This week, entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new music from young upstarts The Pretty Reckless, the not-at-all Emo Thirty Seconds to Mars, the possibly past his prime George Michael and a collection of Nineties novelty pop-punk songs.

Rock on!

New Album by a New Artist

The Pretty Reckless — Going To Hell

Going To Hell is the second album from The Pretty Reckless, following their 2010 debut Light Me Up. Initially scorned by hipsters because the lead singer was Taylor Momsen from Gossip Girl, the band have toured hard and built a devoted fanbase over the last few years.

Shortly before she turned eighteen, Momsen caused controversy – and attracted a massive amount of perve-publicity – when she appeared on stage with electrical tape over her nipples.

This event demonstrates that while Momsen may not be the most informed or articulate of lead singers, she does bring a level of attention to the group that they would not otherwise receive.

Going To Hell starts out like a concept album, kicking with a triple shot of religion-bating rock. Follow Me Down is awesome in a Beavis and Butthead sort of way, the title track has a great guitar riff and teenage-agnst lyrics, while Heaven Knows introduces a touch of what may or may not be satire.

If you’re one of those broad-minded types who thinks that women can’t be rock singers, The Pretty Reckless aren’t going to change your mind. On the other hand, if you have an appreciation for classic female-fronted rock bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Evanescence and The Breeders, you could do worse than pick up a copy of this album. Or you know, just listen to it on YouTube like a proper Gen-Y.

Going to Hell is a fine hard-rocking album which will appeal to fans of bands like Guns ‘n Roses and Blondie. It will probably also annoy anyone in a patriarchal frock and a silly hat, which is a bonus.

Best tracks: Going To Hell, Heaven Knows, Absolution, Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party

Sample lyric: ‘For the love that I make, I’m going to hell.’ (Going To Hell)

Verdict: 7/10 — does what it says on the album cover.

Unnecessary Compilation of the Month

Teenage Dirtbags — The United States of Pop Punk

If you listened to popular radio during the 1990s, there is a good chance you will recognise a lot of the songs on Teenage Dirtbags.

It’s a mish-mash of one hit wonders and almost-hits featuring a random roster of bands with one likely thing in common — they could all do with a bit of extra cash.

Do you remember Bowling For Soup?

What about Crazy Town, Fountains of Wayne or Less Than Jake?

No, me neither.

They all sound sort of the same, and if you like disposable pop with the barest hint of punk, odds are you’ll find something to like on this album.

Oh, and there’s also some Marilyn Manson…

I must admit to cracking a smile when Stacy’s Mom came on, and All The Small Things by Blink 182 remains one of the best semi-sarcastic love songs of our generation. 

Summer hit All Star brings back memories of when Smashmouth used to be a thing and Last Resort pinpoints the exact moment in history that Papa Roach didn’t suck.

Among the mostly disposable cuts are a handful of fond flashbacks, like Buddy Holly by Weezer, Prisoner of Society by The Living End and No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. There’s also a cover of the Don Henley ‘classic’ Boys of Summer, made far better by The Ataris.

My main question when listening to this album was what they named it after the absolutely horrible Wheatus song. Barely any of the bands on the album were in their teens when these songs were released, and the Pop Punk subtitle is a stretch for many tracks.

Best tracks: Buddy Holly, Rip It Up, Prisoner of Society, Boys of Summer

Sample lyric: ‘Well we don’t need no one to tell us what to do.’ (Prisoner of Society, The Living End)

Verdict: 3/10 — there is no way you will listen to this album more than once without skipping tracks.

Album I Expect to Suck

George Michael — Symphonica

Oh, George. What happened to you, man? You used to be cool.

Back in the eighties, you showed the world it was alright to wear fluorescent lycra short-shorts. A few years later, you taught us that a three day growth, crucifix earring and leather jacket were the height of cool (or so photos of me from the era would suggest). Through the nineties and naughties you continued to produce new and interesting music, speak out for LGBT rights and generally became an elder statesman of popular music.

And now you’re making this middle-of-the-road lounge music drivel.  Dammit George!

I’m going to choose to remember you like this;

Just because there is a symphony involved doesn’t make an album good. Metallica did it well with S&M, The Scorpions played to their fanbase with the Berlin Philharmonic, but the less said about Serj Tankian’s Elect the Dead the better.

You’ve still got a great voice, but every song on this album sounds the same. There are some uninspired covers like My Baby Just Cares For Me and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, while other tracks are new and equally insipid. Maybe it sounds better live after a few glasses of overpriced chardonnay, I don’t know.

Look, I understand that tastes mellow as you get older. And I appreciate that Robbie Williams had a moderate hit with swing album with the ‘is-he-or-isn’t-he’ tease in the title.  But did you really need to jump on the bandwagon? I’m not asking you to put on the short-shorts again, but lose the symphony and hire a proper band, okay?

Best tracks: Nope. Not through these ears.

Sample lyric: ‘Do do do, dooby dooby do do.’ (How every track sounded to me)

Verdict: 1/10 – come on, George. You can do better than this. 

Ch-check it out…

Thirty Seconds To Mars — Love Lust Faith + Dreams

You might know Jared Leto as an Oscar nominated actor and hipster Jesus lookalike.

He is also a serious musician and has been playing with band Thirty Seconds to Mars since 1998 — back when the biggest movie on his CV was How to Make an American Quilt.

Formed with his older brother Shannon Leto and multi-instrumentalist Tomo Milicevic, Thirty Seconds to Mars toured and recorded around Jarrod’s acting gigs, leading to the release of their debut self-titled album in 2002. While the release received positive reviews, sales were less than spectacular.

And now they’re hanging out with a creative genius…

By the time the band released A Beautiful Lie in 2005, Jared Leto’s acting star was on the rise, with acclaimed performances in movies like Fight Club and Requiem for a Dream. The album was a critical and commercial success, and Leto went out of his way to make time in his busy schedule to tour with the band.

Variously described as Post-Punk, Alternative and Emo, the music of Thirty Seconds to Mars is certainly grandiose. 2009’s This Is War contained the international hit Closer to the Edge, a song about when Jared Leto sat next to the guitarist from U2 on a private plane.

Okay, I made that last bit up.

Love Lust Faith & Dreams continues to aim big, with choruses written to be sung by giant crowds in stadia across the world. First single City of Angels typifies this, with enough posturing and grandiose choruses to fill a Muse concert. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the songs are stadium-worthy, but there is certainly enough depth to warrant more than one listen.

Best tracks: Up In The Air, Conquistador

Sample lyric: ‘The silver of a lake at night, the hills of Hollywood on fire.’ (City of Angels)

Verdict: 7/10 — Actor. Rock Star. Funky Jesus. Is there anything that Jared Leto can’t do?

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