Chris Brown only shows up once on Rihanna’s seventh LP, during the defiant “Nobody’s Business.” But the abusive ex she took back is like a co-writer throughout, sort of the way Germany was a co-writer on World War II: “I was flying till you knocked me to the floor,” she sings on “No Love Allowed.” Unapologetic‘s stark, shadowy R&B is confrontationally honest and sung within an inch of its life, whether she’s turning a strip-club anthem into a declaration of independence (“Pour It Out”) or pleading at the piano (“Stay”). When she sings, “I’m prepared to die in the moment,” on “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary,” a clichéd line pulses with real terror and impossible resolve.
Peter Buck is the first ex-member of R.E.M. to take the solo plunge, and the guitarist has totally done it his way: cutting the whole thing in five days, on analog tape, with his friends, including R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, R.E.M. associates Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, and members of the Decemberists and Sleater-Kinney. And it’s only on vinyl. No turntable? Tough luck. Or get one, because there is great fun here, including crackling garage rock (“10 Million BC”), acid-ballad whimsy (“Travel Without Arriving”) and two dusky jangle-pop jewels, “Nothing Matters” and “Nothing Means Nothing” (the latter sung by Corin Tucker), that would have fit just fine on another, classic R.E.M. album.
And just like that, Steven Tyler’s solo career seems like a strange dream we all had. The Aerosmith reunion album is the first collection of new tunes the bad boys from Boston have managed since 2001. Nobody knows why Aerosmith can’t seem to do anything the easy way – you’d think these five guys could knock out an Aerosmith album in their sleep. (And it wouldn’t be the first time they made a record that way.) But that’s all just part of their long-running mystique as rock & roll’s ultimate dysfunctional family. Read more...
On this EP, former Animals singer Eric Burdon – who seemed to have disappeared until Bruce Springsteen invited him onstage at SXSW in March – teams with Cincinnati garage-rock trio the Greenhornes for 17 minutes of raw, rugged fun. Producer Brendan Benson lets the volume needle rock the red zone as the combo blasts through bruising meditations on dread and despair; “Cab Driver” edges close to Muslim-bashing, but “Out of My Mind” evokes the haunted blues Burdon’s always done well. Ragged isn’t always right here, but this taste leaves you wanting more.
It’s not exactly a news flash when at the beginning of Rush’s latest album, “Clockwork Angels,” frontman Geddy Lee pro
claims, “I can’t stop thinking big.” The Canadian trio has always stretched large ideas across an expansive soundscape, blending hard rock, prog and metal. And the five years since the band’s last album, “Snakes & Arrows,” have given Rush plenty of time to create a lot of new music. “Clockwork Angels” weighs in at a formidable 66 minutes, time enough for a kitchen-sink’s worth of ideas and a weighty conceptual focus by drummer/lyricist Neil Peart about one man’s journey to realize his dreams. (Look for the novel soon.) The album’s seven-minute opuses range from tight (“Headlong Flight”) to the messy title track, while fans of Rush’s classic, riff-driven approach and ensemble virtuosity will find aural nirvana in “The Anarchist,” “Seven Cities of Gold,” “The Wreckers” and “Wish Them Well.”
Sensuous U.S. radio hits from the Sixties and Seventies have a surprisingly able proponent in Rita Wilson, the L.A.-born actress and producer who debuts as a singer with this collection. Helped by Sheryl Crow (“Angel of the Morning,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”), Chris Cornell (“All I Have to Do Is Dream”), Faith Hill (“Love Has No Pride”) and others, Wilson renews Watergate-era gems with an expressive denim-and-suede soprano; on “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” she andJackson Browne sing a song from 1971, but the stripped-down, bossa-nova-flavored arrangement, like much of AM/FM itself, feels timeless.
Like Eric Church, Billy Currington and Luke Bryan before him, this young Nashville up-and-comer prefers a weathered baseball cap over a crisp 10-gallon number. And like his predecessors, Moore spends much of his debut album, Up All Night, outlining the pleasures to be had from hot women and cold beverages: “You’ve got the kiss that tastes like honey,” he sings over a mild country-rock shuffle, “and I’ve got a little beer money.” That lyric (from the song “Beer Money”) gives a good indication of the album’s low-stakes appeal. Moore certainly isn’t looking to reinvent the mud tire here. On the set’s party-starting title track he takes “the only road straight out of town,” while Moore’s current hit, “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” re-emphasizes the delight of “beer sittin’ on ice.” (He goes on to imagine “a girl in a red sundress” taking a sip.) The mood deepens a bit for the track “Everything but You,” an amped-up singleton’s lament that cribs the chord progression from “Sweet Jane” by the Velvet Underground. But even that one ends up on a beach somewhere.
One thing can be said for the elusive Fiona Apple: She lets the voices in her head speak, even if the words that come out don’t paint such a pretty picture. Apple’s first single in nearly seven years, “Every Single Night,” is a tortured tale that includes Sylvia Plath-esque lines like “I just made a meal for us to both choke on” and a chorus that begs, “I just want to feel everything.” But the lyrics aren’t the only aspect of the sparse song that feels bipolar: There’s a prominent toy piano riff that makes Apple sound like a ballerina spinning out of control. There are vocal chants and percussive breakdowns that suggest Apple found a minor influence in African tribal music, and then there’s the stunning vocal control the singer/pianist exhibits throughout, switching among gasping, quivering, crooning, yelping and gritting her teeth. Needless to say, Apple’s single isn’t a “Criminal” sequel, and radio airplay doesn’t appear to be the goal here. Yet it’s fair to deem “Every Single Night” a triumphant comeback by being exactly what Apple’s cult of devotees has been yearning for.
Marilyn Manson has always done well playing the tragic hero – or the sacrificial lamb. So it seems appropriate to quote Macbeth near the beginning of “Born Villain,” the shock-rocker’s first new album in three years. “This is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury,” he sings in the song “Overneath the Path of Misery.” It fits so well and there’s certainly plenty of that here. But “Born Villain” finds a seemingly refreshed and clear-minded Manson and his band poring through a diverse set of moods and styles in songs that cut a little deeper than the deliberate provocation of many of his previous works. The raw and often stripped-down set is built on sophisticated dynamics, while references to the Stooges (“The Gardener”), glam rock (“Slo-Mo-Tion”) and even blues (“Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms”) accent the pulsing industrial undercurrent and foreboding spookiness that are Manson’s stock in trade. He’s not just, as the song says, “Breaking the Same Old Ground.” And the bonus track cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” with Johnny Depp is a welcome dose of cacophonous camp. Read more...
Decades of albums that precede Dr. John’s newest release, “Locked Down,” mostly fit in two categories: celebrations of either New Orleans or pre-rock’n'roll songwriters. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach changes that by pushing the pianist/singer beyond the Crescent City’s limits and the songwriting masters who inspired him as a youth. Unburdened by the stamp of time or geography results in an album that could’ve easily come from other Mississippi River stops where horns and funk pump through the bloodstreams-Chicago, Memphis or St. Louis. Auerbach pulls out a musical tool belt to guide the 71-year-old to new areas: The song “Ice Age” draws on percussive African guitar lines and synthesizer fills; “Eleggua” overlaps Curtis Mayfield, gris-gris funk and a sweet soul hook; and “You Lie” offers a taste of what Dr. John would sound like if the Black Keys and Morphine joined forces to back him. The last time Dr. John attempted to update his sound was 14 years ago with Anutha Zone that featured Paul Weller and other Brits keen on his early voodoo funk albums. Auerbach is more of a kindred spirit with an affinity for making horn sections sound simultaneously retro and modern.