Album reviews: Boyzlife Ellie Goulding, The Chicks, Dehd, Love Fame Tragedy
BOYZONE and Westlife – two of the biggest boybands to emerge from Ireland during the 90s, both manufactured in the Louis Walsh pop factory, both charting numerous number ones. More than two decades later, after sundry line-up changes and reunions, we have this: an album from Boyzone's Keith Duffy and Westlife's Brian McFadden. Revisiting their respective triumphs is the order of the day. Strings Attached, with its half-joke of a title, features orchestral versions of nine UK number one songs from their groups' respective back catalogues, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Undeniable classics like Flying Without Wings and Unbreakable benefit from an orchestral arrangement, while songs that demand a lighter touch, such as You Needed Me, are swallowed by the grandiosity. Today Duffy is 45 and McFadden 40, and their fanbase has grown with them. Strings Attached is for that fanbase, an unashamed nostalgia trip that adds little but a dusting of contemporary glitz. For some, it's exactly what's needed right now.
ELLIE Goulding's new album is what you might call a lesson in pop perfection. It is her first album since 2015 and Brightest Blue has been worth the wait. Set in two parts – Brightest Blue and EG.0. – this album is packed with exciting collaborations (Lauv, Diplo and more). It feels like a journey through the life of the singer, and you feel the progression in the lyrics as you listen. Tracks like Start feel nostalgic, with a switch to Power and the Love I'm Given, which references “a sense of change” being afoot. Goulding herself has said the first part of the album “reflects my vulnerability… it acknowledges a complex world where relationships still dictate our happiness and heartbreak and can still be the most painful thing in the world, no matter how enlightened you are”. As a musician, Goulding knows her voice and she knows how to use it, but she also has a knack for adding those smaller details, sometimes in the form of an unlikely collaboration, that really take her music to another level.
GASLIGHTER sees The Chicks return with a new name and a renewed vigour for taking on contemporary issues. Current band members Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire's new material seems keenly attuned to the politics of today despite their 14-year recording hiatus. As the band released protest song March March last month amid the Black Lives Matter movement, they announced they were dropping the word Dixie, which has ties to Confederacy in the US, from their name. The song is the album's standout track and sees the group pair their distinctive country style with a pulsating electronic beat alongside lyrics that tackle topics including gun control, abortion rights and climate change. The band have never shied away from sparking political controversy and the rest of the album is similarly thoughtful and provocative. However, songs such as Texas Man and For Her are more in line with the band's signature relaxed, melodic approach. The album sees The Chicks return to their best.
Flower Of Devotion
CHICAGO'S Dehd come roaring out of garageland with the minimum pretension and the maximum fun on new album Flower Of Devotion. They keep it simple, with pared-back instrumentation, like The White Stripes – and also with a complex inter-band relationship that adds an edge to their songs of love won and lost. The 13 three-minute songs mostly have single word titles – Nobody, Apart, Moonlight – and catchy choruses, with Emily Kempf (bass) and Jason Balla (guitar) trading vocals anchored by Eric McGrady's drums. Month echoes Just Like Honey-era The Jesus & Mary Chain and Letter The Vaccines' Wetsuit, while closing track Flying suggests a love of The Shangri-Las and The Raveonettes are another reference point with surf guitar and reverb added to the mix. Dehd clearly have all the right influences, yet transcend them and come up with a fresh sound that manages to be both timeless and also entirely 2020.
Love Fame Tragedy
Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave
THE success of The Wombats meant expectations were high for the debut solo studio album of frontman Matthew 'Murph'” Murphy. Murphy's self-reflective album Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave meets these expectations with a hugely enjoyable and vulnerable set list. Released under the name of his solo project Love Fame Tragedy, the album is a masterclass in versatility, with falsetto, synth-pop and tender acoustic-inspired songs expertly merged. There is not a single moment where Murphy's talent fails to shine – whether it is in the 00s-esque Riding A Wave or the more alternative Hardcore. The brutally honest songs Pills and Everything Affects Me Now are highlights with their tender and raw sounds. It does feel overlong at 17 tracks, as some songs feel repetitive and drift into each other during the middle of the album. However, these dull moments are swiftly forgotten and Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave firmly earns its place in the library of any indie fan.