Album reviews: new music from James Supercave, King Mud, Wiz Khalifa and Foxes
With only a two-song EP (The Afternoon) and plenty of live gigs around their native California to their fabulous name, glam-psych-popsters James Supercave have still established quite a cult following. Now almost four years since the band’s inception comes the hotly anticipated debut album, the aptly titled Better Strange. “We spent a long time recording this record”, says frontman Joaquin Pastor, “due to self-imposed madness mainly. Perfectionism.” With the weight of the next-big-thing sitting squarely on their shoulders, the title track, which the band describes as “a sweat-drenched handshake on a warehouse dancefloor” kicks things off in a bright and spectacular fashion. Patrick Logothetti’s slinky synth groove sits effortlessly with Pastor’s shrill delivery to create an incessantly catchy pop melody that MGMT would likely give their right testicle for. The mix of driving bass, angular rhythms and Pastor’s articulate falsetto form an immediate ethereal pop vibe, but below the spacey optimism hides a curious dark layer of loneliness and despair throughout. Spooky and infectious, and with few imperfections, Better Strange is a remarkably assured debut and well deserving of the hype.
Victory Motel Sessions
Alive Naturalsound Records
Recorded in Los Angeles, the dirty rock debut from blues howlers King Mud sounds about as far removed from the sunshine sparkle of California as is possible. “The landscape for the album was an eerily quiet Burbank strip of road that contained the recording studio, a liquor store, a Cuban cafe and the Victory Motel that seemed out of place, like it was from another time,” says Black Diamond Heavies drummer Van Campbell, who along with guitarist/vocalist Freddy J IV from Left Lane Cruiser form this new bar-room rocking duo. Channelling the Mississippi Delta blues, Victory Motel Sessions is a celebration of back-to-basics rip-roaring rock, as evident on the snarling opener Rat Time and Smoked All My Bud, a song about running low on weed cloaked, unsurprisingly, in a thick fug of stoner rock. Freddy’s gruff growl bleeds best when the pace dips a little, as on the slow-winding burn of Back it Up and for good measure they throw in two rousing covers, Them’s I Can Only Give You Everything and a rollicking version of Dr Feelgood’s Keep it Out of Sight.
Following his recent social-media fisticuffs with Kanye West, rapper Wiz Khalifa has finally put his toys back in the pram and sparked up another blunt, (as he vehemently insists on telling us at every opportunity) in preparation for his sixth, self-titled, album. Bragging about b******, bling and getting high had long since become generic and unimaginative by the end of the 1990s, so 20-plus years later the boring self-serving boasts that dominate most of this album are hardly relevant, or even mildly controversial. As he comically states on City View, “This s*** isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s way f****** easier”, which only reaffirms how many times we’ve heard the same ol’ tiresome s***, but it appears the Philly emcee is quite happily stuck in an ongoing competition to see how many times he can blurt out the N-word throughout a song (easily double figures on most tracks). Apparently, there’s still a little of that dead horse named “tedium” left for Wiz to flog, the rest he’ll no doubt roll up and smoke.
All I Need
Sign of the Times
Staking her claim for her 15 minutes of sugar-coated stardom among a proliferation of British female pop singers (Charli XCX, Ellie Goulding et al) Louisa Rose Allen (aka Foxes) focuses less on the beats and firmly on her 26-year-old pipes on her second album, All I Need. With thin co-writing links to One Direction and Adele, the follow-up to her 2014 synth-pop debut Glorious is a unapologetic assault to grab international attention and mainstream airplay, but while her vocals are consistently strong they unfortunately lack a uniqueness to shine in the oversaturated pop world. Without the vocal frills to thrill it’s left to the polished big choruses and strong melodies of synth-disco single Body Talk and the euphoric Better Love, written with Bastille’s Dan Smith, to elevate the album out of Carly Rae Jebsen nothingness. But the insipid On My Way and the instantly forgettable Wicked Love stir little emotion, and like a cheap bottle of fizzy plonk, All I Need promises plenty of bubbles but ends up tasting disappointingly flat.