Album reviews: Frank Turner, Method Man, Paul Smith and The Imitations, Carly Rae Jepsen
Positive Songs for Negative People
With a cry of “We can get better cause we’re not dead yet”, folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner is certainly in defiant spirits on his sixth album of emotional punk pop. “I got me a future, I’m not stuck on the past,” he sings on Get Better. The heartbreak of a broken relationship that centred 2013’s Tape Deck Heart has been kicked aside, Turner taking salvation in the music that he believes can save your life. Positive Songs for Negative People, he says, “is a record about defiance, about picking yourself up when you’re down”. Turner’s raw yelps and impassioned vocals certainly swing a swift boot into the shins of self-pity. “Goddamn, it’s great to be alive,” he growls with conviction on the rousing Demons. Turner will forever draw comparisons to the Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg, but his message nevers get in the way of an emphatic chorus or deep melodic hook. It’s on the live acoustic ballad Song for Josh that Turner’s heart truly bleeds, a song dedicated to a victim of suicide and the perfect cathartic closer to an album of moving on.
The Meth Lab
Tommy Boy Entertainment
With more guest appearances than a Kardashian wedding, Method Man may be “cooking up rhymes” over these 19 tracks, but it’s often his entourage of young Staten Island emcees that are doing the talking. The Meth Lab is the fifth solo album, and first solo project from the veteran Wu-Tang rapper in almost a decade, with the new guys at the party (Streetlife, Cory Gunz and producer Hanz On) being joined by rap’s older guard: Redman (Straight Gutta), and Wu stalwarts Raekwon and Inspectah Deck (The Purple Tape). Built around typically gritty East Coast beats, twinkling piano and a ’90s doom-laden groove, on first listen you’re left craving for more hits of Meth. So it’s no great surprise that the Wu collaboration, The Purple Tape, is by far the standout track. Sure there is the odd blast of soulful Wu-funk (50 Shots) but it’s only on 2 Minutes of Your Time that we’re really reminded of Meth’s far superior debut, Tical, the 44-year-old rapper’s gruff inimitable rhyming given ample room to flow without the need to share verses with his new clan.
Paul Smith and The Imitations
Contradictions is the second solo album from Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith, and sees the dynamic and frenzied singer in a mood more contemplative to his band’s usual rocket-fuelled pop assault. Four years in the making, and sitting comfortably somewhere between Smith’s 2010 lo-fi debut Margins and his band’s most recent and arguably most accomplished albumToo Much Information, the behatted wordsmith says these13 breezy songs show off his “hopeless romantic” side. Certainly less angular and abrasive than his long-standing day job, Smith’s new backing band The Imitations bring a looser structure to his reflective and colourful imagery. That’s not to say it’s totally removed from Smith’s past indie pop glories - catchy lead single Break Me Down and the punchy Before the Perspiration Falls could easily have come from Our Earthly Pleasures. The energy may be more subdued, but Smith’s acute observations and wistful poetry are still as delightfully charming as ever, the powerful Reintroducing the Red Kite and the bittersweet The Deep End certainly boding well for the sixth Maximo Park album.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Call Me Maybe, the mega smash hit of Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen, has amassed more than 700 million views on YouTube. I must have been the only person on earth not too have been infected by this nagging little earworm. Childless, cynical and long past my clubbing days, I am seemingly as far away from CRJ’s target market as possible. She sings “I really really really really really really like you, and I want you, do you want me, do you want me too?” on the polished lead single, from her third and more “mature” album, E·MO·TION, and I guess that’s what tweenyboppers want to hear these days. I’m obviously too jaded to spot the poetry hidden within her euphoric pop. This is an album of glitzy ’80s-inspired synth-pop bangers that will likely sell in its gazillions, but with lyrics this sweetly vapid (“Boy problems, who’s got ’em, I’ve got ’em too,” she sings on one track) it makes ’80s duo Wham sound about as eloquent as Bob Dylan.