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Album reviews: From Pet Shop Boys to Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis


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Pet Shop Boys' Discovery: Live In Rio 1994

Pet Shop Boys' Discovery: Live In Rio 1994

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Pet Shop Boys' Discovery: Live In Rio 1994

Royal Blood

Typhoons

Royal Blood have undergone something of a radical transformation since the release of 2017's How Did We Get So Dark?

Put it down to the global pandemic, bass-wielding frontman Mike Kerr going sober or the influence of friend-cum-producer Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age.

Whatever it was, it works.

The Brighton duo have shifted their heavy rock sound towards something redolent of the Bee Gees' high camp, all while retaining the bite of Led Zeppelin.

Throw in huge, bustling synth lines that wouldn't look out of place on a Daft Punk album and overprocessed drums that scream 80s melodrama and the formula is complete.

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Kerr has clearly exercised some demons in recent years (listen to the lyrics of Trouble's Coming for proof) and his ruminations lend a dark undercurrent to proceedings.

But he matches them with 11 tracks of gorgeous, inventive rock and roll, dusted with handclaps and infectious choruses. Typhoons is a winner.

9/10, review by Alex Green

Pet Shop Boys

Discovery: Live In Rio 1994

The pandemic has starved us of live music and forced Pet Shop Boys gigs to be postponed for a year or more.

But UK ticket-holders - who have another 12 months before they can see the duo perform new songs from their latest album Hotspot - can feast on this past gem.

The Rio concert was previously only available on VHS cassette but now fans can enjoy two CDs and a DVD of the band's first energetic performance in Brazil and the crowd's delighted reaction.

There is a joyous version of I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing, a lively Paninaro and a noisy crowd singalong to Always On My Mind.

The band mix One In A Million with Culture Beat's Mr Vain, Left To My Own Devices with Corona's Rhythm Of The Night, and It's A Sin with the Gloria Gaynor anthem I Will Survive.

There's even a cover of Blur's Girls And Boys.

Rent, King's Cross and Liberation calm things down a little, but the reflective Being Boring is an unexpected song to close such a lively show.

Turn it up loud, sing along and jump around - even if restrictions mean you're still only allowed to dance at home.

8/10, review by Beverley Rouse

Tony Allen

There Is No End

The simple existence of Tony Allen's final album tells a story about the man.

The legendary Afrobeat drummer and Fela Kuti collaborator never once took his finger off the pulse in a career spanning six decades, and what turned out to be his last studio recording was driven by a desire to show off a new generation in global hip hop.

That album, There Is No End, will now be released to mark a year since his death, but Allen got his wish regardless.

Though there are cameos from Skepta, Danny Brown and Sampa the Great, not to mention co-production from Damon Albarn, the record is at its most exhilarating when the less established names are given freedom to roam.

In a middle section pulsing with ideas both musical and political, Mau Mau sees Kenyan rapper Nah Eeto put a stellar performance to a typically insatiable Allen groove, while Detroit's Zelooperz is on fearsome form in Coonta Kinte, a Kendrick Lamar-esque rumination on racism.

Allen's final turn behind the drums was never going to be a valedictory one, and There Is No End is instead a humble handing over of the baton.

8/10, review by Stephen Jones

Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis

She Walks In Beauty

During the pandemic, listeners seeking light relief have flocked to the comforting aural blanket of disco and the tender, unchallenging sound of pop.

Marianne Faithfull, now 74, clearly didn't get the memo. The singer, actress and former muse of one Sir Mick Jagger's 22nd album is a grand affair full of ruminations on death.

Faithfull has teamed with frequent collaborator Warren Ellis to put poetry by Shelley, Keats, Byron, Wordsworth and Tennyson to music.

Her husky voice is well suited to the task - each line perfectly enunciated in the Queen's English, sometimes cracking into an emotive croak. She imbues every line with meaning. The fact she spent three weeks in hospital last April being treated for coronavirus symptoms only makes it more poignant.

Ellis, best known as one of the Bad Seeds, offers up perfectly balanced backing tracks, all ethereal strings and pulsing synths, with the help of Nick Cave, Brian Eno and Vincent Segal.

It is a beautiful thing and worth the time.

8/10, review by Alex Green


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