We Mean Business
(2008; Def Squad/Universal)
When you think of EPMD, you think of “You Gots To Chill,” Puma caps, 80s track suits and dookie gold ropes. Essentially – real hip-hop.
It’s been almost 10 years since Out Of Business dropped, so you probably don’t really think of Eric and Parish Making Dollars – or records, these days. But We Mean Business finds the New York legends returning to the studio, collaborating with members of Wu-Tang, Def Squad and Mobb Deep. “Roc-Da-Spot” features a lousy reworking of Zapp & Roger’s classic “More Bounce To The Ounce,” and a Biggie sample from “Unbelievable.” Boring. “Yo” sounds like the beat was made in five minutes, and the chorus by Redman is really lame: “Bricks is in the house tonight / Don’t matter if you’re black or white / Just roll that shit, smoke it.” Very original, Red. Save your money for EPMD’s older records.
To Lose My Life . . .
To Lose My Life carries the same whimsical mood with flush undertones of redemption as other English rock groups from two decades past.
Harry McVeigh’s Robert Smith-esque vocals compliment the upbeat tempo drums, which are followed by thick and catchy bass lines.
This album is a testament to the impact life has on art – facing similar economic strife and political turmoil as in the 1980’s, White Lies crafts an album eerily similar to the likes of Joy Division and The Cure. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is known that good artists don’t borrow, they steal – or at least find themselves in the same world as Ian Curtis and Robert Smith: a world suddenly tumbling, looking into the abyss and not knowing what’s looking back.
For such a depressing time, an anthem to a loss of hope is nostalgic enough to remind us that things will be bright (and filled with mindless pop music) once again.
Antony & the Johnsons
The Crying Light
(2009; Secretly Canadian)
The third studio album from Antony & the Johnsons follows in the footsteps of their critically acclaimed, Mercury Prize-winning album, I Am a Bird Now.
Featuring equally haunting vocals as in I Am a Bird Now, lead vocalist and song writer Antony Hegarty seems to be asking the same questions and doesn’t seem to have matured much, despite his suggestion that the album is “about landscapes and the future.”
The first single “Another World,” invokes a sense of loss as Hegarty sings of a departure from a world he knows; one he will miss. Despite a new beginning, Hegarty seems to suffer from the same ailing heart as in I Am a Bird Now.
Morbidity, sorrow and transgender life overlay as the albums themes, expressed through soft, graceful piano and lyrics by Hegarty, and a full string arrangement done in collaboration with classical music prodigy Nico Muhly.
Glasvegas – S/T
Although Glasvegas have been touted as the latest over-hyped band, their debut album is an authentic collection of reverb-heavy working class anthems, with a grand, sweeping sound. Their skilful production and artful arrangement churned out a polished record that will make Scotland fiercely proud.
Forming in Glasgow in 2003, Glasvegas rose to popularity years later, following enthusiastic reviews from NME and support from Alan McGee (Scottish music industry mogul, Jesus and Mary Chain manager, Oasis-discoverer). Including previously released singles “Go Square Go!,” “Daddy’s Gone,” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,” Glasvegas’ self-titled full-length garnered unprecedented hype prior to its release, while their singles sparked a bidding war, eventually won by Columbia Records.
In his endearing Scottish brogue, vocalist James Allan sings about socially relevant and meaningful topics. “Geraldine,” with its soaring melodic chorus, is a tribute to a social worker who is a friend of the band, while the wistful lyrics and beautiful melody of “Lonesome Swan” are drenched in nostalgia.
“Go Square Go,” “Polmont On My Mind,” and “Sad Light” are somewhat predictable and slightly hum-drum, although the masterful production is worthy of notice. “Daddy’s Gone,” reminiscent of fifties doo-wop, tells the heart-wrenching story of an absent father.
The track “Stabbed” is a somewhat puzzling inclusion on this album. It’s unclear what direction this spoken word plea, against a background of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” is taking. The listener wonders whether the song should be dismissed on an otherwise solid record, or validated as a heartfelt soliloquy bringing awareness to the tragedy of crime.
Recalling the jangly guitars of Jesus and Mary Chain, the poetic lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, and hints of Arcade Fire, Glasvegas are a noise pop band that can skilfully carry the label “the voice of today’s generation.”
Seeping with tenderness, and carried by Allan’s affecting lyrics, Glasvegas’ debut is wholly unpretentious and worthy of the praise it has been receiving since its earlier European release. These guys manage to sing about daily struggles, but produce a sound that is larger than life, with plenty of hooky choruses and soaring melodies that stick to memory like honey.
Glasvegas will be passing through Montreal on April 2 at La Tulipe as part of their lengthy North American tour.