Top 5 New Releases – 27th September
Looking to expand your discography with some hot new albums? Long Live Vinyl has got the list for you…
01 Girl Band – The Talkies
After a health-related hiatus, the Dublin noise outfit return following 2015’s debut. The band’s proclivity for making thunderous teeth-loosening noise hasn’t subsided, but here they also explore more texture and atmosphere, which results in a greater sense of cohesion. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful listen at times, waves of bass submerging you, whilst the guitars sound like collapsing buildings and the vocals those of a tormented and anguished soul. Yet it’s not all pulverising nihilistic noise, it’s a playful, thoughtful and deeply intense record. In their absence, there’s been a surge of acts formed in the band’s shadow, whose vaguely post-punk but ultimately very safe music has resulted in great success, but none of them are taking the risks and exploring the exhilarating territory that Girl Band are. – 9/10
Over the four decades of The Monochrome Set’s stop-start history, some things have remained constant. The band have always been arch – and too clever it seems for mainstream acceptance, for all they’ve influenced the likes of Johnny Marr and Franz Ferdinand. Considering the band’s latest LP is a song-cycle based on the 15th-century manuscripts written by Armande de Pange, a companion of Joan Of Arc, that perhaps hasn’t changed. But don’t expect the bellowing medievalisms of Richard Dawson’s Peasant. Rather, Fabula Mendax is readily accessible, post-punk pastoral lifted by the band’s gift for jazz-tinged pop melody and mainstay Bid’s warm vocals. Highlights, such as the jaunty Throw It Out The Window, abound. A band sounding as vital as they’ve ever done. – 7/10
03 Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You
“Welcome back, guitars,” writes fan Taylor B beneath Tegan And Sara’s recent video, I’ll Be Back Someday. “It’s nice to hear you again.” She’s right, but Hey, I’m Just Like You isn’t simply a reaction to the Canadian twin sisters’ recent forays into electronic pop, including 2016’s high energy Boyfriend. Instead, it’s a fully-fledged return to their childhood, inspired by recently discovered cassettes containing songs written in their mid-teens. With, they insist, lyrics and structures merely tweaked, these provide, they say, “the record we never could have made as teenagers, full of songs we never could have written as adults.”
So expect a dozen, often cute tracks recorded with a budget instead of a cassette recorder. That first single suggests they grew up loving Veruca Salt, Please Help Me hints at Edie Brickell, and I Know I’m Not The Only One sounds like a muscular Juliana Hatfield. But Taylor B may be disappointed: Hold My Breath Until I Die’s chugging guitars can’t disguise its derivative nature, and We Don’t Have Fun When We’re Together Anymore’s bombastic synths could almost be a transatlantic Spice Girls. No one’s getting any younger, either: Hello, I’m Right Here is a sensitive piano and cello ballad. – 6/10
Presumably, Beatles fans will get a 50th anniversary boxset of Let It Be next year. With Peter Jackson making a tie-in film, it’s hard to imagine that the Fabs’ farewell box will be at least equal to last year’s The Beatles (The White Album). An official release of all those covers jammed out at Twickenham Studios, perhaps? In the meantime, despite Abbey Road being recorded last and being the superior album, this year’s boxset is something of a halfway house.
In fairness, although it came out before Let It Be, by the time The Beatles recorded Abbey Road they weren’t in the mood to mess about. Unlike the scores of bonus tracks on The White Album’s boxset, which was able to call upon The Esher Demos, for Abbey Road there are only 23 additional recordings. This at least means vinyl buyers get the same number of songs this year, with the 40 total tracks spread across three LPs. But we still don’t actually have parity. Abbey Road’s £100 Super Deluxe Edition comprises three CDs and the album mixed for a Blu-Ray DVD, with a gorgeous-looking 100-page book full of essays, exclusive photos and other memorabilia. Is the book – which is LP-sized, ferchrissakes – in the £78 vinyl box? No. Is there a consolation 40-page version in the £17 2CD version? Yes. Do Apple realise this is bloody nonsense? Apparently not.
By now, Giles Martin and Sam Okell have perfected their updated mixing techniques. Only a fussy Octopus’s Garden is overly clinical, with the rest sounding as fresh as could ever be hoped for. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) growls like the grittiest desert rock, Sun King – chirrups and all – is sleepier and more menacing and, while Something is impossible to improve on, Martin and Okell certainly don’t make it any worse.
Of the two Sessions albums, the first official release of Goodbye is the standout track here. Written by Paul McCartney for Mary Hopkin, his home demo has long been bootlegged but never as crisply. It’s a gorgeous moment of Macca sweetness, “ba-da-ba”s and all. Future Badfinger hit Come And Get It is more familiar from Anthology 3, but similarly relaxed in its putative state here. The only other song not already on the parent album is The Ballad Of John And Yoko’s B-side Old Brown Shoe, the take here full of a belligerence and threat at odds with its throwaway lyrics.
The alternative takes of Abbey Road’s own songs are as intriguing as ever. Billy Preston’s gnarled organ solo on I Want You (She’s So Heavy) is stunning and worth the boxset price alone. As with previous demos, you wonder just how The Beatles are able to muck about doing impressions before switching to the sublime You Never Give Me Your Money seconds later. Even on dear old Polythene Pam, which John Lennon mocks as “sounding like Dave Clark”, take 27 is suddenly crashed into as if wanting to give The Who a kicking. The famed The Long One, which stitches together Side Two’s medley is fascinating, but shows The Beatles were right to break the songs up.
It’s not as expansive a boxset as The Beatles (The White Album), but Abbey Road was all about concision. The original album has been polished expertly, every alternative take offers fresh insight. It’s a bloody shame about the packaging, though. – 8/10
The surface sheen of Prefab Sprout’s early records was glitteringly bright. Built around the sophisticated songwriting of the notoriously perfectionist Paddy McAloon, the band’s lush pop made even Cupid & Psyche-era Scritti Politti sound a little rough around the edges. As a result, Prefab are more of an acquired taste than their legions of admirers often allow. These remasters, overseen by Paddy and Martin McAloon, prove Prefab reward perseverance. Debut Swoon (1984) and third LP From Langley Park To Memphis (1988) show McAloon reaching for a sound perhaps only he can hear, but which comes to widescreen fruition with Jordan: The Comeback (1990) – a jazz-pop show-tune concept album that deals with faith and fame from a dizzying number of angles. For newbies, double set A Life of Surprises serves as a fine introduction. – 9/10
Jonathan Wright, Daniel Dylan Wray, John Earls