Austra’s debut album, Feel It Break, was a solid, if somewhat repetitive, bit of 80s choral pop. Somewhere between Florence Welch and Simple Minds, it had enough bright moments to cancel out the fact that the rest of the album was just a loop of those same moments. On Olympia the Toronto based act do that exact same thing but in the process piss me off slightly more.
First, the good moments: they’ve nicely developed their sound by adding in elements of dubstep (is there a band in the world yet to add an element of dubstep to their sound?) to the core of gothic 80s pop and wailing vocals. Those vocals, already fairly love or hate, are more uneven on this album – especially when she tries to reign them in and just sounds constipated – but remain more a positive than a negative, if anything just for their uniqueness. That said, I fear a Jonsi situation could arise here if she doesn’t learn to mix it up better.
The music is all well and good, or at least, the first half is, but that all counts for nothing every time I look at bloody track 7 – I Don’t Care (I’m A Man). Hey, Austra, shut up. You can’t make an album where in every other song you pine for yo man and talk about how mental you are, and then make a minute long track that is essentially you saying ‘Men are stupid and bad and awful and I hate them’. The fact that it’s followed by a track that shows off the weird, vaguely Caribbean vibe that pervades a few tracks throughout the album just makes it all the more jarring and pointless.
Solid, but frustration remains – and not just because of the sexism.
What We Done, Reconcile, Home
Primal Scream//More Light
Primal Scream are a weird band. They make a good album like once every ten years and fill the remainder with crappy efforts at blues/being the Rolling Stones. More Light continues that noble tradition of intermittent greatness, even if its ambition leads to its own lapses.
It starts off strong with 2013, a horn powered sprawl that stands with their best, and River of Pain, for once an attempt at a blues-y vibe that comes off as they channel Suicide and the Stones. Then Culturecide ruins it all by being totally terrible. At that point the fear sets in. You’ve been here before with the Scream – one good track and then an hour of contrived crap.
Hit Void, a rockier, shoegazier reinvention of Accelerator, is enough to restore some hope, but the chorus is so crap that you feel you should dismiss it. Sure, those horns and that incredible, vast guitar are awesome, but, really, it is just an atrocious chorus.
Seriously, this album must have some of the shittiest choruses I’ve ever heard. The fact that they’re pouring out in Bobby Gillespie’s trademark ‘Is he trying to be seductive or is he just really, really high?’ drawl doesn’t help. Gillespie’s vocals are obviously a long standing weak point, but by this stage you have to just kind of accept them.
The dreamy, bar room blues inflected Tenement Kid would seem to confirm your suspicions that this is same old Primal Scream, but a bit more together and trippier than normal. It gets by on that, but barely. Cue Invisible City to step in and pull a Lazarus on the album. Upbeat, energetic, distinctively Scream, it’s the band at their absolute best.
From there the album drops the bluesy schtick and just explodes in a ball of weird. Even Elimination Blues is more nightmare blues than anything else. It’s big, bold and endlessly ambitious. It’s the kind of kaleidoscopic sound of about 3 decades smashed into one that Kasabian have been trying to pull off since West Ryder, and here Scream show them how it’s done.
Which makes it a shame that it ends with a ‘slow’ (read: boring) number and then literally Movin’ On Up.
They’ve called it It’s Alright It’s Ok, but it is Movin’ On Up. It is exactly the same song in just about every way conceivable. They could release this accompanied by the video from Movin’ On Up and no one would notice the difference. Okay, maybe there is a difference, I guess – this is crapper.
Still, Primal Scream, despite some shaky moments, maintain their once-a-decade record with their best, most creative, most ambitious effort in years. I would rather if Gillespie didn’t rhyme ‘The teenage revolution’ with ‘The final solution’, though. I don’t like the connotation there.
2013, Hit Void, Invisible City
Queens of the Stone Age//…Like Clockwork