Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new albums from the confusingly-spelt Chvrches, piss-taking Eagles of Death Metal, semi-supergroup The Dead Weather and Aussie old soul Anthony Priwer.
New Album from a New Artist
Chvrches: Every Eye Open
Formed in Scotland in 2011, Chvrches (pronounced Churches) is made up of singer Lauren Mayberry, keyboardist Martin Doherty and producer Iain Cook. The name was apparently chosen to avoid confusion with religious buildings (duh) and to make the band name easy to Google — something, I suppose, the members of The The regret to this very day.
Chvrches released single Lies as a free download in May 2012, with the song gaining airplay and industry buzz, followed by their official debut single The Mother We Share in November. After signing to Glassnote Records, the band released the EP Recover and then the album The Bones of What You Believe, in September 2013.
Three years later, Chvrches have built a following around the world and released their second album Every Eye Open. Written, recorded and produced in a basement in Glasgow, this album shows how it is possible to make decent music without the use of any traditional instruments. Of course, it’s hard to make an electronic pop album without referencing the past, with Clearest Blue bearing a striking resemblance to Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough.
Somewhat reminiscent of Florence & The Machine, with a heavy sprinkling of 80’s synth-cheese, Chrvrches blend pop and electronica and take it to some surprising and beautiful places. There is also an almost unbearable positivity that runs through Every Eye Open, which has the potential to get cloying on repeated listens — but I’m not there yet.
Standout tracks: Never Ending Circles, Keep You on My Side, Make Them Gold
Sample lyric: "I don’t sleep well, laying low, never keeping up, never letting go." (Keep You on My Side)
Verdict: 8/10 — an immaculately produced album elevated to near-classic status by Mayberry’s stunning vocals.
New Album by an Old Artist
Eagles of Death Metal: Zipper Down
Forever destined to be viewed as a "side project" of Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme, Eagles of Death Metal (EODM) formed in California in 1998. Ostensibly led by singer/guitarist Jesse Hughes, EODM do not in fact play Death Metal, rather a blend of punk and alternative rock, filtered through a Pythonesque lens of satire.
Zipper Down is the fourth album from EODM, following 2004’s Peace, Love, Death Metal, 2006’s Death by Sexy and 2009’s Heart On. Much like the previous albums, Zipper Down is choc-full of cheeky alt-rock anthems, designed to be sung by drunk blokes in seedy bars after midnight. As mentioned, there is a strong vein of satire running through the album, particularly where they attempt Beach Boys-style romantic harmonies on I Love You All The Time, partially in French!
As the cover art suggests, this is not an album for children, and will probably be banned from sale at holier-than-thou chain stores like Wal-Mart. Despite the risqué packaging, there isn’t really anything corrupting on this album and the piss-take approach to traditional rock archetypes may well open the eyes of young listeners deluded enough to look up to someone like Chris Brown…
For fans of Duran Duran, Zipper Down includes a cover of Save a Prayer, although I sort of doubt that fans of Duran Duran are going to like this version. Deliberately obscure at times, EODM are a hard band to categorise, funnier than Rage Against the Machine and heavier than Weird Al Yankovic. If this sounds like your sort of thing, check them out…
Standout tracks: Silverlake, Skin-Tight Boogie
Sample lyric: "Rules are bending, still pretending. Mind expanding, never ending." (Skin-Tight Boogie)
Verdict: 6/10 — funny and musically proficient but bordering on novelty album territory.
Album I Expect to Suck
The Dead Weather: Dodge & Burn
When The Dead Weather released their debut album Horehound in 2009, many reviewers were quick to christen the band a "supergroup", because most music reviewers are lazy. It is worth noting that the band have never referred to themselves by this term, which is probably fair enough as your average man on the street would struggle to recognise more than one band member, or the name of their original band.
The recognisable member is of course Jack White of the White Stripes, one of the most popular alternative rock bands of the past 20 years. White (on drums and vocals) is joined by Allison Mosshart of The Kills on lead vocals, Dean Fertita of The Waxwings on guitar and keyboards, and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes on bass. (Quick, somebody name me a Waxwings song…)
Playing a distinctly dirty form of blues rock, The Dead Weather are influenced by Captain Beefheart, which explains their love of distortion and reverb and casual approach to song structure. If you’re a fan of the traditional verse/chorus/verse approach to music, The Dead Weather will either blow you away or annoy the hell out of you, depending on your mood. While I quite enjoyed Horehound and the follow up Sea of Cowards (although not enough to listen to them in the past 5 years), I can’t really get my head around Dodge & Burn.
Featuring a selection of off-kilter vocals, tortured guitars and lurching key changes, Dodge & Burn seems like the sort of album you would play while you were setting fire to a stolen car on the outskirts of a meth-afflicted small town. If that’s your sort of thing....
Standout tracks: Let Me Through, Lose the Right
Sample lyric: "You done stole my hat, I’m gonna take your life." (Three Dollar Hat)
Verdict: 5/10 — there is beauty amidst the chaos, but it’s buried pretty deep in places.
Ch-check It Out
Anthony Priwer: Time to Stop Dreaming
I must admit that I’m not generally a connoisseur of ukulele music, but Australian singer/songwriter Anthony Priwer is a tenacious man, so I decided to give this independently released album a listen. And do you know what? It’s not bad…
Hailing from Adelaide, Priwer (sounds like river) is influenced by artists like Tony Bennett and Roy Orbison and writes the type of songs that take you back to an older, more genteel era. Accompanied by the Deanna Djuric Trio (Deanna on piano, Tim Bowen on double bass and Mario Marino on drums), Priwer makes music that you could listen to with your grandparents without wanting to gouge your ears out with a spoon.
It’s a shame that old-timey drama Boardwalk Empire is no longer in production, as Anthony Priwer would be a perfect musical accompaniment to the well-dressed gambling and carousing of 1920’s Atlantic City.
Anthony is still working on his YouTube presence, but you can check out Time to Stop Dreaming at his SoundCould page HERE.
Time to Stop Dreaming is available now on iTunes and other digital music stores.
Standout tracks: She’s What’s on My Mind, Waiting in the Wings
Sample lyric: ‘Any man would fall for you.’ (Tell Me)
Verdict: 7/10 — old timey music, but worth a listen
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