New Music Through Old Ears: Miley & Haim at the Alter

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Entertainment editor John Turnbull dedicates this column to Gavin, who thinks that there are no good female artists.

New Album by an Old Artist

Miley Cyrus — Bangerz

Many of you probably expected Miley Cyrus to fall under the ‘Expected to Suck’ category, but to be honest I’m really hoping that this will be a good album.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Miley Cyrus is the daughter of Achy Breaky Billy Ray Cyrus and the pop starlet formerly known as Hannah Montana. Having recently ‘grown up’ she has taken to wearing skimpy clothes, dancing provocatively and licking anything within range of her Gene Simmons like tongue. This person is entirely responsible for you having a remote idea what twerking is.

If you ignore all of the shenanigans, she also has quite a good voice.

By far from the first artist who has used shock to sell records, Miley aims for a road successfully followed by Madonna, Britney Spears and Rihanna to name just a handful. Human nature dictates that it takes more and more to shock as time goes by and what was scandalous five years ago seems somewhat quaint in comparison to today’s behaviour.

In interviews, Miley comes across as a typical Gen Y goldfish cliché, with statements like "I feel empowered when I see my face on a t-shirt" reminding you that she is barely out of her teens and possibly not that bright.

If Bangerz had been the album of the year, Miley would have been proven a pop genius to rival Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, it’s just not that good an album. There are a couple of standout tracks, including first single Wrecking Ball and We Can’t Stop, but the rest of the album is generic pop rubbish. 

A couple of tracks cross the line into laughable territory, including the country influenced 4X4 and SMS (Bangerz), which features Britney Spears, to remind you what Miley will become in ten years if she’s really lucky. On the upside, Bangerz will sell a couple of million copies off the back of all of the controversy and now you know what twerking is.

Best tracks: Wrecking Ball, We Can’t Stop (although the A Cappella rendition above is better than the album version)

Sample lyric: "I’m not as stupid as you sound, and you sound really dumb right now." (FU)

Verdict: 5/10 — Either a marketing genius or a sexy Forrest Gump. Probably the latter.

New Album by a New Artist

Haim — Days Are Gone

When I first heard about Haim, I wondered if the name was a tribute to the slightly more talented (and significantly more deceased) member of the Coreys. Unfortunately, it seems not. They’re more like a female version of Hanson who decided to form a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. But not crap.

Made up of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, who are all in their mid-twenties, Haim are often described as a nu-folk band, which is a bit like nu-metal but way more mellow. They’ve been making music together since they were kids and, as a result, they’re cohesive in a way that only longtime bandmates and family can be.         

After releasing the EP Forever in 2012, Haim toured extensively, supporting artists from Florence and the Machine to Ke$ha, which was surely a case of the support art far outclassing the headliner. After playing at music meet-market South By South West, Haim signed a deal with Polydor records and started work on Days Are Gone.

On first listen, the album is nuanced, layered and interesting, but not necessarily a classic. It’s on the second and third listens that Days Are Gone catches up with you.  

First single Forever captures the attitude of Blondie and mixes it with the hooks of The Bangles, follow up Falling is an offbeat pop gem, while current hit The Wire is funky, catchy and accompanied by an amusing clip depicting the Haim sisters dumping their loser boyfriends.

For the record, the band name rhymes with time rather than lame, so it looks like they have absolutely nothing to do with Corey Haim. Shame, that.

Best tracks: The Wire, Falling, Don’t Save Me

Sample lyric: "Step into the fire feeling higher than the truth, I’m falling." (Falling)

Verdict: 8/10

Album I Expect to Suck

Alter Bridge — Fortress

Back when the humble and talented Scott Stapp was their lead singer, Alter Bridge used to be known as Creed. Stapp left to pursue a wildly successful solo career and the rest of the band found a new lead singer in Myles Kennedy, formerly of The Mayfield Four.

If this name seems vaguely familiar, it’s because Myles Kennedy toured Australia with Slash a couple of years ago. He also sang on tracks including Back From Cali, Starlight and You’re a Lie, displaying a solid rock voice and decent range. Kennedy also does a pretty good cover of a G ‘n R classic…

Fortress starts out well enough with some flamenco guitar into heavy rock with Cry of Achilles, which although strongly reminiscent of Metallica’s Battery, is still a decent song. First single Addicted to Pain is up next, and is fairly representative of the rest of the album. It’s not a bad song per se, but it’s somehow not as good as it could be, considering how good the individual members of the band are at their respective jobs.

While Creed could often come across as massive douchebags, Alter Bridge seem to be sincere about the whole thing. They want to rock, and they try really hard, but they’re a little like the nerdy guy who wears a Cannibal Corpse shirt to a metal club and wonders why everyone is looking at him. They’re just trying a bit hard, y' know?

While not strictly speaking a Christian Rock band, Alter Bridge songs tend to have earnest lyrics that lend themselves to religious interpretations. This isn’t always a bad thing, although it’s a widely known fact that Satan has all the best music. If you disagree, name three Christian Rock bands better than the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, all of whom have clearly stated their particular invisible friend preference.

Best tracks: Cry of Achilles, Addicted to Pain

Sample lyric: "Crying out for something more than I’ve been shown, knowing none of this is real." (Cry of Achilles)

Verdict: 4/10 — not awful, but could be a lot better considering the talent involved.

Ch-check it out…

Error Command – Psycoherance

Error Command is the electronic musical side of cartoonist Matt Bissett-Johnson. Available as a reasonably priced download on Bandcamp (the iTunes alternative that doesn’t rip you off for being Australian) Psycoherance is a six track EP made with a modified Mc505 synthesizer. 

While I’m not a generally massive fan of electronica, Brontosaurus is accompanied by a funky animated video, and Beyond the Black Hole makes food use of cute zoo animals, so you’ve got to give MBJ credit for that…

Worth checking out for anyone with fond memories of the Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers.

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