Albums of the week: From Gorillaz to The Cranberries
Gorillaz release Humanz and Cranberries remix old favourites while we round up new sounds from Mark Lanegan and more.
GORILLAZ — HUMANZ
Despite being some time in the works, Humanz feels like an album in the now; the spectre of Donald Trump’s America lurks in the corner of the house party, even if — intentionally — his name is not explicitly mentioned. Instead there’s a defiance — a commitment from the weirdos and outsiders to keep on dancing while the world burns, and we’re taken on a breathless trip through the annals of soul, hip hop, dancehall and more. With the former Blur frontman taking a back seat to introduce turns from Danny Brown (Submission), De La Soul (Momentz), Grace Jones (Charger), Mavis Staples and Pusha T (Let Me Out) among many more, Humanz naturally suffers from lack of focus at times. But there are also some truly stunning moments — see lead single Hallelujah Money for a classically Albarnesque blast of unsettling balladry, lifted by a stunning performance from Benjamin Clementine. If you’re looking for wild escapism — and let’s face it, we all need some — you can’t go far wrong with Humanz, which shows a maturity in Albarn that many may never have envisaged. Once front and centre, he now revels in the role of master curator.
THE CRANBERRIES — SOMETHING ELSE
This album is a real mish-mash, combining re-worked versions of their greatest hits with a selection of unheard new tracks. It’s been nearly 25 years since single Dreams was released, and this compilation features an array of fresh-faced acoustic singles and three new tracks. Some of the re-worked singles include crowd pleasers like Linger, Zombie, Dreams and Ode To My Family. Whilst the consistent instrumental backing can often sound monotonous, Something Else is more than just old-time Irish rockers re-packaging old content. It is a refreshing take on post-rock anthems, celebrating years of success and preserving history. The album will appeal to old fans and new ones.
MARK LANEGAN BAND — GARGOYLE
Gnarled troubadour Mark Lanegan has proved to be one of the most enduring singers of his generation. Collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers and Isobel Campbell have brought him acclaim, but he also has an accomplished body of solo work. Gargoyle sees him work with English musician Rob Marshall, and it feels like this album is largely built around keyboards rather than guitar riffs. Musically, it spans styles from Sixties psychedelia to Nineties rock, but everything hinges around Lanegan’s wonderful, plaintive baritone. Nocture starts off like a goth anthem before morphing into something more uplifting and transcendent. Blue Blue Sea is an electro-ambient hymn that wouldn’t be out of place on a Nineties dance album, while Beehive’s jangly guitar sound recalls The Smiths and Stone Roses. Upbeat, accessible and catchy. Who’d have thought it?
CATTLE AND CANE — MIRRORS
Teesside five-piece Cattle and Cane make a bullish return with another prime cut of folk rock on second album Mirrors. More a musical progression and maturity of sound than a change in direction, brother and sister singer-songwriters Helen and Joseph Hammill are less Mumford & Sons and more Fleetwood Mac (Make Your Vision) and Steely Dan (Fool For You) on this follow-up to 2015 debut Home. The pair, who are joined in the band by brothers Fran and Vin, share vocal duties throughout and their harmonies work well together, none more so than on Time To Get It Over With. Mellow moments such as Paperman and closer Tonight We Dance (Cleveland Hills) are highlights on another strong release.
THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND — MERCURY FOUNTAIN
Brighton-based instrumental prog rock trio The Physics House Band have released the best record this year with their second studio album, Mercury Fountain. Track two, Calypso, is sublime, with the band displaying their ability to blend synth, bass and drums in majestic unison. Holy Caves and Surrogate Head are broken into two parts, which cuts out the drawn-out crescendos that can haunt progressive music. The Physics House Band’s understanding of progressive and accessible music is shown here. If you want to get straight into the action, you can skip to Surrogate Head, but be prepared for an absolute head-banger. By the time you hear Obidant, you’ll try to turn your volume up, before realising that it won’t go any higher and you have been cranking it up throughout the record. The Astral Wave’s opening is beautiful and it continues to impress until its closing moments.