Albums: New music from Big Red Machine, Goat, Chvrches and Chubby and The Gang
BIG RED MACHINE – HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT'S GONNA LAST?
THE second full-length release by The National's Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is a subtle and exquisite work that combines big-hearted songwriting with deep emotion.
On Brycie, Dessner pays tribute to his twin brother, who guided him through his depressive bouts at school, while on Hutch (which features Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and Shara Nova) he struggles with the death of his friend, Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, who took his own life in 2018.
Both Dessner and Vernon have collaborated with Taylor Swift of late, and she appears on two tracks, including the yearning single Renegade, which addresses the anxiety of codependent love.
Mostly, however, How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? is a tribute to friends and family, and the joy that comes with making music alongside them.
GOAT – HEADSOUP
HOWEVER stunning Goat's swaggering 2012 psych debut World Music was, few expected them to be much more than a flash in the pan.
For a start, the masked group claimed to come from a cursed village in northern Sweden. Their mind-bending blend of acid rock, Afrobeat and funk was also so bombastic it seemed hard to see how they could keep it up.
But Goat are all about the art of surprise: today, the band have a reputation as one of the most consistent and consistently surprising around.
Headsoup, a collection of B-sides and standalone singles plus two new tracks, is testament to that yet again, serving as a thrilling reminder of the group's astonishing raw power.
Highlights include the fabulous groove of Let It Burn and closer Queen Of The Underground, a Hendrix-inspired wall of fuzz that seems to get heavier with every passing moment.
CHVRCHES – SCREEN VIOLENCE
AFTER experimenting with pop influences on 2018's Love Is Dead to mixed reviews, Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches have returned to the identifiable, clean sound that made their name.
Opener Asking For A Friend sounds achingly familiar and it is not until the fourth track, Violent Delights, that they depart from the ever-present grinding bass drum, with a wider chorus and contrast for Lauren Mayberry's bell-like vocals.
There are other highlights: second single How Not To Drown, which features a duet with The Cure's Robert Smith, mellows into a trance-like finish after five minutes, Final Girl jangles in the middle, and final track Better If You Don't is the true oddball – a sweet synth-free ballad.
Nightmares, the penultimate song, even edges closer to rock, giving a perceptible sonic nod to the plethora of early 2000s pop-rock bands.
But overall Screen Violence feels pretty safe: a crowd-pleaser, now there are crowds to please once more.
CHUBBY AND THE GANG – THE MUTT'S NUTS
CHUBBY And The Gang are influenced by the likes of The Ramones and The Clash.
The opener and title track of their second LP and It's Me Who'll Pay are 100mph thrashes fronted by Charlie Manning's gruff vocals, but over the course of the 15 songs there's plenty of variety.
Life On The Bayou includes blues harmonica and piano, showing a Dr Feelgood and pub rock influence, while hook-laden last song I Hate The Radio is almost pop.
Take Me Home To London is an acoustic ballad, just voice and guitar, a love letter to the capital, and Life's Lemons has a doo-wop feel.
Unlike some in the genre, they don't take themselves too seriously, fostering a cartoon persona through their album covers and videos, and launching the album with gigs at record stores that include them judging a dog show.
Never mind the Sex Pistols, here's Chubby and The Gang to keep the punk flag flying.