Moderat – ‘III’
Label: Monkeytown Records
This is it: The last album of the MODERAT album trilogy. Could it also be their final one? Who knows. They pronounce it ‘drei’, are talking of the rather old-fashioned German word ‘Lieder’ instead of ‘songs’ and call MODERAT a band. Seems like the chaos trio that released their first EP Auf Kosten der Gesundheit infamously on the costs of their own health has altered. III is the more sober version of the MODERAT we got to know within their first two albums, the comedown after a two day long techno trip. III is the aftermath, the sadness after any possible excess. That point when the light slowly gets in and with it the deep thoughts. III is also rather slow and gives you with tracks such as Ghostmother the necessary space to think instead of just dance. But there’s also dance elements such as the breathtaking Running or spacy Intruder.
And don’t ask whether they’ll release a fourth album or stay within the triology – I hereby apologize for all the times MODERAT must have been asked this in recent interviews. Everyone would be happy about a couple more albums. But whether they come or not – III is the bittersweet end of something and its sensible in every note which makes it even more valuable. (Louisa Zimmer)
Pet Shop Boys – ‘Super’
Label: X2/ Kobalt Lavel Services
Age ain’t nothing but a number but in the world of pop music it’s an important one. Polished dance pop always belonged to the young while it’s an unwritten law that the elderly have to leave that territory sooner or later. If it goes by the old rules, Neil Tennant (61) and Chris Lowe (56) should stick with memories and playing the ‘retro card’ of old 80s has-beens. Still, the PET SHOP BOYS aren’t interested in retirement and the group’s 13th album Super is another testament of adventurous excitement and ‘state of the art’ high-energy pop. The second collaboration with producer Stuart Price follows the DNA of 2013’s Electric and focuses on the floor-filling qualities of Tennant/Lowe. From clever house music vibes (The Pop Kids) to shallow EDM simplicity (Groovy) to late 90s trance vibes (Inner Sanctum) – it almost seems as if thePET SHOP BOYS are almost trying to hard.
Still, Super also shows the still fabulous songwriting skills of Tennant as he plays a dictator that is longing for a revolution of the masses because he’s tired of playing his role (The Dictator Decides) or when he feels sorry for the monotonous microcosm of artificial intelligence (Sad Robot World) – the fact that such tunes can go hand in hand with sparkling uptempo pop songs like Undertow or Say It To Me truly defines the trademark sound of the PET SHOP BOYS, even 30 years after their debut album. The song remains more important than the protagonists behind it, making them both – time- and ageless. So, Tennant can get away with singing ‘We’re gonna burn this disco down ’til the morning comes’ because him and Lowe are so above any expectations. Britain’s most successful pop duo doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone anymore. Super is a sign of stubbornness as the gentlemen enter their late work phase in a surprisingly fresh-sounding way, saying – in quite an understatement way – ‘Mainstream pop doesn’t want us anymore? Well, here we are anyway, showing you all of.’ And that’s such a PET SHOP BOYS thing to do, isn’t it? (Norman Fleischer)
Mogwai – ‘Atomic’ / Explosions In The Sky – ‘The Wilderness
Label: Rock Action/Temporary Residence
Two of post-rock’s true monoliths, MOGWAI and EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY are releasing new albums on the same day – that calls for a review shootout.
Atomic and The Wilderness simultaneously underline the greatest differences and the similarities between MOGWAI’s and EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY’s approach towards instrumental rock music. The latter always tended to act more ethereal in their compositions. Air is essential for their songs. Not meaning
that they’d be light or easy listening but that there’s a certain amount of space in between the many layers. In that, EITS are in essence a band exercising the more majestic, playful form of post rock.
MOGWAI, on the other hand are a band of claustrophobia. The tightness of the singular elements, drums, bass, guitars and lately foremost the synths, leave less room to breathe – thus, the grandeur of their songs stems more from an overall dynamic arc that MOGWAI lay out like only few can do and. Also, drone is used more prominently as an influence on their soundscapes. As a result, MOGWAI music stresses the dystopian vibes whilst EITS lean toward the utopian ones. Both of course not without acknowledging the power of the other.
The result of those different approaches though is, in this case, pretty easily comparable despite the fact that it sounds different. MOGWAI delivered a classic soundtrack work for the documentary “Storyville: Atomic – Living In Dread And Promise” that still might as well go through as a signature MOGWAI, circa a mixture of Rave Tapes and Happy Songs For Happy People. EITS on the other hand – who are great composers of soundtracks themselves – present an album that stands individually although it might work as a soundtrack as well. So it’s all post rock clichés once again? Not quite.
Well then: EITS or MOGWAI, The Wilderness or Atomic, Austin or Glasgow – whose gonna win? Actually, no one. Actually, there is not even such a battle. Their new albums are both testimonials of the bands’ individual class and as such an ultimate falsification of the general postrock monotony argument. Or, if you flip the perspective: The Wilderness and Atomic are the reason why it’s bollocks to still unite EITS and MOGWAI under one label. Which ultimately neglects the approach of this double review, proves us wrong and still leaves us with two of the possibly best instrumental rock records you’ll hear this year. Q.E.D. (Henning Grabow)
The Heavys – ‘Hurt & Te Merciless’
Label: Bad Son Recording Company/ Ninja Tune.
It’s kind of interesting that British indie-rock/soul hurricane THE HEAVY already released three albums and gained a huge following all over the world but still somehow remain an insider tip. But that might be about to change and Hurt & Ther Merciless is the album that could make a difference. The music of the four piece is a beautiful and addictive mix of funky and alternative rock with an undeniable vintage taste of pop. The Motown sound of Since You’ve Been Gone, the punk spirit of What Happened To The Love? or the Spaghetti Western mood of Nobody’s Hero have in common a groove that will conquer your mind and body in an instant.
Hurt & The Merciless feels like a party where everybody is destined to fun and there’s enough place for tributes too: the intro of Apology (sounds like Disco Inferno), the beginning of A Ghost You Can’t Forget (recalls Hit The Road Jack) and Last Confession (IGGY POP‘s legendary Lust For Life). The voice of Kelvin Swaby is wonderful and gives power to every single song, manifesting all the feelings a human being can feel. THE HEAVY unveil a joyful ride, far too epic to be labeled ‘insider tip’ anymore. (Fernando Rennis)
Coves – ‘Peel’
Label: 1965 Records/ PIAS
Since debuting their first LP Soft Friday a few years back, it’s gotten a little quiet new music wise around the British indie-rock duo COVES. Commemorated as a very promising ‘New Band of The Day’ by the Guardian in 2013, the band, that consists of singer Beck Wood and guitarist John Ridgard, finally follow up on that title with their brand new album Peel.
For all COVES fans out there. Album number two was worth the wait. Filled with all sort of musical tip bits, the album seems just right to really kick off the budding spring season. Wood really let’s out some rugged rock and roll vocals for songs like You’re Evil and Cadavalier. Those who like it a little more subtle should check out To The Sea or See Me Love Me – the latter reminding you of some funky/grunge 90’s infused tunes. All in all, Peel is an album well done that really satisfies those garagesque – indiepop – femme fatale meets some sharp guitar riffs – cravings. (Marla Geesing)
Bleached – ‘Welcome The Worms’
Label: Dead Oceans
Far too often, the second album by a lo-fi band tends to fall for the temptations of a more professionalized production and increased recording experience. Thank god, Californian garage rock three-piece BLEACHED is not falling for that old trap. Welcome The Worms as rough and uncompromising as their 2013 debut Ride Your Heart. Sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin plus bassist Micayla Grace poured themselves out of a few difficult situations in life (Jessie was evicted from her house, her sister ended a torrid, unhealthy romance) by just continue to play rock and roll. The result is edgy and partly also catchy, just like the opening track Keep On Keepin’ On.
BLEACHED still sound like the grandchildren of THE GO GO’S and THE CLASH. Their songs are tight tunes with powerful, confident and partly even humorous messages. ‘Don’t want to live my life the way you think is right’ states the band in Trying To Lose Myself Again. They only slow down the pace briefly during Sour Candy, just too deliver snotty grunge power in the following Desolate Town again. Jen states in the press release: ‘We don’t want perfection because it’s boring. We want to make music that’s as real as life.’ And that simple credo still remains the biggest strength of BLEACHED. Welcome The Worms is pure, egdy, powerful and confident and that sort of sound never goes out of style. (Norman Fleischer)