I'm going to try something new. We are lucky to have a decent public library here in town, and I'm rather partial to rummaging about to see what might be interesting to listen to. This new series will be based around a selection of albums I have never heard before, mostly new, with a short, simple review and the best track or two being highlighted. Here we go:
Duran Duran - Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
The only Duran albums I've ever owned are the singles compilation Greatest and (briefly) the comeback album Astronaut. Given the complete lack of interest in the band in the late 90's, I was surprised that a new album was marketed so strongly. It's obvious that the band is trying hard, because the new album rocks hard in a very contemporary, dance floor orientated fashion. My all time favorite track is Save A Prayer, and I did miss somewhat the languid build up and plangent synths of that signature piece when listening to the new material. By comparison, the first single Falling Down included a less subtle melody line that proceeded to irritate and overpower the lyrics, so I wasn't thrilled. What I did like, however, were tracks like Nite-Runner and Box Full O' Honey which went off in unexpected dynamic directions and sustained a cryptic mood. Overall, a good listen and possibly a grower.
Madonna - Hard Candy (2008)
A similar story with Madonna, who also enlisted Justin Timberlake to assist with her new album. I'm a big fan of the dance grooves on her first album (now 25 years old!!) and although I have liked many of the subsequent singles, never really cared for an individual album. Hard Candy includes a bevy of "hot" producers who power up the BPM without really crafting anything with nuance or subtlety. While Candy Shop and the single 4 Minutes take off like rockets, it takes a couple of listens for the melodies of my favorite tracks Give In 2 Me and Miles Away to achieve the desired effect. Is it too much to ask for another "Live To Tell" or even "Crazy For You"?
Fortunately, it's not hard to remember why Madonna became such an icon in the first place.
BTW does anybody else think both these album covers suck hard?
R.E.M. - Accelerate (2008)
Another bloody awful album cover, and an incomplete review. Apologies to devotees of the band (and there are many), but I'm not sure what it will take to interest me in an R.E.M. record again. I suspect it includes mandolins, slow songs about death, suffocation and bitter loss and weird titles like "Country Jackal Lament" and "Rhapsody Green". Credit the band with sticking to it, but when the touchstones include Green ("World Leader Pretend") Out Of Time ("Losing My Religion") and Automatic For The People ("Find The River") my ears are going to be dragged kicking and screaming through this album, based on the first handful of tracks. I have a nagging feeling that R.E.M. have never been more than the sum of their parts. To borrow from other reviewers: Accelerate is the best R.E.M. album since, well, since the last one. Probably.