Album reviews: The Black Keys, Pixies, Jackson Browne, Imelda May, The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, Chris Garneau

The Black Keys Turn Blue (Nonesuch)

If not quite the anthem-stuffed rock monster that was El Camino, The Black Keys’ follow-up album employs much the same formula of catchy, hook-laden melodies harnessed to tank-tread riffs that made its predecessor so irresistible.

Again written and produced by the duo with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, it’s a post-modern blues-rock marvel which takes some of the core elements of rock’n’roll and re-casts them in new shapes, refurbished with strings, vibes, synths and mellotron. Only on the concluding “Gotta Get Away” do they slip whole-heartedly into boogie, finding another wrinkle on the classic place-name format through a singalong refrain: “I went all the way from San Berd’oo to Kalamazoo, just to get away from you.” So dumb, but such fun.

Most of the tracks have a deceptive familiarity about them: the fuzz-guitar Diddley-beat  of “It’s Up to You Now” suddenly stops and becomes a wine-dark blues-guitar excavation; shivers of strings and subtle guitar chording lend “Turn Blue” the sinister delicacy of “Oh Well”-era Fleetwood Mac, for a song about the prospect of “hell below”; and “Weight of Love” starts out with a slinky funk-pop confection of acoustic guitar, vibes and swirling keyboard pad, before slipping into a reflective guitar grind that recalls Neil Young with Crazy Horse, relaxed but wielding colossal latent power.

Sometimes, things become a touch top-heavy: with jittery keyboards and keening guitars darting hither and thither, “Bullet  in the Brain” is a thin idea over-egged. But, with Dan Auerbach’s falsetto croon floating smoothly over Pat Carney’s variously propulsive grooves (the jerky shuffle of “In Time”, the loping roll of “10 Lovers”, the strutting march of “Fever”), there’s an ever-expanding diversity of appeal to Turn Blue that should win new fans and please the faithful. 

*****

Download: Weight of Love; In Time; Turn Blue; 10 Lovers; Gotta Get Away

Pixies Indie Cindy (Pixiesmusic/P.I.A.S.)

With its loud/quiet/loud dynamics, its squealing guitars, girls’ names in track titles, and the whimsical grisliness of songs about snakes and vivisection, the most surprising thing about Pixies’ first album in 23 years is that it holds so few surprises. It sounds exactly the way it should – although only “Bagboy” is softened by the kind of warmth once furnished by Kim Deal – but given the group’s noble position in rock history, that’s as disappointing as it is comforting. Indie Cindy works well as an album, and there are moments of inspiration in the opener “What Goes Boom” and the swaggering charm of “Blue Eyed Hexe”; but the overall impression is akin to a guided tour of Pixieland, a smartened-up heritage centre approved by Health & Safety.

***

Download: What Goes Boom; Blue Eyed Hexe; Ring The Bell; Jaime Bravo

Various Artists Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne (Music Road)

Few of his contemporaries convey the hopes and disillusions of the ’60s generation as poignantly as Jackson Browne, possibly because his reflections are rooted in such painful personal experience that covering them can seem like trespass. His Eagles chum Don Henley offers a suitably world-weary version of the youthful “These Days” (sample lyric: “Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them”), while elsewhere on this tribute anthology the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams shine their individual lights into the corners of his songs. But across two discs there are too many mediocre versions, most revering the polite preciosity of the original Laurel Canyon folk-rock settings.

***

Download: These Days; Fountain Of Sorrow; The Pretender

Imelda May Tribal  (Decca)

Her follow-up to the popular Mayhem finds Imelda May still indulging the boisterous rapscallion character suggested by titles like “Wild Woman”, “Hellfire Club” and “Gypsy In Me”. The title-track sets the tone, an aptly-named rockabilly stomp celebrating the appeal of rock’n’roll in fine Cramps style, with chugging guitars over rolling snare and tom-tom beat. The self-portrait “Wild Woman” employs similar grinding, greasy charm, its careering riff recalling both “Rock Lobster” and the old Batman theme, while elsewhere a sleazy burlesque trumpet is stirred into “Wicked Way”, and the slow blues croon “Gypsy In Me” is ravaged by scrubbed guitar distortion. But there’s sweetness to balance the earthier aspects, especially in “Little Pixie”, a lilting portrait of a new-born baby.

***

Download: Tribal; Wild Woman; Gypsy In Me

The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger Midnight Sun (Chimera Music)

Having impressively helmed his mother’s Plastic Ono Band performances of last year, Sean Lennon and his partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl present their own musical vision as The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, with a full-blown psychedelic extravaganza that makes Primal Scream sound pipe-and-slippered. Midnight Sun is generously aswirl with soaring guitars, treated vocals and the occasional dash of the sort of brass-band whimsy of which his dad’s old band were so fond. It lends itself well to myths and legends both ancient and modern (the ransom tribulations of “Poor Paul Getty”), with diversions by way of the psych-funk putdown of a “lipstick anarchist”, “Xanadu”. But lurking behind the cosmicity, there’s usually a solid pop hook.

****

Download: Xanadu; Last Call; Great Expectations; Poor Paul Getty

Chris Garneau Winter Games (Rough Trade)

Singer-songwriter Chris Garneau shares many affinities with the wintry confessional corps that includes Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and Antony Hegarty. Winter Games explores that season’s impact on our moods through troubled family stories - a sort of exercise in musical Seasonally Affective Disorder whose tentative revelations of bed-wetting, child abuse and  estrangement are relayed in stained falsetto or fragile murmur over misty, chilled backdrops of piano, string drones and poignant horns, with funereal beats imposing a valedictory tone. The addition of children’s voices behind Garneau’s falsetto lends  a naive optimism to “Oh God” reminiscent of The Flaming Lips, while elsewhere the parallels to Sufjan Stevens are unavoidable.

****

Download: Our Man; Oh God; Winter Song No. 1; Winter Song No. 2; Danny

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
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.

    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
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living