Albums of the week: From The Kooks to Linkin Park
The Kooks are back with a collection of classic hits and some new treats, while Erasure release their 17th record and there’s also a posthumous effort from The Notorious B.I.G. with Faith Evans.
THE KOOKS - THE BEST OF... SO FAR
There comes a time in every artist’s career when a compilation album is inevitable. For The Kooks, this collection seems to have come at a time when indie isn’t quite as fun and, well, Kooks-y as it was back in the mid to late Noughties, and it offers up a heavy dose of recent nostalgia for both devoted and fair-weather fans of the British rockers.
She Moves In Her Own Way, Naive, Shine On, You Don’t Love Me, Ooh La — all the greats-are there, injecting some much needed pop-rock summer sunshine into this, quite frankly, repetitive, overly-produced musical landscape of the moment.
A welcome addition comes from funky lesser-known single Down, a real foot-tapper, while bright and cheerful comeback single Be Who You Are sounds like it’s fresh out of 2006.
Rounding off things nicely is new track Broken Vow — anthemic, conclusive and somehow comfortably familiar, which is exactly what you want from the Brighton foursome.
ERASURE - WORLD BE GONE
Just A Little Love is earnest, overblown, unabashedly pop — basically everything Erasure fans have always loved about them.
If you are in that number, you will not be too disappointed with their 17th studio album, which arrives shortly after Andy Bell and Vince Clarke marked 30 years together.
With such longevity, it is hard to be too critical of the duo, though it has to be said that after the driving synthpop of opener and lead single Love You To The Sky, things all become a little tired here — not least lyrically (case in point being the horrendously cliched lyric “Be careful what you wish for/We could be the very best/put me to the test/Think about it baby”).
That’s not to say there are not moments to enjoy — the anthemic, almost gospel Sweet Summer Loving and Lousy Sum Of Nothing being the main highlights — and all in all it’s a pretty harmless affair that will be welcomed enthusiastically by Erasure heads.
FAITH EVANS AND THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. - THE KING & I
The Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans enjoyed one of the most exciting, eventful relationships in hip hop history, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from The King & I.
The album’s 25 tracks mostly merge into one, only broken up by the at times cringeworthy interludes. Evans still has a killer voice, and Biggie is still a great storyteller — even on the verses we have heard before — but the album first underwhelms and then exhausts.
Putting aside how weird it feels as a listener to hear a sex song between Faith and her 20 years deceased former husband (Can’t Get Enough), the throwback-style production on that song and most others quickly feels tired.
Saving graces come from Snoop Dogg, Styles P and Busta Rhymes but, overall, rather than a moving testament to a former lover the King & I feels overshot and pseudo-nostalgic.
LINKIN PARK - ONE MORE LIGHT
Linkin Park’s genre-bending One More Light is pop — no doubt about it — a sound they have dabbled with but have never committed themselves to so wholeheartedly. They have not lost their distinctive sound — it is there, just in the background. Do not expect anything like early hits Papercut and Crawling here.
But this is a marvellously gutsy move from an established band at this stage in their career. Sure, unyielding old-school nu-metal fans might turn their noses up at the delicate, nuanced ease of One More Light, but admittedly, the group cares little about those with that mindset.
Sorry For Now is chart-friendly but far weightier than most tracks you would hear in the current top 40. Lead single Heavy, featuring singer-songwriter Kiiara, along with Halfway Right and Nobody Can Save Me, are highlights. Good Goodbye with Pusha T and Stormzy harks back to Linkin Park’s Collision Course era. So there’s a throwback there if somebody really, really needs one.
(SANDY) ALEX G - ROCKET
(Sandy) Alex G comes from the mould of artists who like to make their audience work a little. Not too much. But enough to make the sweet moments that bit sweeter. Still only 24, Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli is now on his eighth record with Rocket, and the maturity in his ear for a tune amid complex compositions — all self-produced — belie his young years.
His experimental side will not be to everyone’s taste, however. This is not a pop album, even though it is evident Giannascoli knows how to write a pop song, sprinkling the record with earworm melodies whether among the rolling basslines of County, the rickety fiddle and heartbreak harmonies on Bobby or shouting over a dirty, distorted beat in Brick.
The ghost of Elliott Smith lives on in some of the record’s quieter moments but it’s in the dreamy repetition of a hook, no matter the volume, that Giannascoli finds his personal, hypnotic voice. Rocket is a record for those who like to find beauty off the beaten track... just don’t expect your mother to like it.