The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful Review


It has been five years since The Killers last album Battle born was released, but the huge group’s fourth studio album was sadly nothing more than a piece of self indulgence and walled off nostalgia. It did not pertain the slick and driven Indie Pop of their previous three albums. Their fifth studio album is called Wonderful Wonderful and comes off the back of Brandon Flowers bold second solo album The Desired Effect from 2015. The electro Pop and Disco influenced album bursted with imposing melodies and rhythms. It is exactly this and a keen ear for well fitting and more meaningful lyrics that can create another hit filled and memorable album from the Las Vegas giants. 

The Man’ echoes a larger trend of Rock and Pop groups looking to Disco as Brandon did in 2015 and this song swaggers with Funk riffs and bass lines albeit with strong electronic overtures. The shining and glimmering sound is met with distorted, low bass lines and Brandon’s smooth, yet slightly broken vocals marry with the sound well. This makes it a little more developed as a Disco/Funk track; something that they largely pull off albeit for a few unnecessary transitions. Lyrically, this song has more to say than any Killers song has for a while as they try to smash the concept of being an alpha male and the idea of being manly as a whole. This idea is channelled through the singles artwork with a child dressed in adults clothes; hinting at the immaturity of the concepts they trivialise on this track. A track that takes getting used to and though not perfect or nuanced, it offers a welcome change of tack from The Killers. The album’s title and opening track ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ begins with whirring sirens before a crisp, undulating bass line and collapsing bass drum beat accompany Brandon Flowers quivering vocals. This tense sound opens up with thin, washed out guitars and Flower’s assertive, quaking vocal in the chorus. The song goes on to break out into theatrical bursts with crashing instrumentation and bellowing vocals as the lyrics appeal to “the motherless child”. Every aspect of this song exudes drama and cinematic quality bursting from tense and dark arrangements that form the foundation of the track. Their experience is on show too as they control the arrangement with poise and precision. Though it will never be the most popular Killers track, this is quite possibly them at their most intriguing and talented; unexpectedly. Opening from resonance to a soothing lullaby, like watching a rainstorm in a desert ‘Some Kind of Love’ has a very intimate feel. Far more ethereal than previous singles it is an outpouring of adoration for both its inspiration Brian Eno’s ‘An Ending (Ascent)’ from the 1983 album ‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks,’ – the track weaves its way through the same chord progression – and Brandon Flowers wife Tana, who copes with PTSD stemming from childhood trauma. Proving just how personal The Killers latest album is, Flowers played the songs to Tana in order to get her approval before okaying them from the record. A subtle shimmer of distant guitar lines and Brandon Flowers familiar vocal creates such a calming atmosphere things almost reach a meditative state before the emotional ending lyric; ‘I can’t do this alone, we need you at home, there’s so much to see and we know that you’re strong.’

‘Run For Cover’ has less of the ironic swagger of their first single and is a fast paced, punchy track instead. With rapid rhythms, rumbling bass lines and ringing lead guitars the track maintains an impact that powers on to a peaking chorus. The song is reminiscent of their first two albums in terms of the sheer energy and indulgence with probably one too many guitar parts, but it’s a sound that you want to be layed on thick due to the catchiness of it all. It isn’t a perfect track nor their best, but it’s probably the most confident they’ve sounded for over a decade. ‘Rut’ is a bracing piece of power Pop with slamming percussion, clicking rhythms and deep piano chords; a musical environment built for Flowers’s quaking vocal. A nice and well delivered track, but a typical one a far as The Killers are concerned albeit for some joyous vocal peaks at the song’s finish. ‘Tyson V Douglas’ is track that recounts Buster Douglas’ knock out of Mike Tyson. It is a track that focuses the specific narrative via gritty riffs and chiming synths and this track works because of this. ‘Out of my Mind’ is a pure Pop Anthem in which Flowers makes reference to influences of fellow anthem purveyors including McCartney and Springsteen. This song certainly came from Flowers’ retro electronic influences of his solo work and is a welcome addition to the album. This is followed by the darker atmosphere of ‘The Calling’ which features the deep synths and scratchy guitars of Depeche Mode. This is paired by the dusty Desert Rock of Sam’s Town and it makes for a track full of attitude and confidence if the influences are fairly obvious. Wonderful Wonderful is an undoubted improvement on their last album and is a bold, more ambitious affair with better lyrics and more imaginative arrangements. In doing so they’ve delved into familiar territory to fill up the album, but these are more often than not driven and focussed affairs. Apart from that, the album has featured songs that powerful and thought provoking or at the very least show off all their strengths. It’s an inconsistent, but strong return from Las Vegas’ finest. 

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful = 8/10

Owen Riddle and Hayley Miller

Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold Review


It has been two years since one of the worlds biggest bands released their last set of material with their St. Cecilia EP in 2015 and another year since their last album Sonic Highways from 2014. When they released the first single from Concrete and Gold; ‘Run’ took some people by surprise and since then a steady steam of material and details have emerged from upcoming ninth studio album. Most notably is Greg Kurstin as producer. In recent years he’s worked with Adele, Sia and Ellie Goulding. Despite having little to no experience recording Rock music prior to Dave Grohl seeking him out, he described him as “a fucking genius” and the key to unlocking a larger Foo Fighters sound. Greg has now worked with The Shins and Liam Gallagher. Given how Sonic Highways proved a better documentary series than an album, the band wanted to come back strong with a proper album crammed full of ideas and influences.

Echoed, ringing riffs open ‘Run’ before a pacing percussion signals the start of a rabid and snarling piece of hard rock. From Dave Grohl’s screeches to the wiry lead riffs ahead of the grinding rhythms, the song kicks and screams and kicks hard. In an instant, they have the ability to turn melodic with echoed harmonies, backing vocals and Dave’s typically easy tunefulness. It is not going to be the best track you’ll hear this year, but the Foo Fighters have typically delivered a high octane track with added aggression whilst retaining the ability for melody amongst the heavy sounds. ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ has a different sound to it, an essence of composed and considered music that is given away with the Beatle-esque harmonies that open and signpost the track. The song is restrained, whilst still packing a punch within it’s steady confines with grinding riffs driving the chorus and strung out pieces in the verses. It is within this space that you get a greater feel for Dave Grohl’s songwriting. In this case ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ ponders all the life out there in space and how “we have to get our shit together” on earth “to survive this universe full of life” ‘The Line’ is the group plying their anthemic sound with this sing-a-long track; a matured ‘Times Like These’ if you will. It continues the trend along with the other singles as each offers up a subtle change in sound and delivery. The latest single opens with spread riffs echoing into the background with Grohl’s hushed tones before bursting into light with a steady, but full six piece arrangment of clear, distorted and lead guitar parts entwined with a charged bass and siren-like keys. As ever, Taylor Hawkins holds his own behind the drum kit to back up the fuller sound the band now deliver. 

‘Arrows’ is a track that rings out into the open space the instrumentation generates via a more distant recorded sound. Though it is still a typical piece of Hard Rock, it is less immediate in nature and this gives lisence for Dave’s vocals to be recorded in a whirring fashion to fade back into the instrumentation. An example of the difference created from small production changes. The title track is an intruiging one. It hints at an Industrial sound with grinding and dragging guitars with the distorted, gentle vocals. This is set up to calmly open up into a lighter sound of harmonious backing vocals and more open riffs. These steep changes in tone are something that they accentuate as the song goes on. A nice shift in tone and great way to close the album. ‘La Dee Da’ has verses of swagger and shuffling progression that meets with a screeching chorus. Tracks like ‘Dirty Water’ are reminiscent of Greg Kurstin’s The Bird and the Bee with their breezy melodies and light harmonies. The track then bursts into a driving piece of distorted electronica and guitar. Both sound good in isolation but prove to be an unrecognisable pair in the same track. That sums up this album. All of the ideas for the album provide results, but these emerge in the wrong places or only for fleeting moments. When paired an ever confident delivery and with the strong set of singles you have a good album, yet you know that the Foo Fighters are capable of making a great album again; they’ve just got to get their ideas in order. 

Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold = 7/10

Owen Riddle

Sunday Suggestion – Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney – Only One

Since this is the week of Kanye and all that… here is a look at a track from over a year ago that would have made The Life of Pablo sound quite different had he kept that direction. ‘Only One’ with Paul McCartney is a gentle and lapping track by Kanye’s standards and is an intimate and personal track that’s about family close to him from his Mother to his daughter. Such personal and intimate lyrics require music to compliment and respect it them and calling upon McCartney to help capture that was a wise move from Kanye. This is brought about by the soft, nudging organs and a more subtle auto-tune upon his vocal that is a little less ridiculous than it has been in the past. The chorus still gives way to a refined piece of joyousness with McCartney’s electronically charged backing vocal. It’s a close and emotional song, but one that builds up to more happier climbs too. Though his credibility as an out and out musician may always but questioned; Kanye West’s ability to produce a well made and layered track is becoming less questionable.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Kanye West – Real Friends

 

We now know that Kanye West will release his follow up from 2013’s YEEZUS with SWISH on February 11th. Last weekend he released another track in ‘Real Friends’ which features soft, muted synths and echoed beats. This brings the focus upon Kanye’s clear and isolated vocals and the lyrics they provide. It is a little more melodic and tuneful than other singles from the album, and offers up a change of pace from other tracks from the album such as ‘All Day’ and ‘Facts’. These tracks offer up no new collaborators to join Paul McCartney so far, but we’re certain more will be revealed in due course.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Kanye West – Say You Will (Ft. Caroline Shaw)

Emerging from his recent anonymity to add further mystery is Kanye West with a rework of ‘Say You Will’ from 808s and Heartbreak. This is the first material published on his long-time dormant Soundcloud page and since this track is a cover of previously released material then this sheds little light on his upcoming SWISH album which we all remain in the dark on. Nevertheless, this reworked material will hopefully lead on to some evidence of his next album’s existence aside from the two McCartney collaborations we got at the start of the year. ‘Say You Will’ features West’s auto-tuned vocal and a hazy arrangement of electronica and sparse percussion samples. The washed out backing vocals add this atmospheric style and inject a slight haunting quality to the track, indeed it moves to a from a relaxing and unsettling listen. A nice rework however, but lets hope for some new material soon.

https://soundcloud.com/kanyewest/say-you-will

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die

I was recently alarmed at a series of articles looking at possible candidates for the greatest living rockstar on the planet after Kanye West claimed such a title at Glastonbury. I was alarmed at people suggesting Alex Turner and Beyoncé whilst completely ignoring statistically the most successful living rockstar on the planet. That is Paul McCartney. Maybe it’s cool or hip to shun such an obvious choice but I don’t see any point in that. The man has had a go at pretty much more variants of rock music than anyone else that comes to mind and even more impressively has remained successful in the process. One song evocative of that is one of the great Rock Opera-type tracks in Live and Let Die, the soundtrack to the Bond film of the same name in 1973. The song includes those blocky, chiming piano chords that set up the whole orchestra ensemble and a sharp lead guitar riff which tears through the waves of sound from the orchestra before just as easily slipping back into Rock Ballad territory and back again via McCartney’s trademark shriek towards a climatic instrumental finish. If that isn’t an example of one of the greatest living rockstars on the planet then I don’t know what is.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Swim Deep – Grand Affection

Birmingham’s Swim Deep are looking to move on from the cute psychedelia and Hanson aesthetic with their new album Mothers out on September 18th. Their debut LP Where the Heaven Are We made up for in production ability what it lacked in substance. They look to be channelling Kraftwerk and McCartney with their new single ‘Grand Affection’ and harnessing that ability in the studio with a song that is anchored around a bulky, synth beat with a echoed riffs and bass lines floating across it in much the same way Austin William’s vocals do. It’s a track that remains rather simple in terms of structure and perhaps still lacking a but of substance, but the delivery and presentation of something relatively simple is rather impressive as they open up and extend the boundaries of the tracks sound. A promising start for their new album.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

MUSIC NEWS – Grammys, Kanye West embarrasing himself, Noel Gallagher ranting and Paul McCartney collaborating

Album of the Year

The 2015 Grammy’s saw Sam Smith clean up as expected with four awards including Record and Song of the year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album for an artist with undoubted vocal talent and ability with the final two categories being very much deserved. Album of the year for which Sam Smith and Beyoncé were nominated, was won by Beck for his excellent Morning Phase (Not only did we give the album full marks but we put the album 2nd on a list of the year’s best albums) who also picked up Best Rock Album. The album also received Best Engineered, Non Classical Album and is a credit to Beck who played a monumental amount of the instruments on the album. Pharrell Williams picked up three Grammys for Best Video, Urban album and Pop performance whilst Aphex Twin won Best Electronic/Dance album which no one can complain about along with Jack White’s award for Best Rock Performance for Lazaretto. Best Altervative album went to St. Vincent’s self-titled masterpiece (we gave it full marks and put it top of out best albums of 2014 list) which was probably the most deserving of the lot.

Another cringe worthy moment occurred for Kanye West as the already bemused Beck picked up the Album of the Year award. West leapt on to the stage, went to say something and then sat back down for what he later explained was annoyance of Beyoncé not receiving the award and attacking Beck for diminishing artistry. Apparently writing, recording and composing all you own music and playing a vast amount of the instruments on your own including conducting orchestral pieces diminishes artistry as opposed to not writing, composing, recording or playing any instrument independently like Beyoncé for the wonderful vocalist that she is. Indeed her self titled album has undoubtedly her best work yet and Beck himself thought she was going to win, but perhaps for once they went for substance over status. Something clearly hard to swallow for Kanye who can only dream of the capability Beck used to bring Morning Phase into fruition again for as talented as Kanye himself is. But if you read Kanye West quotes then he gives you the exact reason why Beck won.

Meanwhile Noel Gallagher has been speaking out (like he has been for the last twenty one years) about his view of the music industry. Alex Turner has been back in his sights and anything making those in the NME office squirm is always welcome. He said he’d rather drink petrol than listen to him talk in what was a wider rant about record labels removing artists independence which was a point reiterated by his negative comments about Ed Sheeran. His isolated points are pretty much a reflection of what we were all thinking anyway.

Paul McCartney has been busy in the studio with another project. This time it’s with Lady Gaga and follows up from what seems to be a sizeable influence on Kayne West’s new material and collaborations with video game Destiny.  He’s not known for standing still but he’s making himself known to yet another generation.

Single Review – Kanye West featuring Paul McCartney – Only One

When it was announced that Kanye West was working on new material, not many would have guessed that following the likes of Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and JayZ in working on new material for Kanye would be Sir Paul McCartney. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering McCartney’s career and the nature of it. He’s effortlessly graced every generation since the 1960’s, from The Beatles, Wings, duets with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder to EDM DJ Bloody Beetroots, he’s fronted Nirvana and after scoring several films and a ballet he’s recently scored the Destiny video game. The track ‘Only One’ is a gentle and lapping track by Kanye’s standards and is an intimate and personal track that’s about family close to him from his Mother to his daughter. Such personal and intimate lyrics require music to compliment and respect it them and calling upon McCartney to help capture that was a wise move from Kanye. This is brought about by the soft, nudging organs and a more subtle auto-tune upon his vocal that is a little less ridiculous than it has been in the past. The chorus still gives way to a refined piece of joyousness with McCartney’s electronically charged backing vocal. It’s a close and emotional song, but one that builds up to more happier climbs too. Though his credibility as an out and out musician may always but questioned; Kanye West’s ability to produce a well made and layered track is becoming less questionable.

This Week’s Music Video with Paul McCartney, Perfume Genius, Charlie XCX, Johnny Marr, Jessie Ware, Blonde Redhead & Wu-Tang Clan