It would be no exaggeration to say that this is the strongest batch of new releases I've seen since I started writing this blog in 1985!
What I like most about this week is that most of the albums refute the basic fallacy music industry doomsayers now parrot regularly: That today's albums have one or two "good tracks" and the rest is just filler! That's only true in the case of one of the albums below--guess which!--because the dude that made it is, well, a "singles" artist! Of course the rest of his stuff stinks!
So next time you hear someone using that cruddy line of logic, slap 'em down and call 'em Top 40-Loving Musical Dilettante Cheapskates With No Taste At All!
Then steal their car!
Depeche Mode: Sounds Of The Universe (Mute) If you would've asked me in 1981 whether I thought Depeche Mode would become one of the biggest bands in the world and still be making great records in 2009, I probably would've said, "Huh? Do I know you, buddy?" But now we've probably met, so let me assure you that I didn't and they are! Sounds Of The Universe is a masterful work, continuing the band's steady ascent into that rarified area of pop music where every sound is note-perfect, every lyric concise and meaningful, and every haircut better than the last! Let's all buy this so as not to upset them! Kanye West, T-Pain and Lil Wayne; other fabulous guests include Nas, John Legend (his track "Magnificent" is hip!), Foxy Brown, Robin Thicke, and Ne-Yo! It's like the party of a lifetime! Personal favorite track is "Gunplay" featuring Gunplay--unless that's the name of an actual artist or something! Hanson, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne and Ivy, James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick--but you may not have heard their new album. It's great! To me it sounds like the perfect pop combination of upbeat Fountains Of Wayne and Cheap Trick--great melodies, upbeat pop hooks, and a sound that evokes the past yet sounds contemporary as well! It's almost as if a focus group got together and said, "Let's create a group that will bring in '70s Cheap Trick fans, '90s fans of the Pumpkins and Fountains of Wayne, and some 'young stuff' who used to like Hanson! Then let's give it a graphics package that resembles Alice Cooper's Easy Action! It'll be like math!" But of course they haven't had focus groups in years! Booker T. Jones: Potato Hole (Anti) Speaking of math, I've always found that the collective recordings of Booker T. & the MGs are, in retrospect, so completely perfect, so lacking in one single wasted note, that they are ultimately monumental works--presaging the metronomic approach taken later by German bands like Can and Neu!, and like them, sounding utterly contemporary to this day. Except whenever I hear them, I want to get out of the car and go to the refreshment stand for a tasty hot dog! This new album--which features the legendary keyboardist teamed with the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young (who plays lead guitar on nine tracks)--features a cover that might've been put together by the Atlantic Records art team of the '60s, only smaller! Buy this and serve man! NRBQ's Terry Adams--who still looks all of 35 on his new album cover, and who, as always, sounds like a bright new artist with an awful lot to say. Funny to get this now, as just this week I heard a new album by a duo called Sam & Ruby who I thought sounded a bit like John Mayer; it's funny only because when I first heard Mayer I thought he sounded like Terry Adams and NRBQ. It all comes back to the Q, dudes! This new set features Adams with guitarist Scott Ligon and NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino, and the songs are sharp, sophisticated, and everything that is dandy about the best rock n' roll there is! Hear it, love it, respect it in the morning! Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career (2.13.61) Another fine album by one of the best Scottish bands out there, My Maudlin Career is a smooth, easy-listening pop record that sometimes evokes early '60s girlie pop--with a hint of guitar twang--and always rises to the occasion thanks to the marvelous vocals of Tracyanne Campbell. Rises to the occasion? Sheesh! I think I liked them more when the production wasn't quite so slick--"Suspended From Class" back in 2003 sort of sounded like the Marine Girls, yet nothing here does--but at least they call themselves maudlin! Think she'd go to lunch with me? Chester French: Love The Future (Star Trak/Interscope) It's hard to take exception to a creative pair who make a point of writing intelligent tunes that display versatility and sound nothing like each other--and who also title a song "Bebe Buell"! She's cool! What do they sound like? The poor human in charge of writing a press release about 'em had no choice but to call their album "an always surprising set of pop-art songs," and even our blogger Craig "Dead Horse" Rosen spent a few paragraphs writing about Sebastian Cabot, and he doesn't even get paid by the word! What does it all mean? Either that they're indescribably delicious or that all the good adjectives got used up by 2004! Led Zeppelin, Geddy Lee and several bottles of cough syrup, others say they were one of the last great bands in the history of alternative rock! Even people not in the band! It's all great stuff--even the product shot looks hot--and were it a human being, you could ask to marry it!