Album reviews: Margo Price, Bob Mould, Kaada/Patton and The Drones
Price is country’s next big voice, Bob Mould channels loss and finds strength, Kaada/Patton make strangely enticing sonic dreamscapes, and The Drones are still wonderfully chaotic and weird
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Third Man Records
After spending almost a decade gigging and building a solid reputation as a spirited live performer, the hard-slogging Nashville singer Margo Price has released her debut solo album, and it arrives with a deservedly strong next-big-country-star buzz. Having sold her car and wedding ring to pay for the recording sessions at Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios, Price certainly has the tragic, hardscrabble backstory to justify the hype. Now signed to Jack White’s Third Man label, the 32-year-old singer lays it all on the line with a powerful opener, the heartbreaking Hands of Time, telling the tale of her own downward spiral into depression following a series of family tragedies. The difficult times continue with Weekender (Price’s brief stint in jail), while the lazy honky tonk sway of Since You Put Me Down (“I been drinking just to drown, I been lying through the cracks of my teeth”) takes on alcoholism, but with a strong Southern voice and captivating tunes, Price’s modern take on the traditional is a refreshing delight.
Patch the Sky
Despite the dark forces at play throughout his 30-plus-year career with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and then as a solo artist, singer and guitarist Bob Mould has always had a knack for a rousing chorus, and a bright and furious melody. According to the 55-year-old alt-punk rocker, Patch the Sky, the third album in an unofficial triology and the follow up to 2014’s well-received Beauty & Ruin, is “the darkest one … and also the catchiest one”. Written over a six-month period of solitude, these 12 songs are certainly fuelled by a sense of loss and mourning (Mould’s parents both passing within the past couple of years), but on Patch the Sky Mould seems to be finding strength and salvation from within his music. Where the lyrics may be dark and heavy, the blistering sonic assault is an exuberant rush of lightness, and as with all of Mould’s albums the recording has a pure live feel to it. “Music is an incredibly powerful drug. I want to be your drug dealer. I have what you need,” states Mould. He bloody well does, you know.
Twelve years on from their first collaborative effort, 2004’s Romances, eclectic Norwegian composer / producer John Kaada teams up once again with the insanely prolific rock singer Mike Patton, for their second full length effort, Bacteria Cult. While Patton is best known as the frontman of alt-metal band Faith No More, he is certainly no stranger to wildly creative projects, with an extensive discography of experimental collaborations, and along with Kaada, a member of the avant-jazz trio Cloroform, they share a fascination with both film and orchestral compositions. Written by the duo and performed by Norway’s Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, these eight dense cinematic soundscapes sit closest to Patton’s Fantomas album The Director’s Cut, dwelling somewhere, according to Kaada, “in the twilight zone where spooky and seductive meet”. Opener Red Rainbow forces a Morricone spaghetti western through a ghoulish cabaret band, while on the unnerving Imodium, Patton adds percussive wails and chants to a wonderfully sinister Disney-from-hell composition, seducing our eardrums and welcoming us into their strangely enticing “lush sonic otherworld”.
Feelin Kinda Free
Released on their own delightfully titled Tropical F*** Storm label, the seventh album from Australian noise rockers The Drones is the follow-up to 2013’s widely acclaimed I See Seaweed, an album of such ambitious statement it was hard to know where they could go next. After nearly 20 years on the scene, The Drones haven’t headed in a new direction on Feelin Kinda Free, just added electronic layers to their chaotic weirdness. “The record is really out there. We’ve recorded some pretty whacked out shit in the past but certain annoying factors have always gotten in the way of us going full throttle, in that respect.” says frontman Gareth Liddiard. With an air of impending doom, guitars still snarl and squeal as Liddiard spits out his politically charged lyrics, as on the intense lead single Taman Shud, but on the spikey Boredom the vocalist sneers and raps over raw and punchy dance beats. The solemn tearjerker To Think that I Once Loved You is a clear standout from an album that bristles throughout with a menacing heaviness.