Green Day: Father of All… (Reprise Records) ****
Huey Lewis and the News: Weather (BMG) ***
Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (Fiction) ****
Alex Rex: Andromeda (Tin Angel Records) ****
If ever there was a time for Green Day to step up and deliver another American Idiot-style rock opera takedown, you might imagine that time is now. The full explicit title of their latest album, Father of All…, suggested to some that the 45th president of the United States would be in their sights. But Green Day can be contrary critters and their latest album is a reaction against their previous sprawling conceptual punk rock epics.
Father of All… clocks in at a slight 26 minutes but every second of that time is taken up with back-to-their-roots rock’n’roll escapism, fuelled by 60s soul and 70s glam. Because if your president has his finger on the button, what else can you do but let the good/bad times roll? Their distraction is our gratification. The opening title track is groovy garage rock in the turbo-charged style of The Black Keys. From there, they slam straight into the pumped garage punk of Fire, Ready, Aim which has already been claimed for use by the NFL.
Meet Me On the Roof cribs from Motown’s finger-popping pop rhythm’n’blues, I Was a Teenage Teenager references teen exploitation flicks of the 50s. Their spirited references are a delight, if you like that sort of thing – and who doesn’t dig a gruff punky boogie with Beatley harmonies (Stab You in the Heart) or a hell-for-leather mosh about self-destructive tendencies (Sugar Youth)?
Junkies on a High provides a brief breather to contemplate why a trio of old age punks are behaving like teenagers in the 1970s – what Cheap Trick is this? It’s the closing cheerleader Eddie Cochran-style ramalama of Graffitia. Invigorating stuff.
The first album of new material from Huey Lewis and the News in almost 20 years is likewise not a fulsome affair. The recording of Weather was curtailed when Lewis was diagnosed with the inner ear disorder Ménière’s disease. The prospect that he may not be able to sing for much longer certainly adds a piquancy to the reflection that “we’d better do it while we’re young” on the album’s opening track.
Otherwise, it’s mostly slickly produced rocking rhythm’n’blues business as usual across six originals and one cover, Eugene Church’s Pretty Girls Everywhere. The exception is the old school country twang of One of the Boys. Though originally written for Willie Nelson, Lewis delivers his own song with relish, appreciating what he’s got while he has it: “I’m playing with my friends till the music ends.”
Introverted Australian songsmith Kevin Parker has been much in demand for his earworm melodies and effortless breezy tone in the five years since his last album as Tame Impala, working with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson and Kanye West and covered by Rihanna among others.
The Slow Rush follows in the light, trancey slipstream of his commercial breakthrough Currents, taking us higher with his soft falsetto on the psychedelic soul track Instant Destiny and pimping up the 70s piano pop of On Track with rapturous electronics.
Lost in Yesterday lives up to its retro title with funk bass, MOR melody and space age synths firing off intermittently, while It Might Be Time employs a Hall & Oates keyboard riff with sirens on to contrast a carefree sound with its careworn sentiment.
No such easy listening from Alex Rex, aka prolific drummer about town Alex Neilson, whose second album in the space of a year is the product of “two years spent in therapy, the gym and on Tinder.” Andromeda is a stormy psych rock melodrama, culminating in the stridency of cathartic ballad The Uses of Trauma and the relentless, dissonant spoken word track I’m Not Hurting No More. Worth the ride, if you have the stomach for it.
Ian Carr & The Various Artists: I Like Your Taste in Music (Reveal Records) ****
This uproariously unclassifiable album from Swedish-based English guitarist Ian Carr sees him joined by Maria Jonsson on viola d’amore, pianist Thomas Gibbs, fiddler Laura Wilkie and others. With a hectic energy that can verge on the orchestral, most tracks are by Carr himself, although it opens with Jim Sutherland’s The Flow Country, which adds steel guitar to the album’s richly textured string tone.
Vocal interludes, as in Oh Yeah, are virtually nominal and robotic, the title track’s vocals reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s Oh Superman. The album’s strength is its instrumental inventiveness, veering from Hardanger-like strings to bluegrassy turbulence. Climber features an intense viola and fiddle hook and cascading keyboards riding edgy syncopation, in contrast to the easeful polska measure of Göken and Tom Gibbs’s sweet Sarah’s Waltz with its mellow harmonium and string drift. Jim Gilchrist
Richard Strauss: Alpine Symphony & Death and Transfiguration (LAWO Classics) ****
Nothing quite sums up the apotheosis of late Romanticism, or of the symphonic tone poem, so opulently and completely as Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony. It’s a journey based on the reality of an eventful Bavarian mountain trek by the teenage Strauss, but which, in the composer’s maturer thoughts, are transformed into a travelogue steeped in colourful description.
With the hugely expanded forces of the Oslo Philharmonic, including substantial offstage band, Vasily Petrenko delves into every nook and cranny of this tonal extravaganza, from the resplendent Sunrise, through the gloriously eventful ascent to the summit, the wildness of the storm, to the tranquil descent into night. Its meaty coupling, Death and Transfiguration, is more a journey of the mind, but every bit as thrilling and fulfilling. Ken Walton