Album reviews: Manic Street Preachers prove national treasure status
Manic Street Preachers aim to prove their worth with their greatest hits compilation, while Megadeth show their strength with their 13th offering. But can newcomers Rizzle Kicks and Joker make their mark too? Shereen Low finds out
It's been 21 years since James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore and the late Richey Edwards, also known as Manic Street Preachers, released debut single Motown Junk.
To celebrate the milestone, the outspoken Welsh rockers release National Treasures - a collection of all 38 singles spanning an impressive 10 albums.
Critics may view the title as a little arrogant but the band certainly have the songs to back up the claim.
Stunning signature tunes such as Design For Life, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and Motorcycle Emptiness are supported by tracks ranging from the vitriolic Masses Against The Classes to poignant ballad The Everlasting with plenty of direction changes in-between.
A must-have purchase.
Megadeth - Th1rt3en
The band's original bassist Dave Ellefson is back on board for the first time in more than a decade for their 13th studio release. Opening track Sudden Death, initially released for the Guitar Hero game, fits that role perfectly and is enough to loosen the fingers of any wannabe axe-wielding metal-head. Public Enemy No. 1, a powerful first single, tells the story of Al Capone, and other highlights include Fast Lane, Black Swan, the menacing Millennium Of The Blind and 13, the album's finale. Overall, Th1rt3en is strong, varied and shows Megadeth are still a force to be reckoned with.
(Review by Mike Fletcher)
Rizzle Kicks - Stereo Typical
Brighton rapping duo Rizzle Kicks exploded onto the scene with breakthrough single Down With The Trumpets, and their debut album continues in a similarly swaggering vein. Dreamers gets things off to a stunning start, while When I Was A Youngster is a charming paean to wasted ambition. Miss Cigarette is another standout, while Travellers Chant is almost an instant classic, all soaring soul and sly downbeat rhythms. Jordan "Rizzle" Stephens and Harley "Sylvester" Alexander-Sule bring a fresh outlook to the table, ensuring a debut that's far from stereotypical. All in all, Stereo Typical is a sharp, snappy and assured beginning.
(Review by Simon Monk)
Professor Green - At Your Inconvenience
Stephen Manderson and his rapping alter-ego Professor Green, with hits including I Need You Tonight and Just Be Good To Green, returns with the eagerly awaited follow-up to 2010's Alive Till I'm Dead, which is as thoughtful and lyrically impressive. The title track is peppered with culture references, while there's a range of tracks incorporating soulful singers - Sierra Kusterbeck in Avalon and hotly-tipped solo artist Emeli Sande in Read All About It. Like Eminem, Green is not afraid to say what he thinks both in his music and away from it and is undisputably a voice for the generation. And this album looks likely to cement that position.
(Review by Ellen Branagh)
Florence And The Machine - Ceremonials
The follow-up to the award-winning Lungs has some big shoes to fill. Florence Welch's debut was not only critically acclaimed - it sold millions of copies, won the coveted Brits Best Album award and made an impact around the world. And if there's one word to describe Ceremonials, it is epic. From the opening chords of Only If For A Night through to huge dramatic ballad Never Let Me Go, moody All This And Heaven Too and haunting Spectrum, Welch's beautifully beguiling vocals remains a winning combination along with producing collaborator Paul Epworth, making Ceremonials a must-listen.
(Review by Shereen Low)
Joker - The Vision
The Vision, the debut album from Bristol-based producer Joker, is an excellent introduction to the dubstep scene. Showcasing a bass both dark and slick by degrees, Joker turns in songs which seamlessly deliver from intimate harmonies to crowd-pleasing dance music and subtle arrangements of glitches. For those unfamiliar with dubstep, The Vision is accessible, thanks to vocal contributions from Jessie Ware, Jay Wilcox and Otis Brown. Quirky references to video games throughout and a tribute to the film Tron add a self-referential layer of cool. The album is perfect for discovering why this genre has become a global force in a little over 10 years.
(Review by Adam Gaudry)
Sonic Youth - Hits Are For Squares
Originally released in 2008, this compilation of celebrities' favourite tunes from the band's back catalogue finally gets a major label airing. The tracks are all strong - with 10 Sonic Youth albums referenced. The contributors' line-up includes cool, credible and predictable curators such as Beastie Boys' Mike D (100%), director Gus Van Sant (Tom Violence) and Radiohead (Kool Thing) to actresses Portia de Rossi and Michelle Williams (choosing Disappearer and Shadow Of A Doubt respectively). Despite the solid set of hits on display, somehow the album lacks cohesion. The one new track, Slow Revolution, is a haunting, lovely affair, highlighting why the influential rock band command such admiration - celebrity or not.
(Review by Polly Weeks)
Jukebox The Ghost - Everything Under The Sun
This Washington-based three-piece rock band could well have been basking in the sunshine when recording their latest album. The second album from Ben Thornewill (vocals and piano), Tommy Siegel (vocals and guitar), and Jesse Kristin (drums) is a toe-tapping foray into the world of teenage heartbreak and angst-filled contemplation. Let Us Create, Empire and Mistletoe are uplifting, and Schizophrenia and The Stars exude huge amounts of undiluted pop fun. Although the band's lyrics may lack subtlety and originality, catchy hooks and a refreshingly unpolished feel make this a refreshing and uplifting album.
(Review by Emma Lake)
Sadie Jemmett - The Blacksmith's Girl
As music becomes increasingly technological, the old-fashioned, soulful sound of Sadie Jemmett stands out as a refreshing alternative. Jemmett's debut solo album, with its roots deeply entrenched in folk, shows off her beautifully honest style and skills on guitar, piano and dulcimer to great effect. Best tracks include the confessional Making Sense and the chilled tones of So I Begin. The Blacksmith's Girl showcases her talented ability to appeal to the heart of anyone who has ever been in love.
(Review by Vicky Amaning)
Cobra Starship - Night Shades
Like a refreshing breath of fresh air, dance-punk-popsters Cobra Starship have livened up the music scene with their past three albums, and the fourth is no different. Two years after Hot Mess, New York-based Gabe Saporta, Ryland Blackinton, Victoria Asher, Nate Novarro and Alex Suarez have cranked up their energy throughout Night Shades, which includes £1Nite with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, the Cee Lo Green doo-wop on Fool Like Me and the 1980s-inspired Anything For Love with its synth-pop backings. The record is probably more commercial than their past offerings, which may not be a bad thing.
(Review by Shereen Low)