Albums: New music from The Stranglers, James Vincent McMorrow, Lindsey Buckingham and Alexis Taylor
THE STRANGLERS – DARK MATTERS
THE Stranglers' 18th record sees the band, now a trio following the death of keyboardist Dave Greenfield in May 2020 from Covid-19, synthesising their anarchist instincts with supercharged melodies and expansive songwriting, glued together with lyrics about ageing, death, depression and exaltation.
This Song, a snarling cover of The Disciples of Spess, is perhaps the most straightforward on the album – a rough and ready punk anthem. But elsewhere the band find themselves in expansive form.
The Last Men on the Moon is a rockabilly, Floydian space odyssey, while And If You Should See Dave… is an poignant tribute to their late bandmate, who contributed to numerous songs on the album before his death. White Stallion, meanwhile, dissolves into a disco beat and thrilling, military drumrolls.
The Stranglers bite as hard as any of the new generation of punks, but their deadpan humour, accrued over decades, gives them the edge.
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM – LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM
EXILED from the band he helped carry to fame, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham delivers a creative if uneven collection of songs on his eponymous seventh album.
The 71-year-old was fired from the band, had a heart attack and split from his wife of two decades in the space of a few years. This is the context from which the album arrives and, unsurprisingly, it is full of reflective laments about aging and loss.
But it also a chance to experiment in ways Buckingham felt unable to in Fleetwood Mac.
Swan Song is a high-tempo extravaganza of folky guitars, layered vocals and a galloping electronic drum track. Similarly, Power Down embraces quirky, off kilter electronics.
Time is more conventional – a woozy campfire ballad about growing old, and I Don't Mind feels unfinished, its motorik groove building but not really going anywhere.
This album of highs and lows marks a new era of creativity for the singer-songwriter.
JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW – GRAPEFRUIT SEASON
JAMES Vincent McMorrow's fifth album is a tender blend of heartfelt warmth, chaotic emotion and reflective poignancy.
A sweeping album primarily recorded prior to the pandemic, the uncertainty of life is the common thread that strings its 14 simmering R&B infused tracks together.
With Tru Love unleashed as the final album teaser prior to Grapefruit Season's full-length release, the track's soulful undercurrent serves up a direct contrast to the poppy opener, Paradise.
Overflowing with layered synths and hook-heavy choruses, it's a fine display – but one that stands to wrongly pigeonhole McMorrow as just another run-of-the-mill pop crossover.
It's the tenderness of Waiting, however, that showcases the goosebump inducing power of McMorrow's melting vocals, with the building beats of Gone illustrating the singer-songwriter's true strengths.
Bursting with soul, it's Planes In The Sky which brings this record to life and binds it together.
Danielle de Wolfe
ALEXIS TAYLOR – SILENCE
ALEXIS Taylor is the frontman of synth titans Hot Chip, but his solo albums tend to be understated and written on piano – and Silence might be the best of them.
The album is freighted with loss and sadness, with Taylor's fragile voice mainly accompanied just by gentle piano, with bursts of melancholy strings.
Opener, Consequences, is so understated it's hardly there, and Thylacine is a piano instrumental. In Death Of Silence he sings "silence was taken for granted, never will I know it again", referring to his battle with tinnitus, while on Wollongong Waves he attempts to record silence.
Silence is a central theme, but the album is also about religion and transcendence. I Look To Heaven is about people turning to the spiritual in desperate circumstances, while Melting Away references "Jesus and his story".
Recorded in lockdown, these 12 songs provide a measure of stillness amid the ever increasing clamour of modern life.