It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new releases from maturing lads Arctic Monkeys, auto-tune aficionado Post Malone, soon-to-be megastar Childish Gambino and the festival of weirdness that is Eurovision.
New Album by a New Artist
Post Malone: beerbongs & bentleys
Do you like autotune? If the answer is yes, keep reading. If not, you may as well skip to the next review now, because Post Malone loves autotune like the Pope loves Jesus. The artist born Austin Post rose to fame with the 2015 track White Iverson, the first of an almost endless stream of references to African-American culture that mark Post Malone’s career. It seems that this 23-year-old white boy from Syracuse, New York, desperately wants to be black, which has led to some critics branding him a culturally appropriating poseur.
Despite this (possibly accurate) tag, Malone had a massive international hit in late 2017 with Rockstar, an over-the-top ode to excess that references Bon Scott and Jim Morrison. It was probably the most successful track featuring autotune since Cher’s Believe and, no doubt, made scores of teens with crap voices believe that they could one day be famous.
As an album, beerbongs & bentleys is more of the same, a feast of autotune with few standout tracks and absolutely nothing that hasn’t been run through a computer half a dozen times. Malone tries so desperately hard to seem legit he comes across as somewhat sad, like the kid at the party who will take all of the drugs at once just to get attention and ends up in an ambulance. Malone’s sprawl of ill-judged facial tattoos are like his songs writ large — good for a laugh once or twice, but deeply regrettable after that.
Considering the constant drug references and the recent passing of Malone’s contemporary Lil Peep from a fentanyl overdose, it doesn’t take a prophet to predict that Post Malone may shuffle off this mortal coil within the next year. If this happens, then beerbongs & bentleys seems like a handy tool for the coroner — listen to this album and you’ll know exactly what killed Post Malone.
Standout tracks: Rockstar, Psycho
Sample lyric: “Cocaine on the table, liquor pouring, don’t give a damn” (Rockstar)
Verdict: 3/10 — the nadir of a passing fad.
New Album by an Old Artist
Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
When Arctic Monkeys (AM) shot to worldwide acclaim back in 2006, singer Alex Turner and his bandmates were barely out of their teens, all attitude and swagger. With unfeasibly long song titles and slice-of-British-life stories that evoked The Kinks, AM were a breath of fresh air in a Britpop scene that had become bloated and derivative (see, later, Oasis). Their first single, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, established a song archetype that the band pretty much followed for the next few albums.
Through subsequent releases, AM began to mature slightly, writing fewer songs about drinking and more about the state of Britain, and the disappointment of growing up. Turner took a break from the Monkeys in 2008 to record an album with the cinema-influenced supergroup Last Shadow Puppets, then returned to record Humbug, the band’s heaviest album to date. They took a punt on 2011 album Suck it and See, allowing fans to stream the entire album from their website to encourage purchase, then introduced hip-hop elements into their 2013 album AM.
After a four year hiatus (which included a second album by The Last Shadow Puppets), Arctic Monkeys have returned and they’ve bought a piano with them. Something of a concept album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino could best be described as lounge music with a hip-hop tinge. With lyrical references to consumerism, technology and entertainment as a distraction, the album is perhaps the band’s most polarizing — there is a good chance that long-time fans will hate it.
At the end of the day, credit must be given to Turner and bandmates for experimenting with new musical directions, but sycophantic comparisons with David Bowie and Leonard Cohen are probably a little early…
Standout tracks: Four out of Five, Star Treatment
Sample lyric: “Maybe I was a little too wild in the Seventies…” (Star Treatment)
Verdict: 6/10 — well-written music to fall asleep to.
World Music Album of the Week
Eurovision: All Aboard!
Oh, Eurovision. Festival of glitz and glamour, home of power-ballads, disco bangers and scads of scantily-clad Scandinavians. You either love it or you’re slightly baffled by it, often both at the same time. This year’s event was held in Lisbon, Portugal, following the 2017 victory of Salvador Sobral, the country’s first ever victory in the competition. Apparently, due to budgetary restrictions, competitors had to provide their own props this year, which led to some hilariously crap staging by some countries that will not be named.
Some viewers take issue with the fact that Australia has competed in Eurovision over the last few years and critics are right with the observation that Australia is not, in fact, part of Europe. Of course, neither is Israel and they’ve been competing in Eurovision since 1973 and have won four times, including this year for the girl power anthem/cultural appropriation fest Toy by singer Netta — who also made a political statement in her victory speech, violating the explicit terms of the contest, but anyway…
A big part of the appeal of Eurovision is the performances, which you don’t get to enjoy when listening to an album. In some cases, this is a good thing, allowing you to focus on the composition of a track or impressive vocal performance, but more often than not it reveals that most Eurovision songs are more about style than substance. Standout tracks include Higher Ground from Danish biker/Vikings Rasmussen and Belgium’s trip-hop influenced A Matter of Time by Sennek, but to be honest there are more dodgy tracks on this album than good ones.
And what of our Jessica’s humble entry, the Beyonce-esque (supposedly) We Got Love? It’s not terrible, but we probably deserved the ranking that we ended up with. There are a few hidden gems on this album that will make a good talking point in a playlist... if you’re the sort of person who still makes playlists. If you enjoy Eurovision, you could do worse.
Standout tracks: Higher Ground, A Matter of Time, Bones (Bulgaria)
Sample lyric: “I’m taking my Pikachu home.” (Toy)
Verdict: 5/10 — essentially a novelty album with a couple of decent songs.
Ch-check it Out
Childish Gambino: This is America
Known to his parents as Donald Glover and to millions of fanboys as a young Lando Calrissian, Childish Gambino is in the process of transitioning from next big thing to legitimate megastar. Hired at 23 as a writer on 30 Rock, Glover’s star continued to rise when he was cast in Community alongside Chevy Chase, but he wasn’t content with just being an actor and continued to make music whenever he could find the time. After releasing a bunch of mixtapes, a standup comedy special and one of the best reviewed albums of 2013 (Because the Internet), Glover produced and starred in the TV show Atlanta, going on to win multiple Golden Globes for his efforts.
Then he wrote this song.
Described as 'powerful, brutal and unmistakably brilliant', This is America is like a short film and includes references to Jim Crow, the Charleston church massacre, police brutality and the way that music is used as a distraction. It’s also been viewed over 125 million times in the ten days since release, which suggests that some people might finally be listening.
Sample lyric: “You just a black man in this world, you just a barcode.”
Verdict: 9/10 — even if you hate the song, the clip is a must watch.
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including 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 paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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