From the album title, I was expecting something far more interesting.
Lorde’s debut swept the globe and became famous for its world-weary look at teenage life, with a narrator whose voice was at once starry-eyed and pragmatic.
Melodrama’s first misstep was substituting Joel Little for Jack Antonoff. The first is a career musician whose tight instrumentation and stark production gave Pure Heroine an instantly recognisable sound and packed angst into every finger click. The latter is a hipster doofus who clearly doesn’t understand the ethos of “less is more.” The vocal melodies are either overwhelmed by the instruments or they’re left undercooked and half-arsed. Antonoff’s only success on this record is making Lorde sound like everything else on the radio.
The songs released prior to the album launch were either instantly forgettable (“Green Light”, “Perfect Places”) or mortifyingly twee (“Liability”). This pattern continues until everything is lost in a blur of boring beats and synth drone, losing the crispness for which Pure Heroine was famous.
As for the singer herself, she seems to have grown from smart, incisive teenager, to a ditzy narcissist. She sounds far less mature on her second record. Instead of cutting deep into the psyche, she focusses on light up floors, dance parties and how hard everything is for her.
I suspect this record will sell a truckload, but when the hype dies down it will be filed under “Second Album Syndrome.”
If his face wasn’t bad enough, Bruno Mars is also a singer. His record, 24K Magic, is due out later this month and if the single “Versace on the Floor” (yes, it really is called that) is anything to go by, it will be another triumph of “I Just Called to Say I Love You” -era Stevie Wonder proportions. The synth solo before the middle 8 cuts through my calm like a stubbed toe, while the “Baba O’Reilly” background riff makes me realise how much I dislike The Who as well. Truly, a remarkable song.
The kindest thing I can say about the new Coldplay single is that initially I thought it was a Spotify ad. It’s loud and shiny and sounds like it was written to sell washing powder or a sugary drink. Ever since I stopped paying for Spotify and switched to Apple Music, I have been increasingly horrified by the frequency and volume of the advertising in freemium Spotify. Coldplay’s greatest achievement with their latest single is matching the ear-splitting volume and rage-inducing intrusiveness of Spotify’s awful ads.
Art Alexakis has made a long career out of writing the same song ad nauseum. Since the success of Sparkle and Fade, he has stuck to the same formula and churned out more and more diluted versions of that record. It was by no means a great record, however much it informed the 15th year of my life, and however much I can still listen to it with fondness. It was empty, post-Nirvana tripe, and I even knew that at the time, but it had a spark that lit something inside of me. Its theme of escape still resonates, regardless of how embarrassing the lyrics…
“We have been sleeping with the lights on
Just about every night
Because we are afraid of what the dark might bring”
“Time stops when we lie so close
In my room where we share
What no one knows”
… and how banal the music.
Now, 20 years later, Everclear appears with an entirely new line-up, aside from Alexakis, and the same homeopathic placebo they’ve been hocking since 95. In truth, I only listened to the first track and a half. I could only take so much of a song called “The Man Who Broke His Own Heart”.
What is really fascinating though, is while listening on my preferred streaming service, I came across a couple of records where the band have re-recorded some of their most well-known songs – “Santa Monica” being the most notable and inexplicable. That was the song with which they made their name and despite being shiny and plastic feeling, Sparkle and Fade is the least produced sounding record they have ever made. By which I mean that it sounds like it was made by humans, not a versificator. This new version, along with some of their other hits, has been smothered in double-tracked guitars and studio fluff. It’s a strange move, but one that, upon reflection, does kind of make sense for such a limp band whose output has slid downhill with every release.
Uptown Special is Mark Ronson’s new record. Famous for his work with Amy Winehouse, Adele and Rufus Wainwright, as well as being the step-son of the guitarist from Foreigner (the Mick Jones who wasn’t in The Clash).
Uptown Special is detestable from the very first note. In its entire, interminable running length of just under 40 minutes, it never succeeds in rising above being a ridiculous pastiche of appropriated styles. Like listening to a kid in a guitar shop run through their favourite guitar riffs until you want to punch his face in.
Each song hits its intended stylistic mark (the Stevie Wonder song sounds like a Stevie Wonder song etc…), without ever feeling alive or relatable. The glare off the studio sheen with which it is thickly lacquered, gives the illusion of depth while simply masking the fact it is just a puddle of piss. A shallow one. One that has soaked into the carpet.
It will undoubtedly be a huge hit and is perfect as a gift for anyone who doesn’t like music.
Suggested listening for this genre (or some albums that were ripped off):
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book and Innervisions
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Freaky Styley
Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh
The Meters – The Meters