POP: Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression | Rating: **** | Caroline International
For those too young to remember first time round, The Stooges’ reunion of the past decade appeared to suggest that, for Iggy Pop, it doesn’t get much better than tearing up stages with incendiary rockers Scott and Ron Asheton and James Williamson. But who to play with now that the brothers have retired to the great moshpit in the sky?
Perhaps inspired by his discreet buddy David Bowie, Iggy wooed redoubtable Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme (by text) with notes and ideas, and Homme quietly went about assembling a latterday supergroup in the Californian desert, including demonic Dean Fertita, also of QOTSA, and Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys, whose fresh-faced looks next to his desert-beaten bandmates belie that he is a beast on the drumkit.
Then, presto, without hints or fanfare, the self-financed Post Pop Depression is upon us with teasing intimations that this could be Iggy’s last album. He says he can’t summon the energy as he used to. Given the abuse he has put himself through over the years, it’s incredible he has anything left to give. But Iggy Pop is not a half-hearted artist – if he cannot throw himself utterly into a project, then he won’t do it.
Post Pop Depression doesn’t pack the feral might of some of his more recent rock-out offerings but is completely committed to its cause. This is Pop’s way of not going gently into that good night, as he wrestles with having tendered his service and the worry of not being needed anymore by society and, initially at least, by his woman.
Break Into Your Heart is an offer probably best resisted, judging by Iggy’s baleful performance and its musical coating of gutter-cruising grime. Gardenia is a poppier tune but still an ambiguous proposition as Iggy lists his quarry’s physical attributes in a creepy baritone croon over lithe drumming and tight guitar riffing.
American Valhalla is powered by a beefy bassline but there is an overall stealthiness to the music and a vulnerability to Pop’s inquiring “is anybody in there, and can I bring a friend?” He is also unafraid to sound his age on the uneasy pop song Chocolate Drops.
There is nostalgia of sorts on album centrepiece Sunday, which recalls the industrial funk of his Bowie-produced albums, and German Days, built on Homme’s signature desert rock riffs but infused with Weimar melodrama and inspired by Iggy’s memories of his late 70s Berlin sojourn.
And then comes the (final?) goodbye, another meaty desert rocker called Paraguay, on which Iggy considers a move to South America without so much as a backwards glance: “I’m gonna pack my soul and scram…to live in a compound under the trees, with servants and bodyguards who love me.” Were that to come to pass, we may all soon be forced to deal with post-Pop depression. Fiona Shepherd
POP: Jeff Buckley: You and I | Rating: **** | Columbia/Legacy
For an artist whose recording career was so sadly curtailed, Jeff Buckley’s catalogue has been judiciously spun out since his passing nearly 20 years ago – and there are yet still some gems to be prised from the vaults. This compilation of the first demo recordings he made for Columbia in 1993 is a true intimate treat for Buckley fans and could even make believers out of the remaining sceptics. In the era of the casual YouTube cover, it is a shock to the system to hear him (in his words) wear these songs on his sleeve, turning the beseeching soul of Calling You into an agonised plea or playing like an army of guitarists on blues standard Poor Boy Long Way From Home. Sure, he makes a visceral meal out of everything but his covers are as nothing compared to the gut-wrenching number he does on the first studio version of his own Grace. FS
POP: The Filthy Tongues: Jacob’s Ladder | Rating: *** | Blokshok
Edinburgh’s Filthy Tongues are a new incarnation of a familiar trio of musicians. Martin Metcalfe, Fin Wilson and Derek Kelly formed the core of fondly regarded 80s Scotpoppers Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Having lost two girl singers along the way – Shirley Manson to Garbage and Stacey Chavis from their days as Isa & the Filthy Tongues – they are now a strictly testosterone-charged mean gothic blues machine. There is more than a dash of the Nick Caves in the biblical imagery of the title track and much of the album lurks misanthropically in the shadows, but the classy, drawling Holy Brothers references their own musical past with a certain urban romance. FS
CLASSICAL: Handel at Vauxhall, Vol 1 | Rating: *** | Signum
London’s Vauxhall Gardens was a popular outlet for progressive art in Georgian England, and no composer is more closely associated with this 18th century adventure playground than Handel. The mix of genres on this Handel at Vauxhall Vol 1 disc – from concertos to excerpts from the composer’s secular odes – is typical of the music Londoner’s would have enjoyed by the Thames. These are cheery performances by the London Early Opera players under Bridget Cunningham, particularly fine in the B flat Organ Concerto, with Daniel Moult as soloist and improviser – Handel-style – of an idiomatic preamble to the main feature. There’s an occasional blandness in the interpretations, and a mixed bag of singers, among which Sophie Bevan singly stands out. But it’s a pleasant listen all round, and largely speaking the music is indestructible. Ken Walton
FOLK: Niteworks: NW | Rating: *** | Comann Music
Niteworks, the Skye-based quartet of Ruaridh Graham, Allan MacDonald, Christopher Nicolson and Innes Strachan, is joined on their debut album by guests including singers Donald MacDonald, Kathleen MacInnes and Laura Donnelly. It’s a polished and often high-energy affair, although for anyone who knows the pioneering beats, samples and sonic collages of Paul Mounsey and Martyn Bennett, there is a sense of déjà vu.
It opens forcefully with the pipe reel and keyboard ostinato of Beul na-h-Oidche, while songs include the smoky tones of MacInnes delivering Am Maraiche’s a Leannan over synth washes and a stuttering vocal loop, while Alasdair Whyte’s waulking song Taobh Abhainn gets an unremitting dance groove.
Somhairle uses a recording of the great Sorley MacLean lamenting the predicament of his culture, while most effective to this listener are the lapping tide and stately fiddle and pipe air of Aiseag Maol Rubha, and Deirdre Graham’s singing of the Skye anthem Eilean a’ Cheò, over electronic grinds and rattling snare drum. Jim Gilchrist
JAZZ: Empirical: Connection | Rating: **** | Cuneiform Records
Unlike previous albums which have featured guest artists, this latest from the MOBO-award-winning band finds them stepping out in a quartet of Nathaniel Facey on saxophone, Lewis Wright on vibraphone, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes.
The album fairly bursts with muscular shape-shifting themes and rhythms without losing overall character, with Facey’s alto sax jagged and querulous alongside Wright’s nimble runs on vibes, as in Anxiety Society, or in the bouncy, Latin-ish bass line of the opening Initiate the Initiations, which does just that. The vibes are particularly racy in Stay the Course (they do), while in Driving Force, Facey’s melancholy sax sounds out over Forbes’s busy drum work.
Just when you feel they simply can’t stay still, in comes the languorous Lethe, with the sax singing over ascending vibes chords, while It’s Out of Your Hands switches between winsome rumination and fast travelling, closing the album with Wright’s vibe notes still hanging sumptuously in the air. JG