This week, entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new albums from The Black Keys, the ever-exciting Coldplay, a compilation of Australian music for a good cause and the twentieth anniversary of an Oasis classic.
New Album by an Oldish Artist
The Black Keys: Turn Blue
You might remember The Black Keys from your hipster friends who always preferred them to the White Stripes and totally liked them before they were famous. If you don’t have any hipster friends (lucky you) you probably know The Black Keys from their hit song Lonely Boy, from the 2011 album El Camino.
The musical duo formed in Akron, Ohio in 2001 when drummer Patrick Carney met singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach. Early albums were heavily influenced by classic Blues players such as Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf, but the band didn’t really break big until the 2010 album Brothers, which won three Grammy Awards and included the single Tighten Up.
While their ultimate range is somewhat restricted by the guitar/drums/vocal combo, The Black Keys make a remarkable sound out of what they’ve got, producing an impressive range of tracks across new album Turn Blue.
Produced by frequent collaborator Danger Mouse, Turn Blue is a worthy follow up to El Camino and Patrick Carney was somewhat annoyed to be kept out of the top spot by the latest Michael Jackson cash grab.
When asked his opinion of Xscape, Carney called the album "bullshit" and carried on:
“It’s the classic story of Dan and I .... We want to have a #1 album, but Michael Jackson releases something from the grave and cockblocks us.”
Witty repartee aside, Turn Blue is another strong addition to The Black Keys discography, and an essential purchase for fans of alternative rock duos with colours in their name.
Best tracks: Fever, Bullet in the Brain, Gotta Get Away
Sample lyric: ‘I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo, just to get away from you.’ (Gotta Get Away)
Verdict: 7/10 — deserves to outsell Jacko’s Xscape by a factor of three to one. Probably not going to happen though.
Oasis: Definitely Maybe 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
'It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.'
Noel Gallagher did not write those lyrics, however they seem appropriate when talking about Oasis. To say that the young Gallagher brothers were inspired by the Fab Four is something of an understatement.
Oasis stole from The Beatles frequently and blatantly, and they weren’t ashamed to admit it. While a long way from articulate in interviews, Liam was at least honest about where the band found their sound.
Definitely Maybe was Oasis’ first album, released to much hype back in 1994. This twentieth anniversary edition includes a remastered version of the album, B-sides and live tracks spread over three discs. With a total of forty four tracks, this release shows how much promise and talent Oasis had at the start of their career.
Original album tracks like Shakermaker, Live Forever and Cigarettes and Alcohol still stand out as quality songs, with live versions and alternate takes all thrown in for good measure. Some of the lyrics are a bit dodgy, but Liam sings them with aplomb.
The selection of B-sides is extensive, with Noel solo efforts like Sad Song and D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman improving with age. Live favourite I Am The Walrus is included, amusingly demonstrating that Liam doesn’t really know the lyrics, even though the Beatles are like totally his favourite band, man.
On the issue of remastering — I am far from an audiophile. The equipment on which I listen to music is fairly standard and my hearing is within the normal range for a human being of my age and lifestyle. Taking all of this into account, I listened to the original and remastered tracks back to back and could find almost no difference. The new versions did at times seem to have a little more ‘depth’ but the changes were subtle at best.
Do the new tracks sound any better? Not to my ear. They certainly don’t sound any worse — but I have to question whether remastering is done by Audio Engineers or the Marketing department…
Best tracks: Cigarettes and Alcohol, Sad Song, Shakermaker, Live Forever
Sample lyric: ‘I’d like to be under the sea, but I’d prob’ly need a phone.’ (Take Me Away)
Verdict: 8/10 — before all of the infighting, drugs and excessive egos killed them, Oasis were a great rock ‘n roll band.
Album I Expect to Suck
Coldplay: Ghost Stories
Can you believe that Coldplay have been around for sixteen years? It seems like only yesterday that Chris Martin was droning on about how everything was yellow over a backbeat designed to induce coma.
Debut album Parachutes was release back in 2000, sold unfeasibly well and won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2002. Follow up album A Rush of Blood to the Head was released the same year and included hit singles In My Place, Clocks, The Scientist and my personal favourite (or their only good song, depending on my mood) the following:
After selling over fifteen million copies worldwide, A Rush of Blood solidified Coldplay as one of the biggest bands in the world and Chris Martin responded by becoming a bit of a rock star, in a reserved British sort of way. He went on a lot of chat shows and started dating actress Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he married in December of 2003.
Martin made a cameo appearance in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, was named ‘world’s sexiest vegetarian’ by the perfectly sane people at PETA in 2005, and appeared in the Ricky Gervais series Extras in 2006. Some critics suggest that he started to lose focus on music around this point, but 2005’s XY was the highest selling album of the year, so what do critics know?
Fast forward to 2014, and Coldplay have released their sixth studio album, Ghost Stories. It’s a concept album of sorts, dealing with the ghosts of past actions and personal pain. These themes resonated well with me, as I found listening to this album to be a painful experience.
Written while Martin was undergoing relationship difficulties with Paltrow (the two subsequently announced they were ‘consciously uncoupling’, which is apparently a pretentious type of marriage breakdown, the album is a collection of somewhat boring, middle-of-the-road soft-rock tunes. In other words, it’s a Coldplay album.
If you like Coldplay, go out and buy this album. If not, go and buy any of the other albums in this week’s column. They’re all pretty good.
Best tracks: Hmmm. One track is as good (or as bad) as another.
Sample lyric: ‘Call it magic, when I’m with you.’ (Magic)
Verdict: 3/10 — not actively offensive, more like musical wallpaper for a quiet room.
Ch-check It Out…
Putumayo Presents Australia
Produced by Putumayo World Music, this album features a collection of Australian and Indigenous singer-songwriters performing songs about Australia.
Based in New York City, Putumayo have carved out a niche producing albums of World Music from countries including Nigeria and South America and cultures including Navajo and Judaism. A small proportion of profits from every release goes to local charities.
The charity in this case is Yalari, a non-profit providing secondary school scholarships to Australian Indigenous children from remote, rural and regional areas.
While there is nothing revolutionary on this album, it’s still a good collection of Australian music. Readers could do worse than to buy half a dozen copies of this album before the next overseas trip — your hosts will probably appreciate this album slightly more than another stuffed koala.
Putumayo Presents Australia is accompanied by a kids album called Australian Playground, with 1% of profits going to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation.
Best tracks: Down Under (Acoustic Version), The Waitress, We Won’t Cry
Sample lyric: ‘Travelling in a fried out combi…’ (Down Under)
Australia is available from Amazon and iTunes, and at all good music stores. Read JT's interview this week with Colin Hay here — and keep an eye out with his interview with Archie Roach, coming soon to Independent Australia.
Verdict: 7/10 — a solid album supporting a good cause,
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