It's new music time! Entertainment editor John Turnbull reviews recent releases from boy band survivor Harry Styles, rock-rappers Linkin Park, Melbourne rockers Raised by Eagles and the angry yet devout Papa Roach.
New Album from a New Artist
Harry Styles: Harry Styles
For those two or three readers who have never heard of Harry Styles, he was once a member of a band called One Direction who met on a reality show and sold millions of albums but remained creatively unfulfilled. Like any successful boy band, One Direction were destined to break up, with the band members either going on to massive success (Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake) or relative obscurity (Mark Owen, Joey Fatone). So, which path will Harry take?
It took a lot for this release not to fall into the ‘Album I expect to Suck’ category. It helped that one hit wonders Papa Roach dropped a new disc, along with the heavy airplay that debut single Sign of the Times has received. While I pretty much hated the song at first, this heavy rotation has amended my opinion from "derivative and awful" to "derivative and not too bad".
While Sign of the Times was heavily influenced by The Beatles, Harry casts his net of influences slightly wider than the boys in Oasis. Not super-wide, mind you. There isn’t a lot of hip-hop or metal influence to be found, but if you’re looking for a checklist of classic English rock then you’re all set. There’s a song that sounds like the Rolling Stones and a couple that sound like The Kinks. The Smiths may as well be playing in the background of one track, while there is a hint of electronica that seems to be a tribute to the Pet Shop Boys on another. I’m sorry I can’t tell you the names of each song but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to listen to this album more than once.
While massive hype and an appearance in the upcoming Chris Nolan movie Dunkirk might suggest Styles is following the path of Timberlake/Williams, rather than Owen/Fatone, his musical output has a long way to go before it has the mass appeal of those ultra-successful boy band survivors.
Standout tracks: Um… Sign of the Times isn’t too bad I suppose.
Sample lyric: “I always think about you and how we don’t speak enough." (Sweet Creature)
Verdict: 2/10 — if you like music that sounds a bit like British classic rock, this is the album for you.
New Album from an Old Artist
Linkin Park: One More Light
Let me start this review by saying that Linkin Park are an awesome live band. They’ve got a depth of material that can sustain a two hour set, the band are super-tight, and lead singer Chester Bennington throws himself around the stage like a maniac and genuinely connects with the audience. Formed in California in 1996, the band captured rap/metal lightning with their 2000 debut album Hybrid Theory and followed it up three years later with the equally successful Meteora.
As the nu-metal genre became something of a punchline, Linkin Park began to reinvent their sound, dropping much of the rapping on 2007’s Minutes to Midnight. While this somewhat diminished the role of co-frontman Mike Shinoda, the band continued to find success around the world. The 2010 album A Thousand Suns started to embrace electronica, which led some of the bands early fans to become disgruntled at the perceived "softening" of Linkin Park. This feeling continued with 2012’s Living Things, but was banished with the Rick Rubin produced the 2014 release The Hunting Party.
While some have accused the band of being shamelessly commercial (the oft-repeated accusation that they chose the name Linkin Park to be shelved next to Limp Bizkit now seems laughable) I would argue the opposite: Linkin Park record the songs they want to record whether their existing fan base are likely to enjoy them or not. This certainly seems to be the case with One More Light, where the band embrace a Pop-like sensibility with super clean production and a distinct lack of heavy guitars.
There is no doubt that Chester Bennington has a great voice, but after a couple of listens One More Light seems to be lacking something crucial. It isn’t just the overall light ‘n easy vibe or the occasional cringeworthy lyric, but more a combination of many small factors that come together to form a not-quite-satisfactory whole. But Chester will punch you in the f**king mouth if you don’t like it.
Standout tracks: Heavy, Good Goodbye, Battle Symphony
Sample lyric: “But the sound of your voice, puts the pain in reverse.” (Battle Symphony)
Verdict: 7/10 — basically a bunch of songs that will sound much better live.
Album I Expect to Suck
Papa Roach: Crooked Teeth
“Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort.”
With these words Papa Roach kicked off Last Resort, their first (and only) major hit, included on their 2000 album Infest. The success of this single drove the album to triple platinum status in the U.S. and sales of over 7 million worldwide, setting the bar almost impossibly high for future releases.
Unperturbed by this challenge, the band released another seven albums over the next 15 years, including 2002’s lovehatetragedy, 2010’s Time for Annihilation and 2015’s F.E.A.R. None of these albums came close to reaching the success of Infest, although the lead single from F.E.A.R was catchy in an inspirational, Christian rock kind of way. While contemporaries Linkin Park were recording albums with Jay Z and touring packed out stadiums, Papa Roach have maintained their slot about half way down a music festival poster.
If it’s true that you can be judged by the company you keep, it’s worth pointing out that Papa Roach have toured extensively with Hinder, Buckcherry and Nickelback — two of whom are fellow one-hit-wonders and the other being inexplicably successful despite a demonstrable level of suck…
While you can still hear hints of the caustic rage that drove Infest, Crooked Teeth lacks any real bite, filled with a bunch of generic hard rock tracks trying desperately not to sound like nu-metal.
Standout tracks: Nope.
Sample lyric: “No we’re not nameless, we’re not faceless, we were born for greatness.” (Born for Greatness)
Verdict: 2/10 — remarkably whiny.
Ch-check it Out
Raised by Eagles: I Must Be Somewhere
Formed in Melbourne in 2013, Raised by Eagles attracted immediate attention for their combination of musicianship and songwriting chops. Their self-titled debut album was nominated for Best Country Album at the 2013 Age Music Victoria Awards and their sophomore effort Diamonds in the Bloodstream solidified their reputation as an Australian band to watch.
Opening with the upbeat Shape & Line, I Must Be Somewhere charts a distinctly Australian path through a genre popularly known as Americana. Including elements of folk, country, blues and rock, Raised by Eagles stand comfortably alongside bands like Fleet Foxes and The War on Drugs, telling universal stories that resonate no matter where you’re from. It’s this storytelling approach that really ties I Must Be Somewhere together, forming a narrative of dusty roads and broken dreams.
Led by the dual vocals of Luke Sinclair and Nick O’Mara, and supported by the accomplished rhythm section of Johnny Gibson and Luke Richardson, Raised by Eagles are a unique voice in the Australian musical landscape. Worth checking out live if you get the chance, the band tour fairly constantly with details available on their website.
Standout tracks: Shape & Line, I Must Be Somewhere, Gold Rush Blues
Sample lyric: “Poison gifts, given by the weak to the kind.” (Every Night)
Verdict: 7/10 — well worth a listen for fans of musical storytelling.
Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)
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