4/5 Cosmic Egg So many things have changed in the Wolfmother camp since the release of their self-titled debut (most obviously that two thirds of the band that made the record quit acrimoniously in 2008), and yet we’d defy anyone to even notice. From the opening of ‘California Queen’, Cosmic Egg’s first track, it just sounds so much like, well, Wolfmother: distorted organ, wah-guitar, tempo changes, lyrics about mystic hazes and so on. Similarly, first single ‘New Moon Rising’ is a classic slice of ’Mother rock (meaning, yes, it sounds a lot like ’70s rockers Blue Cheer), but then the last thing anyone wants to hear from Wolfmother is a wild swerve away from what they do best.
Frontman/founder Andrew Stockdale’s also got some new pieces of guitar equipment: his octave pedal gets a good workout in the rockin’ ‘Sundial’ and the title track reimagines The Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ as a glam-rock stomp, while ‘Pilgrim’ could be Status Quo circa ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ (dig that psychedelic chorus!). Naturally there are moments where the band get their Zep on: ‘10,000 Feet’ (which, sadly, doesn’t appear to be about centipedes) has ‘Kashmir’-style cellos huffing away in the bottom end before the coda turns into the best Helmet song they never wrote, and the slow-building ‘In The Morning’ has some of Stockdale’s best Robert Plant-isms.
Then again, the drab power ballad ‘Far Away’ was clearly knocked up in an afternoon to make up the numbers, and it’ll take more than some off-beat guitar bursts to convince The Rolling Stones’ lawyers that ‘White Feather’ isn’t a blatant steal from ‘Start Me Up’. However, Cosmic Egg is a worthy successor to the band’s debut, with all the strengths and weaknesses that it suggests. Andrew P Street Available online.
4/5 Glitter and Doom It begins with a sound akin to a skunk hawking up a furball, features a ballad so moving it will make spines tingle within a two-mile radius and finishes with an entire CD of between-song patter about rats’ teeth and vultures. You don’t get that with Robbie Williams. This is the paradox of Tom Waits. For some he is too weird, too wild, too damn Waits to handle, yet at the same time he is one of the most charismatic and straightforwardly entertaining live artists you’re ever likely to hear.
While his previous live albums have placed music and conversation together in one indistinguishable Waitsian jazz/stand-up comedy soup (ie the beyond-laconic Nighthawks at the Diner), Glitter and Doom has taken the forced-separation route: pick disc one for uninterrupted junkyard blues and bewilderingly tender crooning; choose disc two for trivia and lies dredged from the back pages of The Fortean Times, and delivered sans songs with the impeccable timing of a seasoned professional still in love with the stage and his audience. While the tunes – taken from 10 shows on his 2008 tour – are sometimes spellbinding, particularly the ‘Get Behind the Mule’/’Fannin Street’/’Dirt in the Ground’ triptych and an outstandingly surreal ‘Circus’, it’s the second-disc musings that really add value. Waits hinted at this sort of thing on the spoken-word ‘Bastards’ tracks of his Orphans set, and here it reaches its gloriously illogical conclusion. Step this way for ‘Tom Tales’ about Spam, spiders, lost bags, Oklahoman law and the smell of the moon. Peter Watts Available online.
3/5 Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City Ghostface’s latest is an R&B album, but knowing that still didn’t prepare us for the jealousy and vulnerability stoking this supposedly thick-skinned gangsta’s sordid soul platter. It’s passion and paranoia that steer Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City.
A large slate of guest crooners, including Fabolous and Estelle, gamely play along with the Staten Island MC’s lovelorn script, joining in dialogue with an enraged Ghostface, who’s livid with the cable guy bedding his girl (‘Guest House’) when he’s not atoning for his past misdeeds (‘Do Over’, ‘Lonely’).
But just because he steers clear of his usual drug tales doesn’t mean this is prettied up. The certifiably not-safe-for-work video for ‘Stapleton Sex’, for example, isn’t nearly as raunchy as the explicit verses.
While it’s easy for hardcore Wu-Tang fans to dismiss the disc as too soft, his ample supporting role on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II can hold over the haters until Ghostdini’s next delightfully demented concept record. Areif Sless-Kitain Available online.
4/5 Hunting My Dress Every now and again, something lovelier than the family kitten will leap into your lap. The UK debut from US émigrée Hoop is just such a surprise. Alluringly warm it may be, but it’s far from fluffy and is utterly incapable of outstaying its welcome. Hoop’s name might be familiar to Elbow fans; Guy Garvey was an early champion of the gifted singer-songwriter and lends his soft-scuffed soul tones to ‘Murder of Birds’.
This gorgeous record will inevitably attract comparisons with Bat for Lashes (for its glittering, pagan sensuality), My Brightest Diamond (for the crystalline operatics) and with Kate Bush (for the burnished beauty of some of its arrangements), but Hoop’s roots are in the folk round-singing tradition rather than in pop, and her spirit and vigour are very much her own.
‘LA is hot as f***,’ she observes on ‘Bed Across the Sea’, which suggests CocoRosie backing Tom Waits in the Australian Outback, and when she sings of ‘The shape of home-baked bread’, you can almost smell it. Devastatingly delicious. Sharon O’Connell Available online.