New Zealand Listener
Marking their 20th anniversary, the Dropkick Murphys’ new album features 11 folk-fuelled belters.
From Dropkick Murphys, Brian Eno, Alargo and Letherette
The danger of being entangled in the streams and downloads of new music is that a snobbishness emerges whereby only novelty and creativity drive ratings and scores.
But most listeners’ playlists are made up mainly of a back catalogue of tried-and-tested singles and albums, with hardy perennials by U2, Abba or AC/DC rubbing shoulders with pop-chart fodder from the Swifts, Biebers and Adeles … and soundalike choirs of their wannabes.
Add to that the loud and proud, beer-fuelled chants of Celtic punk – possibly the uncoolest sound in today’s R&B-obsessed electro, synth-washed world. And yet for anyone with a Pogues, Mahones, Dropkick Murphys or Blood or Whiskey track hidden in their collection, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a rip-roaring rebel yell backed by a stirring guitar growl and an all-together-now chorus.
The Dropkick Murphys have marked their 20th anniversary with a ninth full-lengther that powers through 11 joyous folk-fuelled belters in just a shade over 30 minutes. The Bostonians’ pipes, fiddles and drones in 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory are all very familiar, but in tracks such as The Lonesome Boatman, Blood, First Class Loser and I Had a Hat, they have the sort of high-humoured stomps guaranteed to turn any ceilidh into a mosh.
There’s even room for a few social and political messages in the Boston Marathon bombing-themed 4-15-13 and a glorious, snarling version of You’ll Never Walk Alone – sung in support of Boston’s opioid addicts – that rivals Liverpool fans at Anfield for sheer passion.
Novelty and creativity be damned – enjoy the furious, frenzied fun. 11 SHORT STORIES OF PAIN & GLORY, Dropkick Murphys (Born & Bred)
At the other end of the scale, Brian Eno, the high priest of ambient music, released his meditation on uncertainty on January 1. Reflections marked the start of an endlessly algorithm-adapted piece of haunting, drifting, somnambulant music, of which the 54-minute CD release is simply a snapshot. The eternally looped app version of Reflections is even programmed to reflect the time of day in which the listener is hearing it, raising tensions between the idea of control, randomness, repetition and progress.
While last year’s The Ship saw Eno pulled between notions of pop and avant-garde, Reflections is a return to pure, experimental and artistically creative ambience.
If you want 2017 to be unpredictable but gentle, here’s your soundtrack. REFLECTIONS, Brian Eno (Border)
Also in the ambient field – but somehow far more embedded in the past – are Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand tutors Alan Brown and Kingsley Melhuish in their jazz duo Alargo’s first outing, Central Plateau. Although Eno’s experimentation uses silence and stillness to push boundaries, Alargo’s horns, conch shells and South American quena create historical and familiar boundaries around the spaces defined by electronic loops and lapping washes of synths. The result wavers between comfortingly ancient and unnervingly modern. CENTRAL PLATEAU, Alargo (Pacific Echoes)
By cutting up and reconfiguring choice cuts from 80s dance and R&B tracks, then scrunching the results through gritty samplers, Wolverhampton duo Letherette have created a smoky, late-night-subterranean-club feel to their second full-lengther, Last Night on the Planet. Bookending the album with two hip-hop tracks shows the breadth of their talents – but it’s the wrecked-rave pounding basslines and mashed classic house of Bad Sign, Dog Brush and Frugaloo that get the dance muscles twitching. LAST NIGHT ON THE PLANET, Letherette (Border)