ROAD SOUNDS Lovin’ the music
New albums that have dropped over the past month
MUSIC IS LOVE (1966-1970)
One of Australia’s leading singersongwriters of the past five decades, Richard Clapton revisits one of his favourite eras of popular music – 1966 to 1970. Hence, Music Is Love is an album of covers – 15 in total – ranging from The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’ and Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ through to the oft-recorded Joni Mitchell masterpiece ‘Woodstock’, although Clapton’s version comes closer to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 1970 recording. He toured with Neil Young back in 1985, which could be why he covers two Young songs here – ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Southern Man’. He also tackles The Doors’ ‘Riders On The Storm’, The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’, and The Allman Brothers’ ‘Midnight Rider’. Clapton’s vocals now have a deeper register and he successfully breathes new life into these 15 classics.
US heavy rock outfit Tomahawk is basically the sum of varying parts, with members arriving from other bands, notably founders lead singer Mike Patton (ex-Faith No More) and guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard). Tonic Immobility is Tomahawk’s fifth full-length album; its release preceded by the strong single ‘Business Casual’, which mocks America’s working life. Denison’s guitar work shines on ‘Tattoo Zero’, as Patton narrates and then reverts to his regular full throttle growl. Scattergun-type guitar licks highlight ‘Predators and Scavengers’, its rapid-fire tempo in contrast to ‘Doomsday Fatigue’, a slower soundscapestyle track with a Bowie-like flavour. Bizarre “doggie” lyrics are a feature of ‘Dog Eat Dog’, while ‘Sidewinder’ has a mixed tempo, with Patton’s vocals moving from an understated to a menacing tone. Tonic Immobility is an album to keep you on the edge of your seat.
NATURE ALWAYS WINS
British rock band Maximo Park has had to adapt to life as a trio following the departure of their keyboard player in 2019. However, it appears to be business as usual for vocalist Paul Smith, guitarist Duncan Lloyd and drummer Tom English on Nature Always Wins, the band’s seventh album. There’s a self-confessional tone to ‘All Of Me’, which leans towards rock’s lighter side. In contrast, ‘Party Of My Making’ is heavier and laden with power chords, as is ‘Baby, Sleep’, a track that relates the frustrations of fatherhood. ‘Child Of The Flatlands’ is an interesting inclusion – it’s a sombre rock track with Smith craving for the ideals of yesteryear. On the other hand, ‘Ardour’ has a postpunk sound, while ‘Meeting Up’ is a subdued rock track, reminiscent of new wave band China Crisis. Nature Always Wins may take a few listens to appreciate.
WHERE AM I NOW?
Where Am I Now? Is the debut album for Western Australian band Camarano, led by lead singer and multiinstrumentalist Mat Cammarano. Written and recorded amid the COVID lockdown, Where Am I Now? at times echoes the sound of US band The War On Drugs, which Cammarano cites as one his musical influences. ‘Give It To Me Straight’, a well-crafted pop-rock track, is a case in point. ‘Holiday Inn’ is another strong radio-friendly song that motors along nicely, and then the tempo is slowed for the reflective ‘Wish I Was Here’. Camarano’s vocals at times bare resemblance to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, as on ‘Did It Cross Your Mind?’, another mid-paced track. Camarano takes centre stage with ‘Pleasure/Pain’, a solo piano-backed ballad and then electronic vocal effects come into play for the acapella track ‘Bored’. A classy album that is refreshingly not overproduced.
In some quarters, Detroit Stories is labelled as studio album #27 for Alice Cooper, the tally including both his band era and his lengthy solo years. The album title refers to Cooper’s birthplace of Detroit, Michigan and he namedrops a number of fellow artists on ‘Detroit City 2021’, a grinding rock anthem. The old Velvet Underground track, ‘Rock n Roll’, receives a typical Alice Cooper makeover, transforming it into a full-blown rocker, and he also does Bob Seger’s ‘East Side Story’ justice. The majority of the other tracks are co-writes between Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin, including the slow, bluesy ‘Drunk And In Love’. With the band chipping in, they swap insults on ‘I Hate You’, echoing band breakups of the past, and revs up the tempo for ‘Go Man Go’. Cooper shows that, at age 73, he can still rock it up with the best of them.
Acclaimed US record producer Rostam (full name Rostam Batmanglij) has followed up the success of his debut solo album, 2017's Half-Light, with Changephobia. Rostam was previously a member of Vampire Weekend, including producing that band’s first three albums. As expected, Changephobia is a lesson in sublime music production, although this eclectic mix is a big departure from Vampire Weekend’s rock sound. Rostam’s vocals are light but not too airy as he takes a road trip on ‘4Runner’, a pop-rock track. He starts ‘Kinney’ in similar fashion, but heavy guitars make an appearance midway through. He brings out his full suite of modified percussion as he hangs out with a love interest on ‘In The Back Of A Cab’, one of the album’s best tracks, and there’s smooth jazzy saxophone as Rostam’s mind turns to sex on ‘Unfold You’. A classy album of cleverly-crafted tracks from an in-demand producer.
As well as being involved in road transport media for the past 20 years, GREG BUSH has strong links to the music industry. A former Golden Guitar judge for the Country Music Awards of Australia, Greg also had a three-year stint as an ARIA Awards judge in the late 1990s and wrote for and edited several music magazines.