Album reviews: The Chemical Brothers, Emma Bunton, LSD, The Drums
The Chemical Brothers
IF SOMEONE told me in 1989 that I'd still be wanting to listen to The Chemical Brothers I would have thought they were having me on. But no – 30 years later and they are just as fresh. No Geography has some of the best experimental beats I've heard in a long time. There is the usual rousing build-up, a coil that is slowly wound until it can't take it anymore and drops bouncing with life all of the place. This time vocals are primarily by Norwegian singer/songwriter Aurora, whose haunting voice cuts through the jerky, sharp melodies. Each track leads into the next, on an eye-opening journey through an industrial landscape that could be the musical equivalent of modern life. So much darkness, so much uncertainty, but there is this sound that is almost hopeful that we can get through the confusion. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have yet again composed a soundscape that is questioning and driven, with hope and euphoria.
My Happy Place
EMMA Bunton's first solo album in 12 years comes just before the Spice Girls embark on their reunion tour, and it couldn't be further from the pop-tastic tracks they'll be belting out this summer. Bunton softly croons her way through her favourite songs, such as I Only Want To Be With You and You're All I Need To Get By, a beautiful rendition with her fiance Jade Jones and the strongest offering here. Baby Please Don't Stop is a 60s-infused pop jam, and one of two original tracks on the record. Bunton also covers Spice Girls classic 2 Become 1 with Robbie Williams. It's an OK effort, but it doesn't set the world alight and is nowhere near as striking as the original. Bunton shines on Here Comes The Sun, the song that played as her eldest child was born, and she sings it with him in the intro. It's adorable. Some of her covers get lost in translation but mostly this is sweetly inoffensive.
Labrinth, Sia & Diplo present... LSD
THE world doesn't need more supergroups – mobs of chart-toppers feeding off one another in a studio but producing little more than clumsy mash-ups of their best songs. That Labrinth, Sia and Diplo didn't fall into this trap is an achievement in itself, and one reason for giving this record a chance. Another would be its joyous and surprisingly varied emotional palate. A third would be that some of these songs bang. British singer and one-man hit factory Labrinth's voice gels and pops alongside Sia's effervescent, ethereal tones. The pair get the backing they deserve from Diplo, one half of Major Lazer. But they click best on the album's quieter moments. Across 10 tracks, only five we haven't heard before. And aside from a surprisingly fiery Little Wayne remix, at just over 30 minutes long LSD feels a little slight, more like an EP than a full-blown statement of intent. But maybe that's still to come.
IT IS nearly a decade since American indie-pop quartet The Drums exploded onto the scene with their Beach Boys-inspired Summertime EP. Much has changed. Not least the line-up, though it is a peculiar quirk that fifth LP Brutalism sounds richer and more layered than anything before it, despite the band's membership shrinking by 75 per cent. One-man-band Jonathan Pierce relies again on The Drums' blueprint for catchy, uncomplicated melodies. Like its predecessor, the triumphant Abysmal Thoughts, the lyrics are darker and more nihilistic than on previous records. But something doesn't quite feel right, and those hoping for an album chock-full of surf-pop tales of summer at the beach will be left disappointed. The nine-track record whizzes past in little over half an hour, though closing number Blip of Joy – the most quintessentially The Drums song on the album – is worth waiting for.
Silent Alarm Live
IT WAS on a recent tour in which Bloc Party decided to record a live performance of their 2005 debut album Silent Alarm. The album, which features a hard-hitting mix of frenetic shrill disco beats, computerised synth and jangly sharp guitar parts behind Kele Okereke's southern-accented conversational singing style, sits nicely in the mid-noughties indie disco scene. While the sound is precise and detailed, a live performance surprisingly exposes the greatness behind the seminal album. While some bands improve and tweak their music in the name of performance, there are no surprises here, no gimmicks, embellishments or changes; the album is delivered exactly how it was originally recorded, right down to the order of the track list. Okereke's singing is spot-on and, combined with the excellent sound quality, the only evidence that the album is live is the roars of applause. Anyone looking for anything different from the original should look elsewhere, but this is a true fan's delight.