Greetings from the East Coast, as I pen this blog post near Cape Cod, Massachusetts—not my normal southern California abode—and attempt to recap all that is best about this week's new album releases!
One hopes my normal critical acuity has not been dulled by a steady flow of lobster rolls, quahogs, steamed clams and people who—let's face it—have the funniest accents ever!
Luckily this week's artists are all of them—each and every one—stellar, iconic, and quite possibly my favorite artists of all time! So even if their new albums stink, it's cool! They're great!
Except for the bad ones!
Dead Can Dance: Anastasis (PIAS America) Back in the day—and to be specific, it was March 17th, 1984—I was visiting a record store where I once worked and overheard some conspicuously trendy customers asking a clerk friend if they stocked any Dead Can Dance records. He said, "Do you mean CAN?" They scoffed and dismissively said no. Luckily the store was hip and had one! (There only was one back then!) Curious, I myself plucked it up and eventually discovered the band's winsome appeal! Certainly one of the forefathers of that whole 4AD sound—along with the Cocteau Twins and their buddies—Dead Can Dance played a sort of dreamy, post-punk, synth-goth Gregorian-chant kind of thing that's never really gone out of style—and this new set, their first since 1996's Spiritchaser, shouldn't let a single fan down. It's quite good! Incidentally, I wasn't stalking that store's trendy customers, and restraining orders really aren't that big of a deal!
Insane Clown Posse: The Mighty Death Pop! (Psychopathic) Those of us who've taken the Insane Clown Posse for granted—who've paid scant attention at this colorful combo despite their selling over 11 million albums worldwide—might be a bit surprised if they bother giving the gang—now tainted by that whole "Juggalo" hoo-hah—a chance! Opening up with a faithful rendition of Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch," moving on to the near-sacred ground of Harry Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle" and polishing it off with a "joke" version of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," The Mighty Death Pop first three tracks is a staggering trifecta of near perfect pop! That said, continuing on with five separate cover versions of Foghat's "Fool For The City" might be a tad more than anyone but a hardcore ICP fanatic can handle—but I'm up for it if you are! Like U2 in their prime—or for that matter, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Who—the Insane Clown Posse are primates and intrinsic noise generators! How did they get so good?
2 Chainz: Based On A T.R.U. Story (Def Jam) I am deeply impressed by 2 Chainz, largely because of the company he keeps! Dude, this album alone—his first!—features guest appearances by Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Dolla Boy (great name!), The-Dream, Chris Brown and more! Like, does it even matter if he's any good? Those people are great! Adorned by an absolutely innovative cover—each album includes two gold chains worth approximately $280—and focusing on an educational theme of which we should all be proud—"Teachers Require Understanding"—T.R.U. Story is a heart-wrenching, streetwise musical tale that tells it like it is in no uncertain terms! Most thought provoking tracks? "I Love Dem Strippers" and "Yuck!" I'd be willing to bet they sound great!
Loverboy: Rock 'N' Roll Revival (Frontiers) Some bands age well with time, and others don't! Loverboy? Heck, they sound better than ever! And this new set—which brings together the original Canadian Fab Five, puts them in the studio with legendary producer Bob Rock, features three hot new tracks along with welcome re-recordings of all their best hits—will likely rip your heart out with its bold and rockin' derring-do! Among the most cooking remakes: "Working For The Weekend," "Loving Every Minute Of It," "The Kid Is Hot Tonight" and—to be blunt, the one song certain to "close the deal" when sung aloud by dudes entering a dance club filled with beautiful women—"Hot Girls In Love"! Hearing these tracks again, all these years later, drives home the oft-repeated point few can deny: Radiohead certainly were listening!
Slightly Stoopid: Top Of The World (Stoopid) Only slightly stupid—you'd think by now someone would tell them they spelled the word incorrectly—this entertaining alt-rock combo combines acoustic rock with blues, reggae, hip-hop, punk, baroque pop, alt-country, Cajun and klezmer and offers up a sonic knockout with every album! Intriguingly devoted to the best works of the Carpenters—to whom the group has often been compared—Top Of The World features G. Love, Barrington Levy, Don Carlos, Chali 2na, and, on occasion, the band themselves—on those rare occasions when they feel the music they themselves make without guest appearances is worth hearing! The album cover sucks! By definition!
Various Artists: Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac (Hear Music) Does the world really need a bunch of hipsters covering Fleetwood Mac? Well, yes, I suppose, if you've got someone like Billy Gibbons—who whether with ZZ Top or the latter-day Moving Sidewalks might actually have covered "Oh Well" when it was a new track—but otherwise, I'm not sure the crew involved here, talented as they are (Antony, Best Coast, Lykke Li, Tame Impala, etc.), bring much new to the picture. All except for MGMT, I hasten to add, who wisely cover Bob Welch's "Future Games"—and again bring to mind that the mid-period Mac that featured both Welch and Danny Kirwan remains one of the best and, sadly, underappreciated apparitions of the band. Buy Future Games and Bare Trees instead!
Daniel Powter: Turn On The Lights (International Solutions) In the unenviable position of trying to follow-up what was an absolute worldwide smash—and that would be the 2005 single "Bad Day"—Canadian singer-songwriter returns and now fully comes to grips with the fact that his success largely stemmed from that track's significant placement on everyone's favorite TV show American Idol! Not to curse, but—gosh, how frickin' unpleasant! The new album thus comes as quite a surprise: An intense sci-fi "song cycle" based on his perhaps understandable desire to have superhuman powers which would allow him to turn off the world's electricity, erase every hard drive, DVD or videocassette that featured his music on Idol, and then—as the album title implies—start again! I'm kind of into flying and walking through walls myself!
Incubus: Incubus HQ Live (Epic/Legacy) I've always had a kind of soft spot in my heart for Incubus—I don't know, they're nice guys or something!—so you could say I'm rooting for them in this wacky world of popular music! This new set—a 2CD/1DVD combo featuring the band performing live in front of a small set of Los Angeles fans—is a nice gesture, a great document of a good idea, and something certain to connect the band with their hardcore, very loyal fans! Especially if they buy it!
Yellowcard: Southern Air (Hopeless) "Sometimes stepping away from something can remind how much you love it," says this great group's new bio, but I think it meant to say "remind you"! Still…it's true! I just picked up the new Yellowcard album and was about to play it but then suddenly realized it had been years since I played Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey! And you know what? That game is great! And it doesn't have a cover that looks like it came from a used record bin!
Tamela Mann: Best Days (TillyMann) I am mortified to report, especially in light of this artist's Gospel music leanings, that not only is her name too similar to that of another woman in the entertainment industry—but I can name all of that woman's films! Hell awaits!