New Music Through Old Ears: Kurt, Adele, Justin and Daisies

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It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull returns to take a listen to new releases from soul diva Adele, grunge maestro Kurt Cobain, pop scrotum Justin Beiber and metal “supergroup” The Dead Dasies.

New Album from a New Artist

Adele – 25

WHEN ADELE ATKINS released her debut album 19 in 2008, she attracted positive reviews (particularly in her native UK) and won Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Performance.

Her sophomore album 21 shot her to global fame, driven by an amazing voice and soul-influenced hits including Someone Like You and Rolling in the Deep.

After receiving a mountain of accolades, including 6 Grammys, 2 Brit Awards, and 3 American Music Awards, 21 went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide, going 16 times platinum in the UK.

Adele followed this up with the theme from Skyfall in 2013, then took a 3 year hiatus during which time she had a baby. As pressure from fans and record company execs continued to grow, Adele fought writers block to produce new album 25, and the new album is equal parts beautiful and underwhelming.

The production process for 25 was somewhat troubled, with collaborations with artists including Damon Albarn and Sia left on the cutting room floor, leading to Albarn declaring the new album “middle of the road”.

Despite Albarn’s protestations, 25 achieved the impressive feat of becoming the fastest selling album of all time. To take this title she knocked N’Sync out of the top spot, which probably doesn’t bother Justin Timberlake but may make Joey Fatone cry.

While 25 showcases Adele’s beautiful voice, it seems to lack some of the passion that drove previous albums, missing the massive sing-along hits of 21. This is not to say that 25 is a bad album, but fans hoping for another Rolling in the Deep are likely to be disappointed.

Best tracks: When We Were Young, Hello

Sample lyric: ‘You look like a movie, you sound like a song.’ (When We Were Young)

Verdict: 7/10 – I hate to say it, but Damon Albarn is right…

New Album from the estate of an Old Artist

Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck

Born in Aberdeen, Washington and 1967, Kurt Cobain never wanted to be the voice of a generation. He formed the band Nirvana with bassist Kris Novoselic in 1985, and rose to worldwide fame in 1991 with the mega-hit Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was too much, too fast, and Cobain struggled with stress related stomach problems which he self-medicated with heroin. Rebelling against the popular acclaim, Cobain wrote the anti-commercial In Utero and recorded what was to be his final album, the haunting Unplugged in New York, released shortly after his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Seattle in 1994. He was 27 years old.

Taken from the documentary of the same name, Montage of Heck trawls through unreleased material from the Cobain archives, including song sketches, musings and demo versions of songs that would later appear on Nirvana albums. As you would expect, this results in songs of variable quality, and it’s hard to believe that Cobain would have let this material see the light of day if he were still around.

On the upside, you’ve got tracks like Clean Up Before She Comes and Been A Son, which give interesting insights into the tracks they eventually became, along with glimpses of Kurt before fame crushed his spirit.

Also fascinating are a couple of spoken word pieces, particularly Aberdeen, where Cobain describes himself as,

“an under-developed, immature, fat little dude”

and talks about his troubled upbringing, being passed between relatives and unwilling parents, and his early obsession with marijuana. Less successful (and sometimes outright annoying) are throwaway tracks like The Yodel Song and Beans, and you really get the feeling that the producers took an “include everything” approach rather than being selective based on musical quality.

While this is an interesting album for hardcore Nirvana fans, it really has nothing to offer the casual listener. Even fans are likely to struggle through multiple listens without skipping tracks, which would probably be true of the early unreleased work of any popular artist.

Best tracks: Clean Up Before She Comes (demo), Been A Son (demo), Burn The Rain

Sample lyric: ‘You can’t change me, change me, change me.’ (You Can’t Change Me)

Verdict: 6/10 – an interesting curio rather than a listenable album

Album I Expect to Suck

Justin Bieber – Purpose

For many people, Justin Bieber is the worst thing out of Canada since Celine Dion. For others (mainly girls under 12, evidently) he is the second coming of Jesus, walking on water while he pisses in a mop bucket and abuses his fans for clapping out of time. Quite possibly one of the worst living celebrities not named Kardashian, Bieber has built a career on generic pop music and being an arrogant little douche, but still gets invited on Ellen because talk shows have no moral compass.

After being discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun on YouTube, Bieber released his first EP My World in 2009, followed by album My World 2.0 in 2010. As his star began to rise Bieber shamelessly released the same material again and again, with remixes and acoustic versions tricking his poor obsessed fans into buying the same track multiple times. By the time he reached his second album he was already cashing in, recording the risible Christmas album Under the Mistletoe in 2011.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Biebs has released Purpose, his most successful album to date, with single What Do You Mean going to number one around the world. He has also worked to rehabilitate his image, spouting insincere apologies for his behaviour whenever he gets the chance. To my ear, it’s not his behaviour that he should be apologising for, it’s his music.

If you are a True Belieber, this will be the best album since Bieber’s last one. For everyone else, it’s a slice of over-produced generic pop, disposable and empty. There is so much better music in the world than this.   

Best tracks: Nope

Sample lyric: ‘What do you mean, ooh, ooh, ooh.’ (What Do You Mean)

Verdict: 1/10 – Justin Bieber, nobody f**king needs you…

Ch-check It Out…

The Dead Daisies – Revolucion

The word "supergroup" is thrown around a lot, often by lazy music writers like me. Originally formed in 2012 by Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens and Davy Lowy from Mink, the revolving door membership has included former members of Guns ‘n Roses, The Cult, Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones, Motley Crue, Cold Chisel and Nine Inch Nails. It’s worth pointing out that you may not actually recognize the names of these musicians, as we’re talking about Bernard Fowler from the Stones and Frank Ferrer from GnR, as opposed to the Keith Richards / Axl Rose collaboration that we’ve all been hoping for.

The Dead Daises launched their self-titled debut album in 2013, including the single Lock ‘n Load, co-written by Slash. While only moderately successful from a sales point of view, the album kicked off an extended tour which included supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd and playing on the Kiss Kruise, which is either hell on earth or freaking awesome depending on your perspective. The group were also the first big rock band to play in Cuba after the Obama administration relaxed trade restrictions in early 2015.

2015 sees the release of the Dead Daisies second full length album Revolucion, with Jon Stevens replaced by singer John Corabi. With a passable but not outstanding rock voice, Corabi briefly fronted Motley Crue when they kicked Vince Neil out for being a dick, and has also played with bands including Ratt, Union and Brides of Destruction.

The only songs that really stand out on Revoucion are those that sound like other bands, like the Aerosmith influenced Mexico and the sounds-a-lot-loke-Barnsey Empty Heart. While not a terrible album, Revolucion is derivative, generic hard rock, suitable for those who long for a time when hair metal ruled the airwaves.

Best tracks: Empty Heart, Mexico

Sample lyric: ‘Was it something I said that made you walk away?’ (Was It Something I Said)

Verdict: 6/10 – only for people who think music reached its creative peak in 1995

Did you enjoy what you just read? Well, 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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