We review the new music releases
Chris Brown: Fortune
LIKE many of his pop contemporaries, Chris Brown aims his latest album at the dancefloor in the hope that some of it sticks. Rave pop single Turn Up The Music is an inferior attempt to produce his own Please Don’t Stop The Music, while he follows Madonna and Gaga down the dubstep path with the quaking Bassline. There is a brief interlude to affect some humility on quiver-lipped ballad Don’t Judge Me (“I don’t wanna go there, why you gotta go there, guess I gotta go there”) before he gets down to his usual business of lascivious processed R&B with tired references to women undressing in private and in public. Party Hard sounds like it can’t be bothered, so why should we?
Martin Creed: Love To You
Moshi Moshi, £11.99
TURNER Prize winner and professional japester Martin Creed “explores” love and hate on a debut album which provides plenty to ponder conceptually but, ironically, little to nourish emotionally. Love To You is rigorously primitive DIY music of playful sonic sketches, such as the ascending/descending scales of Ooh and Aah that bookend the album and the curt drum clatter and count-in of 1234, plus a few lengthier lo-fi jangly numbers. Lyrics are brutally rudimentary – one track is nothing more than the repetition of an expletive, and another declares that “I wanna … something something something”. Which is still more interesting than anything Ed Sheeran has ever sung.
Go-Kart Mozart: On The Hot Dog Streets
West Midlands Records, web only
FORMER Felt and Denim mainman Lawrence is the quintessential cult indie eccentric, inspiring the likes of Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch and, most recently, a documentary feature, Lawrence of Belgravia. Go-Kart Mozart is his purposely plastic novelty rock band incarnation so On The Hot Dog Streets is replete with cheap synthesizers, throwaway tunes and silly song titles such as White Stilettos In The Sand (concerning Brits abroad) and Ollie Ollie Get Your Collie (about cauliflowers, not dogs, since you asked). But it’s not all hipster irony – Lawrence also serves up ambivalent social satire on the droll bubblegum singalong Blowin’ In A Secular Breeze and succumbs to good old-fashioned girl trouble on I Talk With Robot Voice.
Haec Dies: Byrd & The Tudor Revival
THE rationale behind this disc of mainly early-20th-century anthems is to make a case for the so-called Tudor revival that swept (some would say saved) English church music in the early 1900s. So while the heart of the album centres on a wholesomely polished performance of Elizabethan William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, the remaining tracks are either reworkings of Byrd and Tallis (a freely expressive 1915 transcription of his Funeral Music played by Annie Lydford), or simply anthems by the likes of Vaughan Williams, William Harris, Arnold Bax, Gerald Finzi, and even Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, which is a prime example of this fine choir’s golden blend which, under director Geoffrey Webber, comes with a slightly fruity, continental-styled edge.
SILLY WIZARD: ‘LIVE’ AGAIN
BIRNAM CD, web only
UNFETTERED wizardry and sheer unashamed nostalgia exudes from this release by Birnam CD (run by former Wizard bassist Martin Hadden) of a benchmark performance the band gave in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1983. Sections of the concert have been released in the past, but this remastered disc brings together the whole heady affair, from the introductory muscle of The Green Fields of Glentown to the winding-down drift of Broom o’ the Cowdenknowes.
Here, once again, is the inspired partnership of accordionist Phil Cunningham and his late, lamented fiddler brother, Johnny, flying with indecent ease through sizzling instrumental sets and driving the heady Highland charge of Donald MacGillivray, or threading their way delicately, with Hadden and guitarist Gordon Jones, through Andy M Stewart’s familiar vocals, from the elegiac Valley of Strathmore to the swaggering Queen of Argyll.
Pioneering Scotsman folk columnist Alastair Clark’s sleeve notes capture both the period and the phenomenon.
Pat Metheny: Unity Band
A VERY welcome return to a group setting for the guitarist after two successive (if very different) solo albums. You have to go all the way back to the seminal 80/81 with Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker to find a Metheny album on which he is partnered by a tenor saxophonist. The man chosen to end that long hiatus is Chris Potter, and he sounds tailor-made for the role. Metheny is jazz’s closest thing to a superstar, but his popularity has not been achieved at the price of artistic dilution, and the music here combines an attractive melodic surface with some deep harmonic and rhythmic explorations. Both Metheny and Potter are in great form, and the rhythm section of Ben Williams on bass and drummer Antonio Sanchez play a full part in the absorbing musical interplay that lies at the heart of the project.
The Rough Guide to Celtic Lullabies
Rough Guide, £8.99
AFTER the World Lullabies and African Lullabies collections, Rough Guides turn their attention to Celtic versions, and very interesting they are too, as is compiler John Armstrong’s introduction, which charts the evolution of the Celtic tradition via a history of migration. The Celts’ early influence extended from Greece across northern Italy, down to Spain, up into Austria, Gaul, Scandinavia, and finally the British Isles. Successive invasions forced most Celts outwards to Wales and Cornwall, from whence they were subsequently driven out to Brittany; those who had migrated to the Hebrides from Ireland were able to put down roots there, thanks to their sheer remoteness. But the most fertile soil for Celtic song today is on the other side of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia – which is why this compilation has such a strong transatlantic emphasis.
Armstrong points out that even the derivation of the word “lullaby” is uncertain: is it from an 11th-century Turkish mention of “balubalu”, meaning children’s sleep-songs? Or does it come from the Hebrews’ Lilith, the child-stealing demon? At all events, many of these songs issue warnings and advice: beware the Sleep Fairy, and beware the substitution of a changeling for your child at night. Listen out for Liz Carroll’s fiddle, Margie Butter and Alan Stivell’s harps, and the Glasgow Hebridean Choir.