A quick review for a quick album.
For anyone seeking the antidote to the bloated pop ballads of Fall Out Boy’s most recent album, Save Rock and Roll, look no further than the pop punk four piece’s latest effort; PAX.AM Days.
With a mere eight tracks, none exceeding the three minute mark, Fall Out Boy have delivered an album which is the complete reverse of their last.
The tight, punky, riff fuelled songs are thrown out thick and fast, each track like a shot of adrenaline to the ears. While Save Rock And Roll harnessed Dubstep, duets and other mainstays of modern pop, PAX.AM Days owes more to The Sex Pistols and the underground indie grunge of The Hives.
While it’s usually the norm for a band to grow and experiment, Fall Out Boy have followed up their most ambitious and wide ranging sounding record with something that takes them right back to their early punk roots.
It’s fast, it’s fun and above all it is absolutely unapologetic to anyone who was just getting used to the idea of them being a band who duets with Elton John. Fall Out Boy may not have saved Rock and Roll, but they sure as hell just gave punk a shot in the arm.
It’s funny what a few years and a clutch of shit hot songs will do for a fella’s career. Think back just a couple of years ago and Miles Kane was, to most, nothing more than the other half of The Last Shadow Puppets.
Now if you’re gonna be known as the other half of anything, it might as well be one of the best British bands to have come out of the past two decades, but obviously Mr Kane was not content with stopping there.
As a result, in 2009 he released debut solo album Colour of the Trap. Not a perfect album by any means, but one with a fierce selection of tunes such as Inhaler and Come Closer (we all know ’em by now). Songs that can remind the casual observer why music can be so, so much more than samples and processed beats.
And now, in 2013, Mr Miles Kane seems to have invented the chorus. I don’t mean to suggest that he invented the term, or anything so arrogant, but fucking hell the rest of the albums this year are going to have a hell of a job topping the feel good, goosebump inducing explosion of nostalgia and sheer joy that almost every song on Don’t Forget Who You Are seems to erupt into.
You see, there isn’t a single song on this album that doesn’t have a genuinely catchy or unforgettable moment. The first three tracks rattle along at a breathless pace; Taking Over kicks the album off with an Electricity style riff and some tasty vocal harmonies on the chorus while I can only describe Better Than That as a jubilant sixties street party.
We’re afforded a moment of peace with Out of Control. A cracking little number which slows things down but still has a sweeping orchestral chorus that induces chills. Then it’s back into it with a slightly more rock oriented selection of tracks.
Bombshells is a very Secret Affair style number, nice and moddy, while Tonight is like a dancier, glam rockish cousin of Come Closer and has a very nice solo tucked away in there.
Unfortunately, acoustic track Fire in my Heart is basically Half The World Away. That isn’t to say it’s a bad song, but the obvious comparison becomes kind of offputting and after another slew of heavy, fast tracks, another sudden break seems slightly jarring in the grand scheme of things.
Fortunately, You’re Gonna Get it has Paul “King of the Mods” Weller written all over it, as the mod couple wrote it together and it is a standout track. Pure, unashamed, undiluted rock and roll and frankly, mod as fuck.
And then it’s moving swiftly onto Give Up, the first single from the album, which is nothing short of a stomping, dirty great indie tune with a clear aim to tear up the crowd at live shows. The military drum roll, the chant, the chorus, the beasty riff, all the makings of a classic.
Album closer Darkness in Our Hearts has a very Strokesy, Last Nite sound going on (even the drum beat is the same), but it quickly changes into a sound which is unmistakably Kane’s. He’s clearly big on chanty, repetitive lyrics on this album, but it suits him well.
Don’t Forget Who You Are is, in short, more of a refinement of his sound than a full on evolution. He’s kept everything that made his first solo effort great and thrown on a fuck load more chorus, tune and mod magic. If this album doesn’t make you want to go straight out and throw on the sharpest suit you can buy, you’re listening to it wrong.
Deep breath, everyone, I’m about to share a secret with you. Band’s change their sound. I honestly don’t see the point of judging an album on anything other than its own merits and faults. Is Fall Out Boy’s long awaited (well, by some) comeback album the sort of fast paced pop punkery of debut Take This to Your Grave or does it lean more towards the introspective ballads of Folie a Deux?
Truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Music will always be subjective, as surely as this review is by no means a definitive account of the quality of Save Rock and Roll. Are Fall Out Boy as good as they used to be? You might as well ask if Fall Out Boy were ever good. So let’s try our best to not compare a band that has grown during their four year hiatus to the teenage emo heart throbs they once were. Glad we got that out of the way.
Save Rock and Roll is probably the best pop album to have come out in a long old time (pause while teenage girls everywhere take to the internet to rant about how “FOB will never be pop”). Of course, claiming this doesn’t say much considering the current standard of pop music. If you look up to Nicki Minaj, you are probably brain damaged. I know I pretty much just made a case for subjectivity in music, but there are no two ways where she is concerned. Sorry.
For the most part, the album is fast, catchy and fun. Fall Out Boy haven’t lost their ear for a hook, with the funky dance bassline of Where Did the Party Go, the infectious sing along vibe of Young Volcanoes and the fantastic riff from Death Valley, the last of which incidentally, contains a very brief Dubstep breakdown. Spoiler alert, it actually works.
There are places where the album falls flat. Rat a Tat is a song I cannot for the life of me get through for the sole reason that hearing Courtney Love pronounce “it’s Courtney, bitch” makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty fork and lie down to die. (A shame, since that song is pretty great otherwise).
Alone Together is a little too Backstreet Boys for my taste and title track Save Rock and Roll kind of kills itself by using an awful altered sample of one of the band’s early songs Chicago is so Two Years ago. For the entire album, the band seems to power through with such confidence and gusto, that such a call back seems out of place.
Save Rock and Roll is by no means a great album. It took me a few listens to consider it as anything more than just quite good. But at the end of the day, the way Fall Out Boy have kicked down the door and released something this different is something I can respect. I can only imagine where they’ll go next, but by all accounts, Fall Out Boy seem to be sure of a bright future.
After years of playing the role of genius for hire to countless bands, including The Cribs, Modest Mouse and of course, The Smiths, Johnny Marr has finally released an album under the solo banner.
Luckily, the latest in a long line to be crowned Godlike Genius by the NME has kept all of his bet ideas for himself. The Messenger encapsulates everything great about his body of work. The record feels like a tidy summation, a musical CV showcasing what he does best.
And of course, what Marr does best is play guitar. The man who has often been credited with birthing the modern indie sound has excelled on this album.
From the Squire esque cascading riff of title track “The Messenger” to the northern soul rythm of fantastic opening track “The Right Thing Right” each song is fresh, inventive and surprising. Never predictable.
It becomes entirely more impressive when one considers a man who has been in music since the 80s is still churning out more innovative sounds than some of the up and coming bands on the scene.
While the fretwork is impressive, there was a worry the album may fall down lyrically and vocally. Luckily, this is not the case. Marr has as much of an ear for a vocal hook as he does a guitar one, as showcased in songs such as “Generate! Generate!” A rousing Marr era Cribs style tune.
Lyrically Marr has just as much to say as his previous songwriting partners. The album as a whole conveys a theme of apathy and disconnection with life. In a time when social networks and X Factor seems to dominate the public, The Messenger really connects.
If you happen to be a fan of Marr and his previous body of work, you will love this album. If you’re looking for a fresh sound wrapped up in a catchy collection of tunes, you will love this album.
If you’re looking for a Cilla Black cover, this album will not be for you. In fact, music in general probably isn’t for you. Sorry.
It’s took long enough by far, but Johnny Marr’s first solo effort is a standout album, and a great start to 2013.