Albums of the week: From Depeche Mode to Real Estate
Ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales release Room 29, Real Estate presents In Mind and Depeche Mode shares Spirit. We round up the best of this week’s releases.
DEPECHE MODE — SPIRIT
It has been almost four decades since the boys from Basildon released their debut record, Speak And Spell, and while they have enjoyed huge success in the intervening years, their penchant for politically infused dark synth-pop remains intact with album number 14, Spirit. Lead single Where’s the Revolution showcases Dave Gahan’s now increasingly gravelly vocals, and owes a considerable amount to Achtung Baby-era U2. There’s nothing much to challenge a die-hard fan’s almighty devotion, but they won’t be disappointed as songs like So Much Love and Cover Me offer a Depeche Mode-by numbers approach in their sound. The record is brimming with sexy, bellowing anthems and laced with lyrics referencing the current political climate in the band’s adopted homeland, America. In these uncertain times, I guess we can take comfort in the knowledge that Depeche Mode never change.
REAL ESTATE — IN MIND
There could scarcely be a more fitting way to mark the awakening of spring than with a new Real Estate album. Fans of the Brooklyn-based band will by now know what to expect from them, and even with a change of guitarist since their last record (Matt Mondanile out, Julian Lynch in), there’s a comforting familiarity to this five-piece’s lilting slacker indie. That’s not to say there’s nothing new here, but the charming subtlety of Real Estate’s brand of pop means the difference is really for those paying close attention. The stunning Darling, for example, takes their signature sound and bends it into a slightly new form to dazzling effect. As for the rest of us — well, who cares about newness when the tunes are just this great? Wind down the windows, let the sun massage your skin and stick on In Mind. Winter will seem like a distant memory.
CRAIG FINN — WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS
Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn releases his third solo LP. We All Want The Same Things’ 10 tracks span the length and breadth of America, painting various characters into rock ‘n’ roll stories about existing in the modern world. The title of the album is taken from a line in God In Chicago, a semi spoken-word track that sits in the middle of the record and also seems to act as an interlude. Tangletown has echoes of ’80s Springsteen, musically, lyrically and, surprisingly, vocally. Finn and the musicians that contribute alongside him on this album combine genuinely interesting stories with a high degree of rock ‘n’ roll nous, delivering a compelling record that drags you in deeper with each listen.
JARVIS COCKER & CHILLY GONZALES — ROOM 29
Thanks largely to the hugely successful reunion of Pulp in 2011 and his BBC Radio 6 Music show, Jarvis Cocker is rightly regarded as a national treasure. But his career as a singer-songwriter has been neglected for some time. It is in fact eight years since his last album, Further Complications, was released, and Cocker took time off from 6 Music to try and work out whether he still had it in him to come up with new music. Thankfully, the muse is still with him, and over several years, he has worked with pianist and producer Chilly Gonzales to create this concept album about the goings-on in an infamous Hollywood hotel. Over sparse instrumentation — mostly just excellent piano work from Gonzales and occasionally orchestration from the Kaiser Quartett — the seedy, melancholic subject matter fits Cocker perfectly. It’s great to have him back and doing something different — but a warning for longtime fans: you won’t find any of the old Britpop here.
SORORITY NOISE — YOU’RE NOT AS _____ AS YOU THINK
Hailing from Hartford, Connecticut; Sorority Noise are a throwback to bands from the early-2000s mainstream emo resurgence. The record starts off in great form with No Halo, and this continues into A Portrait Of, and although there is a striking resemblance on many tracks to emo heroes Brand New, it soon sinks into a rut of melancholic repetitiveness. There has a been a spate of emo-revival bands in the last few years (such as Title Fight and Touche Amore), but there is a reason the bands that spearheaded the mainstream breakthrough of the genre (My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday) drifted away from the sound. Despite some tight musicianship and clever, heartfelt lyrics from a clearly tight-knit band, this record doesn’t quite cut it.