This week, entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new albums from Australian rapper 360, British rockers Kasabian, electronic funboy Damon Albarn and the enigma that is Fozzy.
New Album by a New Artist
Australian hip hop – or rap, if you prefer – has spent the last 20 years building a solid underground following, with a few acts such as the Hilltop Hoods breaking out to find broad commercial success. That might all be about to change with the release of Utopia from Melbourne rapper 360, known to his parents as Matthew Colwell.
After releasing debut album What You See Is What You Get in 2008, 360 really broke big with 2011’s Falling and Flying. Nominated in 2012 for a total of ten ARIA awards, 360 eventually walked away with the Breakthrough Artist award and quadruple platinum sales for the album.
Three years on, and at the grand old age of 27, 360 seems to have grown up.
The lyrics are darker, with more complex themes, moving away from standard hip hop tropes like "bitches" and money, towards self analysis and familial guilt. Although, to be fair, the album does contain a bonus track called Tell These Bitches, so he hasn’t entirely grown out of rap clichés.
While a talented rapper and surprisingly good singer, 360 really shines when he collaborates with other Australian artists. Living End frontman Chris Cheney guests on the harrowing Early Warning, Daniel Johns adds an ethereal hook to It’s All About To End, and frequent collaborator Gossling adds a light side to dark single Price of Fame.
With enough hooks to make the album radio friendly, Utopia has every chance to be a massive seller.
Best tracks: Early Warning, Spiral Down, Price of Fame
Sample lyric: ‘When you’re famous, you’re the person people love to hate.’ (Price of Fame)
Verdict: 8/10 — a must-buy if you’re a fan of Aussie hip-hop, a strong recommendation for anyone else willing to take a chance.
New Album by an Oldish Artist
Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots
After finding success with Blur in the early nineties Britpop explosion, Albarn turned a war of words with the Gallagher brothers into an argument about who was the best British band of the era, both of them ignoring the obvious fact that this title rightfully belonged to Right Said Fred…
When Blur went the way of most Britpop bands, and went on indefinite hiatus, Albarn teamed up with Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett and formed the cartoon electronica band Gorillaz. Fronted by an animated group of semi-simians (projected on giant screens at live gigs), Gorillaz produced three albums with hits including Clint Eastwood and Feel Good Inc.
In 2007, Albarn released The Good, The Bad and The Queen in collaboration with producer Danger Mouse and Paul Simonon from The Clash. Less successful than either of his previous projects, Albarn soon moved on to other interests including a collaboration with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In terms of sonic approach, Everyday Robots sits far closer to Gorillaz than it does to Blur, with most of the tracks having a distinct electronic vibe. On first listen, it’s not exactly bursting with hooks or memorable tracks and an attempt at a second listen is somewhat derailed when I fall asleep…
I have no doubt that this album will appeal to fans of Gorillaz or Albarn’s work in general, but for those whose appreciation stops at Country House or the Woo Hoo song, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.
Best tracks: Everyday Robots
Sample lyric: ‘We are everyday robots on our phones.’ (Everyday Robots)
Verdict: 4/10 — a polished album from a musical chameleon, but just not that interesting to my ear.
Album I Expect to Suck
Formed in Leicester in 1997, it took the band seven years to release their self-titled debut. Anchored by the successful single Club Foot, the album secured Kasabian a spot on the European festival circuit, where they quickly built a reputation as a solid live act.
During the recording of the band’s second album, Empire, guitarist Christopher Karloff left the band due to creative differences. Despite this setback, the album sold well and Kasabian continued their dedication to touring, leading to the band winning Best Live Act at the 2007 NME Awards.
While Kasabian are no doubt a great live act, their recorded output has been mixed in quality.
Many of the songs on 48:13 sound the same, which is a lot like the Kaiser Chiefs with a dash of The Strokes thrown in. One song sounds pretty much like the next, but if you like a bit of spiky guitar over faux-insightful lyrics, then you could probably do worse.
The title of the album refers to its duration, which is handy if you have less than an hour to live. But honestly, if you have less than an hour to live, I wouldn’t spend it listening to Kasabian.
Best tracks: Clouds, Eez-Eh
Sample lyric: ‘Life so simple when you’re with me, cause when we’re together, I’m in ecstasy.’ (Bumblebee)
Verdict: 5/10 — all a bit generic, really.
Ch-check It Out…
Fozzy: Lights Go Out
Chris Jericho is a man of many talents.
Rock star. Podcaster. Professional wrestler.
While the last of these may cause you to raise an eyebrow, let me assure you that this is far more substantial than your average Hulk Hogan Album.
Initially a cover band, they soon dropped the comedy surname and focused on finding their own sound, which turned out to be a sort of Metallica/Iron Maiden/Journey hybrid, with a good dash of pro-wrestling style showmanship to bring it all together.
Fozzy’s 2005 album All That Remains featured guest appearances from such metal luminaries as Zakk Wylde, Myles Kennedy and Marty Friedman, and sold reasonably well off the back of single Enemy and canny co-promotion with the WWE.
Almost ten years later, Jericho splits his time between rocking out with Fozzy and sorta-but-not-really-pretending to beat the crap out of overly muscled men in skin tight lycra. He has managed to avoid killing or permanently injuring himself with either pastime, which is a lot more than can be said for many of his contemporaries…
Lights Go Out is the first single from the new album Do You Wanna Start a War, due out 25 July.
Check it out if you like heavy music — or if you’re a hipster looking to like something ironic.
Sample lyric: ‘When the lights go out and the walls come down.’
Verdict: 7/10 — probably Fozzy’s best song to date.
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