Album Reviews: Counting Crows Recovering the Satellites
There are a few signs that he realises how fatiguing this can be, as when he notes, "What a big baby/ Won't somebody save me please?" in the opening track "Catapult". But for all his vocal histrionics, Recovering the Satellites is remarkably complacent stuff, a bland blend of the most obvious influences, from REM to Springsteen, manipulated in a way that steadfastly avoids originality as if the very notion were tainted by some plague. Save for the occasional woozy whiff of Mellotron or Wurlitzer, there's none of the questing musical spirit REM exhibited on New Adventures in HiFi, for instance, just the glib surface similarity of tracks like "Angels of the Silences". And sometimes the group's lack of clear personal identity can lead them into disastrous mistakes: the hopelessly overwrought "Goodnight Elisabeth" sounds horribly reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", but with a worse guitar solo. Which, you have to admit, is quite some achievement.
T-Bone Burnette, who produced Counting Crows' previous album, August and Everything After, has been dropped for this follow-up - which seems a little ungrateful, given that the debut went sextuple-platinum in America alone. His replacement, Gil Norton (Pixies, Pere Ubu, Del Amitri), has downplayed the folk-rock elements and given more of a crunch to the guitars on tracks such as "Have You Seen Me Lately", but despite his best efforts, there's still barely enough room to slip a cigarette-paper between them and college-rock colleagues like Hootie & The Blowfish. Which, needless to say, is not a recommendation.
Interscope IND 90086
It's complacent bands such as Hootie and Counting Crows that almost make one sympathise with the likes of Marilyn Manson, trash-thrash riff-mongers whose taste for sleaze would beggar even a Tory MP or Catholic bishop's best efforts. Naming themselves after notorious murderers - a big hand, please, for Madonna Wayne Gacy on keyboards - they reflect the seemingly limitless fascination for amoral debauch that has made murder virtually a spectator-sport in America.
Continuing the fine, upstanding work begun on last year's debut Smells Like Children, the Trent Reznor-produced Antichrist Superstar includes such charming songs as "Deformography", "Angel With Scabbed Wings" and - my favourite - the opener "Irresponsible Hate Anthem", a typical Nine Inch Nails-style industrial-metal jackhammer riff whose chorus is a screamed "Fuck It!". Singer Marilyn (like Alice Cooper, a chap) employs the most brutal of throat-shredding rasps, though vocal node damage is probably the least of the dangers facing him. For in a world where high-profile stars like Tupac Shakur can be casually murdered, it's surely tempting fate to sing, as Manson does in "Mr Superstar", of obsessive love ("I'd do anything for you") slipping into stalker territory ("I want to see you dead"). If such matters are, as the song seems to suggest, merely a matter of degree, how long before one of his more dysfunctional fans offers him their ultimate acclaim?
FLUFFY Black Eye
Virgin CDV 2817
Babe-punkers Fluffy would love to have some of Marilyn Manson's easy command of glam outrage, but being British and having at least half an eye on the mainstream pop milieu, the girls' attempts at feistiness just seem half-hearted, trapped in the contradiction between excess and accessibility.
In their favour, there's plenty of raw spirit here - "Scream" rocks like Chrome's barbed "March of the Chrome Police", no bad thing - but the songs themselves, featuring sleaze and violation in unglamorous collusion, border on the ridiculous, with embarrassing sexual metaphors and cliched notions of outrageous behaviour: "Woke up in a bed of vomit/ I lost my pink wig and I'm in hell". Ultimately, they may write all their own material and play their own instruments, but any independence of thought is concealed behind a hackneyed, exploitative image. They're just a cover version of "Cherry Bomb" away from being The Runaways.
MUNDY Jelly Legs
Eschewing the traditional Irish influences, young Dublin-based singer- songwriter Edmund Enright (aka Mundy) utilises a folk-rock variant of Britpop on this first collection, with keening guitars and low-key diction. Though faltering in places, it's an impressive enough debut, thanks to producer Youth's embellishments, which help give slight material like "Song For My Darling" a grunge-raga density of texture through skirling guitar drones.
Mundy's songs deal with the usual fare of adolescent outsiderdom, romantic confusion and displacement: in "Springtown", he sends a postcard home, while "Reunion" is an irony-free cousin to Pulp's "Disco 2000". There are few really startling images or ideas at work in these songs, but at least he has enough of a positive attitude to counter the usual glib grunge assertions that "life's a bitch" with the rejoinder "Life's A Cinch".
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be