Albums: New music from A Certain Ratio, The Zombies, Lies and Murray Lightburn

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WITH post-punk sounds everywhere these days, it's an opportune time for Manchester pioneers A Certain Ratio to return with their 12th studio album, recorded by the core line-up of Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson.

Waiting On A Train features two rising Manchester stars, rapper Chunky and neo-soul singer Ellen Beth Abdi, who is also on Holy Smoke, paying tribute to funk greats from James Brown to Chaka Khan and Prince.

Abdi penned lyrics for Afro Dizzy, written around drum samples recorded by late Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, who ACR had always wanted to work with.

The title track recalls Kraftwerk, Tombo In M3 is a frenetic instrumental and opener SAMO is named for the graffiti tag of New York 1980s art superstar Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Ballad Of ACR pays direct tribute to longstanding singing collaborator Denise Johnson, who died suddenly in 2020, the band honouring their past while accelerating into the future.

Rating: 4/5

Different Game
Different Game Different Game


1960s hit-makers The Zombies are back with a new album featuring keyboardist Rod Argent, singer Colin Blunstone, drummer Steve Rodford, guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Soren Koch.

The album is a testament to the hard-working veterans who blazed the trail with no fewer than 65 concerts across North America and Europe last year, and tour dates scheduled for April and May 2023.

The 13 tracks, reminiscent of smoky hipster beat clubs of yesteryear, offer a joyous celebration of the band's greatest moments.

There's Speaking In Tongues, with the fast beats and rhythm and blues sound you'd find in an early Yardbirds track. Shine Off Your Shoes shares similarities with John Lennon's Cold Turkey and there's an interesting version of k.d. lang's Constant Craving.

Overall a chaotic album that shows the result of blood, sweat and no doubt tears after a three-year post-lockdown battle by the band to bring a high-energy album to life.

Rating: 3/5

Lies Lies


AMERICAN Football veterans Nate and Mike Kinsella forge a path away from the turn-of-the-century emo-rock sound they pioneered with Lies, the eponymous debut album from their new project, packed with striking synthesiser hooks, keyboard melodies and subtle string arrangements that merge to create powerfully intricate pop songs.

An array of influences have been tapped into on a record that maintains intrigue with a series of twists and turns.

The electronic-heavy soundscape is immediately introduced on opener Blemishes, while jazz is represented on Echoes, with the soaring saxophone solo coming as an early album surprise.

Dance beats dominate the buoyant Summer Somewhere, yet there is still space for the gentle introspection the pair are so renowned for on Sympathetic Eyes.

Despite the change in direction from their previous work, Lies provides a successful blend of Mike Kinsella's heartfelt lyricism with cousin Nate's synth-based musical backdrops.

A promising debut from the emo legends that continually offers earnest truths and joyful atmospherics.

Rating: 3/5

Once Upon A Time In Montreal
Once Upon A Time In Montreal Once Upon A Time In Montreal


THE Dears' frontman Murray Lightburn switches from indie rock to full crooner mode for this solo album about his father, a saxophonist from Belize who moved to Montreal to reconnect with his teenage sweetheart, gave up jazz music when he became a born-again Christian, and died in April 2020.

Lightburn draws inspiration from late 60s and early 70s folk, jazz and pop, Dionne Warwick, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, with echoes of Lee Hazlewood and Kris Kristofferson. The songs are guitar-based, with touches of strings, brass, flute and even oboe added across the eight tracks courtesy of veteran Montreal jazz musicians.

Opening number, Dumpster Gold, sets the scene of a father who Lightburn felt was almost a complete stranger, Reaching Out For Love references A Love Supreme by his father's hero John Coltrane and the title track features a soaring sax solo by Frank Lozano.

Rating: 3stars