franzferdinandtonightI will say this much about Scottish band Franz Ferdinand’s moody and restless third album: It’s definitely different. It’s also the same in that their basic core sound, inspired by 70’s and 80’s era punk and New Wave is still present, though they’ve layered some electronica on top of it, along with some dub, ska, even a bit of folk, a bit of disco and funk and a generous amount of psychedelic elements. What might’ve sounded like a confused mess instead comes off as an intriguing, energetic and frequently inspired shift in several different directions at once (i.e. the nearly 8 minute long “Lucid Dreams,” which is a little psychedelic, a little New Wave, and then winds up with an extended electronica jam). I loved their last album, and I find myself, on the first couple of listens, anyway, not exactly loving Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. That said, the changes here aren’t so radical that fans of their last two albums are going to feel alienated or anything, and those changes may earn them some new ones. Don’t get me wrong, though, I do like this album a lot, and I appreciate their effort to branch out musically. It may just take awhile to grow on me. Standout cuts: “Ulysses,” “Turn It On,” “No You Girls” and “Bite Hard.”

http://www.myspace.com/franzferdinand

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loveisallSwedish band Love Is All’s second album A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night sounds suitably restless and more than a little frenetic: The 11 tracks contained here are a noisy fusion of punk rock, surf music, ska and New Wave pop, with any number of influences floating on the surface, Romeo Void, Sugarcubes, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Pylon and the B-52’s among them. Once it gets started, the album doesn’t slow down until “Giants Will Fall” and then two tracks later, “A More Uncertain Future,” both New Wave styled ballads by way of Phil Spector. Most of A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night is furious and frequently heavy on the dissonance, and I expect listeners will either hear an inspired mash-up of styles or an overly busy mishmash. I tend to hear the latter more than I hear the former, but I’d encourage listeners to listen to more than one track before making up your mind about Love Is All. Whatever you end up deciding about Love Is All and whether you find their music energizing or just exhausting, I think A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night is worth a listen, anyway. Standout cuts: “New Beginnings,” “Wishing Well,” “Big Bangs, Black Holes, Meteorites” and “19 Floors.”

http://www.myspace.com/loveisall8

Off With Their Heads, the third album from UK based band Kaiser Chiefs, combines a bit of XTC and Madness with some of the social and political commentary of bands like the English Beat and the Specials into a pretty irresistible dance pop mix. They really came into their own with their last album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, following an enjoyable, if comparatively lightweight, debut, Employment, and they continue their upward trajectory with this Mark Ronson produced effort. Both the music and the lyrics are smarter sounding, more expansive and self-assured, and though it loses some of its fire on the last couple of tracks, Off With Their Heads generally contains some of the band’s best material yet. Standout cuts: “Never Miss A Beat,” “Like It Too Much,” “You Want History” and “Tomato In The Rain.”

http://www.myspace.com/kaiserchiefs

Foals – Antidotes

April 12, 2008

If you combined The Bad Plus with Vampire Weekend and threw in some Haircut 100 and some Cure-like vocals, you might get something like Oxford, UK based band Foals, who find fresh and inventive ways to mix up art rock, jam band music, jazz, ska, and Afrobeat, among other influences, for their debut record Antidotes. The album starts out strong, but really the band really comes into their own on the second half, with tracks like “Balloons,” “Big Big Love (Fig. 2)” and “Hummer,” the latter being a bonus track on the U.S. release. Antidotes is an album that really grows on you with repeated listens, and I have to think that it’s going to be on a lot of “best of 2008” lists at the end of the year. Standout cuts: “Cassius,” “Electric Bloom,” “Big Big Love (Fig. 2)” and “Hummer.”

http://www.myspace.com/foals

horrorpopsA little bit punk, a little bit ska, a little bit new wave and a lot psychobilly, it’s the new Horrorpops album, Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, which finds the Danish band in fine form. Patricia Day sounds alternately fierce and alluring on lead vocals while also playing a mean upright bass guitar, and there’s some stellar guitarwork from Nekroman and ace drumming from Neidermeyer. Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, the Russ Meyeresque album title, hints at the general movie theme here, though “Boot2Boot,” an angry protest song about the closing of a punk club last year in their native Copenhagen is a temporary departure from it. The band sounds freshly inspired with this one, which makes the 40 minute running time blow by. Standout cuts: “Missfit,” “Boot2Boot,” “Heading For The Disco” and “Hitchcock Starlet.”

http://www.myspace.com/thehorrorpops

Jack Peñate – Matinée

February 3, 2008

I did a short review of some Jack Peñate songs in advance of this release of the full length debut by this UK musician, and I compared the music to the Housemartins. That remains true on Matinée, where you’ll hear echoes of Haircut 100, the Specials and the English Beat as well. Penate’s faster tempo songs work better than his slower tunes, as with “Spit At Stars,” “Have I Been A Fool?,” “Torn At The Platform” and “Second, Minute Or Hour,” the highlights of the album. However, the hidden track on track 11, an alternate, slowed down version of “Learning Lines,” is terrific. It’s a spirited, fun debut from a promising solo artist.

http://www.myspace.com/jackpenate