Monday, 1 April 2013

Eddie's Album Round-up: March


Hurts - Exile

Hurts' debut album Happiness was released two and a half years ago to confusion and general acceptance. It was neither brilliant nor utterly useless, just plain and simple - synth pop for well-dressed, top button fans of middle-class Britain. The duo's music is incredibly thin and lacks interest. Even on 2013's Exile, they still manage to bore listeners into submission. The album format is a death sin for Hurts as they are essentially a band directed by the strength of their singles. New Order, Depeche Mode and  Duran Duran all had hits, distinguishable albums and importance in what would be the first electronic culture movement in the UK, New Romanticism.

Exile does actually take-off with its title track, one of the best, but shamefully similar to The Temper Trap. It doesn't last however, as the RCA in Hurts takes over. "Miracle" sounds like a Mylo Xyloto B-side rather than a Hurts original. Nothing else on Exile is remotely interesting. "Blind" is the same Coldplay B-side as mentioned above, while "Cupid" is the demented baby of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus". "The Crow" offers a little bit of entertaining atmosphere and "Sandman" becomes the first Hurts track to incorporate hip-hop features. 

Hurts have never really been a driving force of 10s synth pop, that's left in the hands of the emerging r&b artists who are using nostalgia and creativity to mix genres. The beats are hardly enjoyable and what originality Hurts actually had in the first place is impossible to locate on Exile. Hardcore fans will enjoy this album, but for outsiders or long-term fans of 70s new wave and 80s synth pop, Exile comes across as the dreaded poor journalistic word to describe something that's just not interesting - boring.

4.0




The Oh Sees - Floting Coffin

San Francisco resident John Dwyer used The Oh Sees as a way to get his home recordings noticed, 16 years later and here he is, still releasing albums. Floating Coffin is The Oh Sees 12th studio album and the latest in a string of releases after 2012's Putrifiers II. The bands usual aesthetic of garage rock, psychedelic rock and alterative take a modern twist. In an era where nostalgic releases are becoming the hip new thing, The Oh Sees finally see their 60s influence as an important factor in breaking out of the underground scene. They have spent years on independent record labels, releasing similar music, in the way their east coast rivals Yo la Tengo have. 

"To Cutter - Thumb Buster" offers all the feedback a Hendrix fan needs. It's a spell bounding track that lacks the personal touch to distinguish The Oh Sees from fellow psych ravers The Flaming Lips. The truth is that The Oh Sees are not a quirky band, they're most certainly cult and intriguing, but they don't have the character. On far too many occasions The Oh Sees have disappointed, Floating Coffin seems to be the answer the five piece have been looking for.

Tracks like "Maze Francier" and "Sweet Helicopter" are all about the music. Its how the bass goes with the electric guitar and how Dwyer matches with Brigid Dawson in their unusual harmonies. "Tunnel Time" offers the great speedy garage rock sound of the 60s, while "No Spell" continues the bands foray in noise rock. The Oh Sees never close their doors and are always looking for a way to improve technically and relatively. "I Come From The Mountain" summarises the whole album. Individual bass riffs with an organic guitar. The reverb applied to Dwyer's voice is obligatory; however it never fails to capture his love for music and sounds. 

The Oh Sees first released under that name in 2008 with the album The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In. They haven’t changed, and why should they? The five piece are constantly evolving sounds and structures, with secret weapon Dawson stealing the limelight yet again. Floating Coffin picks up where Putrifiers II left off, and the bands 13th album will start where Floating Coffin ends.

7.7




Steve Mason - Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time

Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time is Steve Mason's third solo album after years of walking the music scene wilderness. Since being the songwriter and frontman for Scottish cult favourite The Beta Band, Mason has taken on depression. His sadness reflects his music, but Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time is a step away from the loathing material of Mason's past. Instead of doom, gloom and mushrooms, Mason takes the listener on a voyage of the mind, body and soul with his third album.

It's Mason finding his feet as a solo artist, and a journey that listeners can experience as they did back in the early 00s with Mason's Beta Band. What we miss has returned in the form of ambience, experimentation and trip hop. The funky repetitive bass riffs are back, and backed with this ambience such as on the calming "Safe Population" which follows Mason's Suicide / Spiritualized track "Lonely". A gospel chorus, plenty of reverb and an uplifting piano. 

This is a long album, and an album that Mason has been waiting to release for many years. His sound is developed and the structures are far more progressive and interesting than any of his other solo releases. Listeners may hear reggae sounds, krautrock, trip hop right the way through to ambient and noise. Mason delivers on his third album and hopefully this can be the solo album that puts him back on the market. 

Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time may sound a little too intense at times; however this is how Mason intended it. 20 tracks with one minute breaks, vocal speeches and percussion intros add to Mason's sound aesthetic. His production can also be contributed for its hip-hop style, as with "More Money, More Fire". Blends of politics, genre mashing and interesting instrumentation certainly put Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time above many independently released albums so far in 2013. It's a listen for Mason fans, Beta Band fans and just about anyone that likes fusion, experimentation and fun.

8.2

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