Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Album reviews

The Chapters
‘Perfect Stranger’

THE SIREN call of 'Juice', the opening track on the debut album from hotly tipped Irish band The Chapters, is an immediately affecting one, dispelling preconceived notions about this outfit.
I had fears that the album in my hand was going to be a proto-pop/rock offering, a la the Blizzards - as is the wont of many Irish bands out there, seeking to follow in the footsteps of that bizarrely popular band.
Not in this case.
"I don't know why you hurt yourself so/I just don't get it," croons lead singer Ross McNally, his gravelly timbre a refreshing one, revelling in its impurities. These gruff tones remind one more of The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon.
The short, sharp opening track is followed by the keyboard/synth-driven tones of 'Videotapes' - clearly a summer hit waiting to happen, the harmonic efforts of McNally’s fellow bandmates filling the listener's ears with beautiful melodies. No surprises that this is the first single off the album.
Several tracks continue in this vein, ie 'Automobiles', but it is when the Chapters display their range that you find yourself being sucked in by their music.
Particularly 'Moving' and the foot-stomping acoustic-punk of 'Ukrainian Gymnast', featuring a superb closing barbershop-quartet effect.
Original single 'Looking For Love' is still bursting with energy, throwing up all sorts of Talking Heads comparisons but sounding fresh, bouncy and like a band having fun.
That is the key here; rather than banging out some run of the mill, moody rock and roll, the Chapters have combined a retro synth sound with some well crafted songs and an all pervading sense of a band happy with their sound.
This is an excitingly catchy and engaging album that will require, nay demand, to be listened to over and over.
Let's catch hold of ourselves here; these lads are not the saviours of Irish rock and roll, but there is enough here that sounds fresh and exciting to lift the spirits of this oft-beleagured reviewer.

‘Imidiwan: Companions’

IF SOMEONE told you that an eight-piece electric guitar group, hailing from the bowels of the Southern Sahara Desert, had released one of the albums of the year, would that sound far fetched? Well it’s true.
The “band” is Tinariwen, a rag tag collection of Tuareg guitarists, poets and rebels - members of a nomadic people who inhabit the Sahara. It is clear that their environment is a crucial ninth member of the group, forming and shaping the sound on their fourth album “Imidiwan” or Companions, like the wind shapes the dunes in that expanse of desert.
This beguiling 13 track album has been produced by Jean-Paul Roman, who worked with Tinariwen on their debut album The Radio Tisdas Sessions, which was rapturously received in world music circles.
Let me say, I hate that genre-definition, “world-music” - and find it hugely condescending. Surely all music is world-music? The problem is that anything slightly left of centre - or sung in a foreign language - is labelled as world music.
This is an album that Hendrix fans and sean-nos chant lovers alike should love in equal measure - the album containing a magnetic quality that makes it simply intoxicating.
Intoxicating is a word that keeps recurring; opening track Imidiwan Afrik Tendam (My Friends From All Over Africa) containing a fabulously intoxicating melody, fixed over a chorus of guitars and bongos. Tenhart (The Doe) features the most gorgeously repetitive, simple blues guitar lick, transposed with a sort of Malian rap, while the incessant throb of Enseqi Ehad Didagh (Lying Down Tonight) is eye-opening, despite its raw simplicity.
The album was recorded in the Malian desert village home of band members Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and Hassan Ag Touhami and is such a simple, yet devastatingly effective offering, that you can simply close your eyes and see the windswept village and its inhabitants.
An astonishing album.

No comments: