Album reviews: The Proclaimers | Muse | Julian Lennon | Slim Wrist
On their first album in four years, Craig and Charlie Reid make like a two-pronged Billy Bragg, taking aim at topics general and specific, writes Fiona Shepherd
The Proclaimers: Dentures Out (Cooking Vinyl) ****
Muse: Will of the People (Warner Records) ****
Julian Lennon: Jude (BMG) ****
Slim Wrist: Closer for Comforting (self-released) ***
As surely as Bob Dylan will show up in your town at some point on his never-ending world tour, so The Proclaimers continue their run of regular quality album releases and this time, four years on from previous release Angry Cyclist, there is further grist to their mill.
The title Dentures Out might conjure images of some mediocre Seventies sitcom, but it is precisely that nostalgia for some mythical, cosy, rosy past that the Reid brothers are railing against with their usual pithiness and perspicacity (not least on The World That Was, see video above). They are on amped-up form on their 12th studio album which is powered by anger and disgust and delivered with turbo-charged tunes, upbeat arrangements and singing, ringing guitars.
The title track is jaunty and witty, yet deadly serious in its critique of Brexit Britain as a doddery old woman – apologies to the doddery old women of the nation. This is hardly new critical territory, but is executed with their usual flair for smart, satirical rhyming couplets.
Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield adds his guitar-slinging skills to the title track and Things As They Are, a Manics-like sweeping orchestral ballad with the right wing press in its firing line. The twins look back themselves but with zero fondness on Sundays By John Calvin (“when they tied up all the swings”). This is their Every Day Is Like Sunday with bonus beautiful undulating guitar work. Elsewhere, they make like a two-pronged Billy Bragg, taking aim at topics general and specific.
Muse are on equally fiery, familiar form on their ninth album, though their targets are global, even galactic and require bigger musical guns. Will of the People doesn’t break any new ground for the power prog trio; instead, they rip off their old favourites with the usual glee and elan.
The title track chant is essentially Marilyn Manson’s Beautiful People with a lighter, more traditional glam rock character. Kill Or Be Killed is pummelling tech metal with frontman Matt Bellamy in fleet vocal form, Verona an exultant electro ballad with soaring vocals and Euphoria an urgent celebration of, well, celebration with plentiful Brian May-style riffola.
The utterly OTT Liberation is another nod to Queen while You Make Me Feel Like It’s Hallowe’en is hysterical baroque rock. Muse have been heralding the apocalypse for the past 20 years – here they surpass themselves with told-you-so blunt assurance of We Are F***ing F***ed, guaranteed to be a live singalong favourite.
Julian Lennon has devoted more time to philanthropy than music in the past decade. However, his latest album Jude has been germinating for the past five years, with Lennon revisiting old songs and writing new material in readiness to reclaim the pet name immortalised by Paul McCartney when he addressed him as a five-year-old in Hey Jude.
The result is a confident and ambitious collection of slick prog pop, at times reminiscent of Tears for Fears. The Lennon family resemblance is clear in the lavish but whimsical orchestral pop of Not One Night and Love Don’t Let Me Down is the kind of grand balladry to which Gary Barlow aspires, though Lennon’s co-writer here is Robbie Williams’ former wingman Guy Chambers. The album ends on sultry highlight Gaia, a reworking of a Bill Laurance instrumental with guest vocals from Blue Nile frontman Paul Buchanan and Swiss singer Elissa Lauper.
Fern Morris and Brian Pokora, the Edinburgh duo formerly known as Super Inuit, regroup as electro pop outfit Slim Wrist. Their debut album Closer for Comforting is described by the band as the calm after the storm and delivers with clean lines and delicate purpose, from the clear, bright sound of The Soft via the beatific chimes and hums of Folds to the darker synth pulse of Milk Teeth.
Haydn Piano Sonatas, Vol 11 (Chandos) ****
Haydn’s piano sonatas look, and often sound, deceptively simple. But as the 11th and final volume in Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s 11-year project to record them in the company of other miscellaneous piano works readily illustrates, it takes a probing intellect to fathom the magic behind the notes. Not that Bavouzet’s programme in this final disc eschews the sparkly surface economy of Haydn’s crystalline Classicism. Yes, there is something more Beethovensque in the power-driven chords and harmonic adventure of the final Sonata No 62, but even with the more direct, lithesome naivety of such earlier sonatas as No 1 in G Major, Bavouzet’s musical curiosity draws rare fascination from the leanest of textures. It’s useful to have such freer inventions as the folk-inspired Capriccio in G and the Allegretto in G (originally for musical clock) as comparisons, the latter quirkily over-pedalled to allude to its mechanical origins. Ken Walton
Brìghde Chaimbeul, Ross Ainslie, Steven Byrnes: LAS (Great White Records) *****
This striking collaboration sees celebrated pipers Brìghde Chaimbeul and Ross Ainslie join Irish guitarist Steven Byrnes, featuring two sets of smallpipes, unusually in the key of C. The effect is beguiling as they work up deftly intertwining harmonies, right from the opening Green Light set, which gradually develops pace and excitement from a plangently keening air. Chaimbeul’s interest in Bulgarian piping manifests itself in two tracks, twin pipes bickering fiercely over the Byrnes’s guitar drive, echoing the chirping character of the Bulgarian instrument. Further self-composed material includes Chaimbeul’s gently ambling composition The Badger, paired with the nimbler Weasel. They also range over more traditional material such as a brisk set of strathspeys and reels and a thoughtfully measured, pipes only account of the jig John Patterson’s Mare. “Las” means to burn or ignite, and there’s plenty of fire here, tempered with precision. Jim Gilchrist