Album reviews: Noel Gallagher, Stephen Malkmus, The Fizz and Phantogram

The Fizz, keeping their 80s sound alive with new LP Smoke And Mirrors
The Fizz, keeping their 80s sound alive with new LP Smoke And Mirrors The Fizz, keeping their 80s sound alive with new LP Smoke And Mirrors

Stephen Malkmus

Traditional Techniques

Matthew George


BEABADOOBEE sings "I wish I was Stephen Malkmus", and the influence of the leader of 90s slacker princes Pavement is clear in new bands like Kiwi Jr. But Malkmus always stays a few steps ahead, and his third album in three years – and third properly solo LP – is aeons away from Pavement classics such as Trigger Cut or Cut Your Hair. As the title implies, this is a folk album, driven by 12-string guitar and using a variety of Afghan instruments for that late 60s East meets West sound. The heavy use of flute on What Kind Of Person evokes Jethro Tull as Malkmus wonders "what kind of person makes you feel beautiful forever", an impeccably hippy sentiment. The vocals are relaxed. Six-minute opener ACC Kirtan sets the controls for the heart of the sun, while single Xian Man heads yet further out. So while everyone is jumping on the Malkmus bandwagon, the man himself has already gone, and what a long strange trip it is.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Blue Moon Rising (EP)

Nick Hayward


I'M LEFT with many questions after whiling away my time with Noel's latest EP. The biggest one, however, is: is it really a Christmas song? If you haven't had the chance to listen to Wandering Star, I'll let you make your own mind up. One thing it is, though, is the standout track on Blue Moon Rising. It has an uplifting feel of togetherness. The title track Blue Moon Rising is a lot more experimental. Am I a fan? Hard to say. It has a nice beat and a lot of effort has clearly gone into it, but I can't quite get Ben E King's Stand By Me out of my head. The former Oasis star has never shied away from "borrowing" inspiration from tracks from yesteryear. Come On Outside is a throwback to Oasis – for what it's worth, I quite like it. Maybe the biggest question isn't whether Wandering Star is a Christmas song or not; it's probably in which direction is Noel going now, because this EP is a bit of a mish-mash of styles.

The Fizz

Smoke And Mirrors

Rachel Howdle


THERE are a lot of things influenced by the 80s around at the moment, from TV shows like Stranger Things to snippets of music videos and the return of synthesisers. One thing that can't be said about The Fizz is that they're breaking new ground, but why should they? Fully aware that their fans expect a certain sound, The Fizz – along with the musical stylings of Mike Stock – have woven an album that feels of its time. It feels like it was there all along. With their tongues firmly in their cheeks there is a throwback to when the biggest bop on TV was Top Of The Pops. In the song T.O.T.P, Cheryl, Mike and Jay remember the days of Legs and Co. Reservation has a theme of treading new ground and moving on, while Storm is The Fizz at their very best. Smoke And Mirrors is definitely The Fizz's love letter to their fans.



Alex Green


A DECADE on from their Massive Attack-indebted debut album, Eyelid Movies, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have completed an unlikely evolution. Few would have predicted the New York-based duo's transformation from dreamy hip hop songwriters to bona fide pop outfit with anthems ready-made for Coachella festival. Ceremony, their fourth album, sounds like the natural culmination of the past 10 years: a distillation of their faintly ominous, breakbeat-heavy sound and cheeky sense of humour. Early tracks like In A Spiral, which features cowboy Western guitars, and Into Happiness, with its warped take on disco, belie the band's deft grasp of what makes something 'pop'. Love Me builds on the fuzzy, funky groove and simple hooks of their earlier work, while Let Me Down takes that formula and ups the intensity with gyrating synths. Carter leaves much of the vocal work to Barthel. When he does sing, there are lashings of claustrophobic reverb – a clever way of ironing out the creases while maintaining the mood. Ceremony features some of Phantogram's tightest songwriting yet, and sounds ready for festival audiences across the US.