Albums of the week: From Rudimental to Joe Jackson
Backstreet's back, as the Boys release DNA, their ninth album and first in nearly six years. Also up for inspection this week are new offerings from Bring Me The Horizon, Rudimental and Joe Jackson.
JOE JACKSON - FOOL
Jackson is a singer and composer whose output has never followed a conventional course. At first he was lumped into the New Wave - along with Elvis Costello but, as with the latter, he was always more. Too lyrically observational and musically adventurous for the mainstream, he's continued to go his own way.
Now, with his 20th album, he has taken his basic touring four-piece and come up with a set of completely new songs based around themes of comedy, albeit dark and tragedy. Stylistically varied throughout, a track like Dave harks back to his early period, where Friend Better has a Steely Dan feel.
This is a very impressive album. Well thought out, played and produced by a man who knows what he wants to say and, more importantly, how to say it.
BRING ME THE HORIZON - AMO
Sheffield rockers Bring Me The Horizon are really bringing it with what is arguably their most diverse album yet. Bear with me when I say that Amo, their sixth studio album, reminds me of the latter years of Linkin Park, when they became the professors of dance-backed heavy rock. BMTH have taken a big, bold leap with this record, which could prove to be as divisive as Brexit among their legions of fans.
Lead singer Oli Sykes has said of the album: "Amo is a love album that explores every aspect of that most powerful emotion. It deals with the good, the bad and the ugly - and as a result we've created an album that's more experimental, more varied, weird and wonderful than anything we've done before."
Experimental and varied, sure, but weird? Perhaps he's pre-empting negative feedback from those who are clutching onto their heavier, rock metal days.
RUDIMENTAL - TOAST TO OUR DIFFERENCES
The pied pipers of pop are back. Rudimental prepare to storm the charts with a cabal of up-and-comers, established rappers and has-been chart-toppers in tow. Piers Aggett, Amir Amor, Kesi Dryden and DJ Locksmith have carved a reputation as urban Britain's dependable hit-makers. Their brand of radio-friendly beats has forged many a career, and you should expect Toast To Our Differences to forge a few more.
It starts with a salvo of decent pop fodder. The eponymous first track has a pleasing bop to it, while Let Me Live with the soon-to-go-stratospheric Anne-Marie conjures brighter days.
Toast To Our Difference plays out as you would expect - lots to enjoy but not a lot to unpack. Instead, listen to it as a catalogue of future stars. Rudimental's eye for a hit nearly matches their knack for predicting the future.
BACKSTREET BOYS - DNA
Let's get it out of the way early, after 25 years as a band Backstreet are back, but is it alright?
I'm not so sure. The five-piece have kept what is their signature sound - five-piece harmonies have been at the heart of all their songs, but they don't appear to have brought anything new to this album.
DNA is good, it's just not Backstreet Boys good. The Nineties boy band really do seem to pay homage to the Eighties. Chances, co-written by Shawn Mendes, poses a list of 'what ifs' and is a true millennial tune. A cappella track Breathe (produced by Ben Bram - who has worked with Pentatonix) is relaxing and stands out, with echoes of the band's heyday (bringing to mind As Long As You Love Me).
AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell have made an unashamedly acoustically driven album with an R&B vibe that has embraced an Eighties-inspired revival.
KEUNING - PRISMISM
Nearly two decades after founding uber-successful rock band The Killers with Brandon Flowers, it is guitarist Dave Keuning's chance to shine as a solo artist.
His debut Prismism is a cacophony of Eighties pop-rock, synthesisers and energetic, melodic riff-backed electro jams. There's more than a hint of a whiff of The Killers about the record, but this says more about Keuning's very strong influence on the band than anything else. It's a shade more pop; a nudge more experimental, but not quite as anthemically satisfying.
I Ruined You is a stomp and the peppy Restless Legs, a summery track, is full of Killers-esque joy.