Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Album reviews - Muse and Newton Faulkner

‘The Resistance’
(Warner Music)

THIS album has been sitting on my desk for the past couple of weeks, just in my sight line, pleading with me to take it home and listen to its undoubted highlights.
The reason for my procrastination? Muse are simply a hard band to like.
They are without doubt one of the biggest bands in the world at this moment, their live shows unrivalled in terms of thrills and spills and sheer magnitude. On record however, they have struggled to replicate their massive sound to my satisfaction, with 2003’s Absolution the exception to the rule.
Interestingly, Muse seemed to have toned down the theatrics on this album, the woozy space rock of their earlier efforts replaced by a taut and fine direction.
Muse have gained a status as world leaders in epic, post-classical rock and fans will not be disappointed with this offering, but perhaps new fans might appreciate it more.
The arpeggio guitar treats on Resistance, the title track, are faintly reminiscent of Radiohead, at least until the very-Muse like piano kicks in and singer Matt Bellamy starts warbling. But there is a restraint here that is refreshing, the band abruptly breaking into territory more normally inhabited by the Who for the refrain - “it could be wrong, it could be wrong, it could never last”. Opener Uprising is admittedly less restrained, Battles like guitars and Dr. Who esque klaxon calls stuffed into its body.
The New Order synthesizer beat of Undisclosed Desires sees the band display a previously unheard harmonising and emotion, and it is impressive.
But the biggest eye-opener is the Queen sound on the opus United States of Eurasia/Collateral Damage, a grandiose clarion call to arms.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Muse album without some form of overblown opus - the end of the album concluding with the three part Exogenesis Symphony - parts one, two and three, which can only be described as, a bit like Bellamy, totally barmy and almost existing in Star Wars territory (so much for restraint) but also absolutely superb.
Looks like Muse might have one more fan.

Newton Faulkner
‘Rebuilt by Humans’

BEARDED, dreadlocked troubadour Newton Faulkner returns with ‘Rebuilt by Humans’, the follow-up - we are told by the sticker on the front cover - to the million selling 2007 debut Hand Built By Robots.
The success of that album owed much to Faulkner’s - real name Sam - interesting guitar playing abilities, live performances and, cynically, the presence of a admittedly rather decent cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop.
Watching Faulkner at the recent Cois Fharraige festival it is clear that, cycnism aside, this guy is a superb musician, capable of producing full band-like performances by himself.
The soft twinkling guitar ‘Intro’ opens the album and segues effortlessly into the super-cool ‘Badman’, an early highlight, Faulkner’s funky rhythm’s driving the song.
At first listen follower ‘I Took It Out On You’ seems to stray dangerously close to boyband, X-factor territory, but is rescued by Faulkner’s engaging, gravely vocals and well-crafted musicianship.
Faulkner clearly likes his interludes, the 30 second snatch of ‘Hello’ preceding the emotional ‘If This Is It’ - another close skirmish with Ronan Keating territory, which thankfully comes through the other side owing to the presence of heavy orchestration and Faulkner’s howling vocals.
Other highlights are the effortlessly impressive and dark, didgeridoo driven Resin On My Heart Strings, the jazzy Let’s Get Together, Faulkner sounding eerily like Tom Baxter and the delicate This Town.
Unfortunately the album is let down by ill-advised efforts like Lipstick Jungle and the fact that, at 19 tracks, it is simply too long and too near soppy, wind in the hair ballads for my liking. RATING 2/5

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