Album reviews: Coldplay, The Vamps, R. Kelly and Ty Segall
Coldplay’s seventh album is their most vanilla-flavoured to date, teen pop quartet The Vamps juggle too many genres, while the prolific and talented Ty Segall tackles T-Rex
A Head Full of Dreams
It would be too easy to knock the radio-friendly Coldplay, one of the biggest bands in the world, simply because their brand of middle-class soft rock is so popular. I am, after all, one of the many millions who thought the multi-platinum Parachutes was a fantastic debut, and despite the fame and fortune, Chris Martin and his chums still seem lovely down-to-earth fellows. But from their third album (X&Y) onwards, Coldplay have strived to become the new U2. A Head Full of Dreams is the band’s seventh album and it bristles with a joie de vivre in comparison to 2014’s rather mournful Ghost Stories. From the neon collage artwork, to the song titles (Amazing Day, Up&Up, Fun), to the guest artists (Beyoncé, Noel Gallagher, Tove Lo, Barack Obama!), and with co-production by Europop duo Stargate, it all screams of a bright new playful direction. Which makes it all the more perplexing, that for a band often labelled “boring” by their detractors, A Head Full of Dreams, supposedly Coldplay’s most colourful and adventurous record, is their most magnolia to date.
After rejecting comparisons to cheeky teen idols One Direction because they play their own instruments and were not conceived in a lucrative pop laboratory, British boy band The Vamps are back with their second album in two years, and it’s the musical equivalent of a cheap selection box of chocolates. The deluxe follow-up to 2014 debut Meet the Vamps, Wake Up consists of 18 tracks and sees the perky pin-ups of Tristan, Bradley, James and Connor flit between Mumford-esque folk, electro pop, shouty saccharine punk, cringeworthy rap and an ill-advised attempt at light reggae. The styling may be all over the shop and the lyrics your typically trite yoof poetry (“I’ve got a bad case of the hottest girlfriend in the world” – well have you indeed?), but each over-produced track fizzes with an enthusiastic teen gusto that propels the album full speed ahead. Fans of the band, and their dragged along chaperones, will no doubt already have their tickets lined up for the upcoming gig in Hong Kong later this month and be eager for plenty of this fruity new ear candy.
Considering the plentiful allegations of underage assault and hefty out-of-court settlements, the 13th album from the sex-obsessed R&B singer R. Kelly comes with a rather cavalier title. It would be a bold leap of faith to suggest The Buffet was the controversial crooners homage to vol-au-vents and finger sandwiches. After all, this is the man who wrote the outlandish Marry the Pussy and the ridiculous multi-chapter hip-hopera that featured a dwarf stripper hiding under the kitchen sink. If Mr Kelly’s lyrical foreplay usually gets your blood pumping, then it’s off to the boudoir playground as usual. On Sextime he really wants to “spend a little sex time with you”, on Marching Band, a track featuring Juicy J and full of sexual innuendos based around musical instruments (how do you think of these things Richard?), the bedroom tomfoolery “be sounding like a marching band”, mainly because “she blowin’ like a tuba”. On All My Fault, Kelly’s deliberately provocative lament, “I did what I did, and I’m so ashamed” simply sounds vulgar.
If you look up “prolific” in the dictionary, you could half expect to see the face of Californian multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall beaming back at you. In a career that began in 2008, the 28-year-old has released a solo album every year without fail (2012 was a show-off year for Segall as he gave us both Slaughterhouse and Twins) and created albums with White Fence, the scuzzy Broken Bat, and most recently, his new band Fuzz. With a new album of garage rock, Emotional Mugger, set to drop later this month, Ty Rex is a gloriously named album of T-Rex covers, made up from Segall’s Record Store Day EP, its follow-up single and a previously unreleased track, a fuzzy hard-hitting rendition of 20th Century Boy. Thankfully, throughout this collection, Segall has the sense to keep to the insanely catchy melodies of the originals, while refraining from trying to out-glam or simply emulate T-Rex leader Marc Bolan. Segall sounds so natural covering Bolan’s work that hopefully we’ll see a further exploration of the T-Rex catalogue whenever he finds the time.