Music Reviews

Music Reviews

The latest to hit your local record rack!

FEATURED REVIEW

“From Out of Nowhere” – Jeff Lynne’s ELO
★★★(of 5)

Electric Light Orchestra was always a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Back in the 90s, I picked up an old stereo receiver with an 8-track player built in. At the time, 8-tracks were aplenty at the thrift stores, so I picked up dozens. Only a few were regular plays for myself and my friends – Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” “High Voltage” by AC/DC, and “ELO’s Greatest Hits.” Being a sucker for vocal melodies, I was sucked in to Jeff Lynne’s world. 

There is no hiding the sound of Jeff Lynne, as this album is credited to “Jeff Lynne’s ELO,” has that exact sound that you would expect. This is obviously Electric Light Orchestra.

With the latest album, the band’s 14th overall, and first since 2015, the album’s first half is very lackluster. Typically, an album keeps the stronger songs early in the track listing. Not the case with “From Out of Nowhere.” I found myself growing more and more disappointed as I got through the first side of this record. 

On the third track, “All My Love,” the melody is so reminiscent of The Yardbirds 1965 classic “For Your Love,” I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a lawsuit coming in the future. The big difference being a looping guitar track, which begins to really sound like a digital sample on repeat. 

With “Down Came the Rain,” a crescendo arrived which led me to expect “You gotta slow down, sweet talking woman,” but was instead treated to a droning chorus of repeating the album title. 

With the love song “One More Time,” Lynne seems to summon his inner-Roy Orbison, but fails miserably in what could possibly be the worst Lynne harmony in ELO history. 

But with side two, Lynne seems to find his rhythm all around. The last five tracks on this album are exceptionally better than the first five. I found myself wondering, ‘Is the band just wearing me down, and I succumb to the sound after the first half?’ No. It took me several listens to feel confident in saying that, to this ears, this album is drastically split. 

The flip side kicks off with the blues rocker “One More Time,” a simple rock and roll chorus where the harmonies seem to kick in just right and includes an interesting keyboard solo. “Sci-fi Woman” is classic ELO. “Going’ Out on Me” is Jeff Lynne doing his best 60’s girl-group impression – and it comes out great. “Time of Our Life” has that essence ELO anthem sound. The grand finale, “Songbird,” is a bit of a slower track, reminiscent of “Telephone Line,” and it almost has that great build-up, but it does fall flat. 

All in all, I think fans of Jeff Lynne and ELO will find this new record enjoyable, but for the casual fans, there is nothing here that compares to the glory of their past.

Reviews by Jay Jackson. Jackson is a music junkie and host of Pop History Podcast, a monthly throwback to music and culture of the 1980s, available on Google Play and Apple Podcasts.  Like Pop History Podcast on Facebook, email pophistorypodcast@yahoo.com 

REVIEW ARCHIVES

“The Blurred Odyssey” – The Sh-Booms
★★★★3/4(of 5)

Formed in Orlando in 2011, The Sh-Booms have finally delivered their debut full-length LP, “The Blurred Odyseey,” and it is one hell of a record my friend.  Perhaps it was the years of being able to fine tune the songs while consistently performing live in their home state and beyond, but The Sh-Booms have delivered an album full of music which feels like both a breath of fresh air and a timeless classic at the same time. 

The band describe themselves as “garage soul,” they have elements of many influences (60s rock, punk, surf), but I really hear that old Motown school, undoubtedly due to the powerful lead vocals of Brenda Radney. Behind her, is an amazing eight-piece band: featuring a tight rhythm section, and horns which unabashedly have that soul feel, but also are reminiscent of some ska punk.  The album features short intros and outros, which seem a tad superfluous. In-between them are eight awesome tracks which will are guaranteed to get your party going – even if it’s just you in attendance.

Call it ‘garage soul,’ call it ‘r&b rock,’ call it whatever you want – “The Blurred Odyssey” is a near perfect rock and roll record. Radney belts out vocals throughout which remind us of a young Aretha Franklin, Al Ruiz provides some great background vocals to compliment her well (check out the shared leads on “King & Queen”).

After the 2-minute intro jam which sounds like something the band may have done in practices to warm up, the album really kicks off with “Detox to Retox” and “Leon the Hustler” – both tracks that you can imagine are crowd favorites at their live shows.  Radney exposes her raw emotion when the band takes a softer turn in “Audible,” a track that is a love song, but not your typical ballad, it still maintains that groove which this album has from start to finish.  “Late Night Lover,” brings the tempo up a bit, but still has that slower feel established by the previous track. 

The second half of the album is a roller coaster ride! “Dry Eyes” and “Walk It Off” are songs that just will make you want to get up and dance. Then the band closes out the record the heaviest song on the album, “King & Queen,” and the hip “Drop ‘em Dead,” before they take the one awkward turn on the entire record with the closing instrumental. The opener, I can get behind, but this closer runs way too long and sadly reminds us that this fantastic record is over.

I have been telling everyone I know who loves good music to check out “The Blurred Odyssey,” as it is not only my choice album of the year, but it surely deserves a place  on my all-time favorites list.

(This story originally appeared in the October 24th issue of The Smart Reader)

“Beneath the Eyrie” – Pixies
★★★(of 5)

After an 10-year absence, indie rock band Pixies returned in 2004 with a new single and the occasional tour throughout the decade. By the time they were ready to record their first album in over twenty years, bass player and vocalist Kim Deal announced she was out. But the band played on.  After the release of two new albums, “Indie Cindy” (2014) and “Head Carrier” (2016), many fans showed their disappointment with their new material. But the band played on.

Now, in 2019, they return with their third album since their reunion, and seventh overall – “Beneath the Eyrie.” At 38 minutes, the album moves along quickly, and kicking off with “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain,” the band seems to be finding their indie-rock groove which made them so popular in their heyday when alternative rock was so non-mainstream it was known as ‘college rock.’

The band continues to shine throughout the first four tracks of the album, including the two singles from the record: rocker “On Graveyard Hill” and the catchy “Catfish Kate.” On “This is My Fate,” singer Black Francis summons his inner Leonard Cohen in his vocal style as well as the lyrics.

The band begins to stumble with the fifth track, “Ready for Love.” A very typical love song, which is quite atypical of this band. The Pixies have played with the love song concept in the past (“La La Love You” 1989), but “Ready for Love” is missing that sardonic tone the band is known to present so well.

For the remaining six tunes, the band seems to deliver good material, but with each track, they seem to be going in a different directions. In “Long Rider,” new bass player Paz Lenchantin gets to put her vocals to use, albeit backing Francis’ vocals (a vast contrast to the earlier gothic “This is My Fate). Lenchantin takes the lead vocal in the mellow tune “Los Surfers Muertos,” and proves that, despite the muddled second half of this record, she has earned her place in the band. Francis beckons his grunge past when he belts out the surf-punk “St. Nazaire,” before taking a poppy turn with “Bird of Prey” and ending the album with two melancholy tracks “Daniel Boone” and “Death Horizon,” which together brings the album to a stumbling conclusion.

Fans of the band will likely be happy with this record, it is the best they have done this century. Personally, I find it a collection of some decent songs, but as an album, it doesn’t go down as well as I would have liked.  A proper argument against this review would be that the band has always tackled every genre they could, leaving listeners disjointed even on their classic, revered albums, I have no argument for that. It is good to hear the band playing on.

(This story originally appeared in the October 5th issue of The Smart Reader)