It’s a new year, which means it’s time for some new music reviews from entertainment editor John Turnbull. This week he checks out recent releases from soul crooner Craig David, emo pop-punks Fall Out Boy, dedicated metalheads Machine Head and Tamworth talent Sally-Anne Whitten.

New Music from an Old Artist

Craig David: The Time is Now

Many readers of this column will have a vague recollection of R&B artist Craig David. He was white-hot for about five minutes in the early 2000s, with songs like Walking Away and 7 Days. His album Born to Do It voted second best album of all time by MTV in 2009 (behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, naturally).

After this early success, Craig David didn’t go away, but rather found a moderate level of success in the UK and even released an optimistic Greatest Hits album. He collaborated with a bunch of artists including The Backstreet Boys and even replaced Larry Emdur on the Morning Show as co-host to Kylie Gillies, which is probably a bit he’ll leave out of his autobiography. Along the way, he released another five albums and toured regularly, but most of the world sort of forgot him.

Now it’s 2018 and Craig David is back. New album The Time is Now sounds a lot like you’d expect — silky-smooth R&B with lyrics about making sweet, sweet love. There are songs about relationships, social media, societal issues (in the broadest possible sense) and just how much he loves you, baby.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, then you’ll probably love The Time is Now, as it’s professionally produced and Craig David still has a pretty decent voice. For those who care less about R&B, this album sounds exactly like any other recent release by Drake, John Legend or Chris Brown — inoffensive, but unremarkable.

Standout tracks: I Know You, For The Gram

Sample lyric: “We do it for the Insta, we do it for the Gram” (For The Gram)

Verdict: 6/10 — polished and professional yet eminently forgettable

New Music from a Newish Artist

Sally-Anne Whitten: Burgundy Street

Born and raised in Tamworth, Sally-Anne Whitten has country music running in her veins. She got her start as a session musician at 15 playing with her father Barry Whitten, gaining skill and confidence as she played up and down the East Coast at festivals and local pubs. In 2000, Sally-Anne had the thrill of opening for one of her heroes when he played in Tamworth – a gentleman by the name of Keith Urban.

After releasing her debut album Blurring the Lines in 2009, Whitten’s star started to shine, with the album selling well internationally and receiving strong local airplay off the back of singles Manwrecker and a cover of the John Hiatt classic, Don’t Know Much About Love. Follow-up album Sell My Soul also performed well, with the song My Place in the World going on to become a finalist in the Australian Songwriting Awards in 2013.

Inspired by a visit to New Orleans, Burgundy Street covers a lot of musical ground outside the country arena. The freeform influence of Jazz is apparent across the album, while the blues funkiness of tracks like Watch it Burn and Take My Love is undeniable. Guest artists like Rae Moody, Jimmy Craz, and Allison Forbes add depth and nuance to the album, making Burgundy Street a pleasantly diverse listening experience.

If you’re a fan of modern Australian Country music, with a touch of Jazz and Blues thrown in for flavor, I highly recommend checking out Burgundy Steet.

Standout tracks: Watch It Burn, Misfit, Split Decision

Sample lyric: “Wash your hands till they’re clean, no evidence to be seen.” (Misfit)

Verdict: 7/10 — well worth a listen for fans of Country, Jazz and Blues

Album I Expect to Suck

Fall Out Boy: MANIA

Oh, Fall Out Boy. Beneficiaries of the social change that allowed emo to become popular, then victims of the same society that shunned and laughed at those same emo kids when they refused to ditch the eyeliner ten years later. Formed in Chicago in 2001, the band experienced major success with their 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree. As their fame skyrocketed, bass player and lyricist Pete Wentz became a teen magazine poster boy and married Ashlee Simpson, while the rest of the band seemed genuinely surprised at their level of success.

By the time the bands third album, Infinity on High, came out in 2007, the world was moving on from emo punk, but the album still sold well off the back of singles like This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race and Thnks fr th Mmrs. Subsequent releases sold well to fans but the thrill was gone, and the band descended into prescription drug abuse and weight gain.

In 2010, the band went on hiatus and singer Patrick Stump released a solo album called Soul Punk, putting most of his savings into the project. While this was less than successful, it was better than Wentz’s foray into reality TV, when he became a judge on tattoo show Best Ink. With a lack of charisma that made Dave Navarro look like punk rock Jesus, Wentz called Stump and the duo made the smart decision to get the band back together in 2013.

Released in mid-2017 (I probably missed it because I don’t really like Fall Out Boy), MANIA seems deliberately designed as a slightly heavier call back to 2005. The songs are short, the lyrics are oh-so-clever (Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea… sigh) and it’s upbeat, yet somehow all rather forgettable.

Standout tracks: Wilson (Expensive Mistakes), Bishop’s Knife Trick

Sample lyric: “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour.”

Verdict: 4/10 — not actively bad, but not great either

Ch-check it Out…

Machine Head: Catharsis

For the first few tracks of Catharsis, I was gently banging my head along with the thumping beat, quietly impressed that a band could make such authentic power metal in 2018. The guitars are fast and loud, the lyrics are dark and complex and it’s all very angry at the world. Shortly after that, I found myself longing for a power ballad, or something else to break the monotony of another massive riff-fest.

Formed in Oakland, California in 1991, Machine Head were initially inspired by Metallica, but lost interest in the band when they "sold out" and cut their hair for the Load album. Determined to stay metal, the band built a solid following in Europe, but didn’t really come to prominence in the US until they released album Supercharger three weeks after the 9/11 attacks. With the video for lead single Crashing Around You including footage of burning buildings, public opinion rapidly turned against the band, resulting in them leaving Roadrunner Records shortly thereafter.

Kicking off with the words “Fuck the World”, Catharsis stays true to the band’s all Metal, all the time ethos, with screaming guitars, thunderous drums and some vintage growling vocals from singer Robb Flynn. Unapologetically political, Catharsis often feels a lot like a punk album in tone, albeit a punk album by a band that really loves super-complex guitar riffs.

If you’re one of those music fans that think music can never be fast or loud enough, Catharsis is worth checking out — just don’t listen to it when you’re trying to chill out…

Standout tracks: Volatile, California Bleeding

Sample lyric: “Don’t blame the false elites, when Nazi assholes march the streets.” (Volatile)

Verdict: 7/10 – unrelenting heavy metal

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including 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 paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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