It’s been a long time since entertainment editor John Turnbull rock ‘n’rolled, so here are some new music releases for your listening pleasure.
Bumper Re-Release/Cash-In of the Week
Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (Super Deluxe)
I’m going to be honest and confess that Appetite for Destruction is one of my favourite albums of all time — one of those releases that perfectly encapsulates a moment in history. That moment was 1987 and I was 13 years old, which means that this album was released 31 years ago and, suddenly, I feel really old…
This super deluxe edition runs for three-and-a-half hours and features 51 tracks, including the original album (supposedly remixed, but sounds exactly the same to me), alternate takes, demos and live versions. It also includes almost the entirety of mini-album G N’R Lies, with the exception of homophobic, misogynistic, racist ballad One in a Million, which seems to have been erased from the timeline.
In terms of new stuff, this Super Deluxe has one or two songs that you probably haven’t heard, notably ‘lost’ album track Shadow of Your Love. Upon listening it quickly becomes apparent why this was a lost track, because it’s incredibly derivative of other songs on the album (the opening riff is identical to Welcome to the Jungle) while also sounding uncomfortably like Mötley Crüe. It also has a couple of early versions of November Rain, which are interesting, but not as good as the version that eventually ended up on Use Your Illusion.
For hardcore fans, the inclusion of the 1987 live gig at the Marquee Club in London is significant — the first international tour for the band and a time before most of them hated each other. At the end of the day, the Super Deluxe edition of Appetite for Destruction is an interesting curio for true fans, but there really isn’t anything on here that you’ll add to a playlist over the original versions.
Standout tracks: Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Patience
Sample lyric: “I used to love her, but I had to kill her” (Used to Love Her)
Verdict: 8/10 — still a great album, but the ultimate edition doesn’t really add much.
New Album from a New Artist
Amy Shark: Love Monster
Amy Shark is one of those artists loved by hipsters and lauded by critics, but has thus far failed to really crack the mainstream. There is a fair chance that you already know a couple of Amy Shark songs, but had no idea that she sung them — as I discovered when I first listened to Love Monster. Case in point is the evocative ballad I Said Hi, which addresses the eternal struggle of the unknown artist — when is it time to give up on your dreams?
Born Amy Louise Billings, Gold Coast singer/songwriter Amy Shark first gained attention in 2016 with breakout hit Adore, which placed second on the 2016 Triple J Hottest 100. Combining intelligent lyrics and a confessional style, Shark essayed a brilliant cover of Silverchair’s Miss You Love on JJJ’s Like a Version, building local love while appearing on talk shows hosted by the likes of James Corden and Jimmy Fallon.
If you appreciate Australian singer/songwriters like Sia, Sarah Blasko and Courtney Barnett then I highly recommend checking out Love Monster. Amy Shark is one of the best new Australian talents of the last ten years.
Standout tracks: Adore, I Said Hi, Psycho
Sample lyric: “You’ve been asleep while I’ve been in hell” (I Said Hi)
Verdict: 8/10 — a rising talent to watch.
New Album from an Old Artist
Panic! At the Disco: Pray for the Wicked
When I saw this album in the “new release” section I was surprised — was Panic! at the Disco still a thing? I had assumed that they’d quietly faded from existence as the world realised exactly how derivative and disposable their music was, despite their ability to fit a lot of words into a song title.
Formed in Las Vegas in 2004, Panic! At the Disco rode the coattails of other emo pop-punk bands, like Fall Out Boy, to moderate success with tracks like I Write Sins Not Tragedies and The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage. Early in the band’s career, the spectre of creative differences emerged, leading to the departure of founding members Ryan Ross and Jon Walker (both guitarists) leaving singer Brandon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. Not too long after that, Urie kicked Smith to the curb, making Panic! a one-man band in the tradition of Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Pray for the Wicked is the sixth studio album from Panic! and demonstrates a growing level of maturity combined with a clear desire to recreate the glory days. Urie has an undoubtedly theatrical bent (enhanced by a run on Broadway in Kinky Boots), which works well on over the top tracks like High Hopes, but less well on more serious songs.
While entertaining, Pray for the Wicked is the definition of disposable pop. I had to listen to the album three times to form an opinion about it and, apart from the lead single, it seems the album is a little short on inspiration.
Standout tracks: High Hopes, Say Amen, Silver Lining
Sample lyric: “Mama said, burn your biographies, rewrite your history” (High Hopes)
Verdict: 6/10 — a great single does not necessarily mean a great album.
Album I Expect to Suck
Known to his parents and the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation as Aubrey Drake Graham, the artist known as Drake is one of the highest-selling singers in the world, despite his tendency to release the same exact same album over and over again. He released his debut album Thank Me Later in 2010, then released the same album re-titled Take Care in 2011 and, again, (ironically) as Nothing Was the Same in 2013.
I kid, of course, but it’s hard to argue that Drake’s songs don’t all sound identical. He sets up a smooth beat, talk/sings underneath it and makes everyone feel good, unless you’re the sort of person who likes a bit of depth and complexity in their music. As an example, compare singles God’s Plan and I’m Upset from Scorpion — they’re basically the same boring-ass song but one clip stars Jay and Silent Bob and is therefore marginally more entertaining.
There is no doubt that Drake is an awesome human being, as reflected in the clip for God’s Plan, where he gives away $1 million (of the production company’s money) to people who really need it. It’s a heartwarming clip to be sure, but the song itself is immediately forgettable.
I realise that, by writing this review, I am attracting the ire of rabid Drake fans the world over and if any of them are as committed as that woman who got his name tattooed on her forehead, perhaps I should be worried. But then again, Drake is all about love and understanding and who can’t get behind that? Me.
Standout tracks: I’m Upset (for the video clip)
Sample lyric: “I’m a bill printer, I’m a grave digger” (Nonstop)
Verdict: 4/10 — the same album again, but Drake fans will be happy.
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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