New Releases and Reissues: February 7
This batch of new releases covers rock, pop, electro, jazz, soul and everything in between…
Green Day – Father Of All…
Billie Joe Armstrong’s claims that Green Day’s 13th album is a “new, sonically modern” sound come true on the thrilling opening title track, a sci-fi falsetto blitz. After that, Father Of All… is only different from regular Green Day because it’s actually a more traditional proto-rock & roll style than their regular punk. Sugar Youth hits on a Rocky Horror glam racket and doesn’t let go. The brilliantly daft Oh Yeah! is Green Day wishing they were a girl group. It’s not the revolution, and its best moments are comfortingly familiar, but at least the trio are virally infectious and having fun again. That said, at just 31 minutes, there shouldn’t be room for the plodding filler of Junkies On A High. It’s available in pink and “puke” vinyl, with an explicit “…Motherfuckers” sleeve, plus deluxe packages featuring socks, onesies and ‘Father Of All Coffee Roasts’ coffee. Nice.
Nada Surf – Never Not Together
Don’t let the fact that this is New York four-piece Nada Surf’s ninth album and you’re still only vaguely aware of them dissuade you. It’s now 17 years since their Heavenly Recordings classic Let Go came out, which contains the definitive Nada Surf song Inside Of Love. This, like most of frontman Matthew Caws’ tunes, throws a chorus at you so natural and perfectly formed that it seems incomprehensible that it hasn’t already been claimed. This formula of fragile, self-confessional vocals, chiming guitars, punchy drums and soaring harmonies has only been honed, never changed. Recorded at Rockfield and boasting a Bon Iver-inspired theme of interconnectedness, Never Not Together is a nine-track wonder and fans of Big Star, Jellyfish, Semisonic, Teenage Fanclub, or intelligent guitar pop of any kind should rejoice.
La Roux – Supervision
What does Elly Jackson do all day? Having taken five years between the first two La Roux albums, LP three finally arrives six years after the underrated Trouble In Paradise.
Since then, Jackson has collaborated with New Order and Tyler, The Creator, but it seems telling La Roux’s irresistible comeback single was called International Woman Of Leisure. It firmly set the sonic template for Supervision – one long chorus, a massive wah wah guitar and climactic synths that are pretty primitive but also brutally efficient for making defiant, to-the-point pop music. Supervision was apparently recorded in Jackson’s South London kitchen before Kylie producer Dan Carey mixed it. You can believe it – there are no embellishments on the album, down to its brief eight-song runtime. But, like Trouble In Paradise, you won’t find many better modern electronic pop records.
The joyous Everything I Live For is as good as tropical house gets, He Rides is a Northern Soul throwdown while Automatic Driver has the best combination of funk bassline and wah wah guitar since Everything She Wants by Wham!. Throughout, Jackson’s vocals are fantastically economical. Loosely similar to Alison Moyet, Jackson is a soulful, empathic singer who could succeed in any genre and do all the Mariah Carey/Jessie J-aping vocal melismatics she wants – but knows instead how to power the song along, rather than her own vocal showboating. With the apparent minimum of effort, Jackson perfectly conveys her resolute spirit in International Woman Of Leisure.
In many ways, Jackson’s talent is frustrating – having taken six years, there should be more than eight songs, occasionally bulking tracks out needlessly to five minutes-plus to justify calling Supervision a full album (hello, Otherside). Really, though, we should be thankful La Roux exists. However long she takes, the results make you remember how pedestrian so many of her more lauded peers are. An absolute force of nature, album four in 2028 should be magnificent, too.
Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again – A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven
Ten years ago, XL released Gil Scott-Heron’s final studio album I’m New Here, produced by label boss Richard Russell. The singer, who died the following year, was speaking as much as singing in an autobiographical odyssey, which Russell set to a subtly atmospheric backing track of drum ‘n’ bass and ominous chords. Frequently, Scott-Heron’s distinct Chicago drawl was left unaccompanied. A year later, producer Jamie XX was inspired to use the recordings for his own We’re New Here and now fellow Chicagoan and self-proclaimed “beat scientist” Makaya McCraven has added his name to the list. McCraven magically adds jazz instrumentation, melody, African percussion, plus vocal samples to bring fresh light to the familiar; it’s the next best thing to getting Brian Jackson back.
Wrangler – A Situation
If you squint with your ears, you could be forgiven for thinking Wrangler’s new album dates from the late 1980s or early 1990s, an overlooked gem from the Mute catalogue perhaps. That’s largely because the trio – Benge (The Maths), Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil Winter (Tunng), who also trade as Creep Show when performing with John Grant – have a shared and enduring love of analogue synths and aged digital sequencers. Listen to third LP A Situation, though, and, from the moment scene-setter Anthropocene begins to express its very 21st-century concerns over the state of the planet, it’s evidently clear this is a contemporary record. Yet for all it explores dystopian visions, Situation is also a playful dance record packed with belting tunes – and heaven knows we could do with the sense of fun this imbues right now.
Jonathan Wright, John Earls, Ben Wardle