Gossip // A Joyful Noise // May 14 // Columbia
Depending on how old you are and how much attention you pay to music that flies under the radar you might remember the long gone days when Washington’s three piece Gossip were actually a punk band. If you do then you certainly remember the days when Standing In The Way Of Control was literally everywhere: radio, music channels, soundtracks and everything in between. You might remember when the singer Beth Ditto stood up for big girls by appearing naked on the cover of NME and turning thousands of men throughout the nation gay. If you do remember that then their fifth album A Joyful Noise is definitely something you’ll want to forget.
For whatever the reason, Gossip dropped their punk act on their fourth LP Music For Men before Ditto elaborated on that and delivered a glammed up camp fest that was her self-titled solo EP. A Joyful Noise is by no means a return to the sound that made them relevant in the first place as here we find Gossip diving even deeper into the nether regions of camp. Ditto might be an advocate for large women but on here she sings along to such mediocre pop tunes that are usually delivered by skinny and airbrushed model-cum-singer primadonnas. She doesn’t deliver any of the attitude that made her such an icon between gays when Standing In The Way Of Control came out. As a gay leaning dance act Gossip feel like sub par Scissor Sisters without any substance, memorable tunes or anything that would justify a blues punk band gone electro pop. The songs on here might have much more keyboards than they do guitars but A Joyful Noise is not exactly club friendly as none of the moments on here are true dancefloor classics in the making. Even the first single Perfect World doesn’t offer much pop bliss, instead aiming for for the generic faux-euphoria that electro pop bands do on their comeback singles. It’s sad to see a band that once brimmed with personality to become mediocre pop bores.
Before anyone thinks that things can’t be that bad right? It’s just the same good old Gossip with some keyboards thrown in the mix right? They still have tons of charisma right? How wrong are you? A Joyful Noise is produced by Brian Higgins of Xenomania fame, you know, the ones that produced all the biggest Sugababes’ and Girls Aloud’ hits. It’s visible not only in the production but songwriting department too, despite the fact that he only co-wrote a couple track on here. Ditto and co were obviously aiming for such mid 00s generic pop sound. I mean, Get A Job is surely a Girls Aloud reject. The sort of stuff that is just plain embarrassing to be caught listening to. Get Lost sounds like a mid 90s power ballad flirting with house music and yet, it’s one of the best tracks on here. Involved might be lyrically closer to what the band used to do with its chorus of “I’m not in love with you, I’m just involved” showing a certain degree of female empowerment that Gossip used to surround them with but even then, what once felt like a group of punks that would rather kick you in the face now feel like someone more settled down and having false pretenses that they’re hiding from you. Just like the album cover then. Ditto might pretend that her eyes are open but it’s not hard to tell that everything here is a disguise, one that is neither tricking nor pleasing anyone.
Forget 2006. Fast forward six years Gossip are now gay man’s Rapture but unlike New York dance punk vets, Gossip are neither innovating nor making brilliant pop music. Listening to A Joyful Noise loud is equal to accidentally coming out. It escapes me what Gossip were intending to achieve with this record but you can’t help but feel that it’s over for this three piece. The attitude is gone, the sound is gone, the appeal is gone. Next thing you know Ditto will lose all her weight and marry a man.
Coldplay // Mylo Xyloto // October 24 // Parlophone
There’s no need to look at me like that. I try my best to enjoy all kinds of music, honestly. Truth be told, at one point in my life I’ve found myself seriously enjoying most of X&Y, the album that I still think is quite alright. But sometimes, it’s impossible to not think of a band when listening to their music, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to escape the fact that Coldplay is a bunch of worthless cunts. There’s always a sense of embarrassment when stadium sized bands start believing that they are some kind of otherworldy prophets, that usually happens when album names take up some foreign words that make no sense to most of their thick fans. In which case Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay’s 5th release in just over a decade, is right up there with Zenyatta Mondatta.
Supposedly, an album about some kind of love story in the modern world between two people who shouldn’t be together. The ridiculous amount of graffiti is used as some kind of metaphor here, but let me ask, didn’t that already happen before? 21st Century Breakdown anyone? Not to say that Chris Martin and his colleagues are rocking out on this album, of course no. Mylo Xyloto could not inspire a revolution in your local branch of Tesco, never mind the world. It’s a relatively low key affair, their most acoustic based album since their debut - Parachutes. Incidentally, it’s also, by far their worst. Not enough mindless “hands in the air” moments rear their faces on Mylo Xyloto to hide the fact that when it comes to lyrics, Chris Martin could take a page or two out of Rebecca Black’s book.
That said, it does open rather strongly. After the faux baroque of Viva La Vida, an album that was a killing blow to all their ambitions of ever being taken seriously, Mylo Xyloto showcases some of their more electronic influences, courtesy of Brian Eno. Hurts Like Heaven with it’s cheese ball lyrics and Paradise, which is just about the biggest straight up pop song they’ve ever written, are some of the brighter points of this mixed album, that will probably do well with their own fans. However, if they came up with these songs when they debuted, they would be considered some kind of cheap Steps rip off, as the lack of anything that could be described as depth is quite embarrassing. Rest of the album dabbles way too much in acoustic sounds. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall is a good entry point here as the genericness of it clearly showcases the kind of sound these lazy sods are aiming for. By now, even the much discussed and liked/disliked Rihanna collaboration on Princess Of China is a welcome change. Her vocals manages to go well with the music, but at no point does she even threaten to feel an essential part of the song and amidst it all, she feels vacant and replaceable.
So the safest band on the planet have once again tried to cover some new ground and failed. Like a scared baby in a labyrinth, Coldplay peek their heads in various directions but then turn back around and carry on sitting in their safe alcove. While their willingness to incorporate new sounds in an environment, where any change is negative, could be viewed as positive, the execution of their ideas is nothing but laughable attempts at global unity. The world needs more honesty. If Bono came out and said that he couldn’t care less for african children and he’s only milking them to be able to afford another pair of sunglasses, world would be a better place. And if Coldplay gave up on making music? Heaven would be a place we call Earth.
Tubelord // Romance // October 10 // Pink Mist
Tubelord, the indie Sugababes judging by their constant member changes, were always an unaccomplished bunch. Delivering a batch of magnificent demos in 2008 they never really capitalised on their strength and their debut album Our First American Friends was merely a collection of incoherent jumpstart rhythms, geeky lyrics and, most of all, songs that lacked the spirit and passion of their pre-album material. Since then they released an eyebrow raising EP which meddled with synths to no particular effect and now they follow up on that release with a new album devoid of anything that made them good in the first place.
Romance is certainly a new chapter for this band. No longer could they be qualified as prime example of math pop, the new songs don’t even fall under their own invented tag umbrella of “pop songs for rock kids”. If Tubelord’s debut was wildly successful then Romance would be considered the prime example of a difficult second album. The so called maturity is nothing but toning down the things that made their music worthwhile in the first place, and yet, they sound even more childish with stupid keyboards all over the place. One of the worst things ever is a rock band discovering keyboards and playing some amateurish shit on it thinking they’re clever. Well fuck right off, unless you’re James Spence, get off the fucking synths!
The tightness that was once associated with Tubelord is gone, the sort of ridiculous singalongs and live cheers that show their ugly grins on this album remind me of the loose attitude of There Is A Way by Dananananaykroyd, an album that, despite having some moments of bliss, has killed the rather magnificent band. The synthpop sound of this record manages to ruin any attempts at good songwriting, Over In Brooklyn for example, one can imagine how good it could’ve been in the context of the early demos, on Romance it’s oversatiated with unnecessary elements of production that never belonged to this band in the first place. The less is said about tracks like Never Washboard and 4T3 with their lack of any compelling guitar work, the better. There’s some noisier stuff on Go Old and Ignatz, separated by the candy floss of My First Castle, but it’s all in vain. What kind of band says “our new record will a distilled and tame version of what we did before”? Might as well just say that they’re bored of their music and call it a fucking day.
Watching Tubelord evolve is like watching your favourite cat die, you we’re with them since the birth and they were your obsession but as they grow old and become senile, all the intrigue is gone, this cat will never be interesting again and you’ll find yourself kicking it out of the kitchen. The feeling I’m getting here is that Tubelord are cats on their last life. Ever since the early days people, including me, rooted for them, wished them to deliver a classic but now thanks to Romance that is as likely as Toby Hayes coming up with an electro pop album. The best thing to do now is to split up and stop ruining whatever little legacy they have left, do it boys, do it for everyone.
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead // Tao Of The Dead // February 7 // Century Media
Then again, one should not judge book by it’s cover no matter how fucked up it is. Take, for example, Austin’s And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, a band that sounds like they should’ve been supporting Fear Before The March Of Flames for the last 10 years. The truth is, AYWKUBTTOD (wtf) are nothing like that, they play adrenaline rush fueled indie verging on emo (the good kind) with added progressiveness. Weren’t expecting that were you?
It’s not like …Trail Of Dead are something new by now, they’ve been going for more than a decade and arguably had their creative peak at the start of this millennium. Tao Of The Dead is their 7th album and if anything, it’s among the poppy stuff they’ve ever done. Summer Of All Dead (…) Souls and Weight Of The Sun are such stadium fodders, I can almost feel fat naked boys with tattoos on their massive chests spilling their beer on my head. The soaring riffs, the epic drumming, the spacey production. You have my ears boys.
So while they’re in their breakneck mode, things go rather well, but the problem with half of this album is that it falls apart as soon as the band take their foot off the pedal. Middle of the album contains far too many introverted campfire experiments that wouldn’t be out of place on a Fleet Foxes record if they took more ketamine. For a band that has to offer so much energy they sure like to tone it down and enforce sheer boredom on their fans. It feels forced, as if they know that they’re the best at making music full of passion, which they are quite good at, but felt that they need to mix things up and add some completely unnecessary shit. I’m all for musical evolution but I’m also a firm believer of “if it ain’t broken…” rule. That or they should’ve found new things to add without removing the best things they can do, dicks.
Tao Of The Dead is a cracked mirror, you know what you want to see and you can make out fragments of it but regretfully, there’s too many flaws that would make it worthwhile. There’s some worthwhile addition to their canon of songs and surely, the branching out into downtempo directions will get them a new wave of supporters but in the end, if the two best songs on the album is the same song, you know you’re in a fucking trouble.