“Hi, hi, howdy, howdy, hi, hi!/While everyone is minus, you could call me multiply/Just so you know, yes, yes, I’m that guy/You could get five fingers and I’m not waving “hi” ”
On the Regular is a fierce proclamation of Shamir’s sexuality with an envious ability to fire off intricate rhymes without missing a beat. The song’s a call to arms for Shamir, defining who he is whilst refusing to be defined or taking any guff from any swine. This is his stage, this is his time, and he’ll be damned if you try to drag him down from it. The first single is effortlessly funky and sexy with an incomparable beat that I double dare you not to dance to.
Vegas is about the titular city, about its energies and what fuels it – kerosene, dreams and industry, trying to reach for the stars but getting dragged down by reality of the city and its disdain for your entitled views of your own destiny.
In for the Kill is about the self-sacrifice you choose to make when you run away with someone and cut all ties, or perhaps just when you decide that who you are isn’t who you’ve been and who you’ve been around. The song is about surrendering yourself to the romance of abandonment and the romanticism of the new, but there are signs of regret and wistfulness in the fact that the character in the song wants to say goodbye, urging his loved ones not to be upset, that one day he’ll return – changed.
Shamir has the countertenor voice of Neneh Cherry crossed with Prince with all of the sass and verve of Bowie in the Boys Keep Swinging video, each song like a lip-stick smear rebellion and a two fingered salute to traditional gender roles. If you're not dancing to this yet, then you should be.
Drones continues Matt Bellamy’s fascination with all things conspiracy theory and the notion that we’re living in a dystopian now rather than a dystopian future - one in which we are under constant surveillance. However, the whole album comes across as a student’s first reaction to 1984 or The Invisibles, with little in the way of any nuance, critical thought or anything interesting to say. The album is a victim of Muse’s prior success with better albums that have paved this ground more intelligently and with better commentary. This is Muse for the masses – regurgitated and simplified and trying their best to become Queen. Do yourself a favour, listen to Absolution, Origin of Symmetry, Black Holes & Revelations or Showbiz – they’re the cutting edge, this is just a butter knife spreading their material far too thin.
Originally printed in Issue #323 of the Kirkby Extra, July 2015.
Like a lapsed Catholic on the threshold of atheism, I had mixed feelings about Faith No More’s return. The last we heard of them was in the year of our lord 1997, and I had to wonder if the band had anything left to say or if the well had run dry. So, join me, fellow sinners as I genuflect and reflect upon the latest work of Faith No More.
The titular track is about a man struggling with his faith or lack thereof, a fitting subject considering the band’s name. A man who worships at the altar of a god he doesn’t know or understand, “I’m coming Lord, I’m on my way/Worshipping at an altar of no-one/Can’t remember which God is my wine,” who despairs at the trappings and rituals of a religion he no longer understands or empathises with. It is quite fitting that an album so focused on rising again is called Sol Invictus, as Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the latter Roman Empire, whilst also symbolising the band’s own return after an absence of more than a decade. It’s almost like the album, and this song especially is the band questioning themselves and asking “can we still do it?”
Superhero is the first single, and stands up next to the classics like Epic and We Care A Lot. The song ruminates on the subject of whether the superman would be a leader of men or just another puppet leader getting his/her strings pulled by corporate powers, publicly manipulated for political ends. It’s definitely hinted at the latter when Mike Patton sings “Leader of men/get back in your cage.” But in the end the sun rises and the myth fades leaving us only bitter reality, and then the cycle begins anew when the question is posed “Leader of men/Will you become one of them?”
Sunny Side Up begins with Patton’s seductive soul funk growl of “I’ll be your Leprecaun/Shamrock or lucky charm,” and is an ear pleasing excuse for Patton to aurally seduce the audience in the same way he did with Faith No More’s cover of Easy, whilst using food metaphors for sex feeding into the idea that both are a biological imperative that feed into the basic human need of hunger.
It seems that 2015 is the year for come backs, and so far I’m happy to say I haven’t been disappointed. I haven’t had quite so much sacrilegious fun since I got kicked out of the choir for fighting.
It’s been a strong year for 90’s bands and artists returning to resurgence, with the likes of Blur, The Prodigy (who arguably never really went away), Belle & Sebastian and Sleater Kinney all producing sonically interesting and solid work. So I was intrigued by what I heard of Gaz Coombes mellow new album.
Buffalo is an emotional exhortation about the wish to return home, to begin again and return to a time of innocence. Time and experience has made him feel jaded and emotionally damaged (“cos all my tears felt like sand [...]/round in circles lost my way”) and like he’s trapped in an endless recursive loop – an ouroboros of weariness.
20/20 is an eerie song of emotional frailty, of wanting to sacrifice yourself for the one you love (“I’d take the hurricane for you”), of losing your identity in them and not being able to operate without them. It’s a song of interdependence, of keeping each other safe in the fading twilight and coming to the end of a turbulent journey to come out alright on the other side.
The Girl Who Fell to Earth sounds very much like a John Lennon track – when he sings “I just wish we could start over,” it’s very reminiscent of the song “Just Like Starting Over,” whilst also being an allusion to the famous Bowie film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Although not lyrically complex, and quite sentimental, it’s a gentle, lilting song that’s a good foil for the turmoil of 20/20.
The tone of the album is completely unlike the cheeky antics of Supergrass, and is a much more mature and evocative affair. It sounds a lot more akin vocally to Thom Yorke, with touches of Arcade Fire in tracks like The English Ruse and strains of Jeff Buckley can be heard in Seven Walls. Whilst occasionally at risk from being mawkish and overly sentimental, for the most part the album’s a success – a confluence of influences that work well together and make for a melancholy, but powerful and touching album.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.