Album reviews: Battles, The Libertines, Public Image Ltd and Thunderbitch
Instrumental third album from Battles is addictive, The Libertines are all sweet bitterness and witty musings, while PiL are as outspoken as ever
From their cosmic prog-techno breakthrough hit Atlas, to the mind-bending math rock of 2011's Gloss Drop, in some weirdly comforting way I've always found the tension of Battles' glitchy music to border on migraine-inducing. Whether the evil elf vocals of multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton (who departed the band after debut album Mirrored), or the mesmerising off-kilter pounding of ex-Helmet drummer John Stainer, the experimental New York rockers have always produced a blistering attack on the senses. After roping in various vocalists for Gloss Drop (Gary Numan, Kazu Makino, Matias Aguayo), Battles' third adventurous album La Di Da Di is an entirely instrumental affair. Stainer's propulsive drumming is the planet around which the guitar and keyboard weirdness orbit, as on the stuttering rhythms of opener The Yabba. The album switches seamlessly between hip-hop beats, jazz grooves and techno assaults, and the space left by the absent vocals only heightens the intricate play between the three musicians and the laptop loops. Dot Net could easily be mistaken for an Aphex Twin cover band. Your mind will enjoy the silence when it ends, and then you'll press play once again.
Battles La Di Da Di (Warp)
Soon to be seen gracing the Clockenflap stage, ramshackle ruffians The Libertines return, more than a decade since the release of their debut, with an improbable third album. A lot of water and great deal more heroin has passed under the bridge since then, and it's an impressive feat that six-string skag dandy Pete Doherty is actually still alive and kicking 12 years on, let alone talking to his ex-best chum Carl Barat and playing music with him again. The joint frontmen certainly haven't lost their knack for a gorgeous melody or a triumphant lovelorn chorus, trading sharply observed lyrics laced with sweet bitterness, and musing wittily on their favourite subject … their messed-up selves. "Don't know if I can go on/ Making no sense in song/ Don't know if this is forever" they drawl on the beautifully sloppy stadium anthem Belly of the Beast, while Doherty delivers his prettiest vocals on the re-recorded acoustic ballad You're My Waterloo. Thankfully, all is well on the good ship Albion, for now at least.
The Libertines Anthems for Doomed Youth (Harvest)
In January 1978, a mere two and a half years after their formation, The Sex Pistols called it a day, leaving a legacy of only one recorded studio album. As it turned out, that debut album, Never Mind the B*llocks, Here's The Sex Pistols became one of the most influential albums in the history of rock music and pop culture. Raging frontman Johnny Rotten/John Lydon continued to march to his own beat by forming, arguably, the first post-punk band, PiL, and with the release of their 10th album, What the World Needs Now, his music is as outspoken and nonconformist as ever. Approaching his 60th birthday, Lydon is obviously not ready to start mellowing with age. On the album closer, Shoom, he manages to spit out 70-plus obscenities over an incessant synth groove, happy to inform us that what the world does in fact need now "is another, f*** off". On Corporate, with its similar vibe to 2012's This is PiL, Lydon still sounds as vital as any of his young punk contemporaries, snarling "Mur-der-rah!" over the clanking industrial beat.
Public Image Ltd What the World Needs Now (Cargo Records)
Only a few months after singing her lungs out on Alabama Shakes' remarkable sophomore album Sound & Colour, rasping soul goddess Brittany Howard pulls on the leather jacket and unleashes her inner Joan Jett with the fantastically named side project, Thunderbitch. Featuring members from two rootsy Nashville groups, Clear Plastic Masks and Fly Golden Eagle, the 10-track debut, with titles such as Wild Child, I Just Wanna Rock n Roll and My Baby is My Guitar, is a rowdy and raw three-chord rock freak-out. As Howard prepares to return to the road with Alabama Shakes, it may be a while, if ever, before we catch Thunderbitch live (their tour schedule on their website just reads "maybe someday … ?") but these tunes would certainly shake the scuzz off the walls of any garage dive. Don't go searching for any profound lyrics or wandering musical explorations. This is the sound of Howard strapping on the axe and cutting loose, her golden sonic boom elevating even the most simplest and straightforward of garage punk songs into raucous bluesy gems. The soundtrack to good sweaty times.
Thunderbitch Thunderbitch (Thunderbitch)