Albums: New music from Van Morrison, Porridge Radio, Everything Everything and The Smile
VAN MORRISON – WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE?
HAVING served-up a dense slab of anti-lockdown sentiment with last year's 28-track double album, Van Morrison fans might have been hoping he had exorcised all his feelings on Covid restrictions.
However, song titles like Fodder For The Masses and Fighting Back Is The New Normal leave little doubt as to the inspiration behind the Belfast artist's 43rd studio album.
On Can't Go On This Way, the 76-year-old sings how people "can't go out dancing, can't find no joy, can't go on holiday" while on Absolutely Positively The Most he preaches that "restriction is a sin, we cannot win if we're not free".
While the Hammond organ adds a retro vibe, the mood is often funky and the backing singers add to Morrison's verve and newfound spiky attitude, his one-note protest lyrics jar during a record that trudges instead of inspiring revolution.
PORRIDGE RADIO – WATERSLIDE, DIVING BOARD, LADDER TO THE SKY
INDIE band Porridge Radio's rise continues with a set of songs about the trials and tribulations of love.
The Brighton band have come a long way since their lo-fi DIY beginnings: widescreen single The Rip sounds huge, while opener Back To The Radio is rousing alt-rock perfect for the bigger venues.
Dana Margolin's histrionic vocals are dialled down to good effect on quieter songs such as Flowers, Jealousy and Splintered.
Porridge Radio have plenty of catchy tunes, can unleash a big pop chorus and many tracks are built on Georgie Stott's distinctive keyboards, which set them apart from other guitar-centric indie bands.
From their low-key start, Porridge Radio are now making a bigger splash and as the album title suggests, from here the sky's the limit.
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING – RAW DATA FEEL
THE electronica-infused follow-up to art rock outfit Everything Everything's 2020 album Re-Animator grips from its first moments.
The four singles that kick off the album show how the Manchester band have distanced themselves from doomy, political lyrics in favour of high concepts like AI.
Jennifer focuses on a woman trapped in a miserable life and utilises frontman Jonathan Higgs falsetto and vocal range to great effect. Leviathan offers a mid-album reduction in pace before the epic sounds of Shark Week, a song as interesting as the title suggests.
Cut Up! opens on an 80s vibe before Higgs' harsh vocals drag it into the 21st century, in what is the highlight of the album.
Lengthy epic Software Greatman concludes things for a collection that's fantastic from start to finish.
THE SMILE – A LIGHT FOR ATTRACTING ATTENTION
THE latest side project from the Radiohead camp sees frontman Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood joining with drummer Tom Skinner of jazz upstarts Sons Of Kemet.
It opens with The Same, a haunting track that contains ambient sounds reminiscent of Kid A, and tracks such as The Opposite and The Smoke are built around repetitive bass lines that evoke the rhythmic propulsion of Radiohead's 2000 album.
Despite Skinner's excellent technical chops, what follows is essentially a regurgitation of these themes with more of a focus on groove.
Single Pana-vision, which featured in the Peaky Blinders finale, breaks the mould with atmospheric piano and falsetto. Elsewhere, We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings introduces a much-needed energy to proceedings.
Despite operating as The Smile, the album ultimately never strays far from the distinctive Radiohead sound.