New music! Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out recent releases from pop diva Kesha, Sydney rockers The Preatures, British likely lads Rat Boy and desert metallers Queens of the Stone Age.
New Album from a new Artist
The Preatures: Girlhood
While many rock bands revel in seedy origin stories, the guitarist and bassist of Sydney band The Preatures met at exclusive private school Newington College. A sojourn at the elite Australian Institute of Music introduced the pair to singer Izzi Manfredi, and the band came together in 2010 under the moniker The Preachers.
After building their chops in garages and backyards, The Preatures began to gain industry attention when they won the Vanda & Young Songwriter Award in 2013 for Is This How You Feel? The song received strong airplay across multiple channels and ended up at number nine on the Triple J Hottest 100 the following January. The band released debut album Blue Planet Eyes in 2014 and were nominated for a bunch of ARIA Awards.
With a sound based almost entirely around Izzi Manfredi’s distinctive voice, The Preatures come across like a modern version of The Pretenders, with super-slick production. It could be almost anyone holding the instruments in the background and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manfredi break out as a solo artist in a few years.
Somewhat reminiscent of Florence & The Machine (without the depth of passion), Girlhood is an easy listen but suffers from adolescent lyrics and a touch too much auto-tune.
Standout tracks: Nite Machine, Girlhood
Sample lyric: ‘It cost you fifty dollars but it smells like shit.’ (Lip Balm)
Verdict: 7/10 — shiny, happy music.
New Album from an Old Artist
Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
Josh Homme has always been a different sort of rock star. After rising to fame with stoner rock pioneers Kyuss, Homme disbanded the group in 1996 and joined The Screaming Trees as a guitarist and also started recording The Desert Sessions with whichever musicians he happened to be partying with at the time.
Queens of the Stone Age released their self-titled debut in 1998, but it was sophomore album Rated R that shot the band to international superstardom. Including the ode to substance abuse, Feel Good Hit of the Summer (Nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstacy and alcohol…Cocaine! — the entire lyrics), pretty much every song on the album glorified drug use, which probably isn’t a good sign for the band’s long term physical and mental health.
Admitting to being "extremely fucked up" during the production of third album Songs for the Deaf, the band benefitted from the presence of Dave Grohl on drums and Mark Lanegan on vocals, a pair of experienced rock stars who kept the rest of the band sober enough to make their biggest selling album to date. Then they went on tour, Homme hired and fired a bunch of people before settling on a bunch of musicians who were both competent and didn’t mind being told what to do.
Not to be dismissive, but Villains is pretty much exactly the album that you’d expect Queens of the Stone Age to release in 2017 — loose, funky, occasionally weird and seemingly designed for driving long distances in the blazing sun.
Standout tracks: The Way You Used to Do, Hideaway
Sample lyric: ‘Play the fool or playing God, Just for God’s sake play along.’ (The Evil Has Landed)
Verdict: 7/10 — perhaps lacking the breakout singles of previous albums, this is nonetheless well worth a listen.
Album I Expect to Suck
There is a fair chance that you know who Kesha is without ever having heard one of her songs.
After finding fame as a down & dirty party girl who once threw up in Paris Hilton’s closet, Kesha became a hero to some as she took on uber-producer Dr Luke, accusing him of sexual abuse and harassment. Because the American legal system sucks, Kesha was forced to continue working with the producer through the duration of the trial, a stress that drove the singer into rehab.
After getting clean (sort of) and recording a bunch of new songs, Kesha encountered her childhood hero on a red carpet and asked for a hug. Unfortunately for Kesha, that hero was Jerry Seinfeld, who politely refused the request on the basis that he had no idea who she was. While devastating for her, it should be no surprise to anyone else, as Seinfeld has never been known to have his finger on the pulse of pop culture, particularly the sort of disposable pop-culture that Kesha specialises in.
New album Rainbow delivers a decent line in angry girl-rock, opening with caustic track Bastards (All those motherfuckers/been too mean for too long) and following up with the screw you stomp of Let ‘Em Talk, featuring a guest appearance from Eagles of Death Metal. Oher highlights include the title track (produced by Ben Folds) and Boogie Feet, also featuring EoDM.
It is somewhat sad that many critics will dismiss Kesha without even listening to this album. Granted, she is nowhere near the talent level or Adele or Lorde, but you can say that about most artists in the top 40. The fact that Kesha fought back against the casting couch approach of the male dominated music industry shows that she doesn’t just sing about being tough, she walks the talk.
Standout tracks: Let ‘Em Talk, Bastards, Rainbow
Sample Lyric: ‘What do you get when you take Godzilla to meet your mom?’ (Godzilla)
Verdict: 6/10 — still a little disposable for my taste, but I like the attitude.
Ch-check it out…
Rat Boy: Scum
Born Jordan Cardy in Essex, England in the year of our Lord 1996, the Rat Boy story is one of self-reliance, hard work and an almost obnoxious level of optimism in the face of rejection.
Despite being dyslexic, Cardy started writing songs and releasing them on Soundcloud under the name Rat Boy, chosen when one of his friends told Cardy he looked like a rat. What a great friend!
A shortlived job at soulless chain pub Weatherspoons provided Cardy the material he needed to produce his first pseudo-album, The Mixtape. Joined by bassist Liam Haygarth, guitarist Harry Todd and drummer Noah Booth, Rat Boy began to find fame when hipster bible The NME named them the latest next big thing, which resulted in the band signing to Parlophone in 2015.
With influences from The Clash and The Kinks to the Beastie Boys and Arctic Monkeys, Rat Boy tell distinctly English stories over a hybrid hip hop/indie rock sound. The DIY approach to production results in a lo-fi, grungy feel that’s ideal for Cardy’s stories of the streets. While the inter-song skits get tiresome after the second listen, SCUM contains a surprising diversity of musical styles, effortlessly jumping from the poppy Laidback to the Beatles influenced I’ll Be Waiting and electro-funk Move.
In an era when a faux feud between two near identical popstars dominates the headlines, Ray Boy are out there making real music and pushing boundaries. If you’re a fan of musical invention, I highly recommend checking out Scum.
Standout tracks: Revolution, Laidback, Boiling Point
Sample lyric: ‘I was alright, till they took me off my medication.’ (Revolution)
Verdict: 8/10 — one of the freshest albums I’ve heard this year
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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