Sunday 15 December 2019

In house: The best in music and gaming

Take That
Take That
Take That - III
John Grant - wIth the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Live in Concert
Kiesza - Sound of a Woman
Pixies - 'Doolittle'

Richie McCormack and Ben Keenan tell you what they think of this week's offerings...

Take That

III

3 STARS

The first thing that comes to mind on the first album since the departure of musical colossus Jason Orange, is how youthful Take That have tried to make III feel, starting with lead single 'These Days', which sounds like La Roux's 'Kiss And Not Tell' after a feed of Skittles.

It's the sound of a group who knows that its supposed 'mature' audience has had no reluctance in migrating to the open arms of Niall, Zayn, Harry and the other pair, and they need a quick injection. Case-in-point, the glossy euro-pop of the Mark Owen-fronted, 'Lovelife'.

'I Like It' sees them try their hand at stomping electro-pop - the kind of Tesla-like wave that Richard X used to cast out for Kylie and Rachel Stevens to surf upon. There's a sassy pop tune in there, it just feels a bit odd in Gary Barlow's paws.

If it's 'woah-woah', and 'ba-ba-bah' choruses you're after, these lads have job-lot. 'Portrait' sits neatly between the stools of Coldplay and A-Ha. While between the "night is ours until tomorrow" of 'Get Ready For It', and 'Let In The Sun', Barlow is giving us an introductory offer to his esteem-enhancement course (mail order only).

And the big, cathedral-like power ballads that were their calling cards upon their mid-noughties return surface again on 'Freeze'.

It is entirely necessary that 20-odd years on from their genesis, they're still willing to try new(ish) things and keep pace with the pack, however clunky some attempts to be hip might turn out. But there is no denying the record's polish, and savviness of tune.

 

Kiesza

Sound Of A Woman

3 STARS

There has been a growing buzz behind the Canadian chameleon, despite an ill-advised re-working of 90's staple 'What Is Love'. For the first third of Sound of a Woman, it's totally justified. 'Losin' My Mind' drops a chilled old-school beat, and adds Soul II Soul strings, wrapped in a soulful vocal. Built upon a classic house motif, 'Hideaway' calls to mind both Hercules & Love Affair and Disclosure. But after the pace drips on 'So Deep', it struggles to recover. Sound of a Woman sounds like a Calvin Harris/Shakira collaboration without either, and by the time the pounding beats return on 'The Love', they sound more generic than before.

John Grant

With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

5 STARS

These kinds of albums can go two ways - augment perfectly what, in the main, are deeply-felt, personal songs; or be like Metallica's S&M. Thankfully, this falls into the former category. Caramel sounds like it's lifted from the score of an early 70s romantic drama, while the swirls of 'Marz' offer a pastoral, English folk feel. The swells and swoops of 'Fireflies' provide the first real chills-down-the-spine moments. None of the songs feel bullied, or over-burdened by the 60-piece orchestra, and the version of Glacier here is towering and imperious, and captures the album's true essence - great songs, perfectly performed.

 

LISTEN AGAIN

Pixies

Doolittle

Any album which opens up with a critique of a 1929 surrealist film with sliced eyeballs, that also happens to fill dance floors, is going to see you right. 'Debaser' does just that for Doolittle. Now a quarter of a century young, the album remains as disconcerting a listen as it does an exhilarating one.

Woven throughout the sawn-off guitars and hummable basslines are vignettes of strange, wild, crazed people - whether the Uriah who hits the crapper of 'Mr. Grieves' or the blade-happy 'Crackity Jones'. In the 2002 documentary, Gouge, Thom Yorke reminisces about imagining the Pixies as "nasty little vicious people", and the high-pitched country buzz of Silver backs that assertion.

All of the above, and all its waves of mutilation might be difficult to digest were it not for the glimmering pop moments of 'Here Comes Your Man', or the biblical 'Monkey Gone To Heaven'. Doolittle's silver anniversary sees it reissued with a host of extras and an imperative for you to return.

 

GAMING

DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION

Xbox One, PlayStation 4: €69.99

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3: €59.99

PC: €59.99, origin.com

The third game in the Dragon Age series is even more ambitious and successful than its predecessors. The writing team has outdone itself and it's apparent in almost every facet of the game - the narrative options and making your decisions, feel consequential and satisfying.

The tactical side of the game has had a revamp as well, including a powerful top-down mode that allows you a huge amount of control without getting fiddly.

5 STARS

FAR CRY 4

Xbox One, PlayStation 4: €69.99

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3: €59.99

PC: €59.99, steampowered.com

Incredibly cinematic and with the scale typical of the series, the game opens with a jaw-dropping sequence that sets up our chilling villain Pagan Min, the brutal dictator king of Kyrat.

The beautiful new environment comes with new mechanics, the most fun of which is using bait to draw dangerous predators into groups of enemies to create chaos and thin their numbers. There's also a rich co-op mode, offering a different campaign with up to four people, each playing different classes with different abilities.

4 STARS

Irish Independent

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