Tag Archives: album review

Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People [Review]

The topic of Frank Turner’s music has often taken a backseat in media due to recent controversy over his political affiliations and the release of his best-selling autobiography, The Road Beneath My Feet. However, Turner is back in true folk-punk style with his latest LP Positive Songs for Negative People, an album which seems set to divide fans and have critics questioning whether it’s time for Turner to change his tune.

The album doesn’t burst into life so much as break softly with gentle lullaby The Angel Islington. It’s a delicate melody that sees Turner crooning of rebirth, singing ‘I resolve to start again, to wash my feet and cleanse my sins.’ Indicating that we can expect a refreshing album of positivity, Turner doesn’t disappoint as he launches into leading track Get Better, a raw and powerful slice of the traditional Frank that we know and love, complete with loud vocals, fist-pumping drum beats and crowd-clapping breaks. The album continues in a similar vein of jaunty pianos and upbeat lyrics with The Next Storm, but following track The Opening Act of Spring is an oxymoronic piece that continues with spirited instrumentals yet is contrasted heavily with lyrics of turmoil and struggle. However, in keeping with the theme of the album, there is a dash of sunshine in Turner’s gloomy vocals, stating that ‘I can dream of going back outside when the rain and thunder’s done’.

Following tracks Glorious You and Mittens are the album’s blinding highlights; Glorious You’s classic guitar intro is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and is a refreshing tune with upbeat guitar patterns, loud, repetitive choruses and dance-inducing drum beats. It isn’t difficult to imagine this song being played to thousands at a summer festival and seeing those thousands belting back the infectious chorus. Mittens is a sincere ballad that entombs bitterness and sadness yet still leaves the listener feeling cosy. The song culminates with a gloriously gritty and heartfelt climax that transcends into a gentle termination, all the while filled with raw emotion and passion on Turner’s behalf. This is Frank at his best – expressive yet stirring. Far too often we see Turner preaching to the masses, whereas it’s his personal touches that truly make his tracks shine.

It’s a shame that a track as beautiful as Mittens jumps to the train wreck that is Out of Breath, a two-minute mess that travels at break-neck speed and sits awkwardly next to its mid-paced predecessor. Similarly, Demons is a forgettable and cliché track that detracts from the few gems on the album. The lyrics ‘at the truth we have arrived, god damn it’s great to be alive’ are cheesy at best and tarnish the latter half of Positive Songs alongside tracks Love Forty Down and Silent Key.

However, explosive track Josephine shines bright, and it’s anthemic from the start. ‘Whoa-oa-oa-oa’ pop-punk style choruses and a passionate, goose bump-inducing, confetti canon climax make Josephine a stand-out track from the album. It’s here where we truly see Turner’s progression from 2013’s Tape Deck Heart; it’s experimental and sees Turner leaning away from his folk-punk tendencies and more towards mainstream rock. If released, this song would be the radio’s darling.

Bizarre penultimate track Silent Key tells the tale of Christa McAuliffe, an astronaut aboard the tragic space shuttleChallenger. Esme Patterson joins Turner for an awkward harmony, and the track concludes in a blaze of gritty guitars andTurner’s trademark shouty vocals. Silent Key is an unsettling track of death, contrasting sharply with the album’s tragic finale,Song For Josh, a touching elegy to Turner’s friend Josh Burdette. This is the only song on the album to be recorded live, and it was performed at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC where Josh worked. The track is the most haunting on the record and is faintly reminiscent of Frank’s 2008 track Long Live The Queen. His voice can be heard to be breaking at points and the raw emotion conveyed makes the song a memorable tribute to Turner’s dear friend.

Perhaps the album can be seen as a reflection of life, opening with a track of birth and renewal and culminating with two songs that centre on death. The fact that the album both begins and ends with a heartfelt acoustic melody gives the album a sense of resolution and circularity. Positive Songs seems like Frank’s way of showing us that life, like Positive Songs, has both bright and dark moments that we must try and see positively, because after all, we’re not alive for long.

Positive Songs has its peaks and its ditches, and many listeners will feel that Turner could have done better. However, the songs that are done well are spectacular, and, thankfully, those that aren’t are easily forgotten.

Young Guns – Ones and Zeros [Album Review]

In the past year, Young Guns have undergone an exciting rebirth, exploding back onto the British and American rock scene with the release of their third studio album, Ones and Zeros. With a three and a half year wait since the release of Bones, which saw them rise to the top of the charts and have a seemingly endless series of UK/EU and US tours, it was uncertain whether Young Guns would sink or float in the increasingly choppy waves of the alternative music scene. They could have played it safe, made a ‘Bones II’ and be done with it. But they didn’t.

Opening track Rising Up instantly indicates the new direction that Young Guns are headed, drip feeding a smooth, melodic flow of synth beats before detonating into powerful bass-heavy rock. Immediately, Ones and Zeros oozes confidence and an energy that persists throughout the rest of the record. This is prevalent in I Want Out, a jaw dropping blend of slick bass rhythms, crashing drums, intricate guitars and thunderous gang vocals expertly intertwined with bursts of synth that makes for a show stopping dance hit. Memento Mori is another shining example of Ones and Zeros transcending genre barriers – rhythmic drum beats, repetitive choruses and periodic outbursts of ‘hey!’ are reflective of the more mainstream influences on the album, yet the track still keeps its groundings in rock.

However, although Young Guns have energy and vigour in abundance, they also demonstrate their gentler side with Lullaby and Die on Time. Both songs commence as slow, soft tracks that steadily build up into a ballad-like climax complete with pianos, deafening drums and hard-hitting, elongated notes from vocalist Gustav Wood. Both songs are solemn and emotional gems, the rubies on the treasure chest that is Ones and Zeros.

The peak of the album comes in the form of Speaking In Tongues, an anthemic godsend of a song that’s not only a stand-out track from Ones and Zeros, but is a highlight of Young Guns’ entire musical career. A fiery explosion of deep bass riffs, violent drums, powerful guitars and Gustav Wood’s dynamic vocals, this track firmly cements Young Guns’ place at the forefront of the British rock scene.

Ones and Zeros is beautifully indefinable. Its irresistible mixing of genres and styles reflect the complicated and often unstable writing process that has consumed Young Guns over the past two years. Ones and Zeros was written between the US and the UK, and this influx of influence is reflected in the final product. It is an amalgamation of the past three and a half years: copious amounts of experience, changes in their styles of writing, the band being torn apart and reborn stronger, louder, better.

It’s different from anything they’ve ever done, but it’s also different from anything most rock bands have done. It’s a beautiful hybrid of pulsating electronic beats and fiery anthemic riffs – it’s bursting with creative genius, and it’s a risk that is certain to pay off. Although this may be an exciting new direction for the five-piece, there are some things that never change. They’ve never lost the energy or the dynamism demonstrated in All Our Kings Are Dead and Bones and, as usual, Gustav Wood’s breath-taking affinity for lyrical poetry is humbling. This album is revolutionary, and Young Guns are going to dominate the world of music like they’ve never done before.

10/6/15

Kids In Glass Houses – Peace [Album Review]

Tracklisting:

  1. Peace
  2. Drive
  3. Set My Body Free
  4. V-I-People
  5. Novocaine
  6. Storm Chasers
  7. The Runaways
  8. Up All Night
  9. Black Cloud
  10. Night Crawler

 

After their 2011 release In Gold Blood reached the Number 1 spot on the UK Rock Albums Chart, expectations for their new record have been higher than Lindsay Lohan, but Welsh quintet Kids In Glass Houses are back with a vengeance in the form of their explosive new pop album, Peace.

Opening with the title track, it’s unquestionable that Kids In Glass Houses have evolved into something phenomenal. Erupting with energy and instantly establishing itself as a masterpiece in the band’s extensive discography, Peace is a rare gem that will lighten any mood and have you yelling the lyrics until you’re hoarse. It would seem that Kids In Glass Houses are aiming to release the guilty inner pop junkie in all of us and clearly they were not messing about when they said they ‘wanted to inject the fun back into ourselves’.

Unsurprisingly, the album does have an electronic underbelly and traces of computerisation can be found as vocalist Aled Phillips croons the infectious chorus to the Drive, the first single the boys released from the album. Set My Body Free and V-I-People also consist heavily of electronic dance elements, but these songs would be nothing without the feisty guitar riffs and powerful drums that earned Kids In Glass Houses their current status. All of these songs follow a similar route as Peace, with an energetic and robust kick to complement the catchy lyrics and contribute to the fun and carefree theme of the album so far.

Fifth track Novocaine has a darker and more solemn undertone and, although the chorus is lively and loud, it helps to balance the pace of the album. This continues with Storm Chasers, a powerful track that tells a tale of sorrow and regret and has vocalist Aled belting out his emotions with a passion.

Although the album picks up with The Runaways, it can be said that the second half of Peace is a more serious yet relaxed side to the new Kids In Glass Houses. They’ve toned down the usage electronic synthesizers and reverted back to what alt-rock is all about – pulsating drum beats, powerful guitar riffs and earth-shattering vocals that aren’t just about dancing and having a good time. Up All Night sings of a lost love, Black Cloud is a tune that screams of defiance and determination and Night Crawler is an anthemic and solemn finale full of torment and anguish.

With only ten tracks, Peace is short but sweet and each track is worthy of being a top-selling single. All that’s left to tell is whether fans will appreciate the poppier sound of Kids In Glass Houses entering a new era.

3/9/14