It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a listen to new releases from queen of pop Beyonce, king of metal Rob Zombie, balladeer Lukas Graham and rapper B.o.B, who has some very… interesting views on the world.
New Album from an Old Artist
Beyonce — Lemonade
Beyonce is an exceptionally talented artist, married to one of the most famous rapper/producers of all time. After getting her start with Destiny’s Child back in 1990, Beyonce eventually outgrew the trio and launched her solo career with Dangerously In Love in 2003. This multiplatinum album was nominated for five Grammy awards and included the breakout single Crazy In Love.
In 2008, Beyonce married rapper/producer Jay Z and released the concept album I Am… Sasha Fierce, a one-two punch that elevated Beyonce beyond a simple pop star to a global music phenomenon. This was the album that contained the Grammy nominated track Single Ladies, which didn’t win but did incite Kanye West to the first of many displays of arrogant douchebaggery.
Released initially though vanity streaming service Tidal and HBO, Lemonade was launched as a “visual album”, similar to Beyonce’s self-titled 2013 album. While the visual aspect of the album is almost entirely unnecessary, it did give critics the time to pick up on the fact that the album is basically a giant FU to Jay Z. Thanks to the obsessive nature of the global media, people who could not name a single Beyonce song now know that she’s angry at “Becky with the good hair” for sleeping with her husband.
Musically, Lemonade is interesting at times, but tends to fall back upon standard R&B tropes and “edgy” lyrics. Beyonce still has a fantastic voice, but tracks like Hold Up and All Night feel like they could have been sung by anyone from Christina Aguilera to Meghan Trainor. Better are more experimental tracks like Don’t Hurt Yourself and the country influenced Daddy Lessons — but it still feels like there’s a lot of filler.
Standout tracks: Daddy Lessons, Don’t Hurt Yourself
Sample lyric: “When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay.” (Formation)
Verdict: 6/10 — mostly disposable pop disguised as groundbreaking art
New Album from a New Artist
Melbourne Ska Orchestra — Sierra Kilo Alpha
Originating in Jamaica in the 1950s, the musical style known as Ska has a surprisingly rich history in Australia. In the early 80s The Allniters rocked many a Sydney nightclub, the late 80’s saw Newcastle based The Porkers changed their name from The Pork Hunts and release Skankin’ Carpark Blues, while the 90s saw the rise of the mighty Area 7, who used their Bitter Words to tell us that Nobody Likes a Bogan.
Starting life as a once-a-year side project, Melbourne Ska Orchestra became “proper” band back in 2009, albeit a proper band that has between 17 and 34 members. Conducted by former John Butler Trio drummer Nicky Bomba, MSO released their self-titled debut album in 2013, adding layers of Jazz, Funk and a distinctly Australian flavour to the traditional Ska sound.
Recorded at the ABC and Freeburgh Studios in Melbourne, Sierra Kilo Alpha takes the best elements of classic Ska and brings them into the modern age, infusing songs with an irresistible layer of passion and fun. From the driving rhythms of opening track Escher through the bouncy Funkchunk and the spacy Satellite, MSO sound like they’re having a great time, and it’s hard to listen to this album without a smile on your face.
While Ska as a genre may not appeal to everyone, there is enough variety on Sierra Kilo Alpha to appeal to those with diverse musical tastes. If you get the chance to see MSO live before they head to Europe in August, I highly recommend it — few bands can command the stage like a 30 person Ska orchestra…
Standout tracks: Funkchunk, Satellite, Nothing in the Well
Sample lyric: “Come along and join us, we can plug you in the simulator.” (Satellite)
Verdict: 7/10 — a worthy addition to any Reggae/Ska/Punk collection
Album I Expect to Suck
B.o.B. – E.A.R.T.H.
Shortly prior to the release of this album, the rapper known as B.o.B. made a statement that he believed that the Earth was flat, supported by photos from planes and high rise buildings that “proved” his claim. After being slapped down by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, B.o.B doubled down, releasing an album packed with almost every conspiracy theory known to man.
While the whole thing may turn out to be satire, if taken at face value then B.o.B seems to have some truly wacky beliefs. In no particular order, E.A.R.T.H covers topics including chemtrails, vaccinations, cloning, the illuminati, water fluoridation and the reptilian conspiracy, all presented in a wildly arrogant “I’m telling you the truth, you morons” style.
The worst offender is Fkn Science Bro, where B.o.B. sets up a bunch of straw men and knocks them down, including the hilariously ignorant question “If man evolved from monkeys, why are there no monkey fossils?” One, monkeys and humans evolved from a common ancestor, and two there are monkey fossils, as well as a host of transitional fossils. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good rhyme…
If you can ignore the lyrical content, B.o.B. is a pretty decent rapper, and E.A.R.T.H. includes some slick rhymes over some funky beats. Unfortunately, I’ve always been a fan of words, and the vast majority of words on this album reflect the stoic ignorance of the standard conspiracy-monger.
Standout tracks: Pow-Wow, Break The Rules
Sample lyric: “You really think you’re smarter than me?” (Fkn Science Bro)
Verdict: 3/10 — if you like rap and think science is all a conspiracy, this might be an album for you
Ch-check it out…
Rob Zombie — The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispensary
Born Robert Bartleh Cummings, Rob Zombie rose to fame as the lead singer for the super-heavy White Zombie, who released a number of independent EPs and albums as they searched for a record label that understood what the hell they were trying to do. Fusing influences from Punk and Heavy Metal with snippets from horror films, White Zombie released a total of four albums, culminating in 1995’s Astro Creep 2000 which featured the single More Human Than Human.
After White Zombie broke up in 1998, Zombie split his attention between music and movies, directing horror flicks including House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and a remake of cult classic Halloween. He also continued to make music, both as a solo artist and collaborating with Ozzy Osbourne and his new wife Sherri Moon Zombie.
Much like Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, The Electric Warlock is the soundtrack to a movie that only exists in Rob Zombie’s mind. Each song kicks off with snatches of dialogue from a horror film, often looped to provide a backbeat throughout the song. This is a Metal album with a capital M, which makes it almost completely unsuitable for casual listening, particularly if you have children.
Credit must go to Rob Zombie for maintaining the metal lifestyle for so long – at 50 years old he still wears ratty dreadlocks and looks like he’s slept in a hedge. He also makes very loud music.
Standout tracks: Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO, Medication for the Melancholy
Sample lyric: “She got Dracula tattoed on her neck, sunlight always makes her sick.” (The Hideeous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore)
Verdict: 6/10 — a fun listen the first couple of times, but the frequent ‘movie snippets’ become annoying after a while
Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Check 'em out!
You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Get the vibe! Subscribe to IA for just $5.