Old Oxygen.ie reviews

July 3, 2010


Beyonce

B-DAY

After kick starting her solo career with a swift one two, (Work it out, Crazy in love) Beyonce’s solo career quickly became a dank squib as she rested on her non existent laurels and buried us in soulless ballads and tired samples. Focusing on establishing herself as a hip-hop star, rather than artist, Beyonce launched everything from perfumes to a clothing range, tirelessly staking her undeserved claim on Diana Ross’s throne. As a result her debut album, Dangerously in Love, sounded contrived as she whored her connections to achieve the closure with her teenybopper past her abilities could not attain for her.

B-day, her sophomore album, is marginally better. Although it ages with each listen it does have a higher hit than miss record and two of them rank up there with the best work of her career.

“Suga Mama”, with its honky tonk bass line and tootin horns is a wonderful ode to the kept man that invites you to “Come sit on Mommas lap boy” and whose kitsch appeal will only improve as Beyonce follows Aretha Franklin’s waist expanding trip through the aging process. “Freekum Dress” meanwhile is deliciously absurd, a cock tease anthem with a thumping bass line that is one half Crazy in Love, one half Dirty.

“Déjà vu” and “Kitty Kat” are harmless, if charmless while Green Light is that old Neptune’s beat again-though Beyonce’s vocals pull what would other wise be a limp filler track up by the boots. “Irreplaceable” is a simple ballad, whose heartfelt lyrics are almost ruined by an irritating chorus while the Victoria Beckham cover “Resentment” is soulful enough it never betrays its Spice Girl roots.

Elsewhere on the album “Ring the Alarm” see’s this not so independent woman fretting over the loss of her Conchilla coat and her condo rather than her man, proving that its been along time since the shoes on her feet, she bought them, “Get Me Bodied” is a horrific combination of shrill vocals and repetitive beats while “Upgrade You” penned by sister Solange is middle of the road rhythm and bass propped by some comical lyrics (“I can do for you what Martin did for the people”)

All in all Beyonce is nowhere near living up to her rumored potential. I’ll resist the multitudes of puns that screamed out at me when I saw that she called this album bidet and settle for the fact that she’s not Ms Right, but she’s all right… for now.

Babyshambles
Down in Albion

Expectations were high for this, the first album from former Libertines front man Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles. And we need not reiterate that so to was Pete, throughout its concoction.  And while Pete’s lifestyle is key to his mystique and hence his appeal, it is also responsible for holding Doherty back and preventing “Down in Albion“ from being the album it had the potential to be. His well documented battle with the brown has led to Albions repeated delay which, paradoxically, has led to the final cut of the album sounding rushed and under prepared as recording sessions had to be recorded around Pete’s notorious drug benders.

Songs that drove Irish audiences into a frenzy last December fall flat here, lacking the passion and hurtling pace that set Babyshambles apart from their inferior live competitors. In the hands of a better producer “Fuck Forever” would have become an anthem for a generation in moral decline. Unfortunately Mick Jones was more interested in guiding his nose into Kate Moss’s stash than guiding his already misguided star. As with “La belle et la bette” and “Pipedown”, “Fuck Forever “promises much but disintegrates into messy bedlam. Not necessarily bad, but it good have been so much better.

Lyrically the album bristles with venom, fury and alienation and his media image make his thinly veiled jabs at his former band mates, his girlfriends cohorts and those whom he perceives as out to get him all the more joyous. But vocally Pete is out of his depth as a front man and this album suffers greatly from lack of sparring partner, both vocally and musically. As with the two bands that clearly influenced this artist (The Smiths, The Clash) Every Morrissey had a Marr, every Strummer had a Jones. None of Babyshambles have yet risen to that challenge.

Fans of The Libertines will derive much pleasure from this album as “A’rebours”, “8 Dead Boys” and “Back From The Dead” slide comfortably in beside any of their back catalogue.

“In Love With A Feeling and “Merry Go Round” see Pete play the ballad of the bad boy quite beautifully and even the weakest tracks show promise. Despite all this though, one must wonder why the group decided to include tracks as weak as “Sticks and Stones” and “What Katy Did Next” on the album when gems such as “Wolfman” and “Gang of Gin” are left to be resurrected live.

However with the group’s formidable live reputation and better production on their second LP, Babyshambles should live to silence their critics. Another day.

Placebo

Placebo

If Robert Smith is the Godfather of Goth, then Placebo are his petulant but precariously talented godsons. Luring you in with their tales of sleazy sex, dirty drugs and rock and roll excess they explore their trademark themes of isolation, loss and defiance with lyrics of great sensitivity and humor. Containing their biggest hits (Bruise Pristine, Teenage Angst, 36 Degrees), live favorites (Bionic, Lady of The Flowers) and forgotten gems (Hang on to your IQ and Come Home) Placebos killer may now be more potent but there is an increase in the filler that comes with such experimentation. No album runs as perfectly from track to track as their first.  The B-side Slackerbitch see’s Placebo at their misogynistic, drugged out best while both Flesh Mechanic & Drowning By Numbers are of such a standard you wonder why they were left of the original release.

There is a ramshackle collection of live performance and videos tagged onto spruce up the re-release, none of which is particularly interesting.

And then of course there’s Nancy Boy, the lurid anthem that put them on the map and from which they can’t escape. With lyrics about ugly sex “Eye holes in a paper bag, greatest lay I ever had” and gender bending “Kind of guy who mates for life, gotta help him find a wife, were a couple, when our bodies double” it is everything that would come to define Placebo- Cheeky, aggressive, embarrassing and empowering.

Primal Scream

Riot City Blues

Leaving the experimentation of previous albums Vanishing Point and Exterminator behind them, as well as producer Kevin Shields, Primal Scream return with an album that sounds like the townsfolk of Deliverance at an MDMA laced hootenanny. With Mandolins and Banjos to rape the band, Riot City Blues bares all the markings of a group who are finished with being a groundbreaking act and are now focused on being a solid one. All ways ones to placate your Mick Jagger obsessed father and your acid house loving brother, the former will certainly bare the bigger grin after listening to this album with its knee slapping, toe tapping old school rock and roll.

From the T-Rex riffing “The 99th Floor” and “Were Going To Boogie” to the New York Dolls homage “Dolls” this album is far from their finest work, but still manages to come together better than any of the other acts ripping them of at the moment (Kassabian, The Infadels). Current single Country Girl is their most crowd pleasing track since “Rocks” while Alison “VV” Mosshart takes a break from the day job, (vocalist in Patti Smith tribute group The Kills) to add her subtle touch on punk meets country “ Nitty Gritty” and “Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar”.

The groups are at their most Rolling Stones-ey with touching closer “Sometimes I feel So Lonely” while “Hells Coming Down” makes you want to grab your cousin and head to the nearest trailer park with its wailing fiddles and hick vocals. Best of all is the grinding, pulsing filth of “When The Bomb Drops” where they out Gallagher the Gallagher’s and deliver a bass line that only they could do justice to.

Lyrically they are the equivalent of a Diana joke, they’re not big, they’re not clever and they certainly aren’t appropriate, but they sure are a hell of a lot of fun. Be it asphyxiation by rosary beed for a felatialy satisfied priest or even a gun toting, crucified Jesus it’s superbly silly and continues to signal Primal Scream out as the purveyors of really cool music.

One of the few acts whose music can glide effortlessly from the sweat and excess of the dance floor to the neck bracing brawl of a festival, they maybe a long way of their best here but this album won’t disappoint, particularly in the live setting where they excel.

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