John Meagher's week in music
EVERY Friday John Meagher will write exclusively for Independent.ie on the latest in music.
Album of the week
Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots (Parlophone)
Twenty years on from Blur’s emblematic Parklife and Damon Albarn is back with a solo debut that is understated and beguiling. His voice – careworn and lovely – takes centre stage like never before and you find yourself hanging on to his every word.
A melancholic album that meditates on childhood and the passing of time, Everyday Robots offers further proof that Albarn is one of the great British songwriters of his generation. He had already confirmed that talent with The Good, the Bad and the Queen and Gorillaz in his post-Blur career, but songs as beautifully crafted as the title track, which concerns itself with the alienating effects of technology, and the sumptuous ‘Lonely Press Play’ really attest to his gifts.
Parklife may have helped usher in Britpop, but those days feel so far away here and I defy anyone not to be smitten by the ruminative ‘Hollow Ponds’, with its reference to the famous summer drought of 1976.
Partly produced by Brian Eno, Albarn’s offering will slow-burn its way into most hearts and for Blur fans, in particular, it’s a must-have.
Listen to a preview here: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/everyday-robots-special-edition/id797058027
Key tracks: Lonely Press Play;
I have three copies of Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots to be won thanks to Warner Music Ireland. To be in with a chance, simply email me or tweet me with the name of Blur’s debut album. I’ll tweet the name of the winners this evening.
Also out today:
Pixies – Indie Cindy (PIAS)
As comeback albums go, this is something of a disappointment – and easily the weakest album Pixies have yet released. Black Francis and friends (but minus Kim Deal) seem to be operating on a tank half full and many of his angst-ridden lyrics don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Still, in the moments where they really let rip, Pixies roll back the years and remind us why they remain alt-rock kingpins. Opener ‘What Goes Boom’ is raucous and intoxicating – it’s just a shame there aren’t more tracks like it.
Classic album revisited
R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984)
Released 30 years ago this month, R.E.M.’s second album is not regarded nearly as well as their debut, Murmur, which pipped Michael Jackson’s Thriller to Album of the Year in Rolling Stone in 1983, but it is one of the most absorbing records in their entire back catalogue – and worthy of reacquaintance.
Peter Buck’s trademark Byrdsian guitar has rarely sounded so endearing – ‘(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville’ is a highlight – and Michael Stipe’s lyrical preoccupations are less oblique than they were on Murmer. That’s especially the case on the subdued, but devastatingly powerful ‘Camera’, which was inspired by the death of a friend in a car crash.
Successfully avoiding the so-called Second Album Syndrome-trap, Reckoning laid the groundwork for a 1980s in which R.E.M. ruled.
Gig of the week
Neil Finn – Olympia, Dublin, April 30 and Cork Opera House, Cork, May 1
The last time the Kiwi played this venue was when he was on the road with Crowded House to promote their last album, Intriguer. This time, he’s in town with an absorbing, innovative and daring solo album Dizzy Heights that shows there’s far more to the man than classic songcraft and cast iron melodies – as if there was anything wrong with that.
Imelda May’s new album, Tribal, sees her broadening her rockabilly palate to a degree, but it’s hard to see it having the sort of mass appeal enjoyed by her 2008 debut, Love Tattoo, which went eight times platinum in Ireland.
Much more essential is the second album from the Dublin-based noisenik pair We Cut Corners. Think Nothing offers visceral thrills aplenty. A mini-Irish tour kicks off in Roisin Dubh, Galway, tonight. See www.wecutcorners.net for live details.
Have a listen to single ‘Blue’ here: https://soundcloud.com/the-delphi-label/we-cut-corners-blue-single
Meanwhile, Elaine Mai, who features on one of my favourite Irish singles in recent years, Le Galaxie’s ‘Love System’, has released a four-track EP, Known/Unknown.
Last weekend HMV returned to the country’s most celebrated shopping mecca, Grafton Street, by opening a branch in the old A-Wear building opposite Bewley’s. The new store is looking pretty fine, there’s an excellent vinyl section and lots of great deals to be had. One that caught my eye was Sennheiser Momentum headphones at €159.99. You’re unlikely to get cheaper elsewhere.
To celebrate, they’ve given me four €50 vouchers. To be in with a chance of winning, simply email me or tweet me with the answer to the following: what do the initials HMV stand for? I’ll tweet the names of the winners this evening.