Album reviews: Idles, Passenger, Menace Beach & Darwin Deez
:: Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
BRISTOL punk rock outfit Idles follow up their acclaimed debut Brutalism with a ferocious attack on toxic masculinity, racism and television's enforcement of negative body image.
Singer Joe Talbot's acerbic lyrics make you laugh and think in equal measure and somehow include references ranging from Labour MP Dennis Skinner to actor Tom Hiddleston's stylist.
Drummer Jon Beavis' ominous stick work on opener Colossus is reminiscent of a train chugging down a track that's about to run you over. When the break comes, the album bursts into life as Talbot screams: "I put homophobes in coffins".
The catchy Danny Nedelko, a celebration of immigrants, shines as this summer's unlikely radio hit. I'm Scum sounds like Elvis doing a punk song as Talbot sneers about James Bond being a "murderous toff", while Great puts the boot into the Brexiteer's fetish for blue passports.
Idles succeed in expressing a delicate vulnerability through powerful and savage means.
:: Passenger – Runaway
IT WOULD perhaps be slightly uncharitable to label this as the seventh album from a one-hit wonder, but Passenger, AKA Michael Rosenberg, has struggled to ever replicate the enormous success of his 2014 Ivor Novello Award-winner Let Her Go.
While Runaway is a pleasant enough set, there is nothing here that appears likely to change that.
The penultimate song To Be Free comes closest, a dreamy piano-led ballad recounting his father's life and travels and his own attempts to connect with his history.
Passenger's musical background is as a busker and those who originally encountered him out of the blue in that context would have been blown away, the paradox is that as a professional artist, much of his work fails to stand out from the crowd.
:: Darwin Deez – 10 Things That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart
DARWIN Deez, a New York purveyor of joyous indie pop, is often written off as a gimmick: songs too catchy to be serious, too goofy to be artful.
But beyond the sing-along singles and viral videos which brought him success, Deez is a masterful writer of pop songs and a vastly under-rated musician.
Both talents are immediately apparent on his fourth record, 10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart.
The snatched staccato chords, guitar solos and lyrics which sway between sardonic and sincere are all still here. The skittering electronic beats and beep and buzz of synthesizers hinted at on previous albums now have a greater maturity.
And the stand-out tracks, which bookend the album, suggest this is an artist with a lot more musical space to explore, and a lot more talent than he is often given credit for.
It's worth checking Deez out when he tours in early October.
:: Menace Beach – Black Rainbow Sound
THE harrowing idea of a black rainbow is apocalyptic and heretical, signalling change unforetold: much like Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Bowie's jungle period, or Take That covering Nirvana at Earl's Court.
On their third album, Leeds-based band Menace Beach set aside their reputation for fuzz-festooned indie rock and embrace the synthesiser.
When Liza Violet, one half of Menace Beach's core partnership, summoned a fresh aesthetic, it was founded on her hunch there was "too much reality in the sound of a guitar".
The soft-voiced Violet and fellow mainstay Ryan Needham, whose vocals at times recall the drawl of J Mascis, are joined on this record's title track by Brix Smith, formerly of The Fall.
They deliver a driving, pounding mission statement that sees a guitar riff swiftly give way to a heavy kosmische groove.
Comparable in places to Hookworms' recent album Microshift, Menace Beach's third is a pointed step out of their comfort zone. It bears influences of the likes of Broadcast and Kraftwerk, but Menace Beach project their own haunting perspective.