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Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out some new music from retro rockers The Darkness, solo chappie Liam Gallagher, Melbourne popsters The Sea Birds and funky dinosaur Bootsy Collins.

New Album from an Old Artist

The Darkness: Pinewood Smile

Currently, the band most likely to evoke the reaction: "Are they still together?", The Darkness formed in Suffolk back in 2000 and released their breakout album Permission to Land in 2003. Selling scores of copies off the back of singles I Believe in a Thing Called Love and Get Your Hands off My Woman, the band shamelessly stole '70s riffs as a base for singer Justin Hawkins' vocal hysterics.

Taking to the rock 'n roll lifestyle like a fish to water, Hawkins and his bandmates partied hard as their fame grew, chronicling the excess on sophomore album One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back! Featuring multiple songs about cocaine and one about Justin losing his hair, the album skirted the boundaries of novelty-rock and was reviewed poorly.

After spending some time in rehab, Hawkins got the band back together in 2011 to play a bunch of festivals. Over the next few years, they recorded a couple of pretty average albums (2012’s Hot Cakes and 2015’s Last of Our Kind) and tried to replace drummer Ed Graham, eventually settling on Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Taylor’s presence makes a big difference, making Pinewood Smile the band’s best album since their debut.

Moving away from the joke-metal territory ruled by Steel Panther, Pinewood Smile is a surprisingly mature rock album, except on the rare occasion where it strays into Blink 182 territory with first single Solid Gold. 

If you ever liked The Darkness, give Pinewood Smile a listen. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Standout tracks: All The Pretty Girls, Southern Trains

Sample lyric: “Fuck you Southern Trains, we’re not getting anywhere.” (Southern Trains)

Verdict: 8/10 — who would have thought The Darkness would win album of the week?

New Album from a New Artist

The Sea Birds: …blue or grey

Back in 2015, I had the good fortune to interview Mike and James from The Sea Birds and I found them to be charming and articulate. We discussed the challenges of having two vocalists (Loic Mamet and Lara Wentworth) and James’ transition from his previous life as a heavy metal drummer. At the time the band had just released EP A Short Romance and single Am I Wasting My Time (also included on this album) but had only been together as a band for a few months.

Almost two years after that interview The Sea Birds have released their debut album …blue or grey. Produced by David McCluney and the band, this album captures the free spirit of the EP but adds a layer of maturity and the familiarity that comes from playing together for a couple of years. There is also a distinct Australian flavour to the Sea Birds, particularly on songs like The Coastline, a charming take on the horror of holiday traffic between Sydney and the Gold Coast.

What makes the Sea Birds unique in the Australian rock/folk scene is the way vocalists Wentworth and Mamet play off each other, turning otherwise straightforward tracks into something ethereal and beautiful. This is particularly notable on songs like Downtown Waitress and Stay, haunting narratives rich with lament and hope.

If you have the chance to catch the Sea Birds live, I highly recommend it. Upcoming gigs can be found on their website or Facebook page.

Standout tracks: The Coastline, Am I Wasting My Time?

Sample lyric: “I can see you want to go, but you’ve left it late.” (The Coastline)

Verdict: 7/10 — mellow Aussie gold.

Album I Expect to Suck

Liam Gallagher: As You Were

You might remember Liam Gallagher as the mouthy lead singer of Oasis — a talented thug who got famous because his brother had a knack for self promotion and writing a catchy tune (in that order). I once paid to see Oasis in concert and it was not a satisfying experience, mainly due to Liam’s attitude. These are some of the many reasons I expect this album to suck.

Do you remember songs like Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall? Well Liam Gallagher does and he’s spent an entire album trying to rewrite those two songs. Present are the inevitable Beatles ripoffs and cookie-cutter instrumentation, and it will be a generous listener who can ignore just how lazy and derivative the whole thing feels.

The lyrics on As You Were are staggeringly literal (Greedy Soul, You Better Run) and it’s only through sheer natural talent that Liam stumbles across a couple of decent tunes. Based on this, As You Were is worth checking out for anyone who is still a hardcore Oasis fan, but you’ll probably end up getting annoyed and putting on What’s The Story Morning Glory instead.

There are only a handful of lead singers who have gone on to greater success after dumping their bandmates (George Michael, Gwen Stefani) — unfortunately, Liam Gallagher does not fall into this category.

Standout tracks: For What It’s Worth

Sample lyric: “I’ll be the first to say I made my own mistakes.” (For What It’s Worth)

Verdict: 4/10 — he’s still got a good voice.

Ch..check it out…

Bootsy Collins: World Wide Funk

Known to his parents as William Earl Collins, young Bootsy formed a band called The Pacemakers (not the one with Gerry) in 1968. When James Brown acted like enough of a dick to cause his entire backing band to quit, Bootsy and The Pacemakers stepped in and were re-christened the J.B.’s, going on to play on some of the singers early hits including Get Up and Super Bad.

After following the example of Brown’s previous band (and many to follow) Bootsy and the original J.B.’s parted ways with the singer, and a chance meeting with George Clinton in 1971 set the course of his life for the next three decades. The following year, Bootsy and his brother Catfish joined Parliament/Funkadelic, and took their funk worldwide.

While working with Clinton and a revolving door of musicians in P-Funk (around 37 at last count), Bootsy released a couple of solo albums and collaborated with Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads and Deee-Lite on their massive hit Groove is in the Heart.

Now, nearly 50 years after he started, Bootsy Collins is still going strong, and he’s joined by collaborators from rappers Chuck D and Doug E. Fresh to weirdo guitarist and former GnR member Buckethead.

At its heart, World Wide Funk is a party album, with Bootsy inviting a bunch of musically inclined friends around to make some noise. Enjoy it with your intoxicant of choice.

Standout tracks: World Wide Funk, Boomerang

Sample lyric: “Tonight won’t you come with me, I’ll be your naughty girl.” (Pusherman)

Verdict: 7/10 — classic funk with a modern twist

Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)

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