Rock/Pop

 

This week's Rock/Pop releases reviewed

PET SHOP BOYS

Yes Parlophone ***

Eager to live up to their reputation as pop craftsmen par excellence, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have created some of the best idiosyncratic and commercial pop music of the past two decades. They’ve done so by never drifting toward the middle of the road; indeed, they’ve operated from a singular high-art base, where Oscar Wilde clinks champagne glasses with Sergei Eisenstein – albeit to a soundtrack that includes Girls Aloud and ABBA. Yes has many such diverting pop music moments, but, alas, never really comes close to replicating the style and vision that informed their masterful 2006 album, Fundamental. Helping hands from Johnny Marr and production/ writing team Xenomania keep matters from fizzling out, but the overall impression is that we’ll have to wait for a few years more until another classic comes along. www.petshopboys.co.uk

TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: All Over the World, Pandemonium

Peter Bjorn and John

Living Thing Wichita ***

It’s hard to figure out whether Peter Bjorn and John are knowingly distancing themselves from their ubiquitous hit Young Folksor whether their fifth album is simply a natural development, given their recent solo forays. The Swedes have never sounded like this before, that’s for sure. Their sugar-sweet pop groove is built around melodies and guitars, but there’s a stark absence of both on Living Thing. In their place are minimalist incursions into electronica, stark Afro-pop and a healthy heaping of synths, which make for an austere ambience that takes real effort to warm to. It’s certainly an interesting step for the trio, but whether it’s a step forward is another matter. www.peterbjornand john.com

LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: Nothing to Worry About, Lay It Down

Therapy?

Crooked Timber Demolition Records ***

Once Ireland’s biggest grunge band, Therapy? have maintained a low profile in recent years. Fluctuating line-ups didn’t help their stability, but it could also be argued that the Northern trio have been trying unsuccessfully to recapture that evasive winning formula for the past 15 years. So it’s slightly surprising that Crooked Timbersees Andy Cairns and co in flying form. Their Andy Gill-produced 10th album is supposedly rhythm- rather than melody-driven, but that’s not strictly true. Many songs may be centred around prominent basslines and frenetic drum beats, but the slack zig-zag of Exiles, Crooked Timberand Blacken the Pagebreaks up the anthemic, shredding heaviness quite nicely, while even the 10-minute instrumental Magic Mountainis surprisingly gratifying. A solid return. www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk

LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: I Told You I Was Ill, Blacken the Page

THE ANTLERS

Hospice Self-release ****

A Peter Silberman song is hard to mistake for anyone else’s. His creations are delicate and carefully crafted, and the emotions which come in the wee small hours always dictate the direction of the song. It’s interesting to note, then, what happens when other musicians embellish these scraps, fragments and shadows. The latest album has multi-instrumentalists Darby Cicci and drummer Michael Lerner adding flesh to Silberman’s songs about isolation and illness, and an extra layer of nuance to his pale vocal whispers. The songs were written while the lead Antlerwas hiding away from the city, but how tracks such as Two, Ketteringand, especially, Sylviaflex their muscle with the additional musical fibre provide the most thrilling takeaway from this album. As Silberman has found out, his delicate songs don’t lose a jot of impact when there are more players behind the ball. www.myspace.com/theantlers

JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Kettering, Sylvia

EUGENE DONEGAN

Little Apples Freaky Tree Records ***

Meath newcomer Eugene Donegan may have cut his teeth supporting Damian Dempsey and Duke Special, but his sound is rooted in Americana. There’s a workmanlike quality to Little Apples; echoes of Joe Ely infuse the rockin What’s in theCat; and The Four of Us’ Brendan Murphy lurks beneath Donegan’s emotional vocal on Reach for Me. With Declan O’Rourke taking up production duties, Little Appleshas everything that a competent live band would love to capture in the studio (passion and verve), but Donegan’s voice comes closest to finding its own identity on the quieter, more spacious songs, where simple guitar accompaniment let them breathe. The somnolent closing track, Martha’s Field, is his strongest calling card, reeking of a writer not trying so hard to impress, but still prepared to strip to the bare bones. www.eugene donegan.com

SIOBHÁN LONG

Download tracks: Martha’s Field, Lost and Found

WAVVES

Wavves Fat Possum ****

You’ll come away from this one with dirt under your fingernails. Wavves is San Diego beach-punk Nathan Williams, a dude who has been gathering plaudits from online commentators for his trashy symphonies. As a result Fat Possum, a label best known for reviving the careers of old bluesmen, is in his corner. Wavvves, Williams second album, is this year’s model when it comes to buzzy, scuzzy, fuzzy pop. Unadorned guitars, messy-as-hell drums and crunchy psych-punk surf tunes roll up and get right in your grid. But many of the tracks, especially such sludgy slabs of joy as Sun Opens My Eyesand So Bored, have impressive pop melodies buried beneath layers of super-fried fuzz. It’s not pretty or tidy, but it sure packs a wonderful punch. www.my space.com/wavves

JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: So Bored, Sun Opens My Eyes