October 4, 2008

Album Reviews

By Rahul Verma; Tim Cumming; Michael Church; Kevin Harley

Pop CDs

Lambchop: OH (Ohio) (City Slang) 11.99

After the domestic disquiet and cancer scares of Damaged, Kurt Wagner relocates his mischievous muse on Lambchop's 10th album. A delicate sense of buoyancy prevails: Wagner's cracked croon is playful and his downsized band tailor their backing to the songs like a tux to dinner, a languid piano here or cheeky supper-club horns there. It'd be presumptuous to suggest he's found life anew, but he's certainly rediscovered his talent's warmly wry levity. ****

Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs (Columbia) 19.99

Bad news for anyone wishing he'd play the old stuff straight, Bobcat-nip for fans: "songs as process" is the gist of Sir Bob's latest Bootleg Series release. Both the two- and three-CD versions feature rarities and revisions from the past 20 years, styles depending which way his whim's blowing. These self-reinventions uncover goldmines of possibility in already-great songs. I'm Not There had six Dylans; there's loads here. ****

Of Montreal: Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl) 12.99

Kevin Barnes plays the freaky-sexy bo-ho card so hard, you wonder if his evenings in involve slippers and James Blunt albums. That said, he and his band marshal such fruity prog-funk psych-disco colours, you hardly mind. "I wanna make you come 200 times a day!" he coos to a kaleido-pop orgy of sound. Irrepressible, but a mite indulgent, too. ***

The Clash: Live at Shea Stadium (Sony) 12.99

Anyone mourning the demise of the live album and Joe Strummer alike, tune in: this is a cracking release, fuelling the Clash's myth via an energised test case in how to blow headliners off- stage. Supporting the Who in 1982, the Clash tear up a 49-minute slot like their combats are on fire. Heritage rock? Not a bit: this is kicking. ****

Oasis: Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother) 13.99

Another enervating Oasis album, more return-to-form reports. Which would mean what, anyway? More trad-rock meat'n'spuds? Great. If you want it, Dig's got it. Thumping carbo-rock dominates, with the pre-release talk of "grooves" leading largely to tired stabs at - what else? - Beatles-y psych. Lyric-wise, "You gotta keep on keeping on" says it all. It's Oasis's USP, that. **

Kevin Harley

Classical CD

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle (EMI Classics) 13.99

With such a perfect conductor-orchestra combination, this disc was always going to be a Rolls-Royce job, and the sound Rattle conjures up from the symphony's suggestive opening bars remains magical throughout. The CD's USP, though, is its accompanying work - Berlioz's rarely performed dramatic cantata La Mort de Cleoptre, with the mezzo Susan Graham as the soloist: darkly superb. ****

Michael Church

Jazz CD

Various Artists: Princes Amongst Men (Asphalt Tango) 13.99

Garth Cartwright wrote the definitive book on the great Gypsy musicians of the Balkans, and via the Berlin-based Asphalt Tango, the specialist label in all Gypsy styles, we get the audio version of his Princes Amongst Men oddysey through the Balkan heartlands of the Roma. Many of those who featured in the book appear here, including legends such as Boban Markovoc, Saban Bajramovic, Esma Redzepova, Taraf de Haidouks and Fanfare Ciocarlia. ****

Tim Cumming

Clubs CD

Sway: The Signature (Dcypha Alliance) 10.99

Sway's sophomore LP, The Signature, sees the 26-year-old emerge as a contender for the mantle of the nation's best rapper. The Signature combines the energy and hunger of grime, with Sway's self- deprecating humour, observational eye and sublime word play. It takes in pop ("Saturday Night Hustle"), laugh-out loud moments ("F UR X"), bereavement ("Pray 4 Kaya"), and social commentary ("Download"). In homegrown hip- hop terms, it is a landmark. ****

Rahul Verma

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