New Music Through Old Ears: Elvis Chisels Demi’s Thieves

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It’s time for some new music, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new releases from Oz rock legends Cold Chisel, British pop rockers Nothing But Thieves, pre-teen favourite Demi Lovato and the king of rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley.

New Album by a New Artist

Nothing But Thieves: Nothing But Thieves

Formed in the Essex holiday wasteland Southend-on-Sea in 2012, Nothing But Thieves play the sort of jangly English rock that recalls The Libertines with less heroin or The Strokes with less ennui. Led by singer Conor Mason and the dual-guitar attack of Dom Craik and Joe Langridge-Brown, Nothing But Thieves are driven by the cracking rhythm section of drummer James Price and bassist Philip Blake.

The band’s debut single Itch garnered critical support and received some solid airplay on the BBC, but doesn’t really represent the depth of the rest of the album.

Nothing But Thieves are a talented bunch, and Mason puts his falsetto voice to good use on Excuse Me, among other tracks. Ban All The Music has a nice anarchic Sex Pistols vibe, while Lover, Please Stay sounds a lot like a tribute to Jeff Buckley.

With a mood that builds upon repeat listens, Nothing But Thieves (the album) is a good example of a band who have spent their whole lives preparing to make their first record, and put their heart and soul into the process. It will be interesting to see how they follow up under the pressure of being the ‘next big things’.  

If you’re a fan of Brit-pop you could do far worse than Nothing But Thieves.

Best tracks: Ban All The Music, Hostage, Trip/Switch

Sample lyric: ‘What we do when the power's out, what do we do when the lights go down.’

Verdict: 9/10 — a solid debut from a band to watch.

New Album by an Old Artist 

Cold Chisel: The Perfect Crime

If you grew up in Australia any time over the past 40 years, chances are that a Cold Chisel song marks at least one significant moment in your life — whether it be your first kiss, the loss of your virginity, or the time you threw up on someone and got punched in the face.

They are also responsible for what many consider the unofficial national anthem:

The Perfect Crime is the 8th studio album from Barnsey and the band, which unfortunately no longer includes drummer Steve Prestwich, who died of a brain tumour in 2011. On the bright side, guitarist Ian Moss, bassist Phil Small and keyboardist Don Walker all return, which is remarkable considering their acrimonious history and penchant for on-stage punch-ups.

Chisel have always been as Aussie as a pie floater, with all of the drinking, fighting and shenanigans that went along with it. The Perfect Crime embraces this attitude and, as a result, manages to sound a lot like every other Cold Chisel album, but without the hits. This is not to say this is a bad album, far from it. Chisel do Aussie rock better than most, and even an average Chisel album isn’t bad for a spin around the barbie on a Sunday afternoon.

Much like contemporaries AC/DC, Cold Chisel are one of those bands who are best seen live, with the tacit admission that you’re going to see a Greatest Hits show.

You didn’t come to hear their new album and you’ll put up with them playing a couple of tracks, but you’re really there to hear Bow River…

Best tracks: The Perfect Crime, Four in the Morning

Sample lyric: ‘When the moonlight hammers on the railway bridge, everybody’s looking for a beverage.’ (The Backroom)

Verdict: 6/10 – it would be UnAustralian to give it any less…

Album I Expect to Suck

Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: If I Can Dream

When I first heard that an album of unreleased Elvis material was going to be released, I was somewhat sceptical. Mindful of the low quality cash-in releases from the estates of artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Amy Winehouse, I wondered what sort of half-assed mish-mash was being rolled out to appeal to the oldies in the run in to Christmas.

Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong. Despite including a duet with Michael Bublé, this album is awesome. Overseen by Priscilla Presley and made up from archival vocal recordings (although not necessarily undiscovered) by Elvis combined with new arrangements by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, all run through the best production technology that 2015 has to offer, this is probably the best that Elvis has ever sounded.

Kicking off with the kitchy Burning Love before getting the ladies in the mood with a couple of ballads (It’s Now or Never, Love Me Tender), Elvis really hits his stride as he covers Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and the Righteous Brothers' You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Taking a breath with the tender Can’t Help Falling In Love, and sorta-socially-aware In The Ghetto, the album builds to a glistening crescendo with the devotional How Great Thou Art and epic American Trilogy. Fittingly, the album closes with the title track and, for my money, If I Can Dream rivals John Lennon’s Imagine as a song of hope for the future.

Even if you don’t like the King (my son asked me what the weird music was) it’s hard to deny the influence that he had on modern music. Check out this album to see where it all began…

Best tracks: In The Ghetto, Bridge Over Troubled Water, An American Trilogy, If I Can Dream

Sample lyric: ‘As long as a man has the strength to dream, he can redeem his soul and fly…’ (If I Can Dream)

Verdict: 8/10 — still the King, baby.

Ch-check It Out

Demi Lovato: Confident

You may have never heard of Demi Lovato, but you know one of her songs. This one.

That’s right. Demi Lovato is at least partially responsible for Let It Go, the theme song to Disney’s mega-hit Frozen. Fortunately, this gives us a good idea of the target audience for this album…

After getting her start on the Disney Channel, Lovato built her profile in movies like Camp Rock, got her own show (Sonny with a Chance), went on tour with the squeaky-clean Jonas Brothers and bought her first house in LA on her 18th birthday. Somewhat unsurprisingly, she also struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and was eventually diagnosed as bipolar in 2011 after punching a backup dancer in the face.

While gifted with a strong voice and the ear for a pop hook, Lovato doesn’t really seem to stretch herself musically. Confident is Lovato’s 5th album, following 2008’s Don’t Forget, 2009’s Here We Go Again, 2011’s Unbroken and 2013’s Demi, and to be honest they all sound pretty much the same to me. Believe in yourself, love is awesome, it doesn’t matter what you look like…

To be fair, I’m not in the target market and the power of a positive message to teen audiences can’t be underestimated — so good luck to her!

Best tracks: Confident

Sample lyric: ‘What’s wrong with being confident?’ (Confident)

Verdict: 4/10 — inoffensive bubblegum pop.

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