Whoops! Apologies for posting this a day late!
I spent the weekend in San Francisco and had no idea that the record industry--which recently underwent its worst sales week in years--was counting on me to write about the week's best new releases, encourage sales, and thus save the entire music business!
And I just noticed a reader asked where my new blog was in last week's comments section!
So admittedly a day late and a dollar short, here I am, ready to spread the word about why this is the best week ever for new releases--and why you should simply buy them all!
But I'd rather write this instead!
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Mojo (Reprise) A surprisingly strong album by Petty and his long-lived crew carries on the tradition that his groovy recent box set established--that is, of being one of the best live bands on the planet--largely because of its purposeful emulation of country and blues styles upon which all of rock 'n' roll has long been based! Still, time has taken its toll on even the best of bands--and in this case it's via Petty's decision to name the new album after a well-known music magazine purely to score a good review! In the same manner that other bands such as the Rolling Stones and Cream likewise took on their dopey names purely for pandering's sake, Petty & co. are leaving no potential sales stone unturned! Need I add that the album also might be referred to as being "new this week"? Sheesh!
Drake: Thank Me Later (Young Money) It's admittedly a stunner when one of music's hottest new artists releases a long-awaited album, calls it Thank Me Later, and spends a significant portion of it telling listeners they should stay in school, perhaps focus on obtaining a degree in pre-law or veterinary medicine, focus on his her or her family, find an appropriate spouse, stay faithful and steadily employed, not overly imbibe in drugs or drink, pay one's taxes, attend one's choice of church or synagogue, and perhaps cut the album-buying to a minimum in order to pay the eventual college tuition all good parents must face! And you can bet when that happens I'll let you know! In the meantime, why the heck is this Drake guy releasing songs with names like "Karaoke" when most Internet music companies are guaranteed to offer up tracks called "Karaoke (Karaoke)" in six months or so? Inside jokes are so passé!
Sarah McLachlan: Laws Of Illusion (Arista) I've met Sarah McLachlan and I think she's a very nice young woman, though I have to admit prior to the release of this album I've never found myself thinking of her and cute little puppies in the same 15-second span! But since it's her first new studio album in seven years, what say we "throw her a bone" and simply ignore the terrible fate that's befallen her since then--physically growing to a size that now rivals Earth's own moon, as her new album cover shockingly displays--and merely discuss the music that's to be heard here? And as a matter of fact, I think it's quite--oops, word maximum reached!
Devo: Something For Everybody (Warner Bros.) It's been 20 years since the last Devo studio album, and of course, since then, much of what they stood for has been methodically disproven! In fact, for all their talk of de-evolution, mankind has continued to simply get better with time! We're better looking, smarter, care more about our fellow man, and now most of us have cellphones! Still, we all have enough leisure time to look back fondly at the joys of our youth--and for most of us, Devo's prior legacy still holds up, the records and the costumes and the apparent satire and deliberately cheesy videos are just as enjoyable as they always were, and our standards have now sunken so low that anything even slightly tolerable now seems great! That the track line-up on this new album was largely determined by a focus group only proves that the band remains as forward-focused as ever! After all, Jethro Tull did the same thing 20 years ago, and they've got a guy who plays flute! Also: kind of a hot cover!
The Steve Miller Band: Bingo! (Space Cowboy/Roadrunner) I'm not only a longtime fan of the Steve Miller Band, I spent a puzzling two-week period earlier this year completely immersed in his entire catalog, listening not only to his certified classics--say his first five albums--but also the later period stuff like Abracadabra and Italian X-Rays, which I must say sound extraordinarily cool these days! And this new album? Equally great! Miller's simultaneous grasp of blues roots and pop music has never been less than remarkable, and this set, which deliberately focuses on the blues material he grew up playing, borders on the near perfect! I genuinely feel the man hovers near musical genius status! That said, considering the album title, I am kind of bummed there's no song here about a dog!
Robyn: Body Talk Pt. 1 (Cherytree/Interscope) When it comes to "diminutive Swedes"--and between you and me, doesn't it always?--you can't beat Robyn for throwing a freezing cold bucket of reality on your face by supplying clever, commercial, danceable tracks regularly and reminding you that there's an entire world out there having a blast while you're waiting in line for expensive coffee and a good phone connection! Plus, opening up your brand new album with hitbound material like "Don't F**king Tell Me What To Do" does seem like a bold move, especially since asterisks are taboo in Scandinavia! Frankly, I like to put this album on late at night, play it really loudly, dance around with my cat, and think about that warm afternoon in Universal City a decade ago when I interviewed Aqua and the world was brimming with possibilities! You too?
Vanilla Fudge: Box Of Fudge (Rhino Handmade) In retrospect I think the Vanilla Fudge have been shortchanged by accepted rock 'n' roll history, in that they were commercial and ambitious sonic pioneers whose albums--if you go back and give them a listen--are loaded with well-played material that sounds even more powerful with time. This 4-CD set, which collects the band's best late '60s material on two discs and includes a great New Year's Eve 1969 set at the Fillmore West, is pretty essential stuff for those who think they have a solid grasp on pop history but perhaps have forgotten how expert these dudes were at deconstructing standard pop songs and regurgitating them back to us with a level of melodrama that, whether perceived as the height of irony or simply excessively dopey, is just plain astounding! If you can only get one of their albums, I'd still recommend 1968's Renaissance--it is a sonic soap opera beyond belief--but this is the big ticket for true believers. Check it out!
The Shadows: The Final Tour [Blu-Ray] (Eagle) I would imagine it might be weird for a British audience to read an American's account of this legendary band as being "like an English Ventures," but that's the way it was, Stateside, for this great Brit instrumental group featuring guitarists Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch and drummer Brian Bennett--they never quite clicked here, but were massive everywhere else. This excellent disc, which captures the band in "farewell tour" mode in Wales during 2004, shows exactly why: They completely rock. There are over 40 songs to be heard here, played by dudes in their '60s, and the energy on display fairly well explains it all to the uninitiated. Highly recommended!
Oasis: Time Flies...1994-2009 (Epic/Legacy) Fans of Oasis will be pleased to find this collection, especially the deluxe version pictured here--which collects all the band's 26 UK singles on two CDs, a DVD featuring all their promo videos (and I assure you promo videos cost a lot!), and a fourth CD featuring the last-ever Oasis show, recorded at London's Roundhouse in 2009! Haters of Oasis, on the other hand, might care little for this and might instead want to go out and buy Spearmint's 1999 album A Week Away, which is British, pop, and though considerably less celebrated, also quite good! Just a thought!
Foals: Total Life Forever (Sub Pop) The second album by this very interesting UK band, Total Life Forever is not the plea for a new hybrid breakfast cereal most of us would expect, but is instead, according to its product description, "as persuasive emotionally as [its predecessor] Antidotes was physically." And if those albums weren't persuasive emotionally and physically--and let's just say they weren't--still, no mistruth has been uttered! Fantastic! It's as if the writer has said nothing at all! Hah!