New Music Through Old Ears — Iggy’s Black Cat; 1975

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It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a listen to new releases from punk godfather Iggy Pop, Australian funksters The Cat Empire, metalheads Black Stone Cherry and British rockers The 1975.

New Album from a New Artist

The 1975 I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It

Formed in Cheshire, England in 2002 while the band members were attending Wilmslow High School, The 1975 play unashamedly retro alternative rock, evoking 80's electronic acts like Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys flavoured with seventies punk and rock influences.

After releasing a handful of EPs and generating a buzz amongst the British hipster music press, The 1975 released their self-titled album in 2013.

With a vocal delivery that evokes David Bowie and Peter Gabriel, lead singer Matthew Healy has the swagger (and dodgy haircut) of a young Michael Hutchence but lacks the natural charisma to really pull it off.

This is not to say that he’s a bad frontman, more that he seems to be trying a little too hard to be cool, although not to the extent of dickbags like Julian Casablancas from the Strokes.

Now that I’ve got all of the lazy comparisons out of the way, I can say that The 1975 will appeal to fans of Britpop and electronica, with lyrics about issues important to young men everywhere; sex, drugs, disillusionment and rock‘n roll. There are some nice hooks to be found through the album, and it will be interesting to see how the band evolves over the next few years.

Like Oasis in their prime, there is nothing particularly new or exciting about The 1975, but they’re still worth a listen if you like this sort of thing …

Standout tracks: The Sound, UGH

Sample lyric: ‘The green is turning brown, and I just look pathetic now.’ (She’s American)

Verdict: 6/10 — a hint of brilliance buried under layers of teenaged hubris

New Album from an Old Artist with a New Band

Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression

Once described as looking like a sock stuffed with walnuts, James Osterburg Jr has been making music since the early Sixties. One of his earliest bands was called The Iguanas, and it was here that Iggy found inspiration for his stage name. In 1967, Iggy formed what was to become his defining band, originally known as The Psychedelic Stooges.

With brothers Ron and Scott Asheton on guitar and drums and Dave Alexander on bass, Iggy was inspired by artists like Jim Morrison to push the boundaries of on-stage behaviour to the limit.

Perennially bare-chested with a musculature that seems to have been carved out of wood, Iggy prowled the stage, rolled around on broken glass and often stage-dived into the audience, sometimes resulting in a painful landing as the surprised crowd parted, being somewhat new to the concept of stage-diving.

Unafraid to take out “little Iggy” on stage, the Stooges attracted a reputation as being one of the most dangerous bands in the world, which only spurred Iggy on to new excesses.

After struggling with heroin addiction through the early Seventies, Iggy disbanded the Stooges in 1974 after the band got in a brawl with a group of bikers. If there was a Yoko in this breakup, it was none other than David Bowie, who produced the Stooges seminal album Raw Power and reportedly encouraged Iggy to break out on his own.

Pop spent the Seventies and Eighties releasing solo albums, including the 1986 success Blah Blah Blah, featuring the single Real Wild Child.

Post Pop Depression sees Iggy teaming up with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), and the result is pretty much what you’d expect; droning, heavy riffs with Iggy’s patented wail over the top. Fun in an experimental sort of way, you don’t finish listening to the album and immediately want to hear what they do next; rather you hope for the next QOTSA album and remember the magic that Iggy and Bowie used to make together…  

Standout tracks: American Valhalla, Chocolate Drops

Sample lyric: ‘Garish and overpriced, glittering champagne on ice.’ (German Days)

Verdict: 7/10 — not as good as the best of Iggy or QOTSA, but an interesting experiment all the same

New Album from an Old Artist

The Cat Empire Rising With the Sun

The Cat Empire first built a following as a live band playing the cafes and dives of Melbourne, originally as a three piece featuring Felix Riebl on percussion and vocals, Ollie McGill on keyboards and Ryan Monro on double bass. In 2001, trumpter Harry James Angus joined the band and their fan base continued to grow off the back of blistering live performances.

Two years later, the band released their self-titled debut album, which included the underground hit Hello.

In 2005, The Cat Empire released their second album Two Shoes, recorded in Cuba. Their time in the fading communist nation had a notable effect on the band, and their music adopted a definite Latin influence. Of course, the band remained resolutely Australian, as reflected by the none-more-Aussie Car Song, written by Harry and released as the album’s second single.

Through subsequent albums Cities (2006) and So Many Nights (2007) the band continued to grow, mixing familiar upbeat tunes with more melancholic tracks like No Longer There.

Having built a reputation as a something of a “party band”, new album Rising With The Sun sounds surprisingly subdued. While far from a bad album, the Cuban/soul/jazz influenced sound is smooth and pleasant, but lacks much of the urgency and cutting social commentary that marked previous albums.

There are no obvious breakout singles on this album, which makes it fine for putting on in the background at a weekend BBQ but less likely to get a party started.

With influences from around the world and exceptional musicianship, The Cat Empire are always an act that bear watching. Rising With The Sun may not be their best album, but I’m willing to bet that it sounds even better live — if you get the chance to see The Cat Empire in concert, do yourself a favour and check them out.

Standout tracks: Blasting Away, Daggers Drawn

Sample lyric: ‘Don’t beg for mercy, what’s done is done.’ (Daggers Drawn)

Verdict: 6/10 — solid album lacking a breakout single

Ch-check it out…

Black Stone Cherry Kentucky

When we last heard from Southern hard rock band Black Stone Cherry, they were signed to Roadrunner records and singing songs about having fun and smoking weed. 2014 album Magic Mountain received somewhat lackluster reviews (at least from me) and was derided for a lack light and shade — pretty much every song is about getting high.

There were some decent party tunes to be found amidst the fog, but overall they were a band that appealed to a certain demographic.

Two years later, Black Stone Cherry have split with Roadrunner and signed with Mascot Label Group. Based on some of the lyrics on Kentucky they’re still smoking a fair bit of weed, but they’ve added a layer of diversity to their sound and it’s made quite a difference. Where every song on Magic Mountain sounded pretty much the same, there is a remarkable amount of variety on Kentucky.

Longtime fans concerned that BSC have softened or sold out shouldn’t worry, as Kentucky still contains tracks about getting high, drinking beer and riding in pickup trucks. On the other hand, it also includes songs about income inequality (The Way of The Future), suicide (Hangman) and a pretty decent cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic War.

The change in record labels has given Black Stone Cherry a new lease on life, expanding their horizons from party tunes to something a little closer to the politically conscious rock of bands like Coldplay and Rage Against the Machine. Now there’s a strange comparison …

Standout tracks: Cheaper to Drink Alone, Feelin’ Fuzzy, The Rambler

Sample lyric: ‘The trees keep laughing as they hit the ground. They know something we don’t…’ (Feelin’ Fuzzy)

Verdict: 8/10 — good old-fashioned Southern rock with a couple of standout tracks

Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Check 'em out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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