Former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes hits a high note with his new release and Sean McGowan’s debut record accentuates his talents as a lyricist
The Magic Numbers - Outsiders. The Magic Numbers’ first album since 2014 sees them come back with a new sound, which is bigger and better than anything before.
Opening song Shotgun Wedding sets the feel of the whole album — you can clearly hear the heavy influences of the 1970s, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac, and their new-found love of the electric guitar.
Songs such as Sweet Divide, Ride Against The Wind and The Keeper get your toes tapping with the upbeat guitar riffs and vocals which, again, have been influenced heavily by the 1970s, Marc Bolan to be exact.
Songs such as Sing Me A Rebel Song and Lost Children close the album perfectly, showing that The Magic Numbers may have evolved, but they have not lost their roots.
GAZ COOMBES — WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN
There must be something either in the air or in the water, but the number of Nineties festival favourites who are returning is amazing. Not that Gaz Coombes has particularly been away, he’s just been that bit quieter than in his heyday during the Supergrass years. World’s Strongest Man is his third solo studio album, and also his strongest of the trio.
He works through modern life in the way he knows best, in his lyrics. What starts as a lyrical, floating fantasy gets gradually darker as each track passes.
Walk The Walk has Coombes working through the anger and disbelief of the political atmosphere in America, whereas Vanishing Act is just angry and loud, shouting his internal thoughts and punching them into the music. For me the best track on World’s Strongest Man is Deep Pockets, a retro piece of heady summertime fun.
AISHA DEVI — DNA FEELINGS
Otherworldly, ethereal, atmospheric. Swiss-born Nepalese-Tibetan Aisha Devi’s DNA Feelings is all three, and more. Her voice, which soars from deep-throat lows to elegant highs, is shrouded in electronics that range from a pulsing heartbeat to string instruments.
It is accompanied by an artist statement which includes lines such as “connect, create wormholes” and “I think, therefore I am superconductor”.
She also rejects the norms of dance music, particularly with Aetherave and urgent Inner State Of Alchemy. As Devi writes herself on her artist statement: “This is not a concept album. Gathering without space, time, and mass limitations.”
SEAN McGOWAN — SON OF THE SMITH
Sean McGowan’s sound stands happily on the same soapbox as Frank Turner and The King Blues. It may seem a lazy comparison, given the Southampton songwriter’s debut album is released on Xtra Mile Recordings, the same London label as Turner.
It is difficult to avoid comparisons when the familiar blend of right-on, anti-capitalist sentiments, American pop punk, acoustic guitar and a sharp estuary twang runs deep throughout McGowan’s debut album. It is not surprising he has supported the punk poet laureate Billy Bragg on tour.
McGowan is a gifted lyricist and storyteller, with a knack for deploying everyday imagery to make for a rousing folk anthem. Springhill, a tale of friendship, best typifies this. Off The Rails is an urgent shot of angst and anxiety in equal measure. But Porky Pies probably sums the album up — catchy, witty, raw but with a sanctimonious tendency.
RSO — RADIO FREE AMERICA
A musical act borne out of a romance can be a risky business. Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora and his partner, the Australian musician and legitimate vocal powerhouse Orianthi — who was guitarist for Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper — appear to have managed to avoid a cringeworthy vanity project with duo RSO.
Debut album Radio Free America is an all-guns-blazing onslaught of pop-rock tracks, filled with heavy production laced with layers of guitar riffs that you can’t help but bop along to. There’s an element of the 1990s here, but it’s fair to say Sambora (58) and Orianthi (33), work best together when their voices blend.
Soaring, emotion-packed vocals and electronic elements from a bygone music era abound and standout tracks include weighty opener Making History, hearty Together On The Outside, the I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll-sounding Rise and peppy Walk With Me.
This is a strong effort — albeit one Bon Jovi fans may not be expecting — filled with tracks that will no doubt become sing-along staples if you give this album a listen more than twice.