Album reviews for July 31, 2014
Morrissey, "World Peace Is None of Your Business"
What, you thought he'd gotten everything out of his system?
Sure, Morrissey splashed enough bile across the pages of last year's best-selling "Autobiography"-excoriating various business partners as well as his former bandmates in the Smiths-that it might've seemed the famously combative British pop star would need never again vent his well-exercised spleen.
But if there's one thing Morrissey has shown us over his three-decade career, it's that excess is a starting place, not an end point. Here he comes with "World Peace Is None of Your Business," his first studio album in five years and perhaps the most vituperative he's ever made, with no shortage of scorn for politicians, meat-eaters, bullfighters and, in one remarkably mean-spirited instance, a woman with the gall to get married.
"I know so much more than I'm willing to say," he sings at one point. Can you imagine if that were true?
In a typically perverse twist, Morrissey, 55, sets these bitter diatribes against lush, expansive arrangements that mark a pronounced shift from the crunching guitar rock of his last few records. Sonically, "World Peace" is his gentlest since the dreamy "Vauxhall and I" in 1994.
In "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet" he floats his throaty croon over fluttering, flamenco-style acoustic guitar, while "I'm Not a Man" shimmers with twinkly keyboards from Gustavo Manzur, a relatively recent addition to Morrissey's band, which is still led as it has been since the early '90s by guitarist Boz Boorer. "Oboe Concerto" and "Smiler With Knife" are hushed mid-tempo numbers. And "Kiss Me a Lot" has handclaps and a bright trumpet line.
But as on "Vauxhall and I"-where chiming arpeggios made him sound only creepier in the stalker-ish "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get"-Morrissey isn't using the beauty of the music to soften the impact of his words. Rather, he appears to have cleared away the clutter so that we can hear what he has to say.
Which, basically, is this: People will disappoint you in every imaginable way, including (and maybe especially) with their grinding, witless dedication to that pursuit.
-Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
Common, "Nobody's Smiling"
Common, one of hip-hop's most socially conscious lyricists, seldom takes it easy on his chosen targets.
Along with mistrust of the justice systems that bind and deny us, Common is a pragmatic (if not romantic) equal-opportunity critic in all matters. Everyone is innocent. Each is guilty. With "Nobody's Smiling," Common looks homeward-to Chicago-with laser focus and slick, honest imagery.
The album is singularly produced by longtime collaborator No I.D. It's no little feat, in this age of multiple-producer songs (let alone albums), that "Smiling" has a unifying sonic flow-"Diamonds" sounds like "Blak Majik" sounds like "Real"-without being samey. That ambience helps focus Common's look into the social ills that plague Chi-Town, such as lousy school system, black-on-black violence, drugs.
"Lay it down for the world, for Chicago I stand," muses Common on "Speak My Piece." Alone or with the vocal aid of Cocaine 80s, Jhene Aiko and Vince Staples, Common looks at Chicago's grim realities ("The Neighborhood") without giving up hope ("Hustle Harder") or dope poetry.
-A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, "Dereconstructed"
Alabama-born gospel-reared rocker Lee Bains spends a lot of time thinking about Southern identity on the excellently titled "Dereconstructed."
You might not immediately notice the soul-searching nature of songs such "The Weeds Downtown" and "The Kudzu & The Concrete," however. That's because Bains, a former member of the much-loved Dexateens, rocks with such bracing abandon as he brings howling garage-punk intensity to the Southern rock lineage that runs from Lynyrd Skynyrd to the Alabama Shakes.
The sonic assault can be too undifferentiated from track to track, but Bains' best intentions, in singing songs as a proud Southerner horrified by the bloodstained past of the land he loves, still come ringing through, very loud if not always crystal clear.
-Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer