Album reviews: Paloma Faith | IDLES | Savage Mansion | Shambolics
Paloma Faith: The Glorification of Sadness (RCA Records) ***
IDLES: TANGK (Partisan Records) ***
Savage Mansion: The Shakes (Lost Map) ****
Shambolics: Dreams, Schemes & Young Teams (Scruff of the Neck) ***
Paloma Faith’s sixth album is as indulgent as its title. The Glorification of Sadness weighs in at a hefty 17 tracks, presumably because she has a lot to say about the principle inspiration for its songs – the end of her long-term relationship with the father of her children.
The titles alone tell a story – Divorce, Hate When You’re Happy, Eat Shit and Die – and fans will already be familiar with the braying but catchy single How You Leave a Man and the perception-challenging Bad Woman. The album is too long and Faith remains quite determined to overegg and oversing. Well, she’s earned it and an hour plus in her overwrought company is still far more rewarding than the banal tastefulness of some of her peers.
Lyrically, she covers the inevitable emotional bases of relationship breakdown – vulnerability, defiance, anger, heartbreak, insecurity – ramping it up from the get-go on Sweatpants, a When I’m 64-style appeal for a love which lasts well beyond the fireworks. Later, she ruminates on the “slow dripping tap of neglect”, accepting that most relationships go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Faith makes sure she has fun among the catharsis. Cry on the Dancefloor is pumping Euro house with soul screamer vocals to match. Say My Name ladles on the gospel uplift to create a mighty album centrepiece. Let It Ride is unadulterated pomp rock with a gurning guitar solo and Eat Shit and Die is Sixties girl group sway with middle finger aloft, almost certainly one to salute when she performs it live.
The Glorification of Sadness is no Back to Black, but Faith’s force of personality and her let-it-all-hang-out honesty carry it through its occasional doldrums.
In contrast, punk titans IDLES are all about the love on their latest album TANGK. Under the guiding hand of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, their capitalised shoutiness has been largely tamed on this relatively restrained outing, which opens with some unexpected mellow crooning from frontman Joe Talbot before the muscles start to pop.
Roy is elegant catharsis and A Gospel is a genuinely delicate, sonorous piano piece. Dancer might begin with a graceful descending scale but the rest of the track displays more typical IDLES brawn, from the tub thumping rhythm to Talbot’s aggressive cheerleading. Hall & Oates, meanwhile, is a decidedly non-blue-eyed soul tribute to the seductive power of the Philadelphian duo’s music.
Glasgow indie five-piece Savage Mansion offer a surfeit of engaging musical ideas on their latest batch of tight tunes. Myths Persist opens with a hooky guitar, shuffling drums and talky vocals but opens out into an expansive, beseeching chorus. In the Garden teams a pliable, irresistible bass line and plangent melodic guitar with a song riffing on Biblical temptation.
Present Tense succeeds in being mellow yet spiky, like one of Wire’s less wiry numbers, while O Sister offers a freewheeling new wave vibe. Night School is a foundation-rattling psych rocker built round a chant of “moved to the desert, started a cult”, while The Way Out is a mesmeric number boasting a lean indie funk guitar groove, loose limbed drumming and the occasional twinkling electric piano lick.
Kirkcaldy quintet Shambolics are more brazen in their indie pillaging, essentially channelling the spirited indie rock of The View on their debut album Dreams, Schemes & Young Teams. No artful intertwining of stylistic influences here, just bring on the tunes you’ve sort of heard before, from the rousing Oasis-style come-on of If You Want It to the scampish indie pop of Never Be Mine before rounding off with the droll dole blues of Universal Credit. No prizes for originality but plenty to chime with the masses.
Truth In Our Time – Glass: Symphony No 13 (Orange Mountain Music) ***
Philip Glass’ Symphony No 13, commissioned during Covid by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, is the headliner in this themed album, part of the orchestra’s current focus on programmes reflecting contemporary issues. But it’s a bit of a letdown, a one-dimensional minimalist continuum boasting the ambitions of a Downton Abbey soundtrack on a slow day and with a subconscious pastiche on Handel’s famous arpeggiated intro to Zadok the Priest among its musical flotsam. A featureless 20 minutes starts and finishes as if controlled by an on-off switch. Considerably more arresting, under Alexander Shelley’s baton, are the surreal sonic menagerie of Nicole Lezée’s ultra-brief Zeiss After Dark; the provocative obstinacy of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony; and best of all, James Ehnes’ ravishing solo performance of Korngold’s warm-hearted and at times swashbuckling Violin Concerto. Ken Walton
QOW Trio: The Hold Up (Ubuntu Music) ****
Continuing to draw inspiration from Sonny Rollins’s piano-less groups, saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan, double-bassist Eddie Myer and veteran drummer Spike Wells bring a live-sounding immediacy to their second album as a multigenerational trio, mixing their own material with classics by the likes of Ellington and Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk and Jackie McLean. The peppy opener, High Noon, sounds a Caribbean-inflected clarion call before taking off into improvisational turmoil, the title track also exemplifying their often rumbustious, non-chordal approach as Stone-Lonergan’s big-toned sax makes its point then gives way to Myer’s purposefully walking bass and Wells’s inventive drum work. The jaunty swing of Along Came John and the suspenseful reveal of Hip Strut contrast with a dreamy, full-toned interpretation of the Strayhorn-Ellington ballad, The Star Crossed Lovers and there’s further sensitive balladry as Stone-Lonergan brings drawn-out, yearning phrasing to the Stephen Foster classic, Hard Times Come Again No More. Jim Gilchrist