Thursday, April 11, 2013

Illinois Entertainer Reviews: H-M

Standing at the Sky’s Edge 

You can’t fault Hawley, a forty-five-year-old rocker with a baritone voice, for sounding like Iggy Pop from time to time.  In fact, if only because he has rewritten the lyrics of the Stooges’ “1969” and called the resulting song “Down in the Woods,” Hawley himself seems to invite the comparison.  No sooner does he invite it, however, than he comes up with “Seek It,” a softly sung, medium-tempo number with which Michael Hutchence himself might have someday been pleased to follow up “Beautiful Girl.”  The songs that avoid easy comparisons do so by marinating in psychedelic drones emanating from the sounds of guitars feeding back.  As for the title cut, it suggests that maybe Hawley and not Ian Astbury should be fronting the Doors these days.    

Unfinished Business 

Wanda Jackson is seventy-five, making her, along with Bob Dylan, Ian Hunter, Leonard Cohen, and three of the Beach Boys, the latest septuagenarian to release an album of new material this year.  And while you can’t say she outdoes Dylan or Cohen, she sounds livelier than Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine and wrestles Hunter to a draw.  What she sounds most like is Maria Muldaur, a similarly still-vital rootsy interpreter with whom Jackson shares a passion not only for Jesus (hence this album’s inclusion of Townes Van Zandt’s overtly gospel “Two Hands”) but also the blues (Sonny Thompson’s “Tore Down”), country (excellent originals by Greg Garing and producer Justin Townes Earle), and vintage rock’n’roll (“It’s All Over Now”).  All right, Rolling Stones, the ball’s in your court.

World, You Need a Change of Mind 

Fans of Adam Bainbridge’s dreamily futuristic R&B disagree about whether it’s rooted in the '70s or the '80s, probably because it’s rooted in both.  In “Gee Up,” for instance, Bainbridge urges listeners to “get up” and “get down” to a disco vamp worthy of Studio 54.  But it’s the cassingle era that permeates “Anyone Can Fall in Love” (which pays homage to DeBarge), “House” (ditto Spandau Ballet), and his gently iconoclastic electronification of the Replacements’ “Swingin’ Party.”  Meanwhile, don’t rule out the '60s--in “Bombastic” Bainbridge includes John Lennon and Brian Wilson in a list of musicians for whom he “can’t wait any longer” but from whom he also doesn’t “want any more.”  Whether because they’ve already given him enough or because they’ve given him too much remains unclear.

Given to the Wild 

For this album’s first six songs and a few thereafter, The Maccabees do all that they can to sift the U2 out of Coldplay until all that’s left is a nimbus-like shimmer.  Sonically impressive, the demands of the sound also require the lead singer Orlando Butler to go all castrato and enunciate like just another instrument.  Not until Track Seven, “Pelican,” rolls around do less dreamy elements like stuttery guitars, crisp drums, and intelligible lyrics come into play.  And catchy though it is, the song also exposes Butler as the worst kind of not-too-deep thinker--one who thinks he’s deep.  “One thing's for sure,” he sings, “we're all getting older.... / Before you know it, pushing up the daisies.”  Translation: Life’s a bitch, then you die.  We know.

The Abbey Road Sessions 

Forget comparisons to Madonna or Olivia Newton-John.  Minogue’s merely scoring five top-forty hits in the U.S. while being one of the biggest pop stars everywhere else for the last quarter century makes her, if anything besides herself, the female Cliff Richard.  That comparison means, among other things, that Minogue has a voice worth hearing these in de-electronicized orchestral versions of her greatest hits.  Her voice isn’t as smooth or elastic as Richards’, but, because she’s a woman, it doesn’t have to be. The fairer sex has means of conveying vulnerability--breathiness (“Slow”), poutiness (“I Should Be So Lucky”)--of which even the most sensitive male singer can only dream.  The obligatory refurbishing of “The Loco-Motion” (#3 U.S., 1987) is the only track that feels de rigueur.

Illinois Entertainer 2012: P

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