Album reviews: Jack White, First Aid Kit, OOIOO, Chrissie Hynde, Mary Gauthier, Open Mike Eagle

 

Jack White Lazaretto (Third Man)

Jack White can be a prickly chap, as witness his recent churlish (non-) apology to those he’s insulted or dissed in recent years – most notably The Black Keys, derided as copyists by one whose own music has hardly sprung fully formed from his own imagination.

But when Pot’s done chiding Kettle, he’s an industrious fellow: no sooner has he served as midwife to Neil Young’s A Letter Home than his own solo album arrives. Like its predecessor, Blunderbuss, it’s a mixed bag, roughly split between heavy blues-rock and country, many songs supposedly drawing on teenage writings White unearthed in a drawer. Which perhaps excuses the more embarrassing lyrical excesses – though whether that includes the “lordy lord” hook and unreconstructed cock-rock gloating of “Three Women” is open to debate. An organ-based funk-blues, it’s the first of several routine blues-rock workouts. The chugging booze-boogie “Just One Drink” is another, while the heavy instrumental “High Ball Stepper”, streaked with White’s rasping, tortured guitar riff, sounds like a Led Zep outtake lacking a vocal.

“Lazaretto” itself, a jerky, bullish funk-rocker, is better, with violin, synths and White’s staccato guitar bursts lending it the variegated texture of a Zappa composition. Elsewhere, “Temporary Ground” and “Entitlement” are country songs with grumpy attitude, the former begrudging mankind’s abandonment by God, the latter evincing the complaining mood of unfair restraint that pervades the album.

Though in his defence, he does conclude the song avowing that none of us “deserve a single damn thing”, which is generous of him. Perhaps that explains the introvert, anti-social tendencies of “Alone in My Home”, which with its barroom piano, mandolin and acoustic guitar could be by The Faces, if it had a better tune. “I’m becoming a ghost, so nobody can know  me,” sings Jack, and you almost feel sorry for him.

Then you remember his generosity of spirit towards others, and you’re not that sure.

***

Download: Lazaretto; Temporary Ground; Alone in My Home

First Aid Kit Stay Gold (Columbia)

“I don’t know if I’m scared of dying,” sings Klara Söderberg on the opening track of the Söderberg sisters’ third album, “but I’m scared of living too fast too slow.” It serves as a subtext for Stay Gold, an album fraught with the desire to change, to get away, to find a new life, tempered with anxiety about what might be lost. The theme recurs throughout, in lines like “I’d rather be moving than static” and “It’s a restless, dark, twisted road we are on, and we all have to walk it alone”. Except that luckily, Klara has sister Johanna alongside her, accompanied by producer Mike Mogis and a session crew that blends warm, acoustic timbres – guitars, lap steel, woodwind and chimes – with subtle string arrangements that set off the sisters’ harmonies beautifully. The result is an engaging, youthful and thoughtful folk-rock.

****

Download: My Silver Lining; Stay Gold; Waitress Song

OOIOO Gamel (Thrill Jockey)

The latest release from Yoshimi  P-We’s questing avant-rock combo reflects her new-found interest in gamelan, the intricately twinkling Indonesian tuned-percussion orchestras. In truth, the gamelan sounds are used more as repetitive motifs than in the interlayered lines of the classical form, but they add an appealing new timbre to the band’s usual style of chants, drums and brusque guitar chording. “Shizuku Gunung Agung” features Faust-like shifts of direction as guitar shards are spliced into a pulsing montage of metallic gamelan and wailing vocal. Elsewhere, “Atatawa” is a Can-style cyclical groove with incantation; while the addition of horns transforms “Gamel Uma Umo” into a propulsive world/jazz/avant-rock blend. Not to everyone’s taste, but at its best Gamel fizzes with sonic imagination.

***

Download: Shizuku Gunung Agung; Atatawa; Gamel Uma Umo

Chrissie Hynde Stockholm (Caroline)

For her first solo outing, Chrissie Hynde wanted to make “a power pop album that you could dance to – Abba meets John Lennon” – two stools between which she falls limply on Stockholm. She and co-producer Björn Yttling have opted for the same Sixties verities that have underscored Hynde’s entire career – on opener “You Or No One”, a Wall of Sound blend of tambourine, twang and lowering drums,. The single “Dark Sunglasses” is better, with a smart snap to the beat. But elsewhere, the lumpy drum sound ruins tracks like “You’re the One” and “In a Miracle”, though the main failing lies in the lack of distinction of the material, and the lack of excitement in its execution: the only time the album teeters on thrilling is when Neil Young’s Les Paul disturbs the peace of “Down the Wrong Way”.

**

Download: Down the Wrong Way; Dark Sunglasses

Mary Gauthier Trouble & Love (In The Black/Proper)

There’s always been a strong autobiographical element to Mary Gauthier’s songs – her 2010 album, The Foundling, dealt with the problems of adoptee identity crisis, and Trouble & Love, likewise, mines the personal pain of a dying relationship. It’s a break-up album that’s perhaps a touch too unremittingly bleak for the closing resolution of “Another Train” (“I’m moving on, through the past, through the pain, waiting on another train”) to completely convince. The title “How You Learn to Live Alone” says it all, but the most piercing insights occur early on, in lines like “A stranger showed up in your eyes/Heart of steel, cold as ice” and in the numbed way that emotions are turned off like a tap in “When a Woman Goes Cold”, which sounds like a future country standard.

***

Download: When a Woman Goes Cold; How You Learn to Live Alone; Oh Soul

Open Mike Eagle Dark Comedy (Mello Music)

“For those that haven’t heard of me, I’m bad at sarcasm, so I work in absurdity,” explains rapper Open Mike Eagle at the start of Dark Comedy. Which is what might be expected of someone who lists Andy Kaufman and Kurt Vonnegut as inspirations alongside Gil Scott-Heron and James Baldwin, and eschews bling fantasies in favour of such diverse subjects as changing his kid’s nappy, driving while tired and Facebook-logging his favourite sandwiches. It’s all presented in a wry, semi-sung delivery that lightly underscores the ironies lurking behind the disillusion, but doesn’t conceal the pertinence of insights like “We learn to never wait for what we think we deserve”. Set to scratchy, fractured beats and sound-montages, it’s a welcome dose of no-age hip-hop in direct line of descent from De La Soul.

****

Download: Dark Comedy Morning Show; Deathmate Black; Golden Age Raps; Qualifiers

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power