
Forever I Wait (AWAL)
A heartfelt album which was started a while before Martina Topley-Bird suffered the devastating trauma of losing her daughter, Forever I Wait is a trip through a rollercoaster of many emotions that are primarily in search of peace and understanding. It has been nearly three decades since Topley-Bird appeared on Tricky’s groundbreaking Maxinquaye album and her voice has become more uniquely powerful with each of her own albums: there have been collaborations with Massive Attack, Gorillaz and Diplo, but it is Topley-Bird’s solo outings that demand more attention.
Forever I Wait is her fourth and arguably best album. Christoffer Berg and Rich Morel, who have both previously worked with Depeche Mode, along with Robert Del Naja from Massive Attack, lend a hand with Topley-Bird’s bleak experimental electronic soundscapes. A dark, post-punk meets hip-hop vibe results, Topley-Bird’s voice adding warmth to songs with a comparably intricate level of detail as Alan Wilder’s Recoil project.
words DAVID NOBAKHT
The Metallica Blacklist (Blackened)
The Metallica Blacklist’s whopping 53 tracks combines their 12 classic songs from The Black Album, released concurrently to toast its 30th anniversary, with a wild mix of musicians from all genres. It’s as if the artists names have been pulled from a hat – but personally, I loved it.
Highlights include Rina Sawayama’s slick and powerful rendition of Enter Sandman, while Phoebe Bridgers shines on a hauntingly beautiful Nothing Else Matters. This leads, though, into the one glaring issue: 53 takes on a dozen originals gives us six versions of Enter Sandman and a frankly ridiculous 12 Nothing Else Matters, all sequenced after each other. Perhaps if the tracklist had been more mixed up this wouldn’t be as noticeable.
However, it’s all for a good cause, with all profits going to Metallica’s own charity, All Within My Hands. If you’re a fan of covers, Metallica and the many, many artists involved, then I’d recommend checking Blacklist out.
words SARAH BOWDIDGE
I’ve Been Trying To Tell You (Heavenly)
For many, 1997 is a year that jumps out as a turning point – or even a start/end point – of musical and political journeys. Arguably, the London trio’s most influential period had waned by now, so it’s interesting that, for their 10th studio album, Saint Etienne have sourced samples from 1997-2001, an era that started with the optimism of New Labour and was ultimately ended by the fallout of 9/11.
The feeling of naive hope, and the dangers of collective nostalgia, are the themes explored on I’ve Been Trying To Tell You. There are moments when the euphoria kicks in – and the second half of this eight-song album is awash with different moods and arrangements that provoke emotional musical memories. But it is perhaps too subtle an approach and, lacking much in the way of melodic material from Sarah Cracknell’s beautiful voice, this welcome return made me yearn more for the Saint Etienne of the past.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
APPLICATIONS for autumn term are now closed: If you’re 18-30 years old, you live in Wales, and you want to get ahead in the creative and cultural industries, register your interest for winter term.