Quick Hits

As I'm going to be making a more concerted effort to update this kickass music blog at least once a week I thought I'd start it out with a few quick, notable nuggets in order to catch up. First some news:

-The Verve Reunites

It seems to be a year for great bands of the 90s to get themselves back together in order to relive past glories (smashing pumpkins), so it should be no surprise that a fantastically talented band which produced two of the best albums of the 90s (A Northern Soul, Urban Hymns) and a song which is indelibly lodged in the soft tissue of the heads of most people (Bittersweet Symphony) was getting back together. Not only is this a surprise, however, it is a full on double take moment. The Verve's split was not a harmonious affair, and in fact, they split more than once. After 'A Northern Soul' the band, which had made an amazing transition out of the shoegazing netherworld into critical darlings, split up mainly due to guitarist Nick McCabe and front-man Richard Ashcroft butting heads. Ashcroft continued writing and managed to convince McCabe to come back and work on another album, an album which became 'Urban Hymns', a beauty of a record. Soon after the album was released and the band soared through the troposphere (read up on your atmospheric layers) McCabe and Ashcroft's bickering again split the band up as McCabe left to do absolutely nothing for 9 years except a remix or two.

Ashcroft went on to a semi-successful solo career and other members of The Verve showed up in various bands and projects, including Damon Albarn's "The Good, The Bad and The Queen", but the Verve faded from the collective consciousness and all we were left with were three albums of complex beauty and some of the most innovative guitar work in decades. The last anyone had heard McCabe was a recluse and he was not on speaking terms with Ashcroft who released his poorest solo album yet in 2006.

...and then an announcement on The Verve's defunct official website and on Ashcroft's solo website declaring a new album and mini-UK tour.

It will be interesting to see what a new album sounds like as even the previous Verve album was widely seen as mostly Richard Ashcroft's first solo album backed by his Verve band-mates, but regardless of what it ends up being, it will be interesting.

Link to review of The Verve's "A Northern Soul"... check it

-Coldplay's new album has an "Hispanic Theme"

Can someone explain this to me, because I'm really struggling to grasp the concept of this. Can anyone imagine Chris Martin with a mariachi band behind him singing in Spanish? Well I can, and it's fucking hilarious, almost as hilarious as the fact that Coldplay are giving their new album an "Hispanic Theme". Is Chris Martin going to sing bad love lyrics in Spanish now? Has anyone else noticed that he can't write lyrics anymore? Is this a lot of questions for one news item?

Read the whole story here

By the way, not too shabby of a composite for 5 minutes work, eh?

Now for a few mini-reviews:

Willy Mason - If the Ocean Gets Rough

For a guy who was called this generation's Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in various articles after his first album was released when he was 19, Willy Mason has dropped quicker than a sack of bricks. Although I tend to think he was over-hyped by the critical press who were so quick to dub him with the 'genius songwriter' tag I really fell in love with his clever turns of phrase and the simplicity of his folk/indie sound. His first album "Where the Humans Eat" was a marvelous joining of rough and simple production which perfectly matched the tone of his often-times odd voice. Sounding more like a 55 year old drunk who spent 35 years on a production line than a 19 year old from Martha's Vineyard, Mason was able charm his audience and sing tongue-twisting line's such as:

You shouldn't read Dostoevsky at your age
That and nicotine will make you pale and lean
And twist your face like Mr. Gray's
Though it just manifests in paintings that you make
Or else your eyes will stay the same
Are you that hungry for a change?

But Mason apparently didn't realize why people loved his first album because "If the Ocean Gets Rough" is a failure in just about every way. He swaps the endearing simplicity of the first album for lavish production which only serves to call attention to the fact that his voice simply isn't very strong. It also doesn't help that he seems to also have bought into the fact that he is this generation's voice, writing songs which far exceed his young grasp. The issues he attempts to grapple with and shed 'revelations' on just don't harmonize with his music, voice, and demeanor. The result is an massively uneven album of songs which don't fit together in style, content, or quality.

Go grab Mason's first album and download the only two quality songs from the new one: 'The End of the Race', which is fantastic and the album's shining moment, and 'Save Myself', which although a bit melodramatic, is also quite strong.

Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full

It's hard to believe that McCartney could still be relevant musically or thematically, but on "Memory Almost Full" Sir Paul not only releases his best solo album in decades, he releases one of his strongest albums ever. I was blown away by the level of his songwriting, production, and the massive number of new musical ideas he presents here, especially since for the last decade he's basically given into being a caricature of himself in which he writes semi-decent songs which seem newly old.

Excluding 'gratitude' the albums only disappointing moment, "Memory Almost Full" is full of absolutely incredible pop-rock songs. "Ever Present Past" is a quick moving indie track which, if released by any person not named Paul McCartney, would be praised as a genius moment for any indie pop act. "Only Mama Knows" begins with a dramatic string section but quickly turns into one of McCartney's most rocking tune's since "Helter Skelter" and "Mister Bellamy", "House of Wax", and "Vintage Clothes" are simply three of the most sonically interesting songs I've heard in the past year.

Go buy it, you'll be incredibly surprised by its newness.

- Luke