by beats that already beg a house remix, as on the pop confection Shooting Star, or by a hint of swagger, as with semi-rocker Dementia. Most of all, Young’s distinctive, dreamyhigh voice floats over it all, somehow both charming and painfully twee. It’s a good voice for his graceful songwriting, and those fluid melodies still delight. Still, while the whole thing is fun, peppy and pleasantly inoffensive, there’s nothing to make you sit up and take notice.
the show on every track here and by “steal” we mean he kind of ruins. Maybe some folks will genuinely enjoy his rather carping tone — think Billy Corgan with a nasal condition and you’re close — but our bet is that after a full few listens anyone’s aural patience will be tested. There are more than a few palatable moments on these eleven songs and the combo does create many impressive melodies that are as toe-tappin’ as they are memorable. Ten Teardrops, with its down stroking guitar, figure speaks to a garage-rock experience, but in the end, Jaill is trapped by that one voice. ½ IN the opening lines of Every Inch of You, the first track on the Darkness’ new album Hot Cakes, Justin Hawkins laments his past misfortunes: “Oh baby I was a loser/Several years on the dole/An Englishman with a very high voice.” But that loser has made that very high voice work for him as the reformed glam rockers release their third studio album. Hot Cakes just exudes fun. It seems to wipe away a period of discord during which the band broke up and its members started other projects. You can almost see the lanky rockers jumping around, causing havoc on stage. Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us has a feel-good, 1980s rocking chorus and guitar solos you can imagine being played atop a huge speaker in a stadium. It’s a song that’s perfect for warming up a Lady Gaga crowd, something the Darkness will do on her world tour.
Forbidden Love intertwines melodic harmonies and a delicate drum beat that progress into a rockier musing on love.
As the album progresses to With a Woman, it becomes lyrically more sombre and loses the cocky edge that has defined previous releases. Hawkins muses on a failed relationship, but still manages a Darknessesque squeal at the end. However, this love song isn’t as strong as other romantic ditties such as Love is Only a Feeling on the quartet’s 2003 debut Permission to Land.
The album stumbles somewhat when Hawkins isn’t using his voice to its full range and sings bland lyrics about banal domesticities, making cups of tea and getting taxis. SHOVELS and Rope took their name from an album the pair, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, recorded containing several murder ballads involving hangin’ and buryin’. They still have a fondness for death and homicide on O’ Be Joyful ( Shank Hill St.), while denying temptation ( Keeper) and taunting stalker fans ( Tickin’ Bomb) as they seek out and create beauty in the darkness.
Recorded at home, in the backyard, the van and numerous hotel rooms, the album oozes genuine passion, with the duo’s stripped-down and fuzzed up-sound “making something out of nothing with a scratch and a hope / Two old guitars like a shovel and a rope” (from Birmingham) alongside some seriously haunting fiddle, harmonicas, banjos, horns and organs, all lustily adorned with dirty and aggressive junkyard drums. Trent and Hearst are raw, gritty, intense, beautiful, loose, sexy and undeniably primal in their White Striped approach to traditional country music. ½ album sounds so good. You could put this guy on a bill with Nick Lowe and James Taylor and everyone would be happy, including the girls down front. Titcomb began his musical career at a pretty young age but Cicada could be considered a fresh start, and one that could push his music farther afield than ever before.
½ HIP-HOP stars, housewives and the homeless — the power of addiction has no boundaries. When you are right near the top, as Canadian MC Madchild was with his crew, Swollen Members, it can be a slippery slope down when the partying changes from popping bottles to popping pills.
After a chaotic four years fuelled by Oxycontin that saw the Vancouver MC blow through everything he had built up as a member one of Canada’s most successful hip-hop outfits, Madchild has turned a corner and used the experience to craft a heavy-handed album that touches on what he has been through and where he is heading.
Calling himself a “bipolar narcissist with an addictive personality,” Madchild, a.k.a. Shane Bunting, lays it all out on the table on his solo debut — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Dropping intense, revealing tales that play well off the sharp drums, punchy squeals and simple, low-end bass, Madchild has used the studio as his own sharing circle. Like addictionmemoir writers such as James Frey or Eminem’s album Recovery, Madchild is not only channelling the pain he has experienced, but also the new hope he has embraced.
Sometimes you need to move back to go forward. ½ GLENN Gould would have been 80 this year. He died 30 years ago, but his star has never diminished and his recordings continue to elicit awe among piano fans of all stripes.
This latest packaging of previously released J.S. Bach material is a handsome hardbacked issue containing two CDs and one DVD. Excerpted movements are drawn from The Well-Tempered Clavier (both books), the Goldberg Variations (1955 and 1981 versions) plus The Art of Fugue and a few more items. Complete pieces include the Italian Concerto, Partita No. 1 and English Suite No. 2. All are essential listening, the organ playing especially, as Gould was no less adept there.
Here also is a piece Gould hated, the Chromatic Fantasia in D minor. Formidable virtuosity notwithstanding, only Gould could make it work with such engaging glibness.
The DVD is Bruno Monsaingeon’s 1981 film of Gould’s Goldberg Variations. If you want that film especially, opt for Sony’s three-DVD set Glenn Gould Plays Bach that also contains Monsaingeon’s other two Gould films, The Question of Instrument and An Art of the Fugue.