Sonic Youth, Kasabian and Iggy Pop reviewed for you this month
Time Out Bahrain staff
4/5 Préliminaires Forty years after Iggy Pop groaned ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, the weathered and leathery punk godfather finds wish fulfillment on Préliminaires. The head Stooge certainly looks the part superficially – with his mangy cocker spaniel locks and loose Shar-Pei skin hanging over knotty pit-bull bulk – but there’s real canine soul behind Pop’s 15th album.
‘King Of The Dogs’ and ‘A Machine For Loving’ tether the record, which found its inspiration in The Possibility Of An Island,a novel by French provocateur Michel Houellebecq.
Contrary to reports, this is no jazz album – cabaret, perhaps. After a decade of messing about with loud crotch rock, Pop has picked up the thread from his derided and autobiographical beatnik piece, Avenue B. synth-heavy blues-rhythm tracks like ‘Je Sais QueTu Sais’, ‘Nice To Be Dead’ and ‘Party Time’ slink and slither like elder sophisticated horndogs Serge Gainsbourg and Leonard Cohen in the ’80s.
Lyrically, little is different from the potty-minded 2007 Stooges comeback, yet couched in acoustic cocktail lounge numbers like ‘Spanish Coast’ and ‘I Want To Go To The Beach,’ the old mutt comes off as crude and kind of adorable. The spoken-word ‘A Machine For Loving’ recycles Houellebecq’s prose, ‘An Ode To A Dead Pet’, to entrancing effect, but Pop has always been able to underline man’s similarity to his leg-humping companions in far fewer words. Brent DiCrescenzo. Available for download from www.7digital.com.
3/5 The Eternal There’s something almost quaint about the way Sonic Youth compartmentalises its various muses. But this latest high-profile full-length – the outfit’s first for Matador after nearly 20 years on DGC/Geffen – is relatively straightforward, featuring moody yet driving avant-punk in the vein of 2006’s Rather Ripped.
As familiar as this disc sounds, it offers plenty of thrills. ‘Malibu Gas Station’ sums up Sonic Youth’s mastery of experimental pop: you’d have to look back to American art punk band Television to find guitar interplay as simultaneously tasteful and utterly wizardly as what Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo come up with here. A good example is ‘What We Know’, in which the axmen summon thickets of spiky noise over a steady mid-tempo groove.
But in classic Sonic Youth fashion, vocals are often a weak point on The Eternal. Kim Gordon’s breathy caterwaul works well during the high-energy opener, ‘Sacred Trickster’, but grates during the more textural ‘Calming The Snake’. And in light of the heartfelt, understated singing on Moore’s ’07 solo effort, Trees OutsideThe Academy, it’s disappointing to hear him opting for his overdressed post-Lou Reed sneer on ‘Poison Arrow’. Yet despite such rough elements, The Eternal still serves as a strong declaration of Sonic Youth’s core aesthetic – pretty impressive considering its members’ freaky proclivities. Hank Shteamer. Available for download from www.7digital.com.
3/5 West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum There just aren’t that many bands on the scene who are unashamedly rocking out like Kasabian. Near contemporaries like Kaiser Chiefs are simply too self-consciously postmodern to revel in their own sound, while the inclusive humility of post-Coldplay stadium-fillers is all very well for keeping the school run on board, but hardly makes for a transcendent musical experience. Kasabian, though, are a band following the grand ’60s musical tradition of builders in frilly shirts writing cosmic songs about metaphysics and, er, biology. And the world is a better place for it.
Although the band themselves would likely disagree, this album doesn’t mark a great leap forward for Kasabian. It’s not for want of trying – the band hired noted hip hop and Gorillaz producer Dan The Automator to give them a new edge, and current single ‘Fire’ is probably the most meat ’n’ spuds number on the disc. But the basic formula of big rock plus baggy beats, with Krautrock arrangements and one ear on Haight-Ashbury, is fundamentally the same as on 2006’s Empire. However, this doesn’t stop the record from being generally agreeable. Even the more mystifying concepts, such as Rosario Dawson’s appearance on ‘West Ryder Silver Bullet’ have a cock-eyed charm, although that won’t prevent you habitually skipping it after the first listen.
Guitarist and occasional singer (to be generous) Serge Pizzorno has seemingly assumed total control of the band’s songwriting. This is a bonus when it means tracks being built around his spacey guitar lines, such as Bravia-flogging psychedelic earworm ‘Underdog’. It’s less of an advantage when, as here, he sings more than one song on an album – the boy certainly has a great voice for the guitar.
So, while the new album, for all its moments, isn’t exactly a new milestone in rock creativity, as with the Rolling Stones, it provides a popular and entertaining live band with a great excuse to get back out on the road. And this, of course, is where Kasabian really come into their own, as the living embodiment of the great British night out – a likeable outfit, with a sharp wit, loud amps and cast-iron livers. Eddy Lawrence Available for download from www.7digital.com.