Lost in Music, John Meagher
Music critic John Meagher's exclusive weekly online column with his top album, best gig, classic album and competition of the week.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
The Black Keys - Turn Blue (Nonesuch)
The garage rockers are no slouches when it comes to album releases – this is the Ohio duo’s eighth in 12 years, although the three-year gap that’s elapsed between this and their last is their longest hiatus to date.
With Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton in the producer’s chair, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have delivered an album that refines their garage rock and throws up the occasional surprise.
The captivating, seven-minute opener ‘Weight of Love’ is typical of their new approach while ‘In Our Prime’ showcases Auerbach’s intoxicating guitar.
A single, ‘Fever’, shows they have a commercial nous – although the track itself feels a little bit like Black Keys-by-numbers. Much more interesting, is the electronica-inflected ‘It’s Up to You Now’ – it’s a track in which the Danger Mouse imprint is writ large.
Auerbach, it turns out, has been busy of late: he’s been collaborating with Lana Del Rey’s on her forthcoming album.
Key tracks: Weight of Love; It’s Up to You Now
The Black Keys ‘Fever’ official video (their current single) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trk7P-9QDyc
The good folk at Warner Music Ireland have given me three copies of Turn Blue to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, simply email me (email@example.com) with the names of both members of The Black Keys. I’ll tweet the winners’ names this evening.
Ray LaMontagne - Supernova (RCA)
The gravelly voiced troubadour from New Hampshire does a fine line in melancholic heartbreak, so it’s something of a surprise to listen to this new album and hear him in such upbeat, optimistic mood. It’s a change of direction that suits him, judging from spirited tracks such as the freewheeling title track and the lovely ‘Ojai’, which sounds like a recently discovered gem from the Laurel Canyon songwriting school of the 1970s.
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach – mentioned above – is on production duty and LaMontagne appears revitalised.
CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED
Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978)
Yet another Blondie best-of gets released today: Blondie 4(0) Ever: Greatest Hits features plenty of evergreen favourites plus a brand new album called Ghosts of Download. What a great singles band they were. I use the past tense deliberately: their killer track output has waned badly, and the new album boasts few songs to trouble radio play-listers.
Rewind to the late 1970s and Blondie were delivering one brilliant song after the next, seemingly at will. Yet, in an interview I did with Harry some years ago, she said the band felt hamstrung by creative doubts at the time. It took the English producer, Mike Chapman – who had cut his hit-making teeth with Suzi Quatro, Smokie and others – to truly make them sing.
Chapman’s Midas touch is all over this new wave classic – not least on the veritable disco anthem, ‘Heart of Glass’, which has aged incredibly well. The slower, original version – which can be easily found online – has the bones of something special, but Chapman really took it to another level. Intriguingly, it was the fourth single to be released from the album – after ‘Picture This’, ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ and ‘Hanging on the Telephone’.
The album, which weighs in at a lean 39 minutes, as packed with great songs – ‘One Way or Another’, ‘Fade Away and Radiate’, ‘Sunday Girl’ – as well as inspired aforementioned covers, The Nerves’ ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and Buddy Holly’s ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’.
GIG OF THE WEEK
Damien Rice – Whelan’s, Dublin, Tuesday (sold out)
It says something about the excitement surrounding Damien Rice’s first Dublin show in several years that tickets sold out in less than half an hour yesterday morning.
It’s been eight years since his last album, 9, and there are few signs that the Howard Hughes of Irish singer-songwriters is set to release a follow-up. Those close to him are saying this performance – which is part of Whelan’s year-long 25th anniversary celebrations – is a thank you to a venue that played a part in his rise in the early 2000s, and not necessarily the start of a new phase in his career.
Still, it’s likely that there will be new material aired alongside favourites from his much-admired debut, O. Here’s one of the songs that made his name, Cannonball
Also worth investigation: Dum Dum Girls at Dublin’s Button Factory on Saturday night. The Los Angeles-based all-female quartet bring an excellent third album, Too True, to Ireland. Listen to one of the standout tracks, Rimbaud Eyes, here
My Irish Independent colleague Eugene Maloney was killed in the most distressing circumstances in the summer of 2012. He was walking home from a night out and had the misfortune to be punched in the head by a bystander who, thankfully, is serving a jail sentence now.
Eugene was a music aficionado and every conversation I had with him revolved around new bands, classic albums and forgotten gems. So, it makes me very happy indeed that Whelan’s, Dublin, will be hosting a night of music in his honour on June 24. Among those playing on the night will be Liam O Maonlai, Andy Irvine, Julie Feeney and the Lost Brothers. Tickets are €15 and all proceeds will go to a fine cause: The Peter McVerry Trust.