Album reviews: Seal, Kurt Cobain, CeeLo Green and TRAAMS
Seal goes for catharsis, Cobain won’t be left to rest in peace, CeeLo Green can’t remove the bad taste from our mouths and TRAAMS mix ferocity with fun
While the ninth album from British R&B star Seal comes cunning titled as 7 (it’s actually his seventh album of self-penned tunes), it doesn’t take an IQ much greater in number, to second guess what to expect from these 11 new tracks. Seal was the pop-soul king of the nineties and after selling lorry loads of albums across the planet, he would simply be foolish to move away from the soaring ballads of love and heartache that made his name. Writing 7 was Seal’s cathartic therapy of sorts, his first album in five years and the first since splitting from his wife Heidi Klum, so unsurprisingly it’s emotionally heavy and far from upbeat. Reunited once again with producer Trevor Horn, the sixth time the pair have collaborated together, Seal’s distinctive vocals are as strong as ever. Monascow and Life on the Dancefloor are destined to be massive radio and club hits. Among the pained balladry (Half a Heart, Every Time I’m With You), Padded Cell shines the brightest: “There’s a million different people living inside of me” roars Seal over an almost Crazy/Killer-esque industrial beat.
Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings
In the world of music, death is never the end, it’s simply another career path. These days the posthumous rock star will likely release a biography or two, followed by a film, greatest hits compilations, and then the albums of unreleased material. If they are anywhere near as iconic as the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, they’ll possibly get to flog a ratty old cardigan for a ridiculous amount of cash too. While unquestionably captivating, Brett Morgen’s 2015 documentary Montage of Heck was an intimate and often uncomfortably intrusive peek into the life of Cobain, and this soundtrack seems equally exploitative. Where demo tapes and half-finished recordings can often shed new light on a lost creative genius, Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings offers very few revelations to Cobain’s tortured songwriting talent. The fact that these raw tape recordings, often just mumbles and strummed chords, were hidden away by its creator suggests they weren’t something that he wished to be heard. For diehard Nirvana fans, these musical fragments feel like nothing more than picking at a scab.
“We got to laugh the pain away” croons CeeLo Green on Robin Williams, a maudlin ode to the late actor, that could quite as easily be a self-motivational reminder for the flamboyant R&B singer, after the troubled few years he’s had. Heart Blanche, the fifth solo album from the Gnarls Barkley vocalist could almost be considered a make-or-break comeback, and on the soulful CeeLo Green Sings the Blues, he’s not adverse to playing the self-pity card following his misguided headline-grabbing rape tweets. “ ’cause nobody loves me no more, maybe just a little bit more than you did yesterday, but it’s not like you loved me before” he hollers with more than a tinge of sarcasm, before a bellowing chorus, “You see I’m tired, so tired/ that I can’t please everybody/ But I tried, I tried”. The soulful seduction throughout these 15 tracks is tempered with a feel-good vibe, but it lacks the wacky playfulness of Green’s previous albums, and no amount of love pills slipped into my drink will convince me otherwise.
Recorded in Leeds’ infamous Suburban Home Studios, Modern Dancing, the raw second album from Chichester’s TRAAMS sounds like the post-punk trio are jamming right there in your bedroom, attempting to tear down the curtains with riffs of howling feedback. As a band known for their intense and energetic live shows this is an exhilarating experience. Produced once again by MJ of Hookworms, the follow-up to 2013’s Grin builds on the propulsive rhythms of their visceral debut as thumping opening track Costner pairs a driving riff with a melodic pop hook. Silver Lining and Sister give more than a slacker nod to the UK’s Cribs and their former touring mates, Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts, but the three-piece still manage to maintain their own punchy grunge-pop identity. With meandering guitars and Stu Hopkins’ drowsy vocals, the hypnotic title track sits comfortably next to the abrasive Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme (Love), and the beastly bass of album highlight Succulent Thunder Anthem. On the strength of this, TRAAMS’ live shows are about to become even more fun and ferocious.