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Album reviews: Mogwai| Alunageorge| Chas & Dave

Mogwai. Picture: Steve Gullick

Mogwai. Picture: Steve Gullick

  • by DAVID POLLOCK
 

It was already released in February to little fanfare beyond their devoted fans, but singular and uncategorisable Glasgow rock outfit Mogwai’s score to the hit French television zombie thriller/psychological drama Les Revenants is being given a new lease of life this week following the show’s current success on Channel 4 as The Returned.

Mogwai - Les Revenants

Rock Action

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It’s a welcome return (apologies), for this showcases the band’s suitability for soundtrack work and gives them a more populist platform to demonstrate it than Douglas Gordon’s 2006 arthouse film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, their only previous work in the field.

Much like the show itself, the album is understated and shot through with menace without ever really releasing its angry side. It’s not that guitars have been embargoed entirely, but their sparing use – especially in the early stages – lends itself to a more considered and delicately ambiguous style. Witness the show’s main theme (here titled Hungry Face, a most Mogwai collision of words in a title), which centres on a simple but brain-impregnatingly memorable motif of twinkling high piano notes across a caressing bed of violins and rustling drums.

This mood of funereal reserve continues across the first half of the record pretty much unabated, and it sounds both wonderfully chilling and unlike anything the band have done before, at least not for such a sustained period. There’s some sinister guitar picking amidst The Huts, a devastatingly simple piano pattern on Kill Jester and a suitably watered-down take on their usual style for Special N, before the growl of electric guitars once more immerse Portugal and Wizard Motor. Like Stuart Braithwaite’s detached vocal on the Washington Phillips standard What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? it’s a Mogwai record which does the unexpected yet stays pleasingly true to the core of the band.

Download this: Hungry Face, What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?

Alunageorge - Body Music

Island Records

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Most famous as the guest duo who featured on Brit dance music sensation Disclosure’s hit single White Noise, London singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid emerge here with an album which helps redefine the sound of commercial electronic music. From the hiss and click of two-step ballad Outlines to the thick dubstep bassline which gives You Know You Like It its power and the crisp, synthetic nu-soul of Kaleidoscope Love and Friends & Lovers, there are some great sounds here. Yet the more abjectly commercial material might lead the listener to suspect that this initial promise is merely an attention-grabbing vehicle to turn the beautiful Francis into a bland, prime-time pop star.

Download this: Outlines, This is How We Do It

Chas & Dave - Gertcha! The EMI Years

EMI

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Much like a Cockney Proclaimers, Charles “Chas” Hodges and Dave Peacock are artists of greater substance than their cartoonish image suggests. This three-CD selection collects their late-1970s output on EMI: the knockabout and often strangely tender country twang of the Rockney album; the lairier, hit-spawning (Gertcha, Rabbit, The Sideboard Song) collision of pub rock, ragtime and funk that was Don’t Give A Monkeys; and the Live At Abbey Road record, on which the duo’s brilliantly raw musicianship is showcased. The barrelling 12th Street Rag is the pick of the bonus material, although with some of their finest material missing this is more a completist’s curio than a full introduction.

Download this: Gertcha, Edmonton Green

DAVID POLLOCK

FOLK

Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra -Money Isn’t Everything

The Tea Pad Records 700261962016

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Based in Tyneside, with members from Glasgow and Orkney, these young fogeys create what they call “good time music for bad times...Ragtime, Blues, Western Swing and drunken Country”, but the band are certainly all good fun, with heaps of fluent, accurate musicianship. Singer Rob Heron mixes fine old blues with his own variations on all the staples of world-weary Americana as the sextet obliges on nimble guitars, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, drums, double bass, and clever arrangements. He survives the effects of alcohol on Hangover Blues, and they celebrate geographic propinquity in the scrapyard blaze of the Great Fire Of Byker.

NORMAN CHALMERS

Download this: Quaich Keeper’s Blues

CLASSICAL

Piotr Beczala - Heart’s Delight: The Songs Of Richard Tauber

Deutsche Grammophon 479 0838

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The Polish tenor Piotr Beczala made his international debut in 2004, with appearances at the Royal Opera House in Der Rosenkavalier and Faust, and has since gone on to prize-winning performances with the New York Met.

Here, in his first solo recording, he pays homage to the Austrian tenor Richard Tauber, doing so with style and élan. Now in his mid-forties, Beczala’s voice remains clean without being knife-edged, and nor is there that weightiness that can affect tenors in middle years.

Much of Tauber’s fame stemmed not just from the quality of his singing, but also from his early appearance in film, so the songs, drawn – of course – from Lehár, but also from Robert Stolz and Sigmund Romberg, represent Tauber’s stage and film career. The result is a finely crafted debut.

ALEXANDER BRYCE

Download this: Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss

 

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