IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

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IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks up New Zealand artists.

Comments will be brief.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood; Any Way You Love We Know How You Feel (Southbound)

Let's start at the bottom: Highly recommended. Anyone who has followed Chris Robinson's fascinating career outside the Black Crowes will know he embraces authentic alt.country and roots music alongside the slurry rhythm and blues psychedelics of his other band and here -- once again with his band which includes guitarist Neal Casal -- brings some urban Funkadelic to the fore on the shapeshifting seven minute opener Narcissus Soaking Wet. It's never been in Robinson's nature to aim for economy so aside from the sub-three minute, abstract country funk-cum-sound palette Give Us Back Our Eleven Days, things here sprawl and stretch through genres (opening with pastoral prog on Some Gardens Green, the spirit of the Band elsewhere) and ideas. It's a matter of accepting the journey rather than wanting a destination (so you needn't take "gonna have a good time when we get there" as gospel, you're having it anyway). In that regard it's still stoner music. But Robinson and friends are good companions and it's quite serious, not sloppy as the Crowes could sometimes (albeit it pleasing) be. So where were we? Oh that's right: Highly Recommened.

 

The Liminanas; Malamore (Southbound)

If idiomatic French isn't your first language -- least of all when it is being rumbled at you here by Lionel Liminana in the first two pieces here -- then don't worry too much because the grindingly intense rhythmic and melodic beds beneath are going to get you by the collar anyway . . . and after that things even out with singer Marie Liminana who delivers her dark imagery in English. Ironically however it is he who conveys more of the emotional power on this unusual album by the duo (and friends) out of Perpignan near the border with Spain. The reference points are obviously Serge Gainsbourg (for him) and a bit of whispery, emotionally distant Jane Birkin (for her). But there's also a lot more at play, not the least hints of Velvet Underground/Nico and Joy DIvision's monochromatic repetition . . . and to push the point home Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook guests here on Garden of Love where his distinctive "lead bass" is mixed to the fore. This is, as the album title suggests -- I take it to be a conflation of "mal/bad" and "amore/love" -- about he dark stuff ("Sit down and shut your mouth" on the propulsive title track). Later comes the Dead Are Walking and the wah-wah near-funk and fuzz box -- courtesy of guitarist Pascal Comelade -- of The Train Creep A-Loopin. Despite the language barrier, this is highly attractive and perhaps closer in spirit to the dark psychedelics of recent Brian Jonestown Massacre. Worth the effort.

 

Jeff Beck; Blow Torch (Warners)

While we admire the great guitarist Jeff Beck for going his own way(s) for the past many decades, longtime fans still yearn for him to make more consistent albums to reward their loyalty. Well, he's now in his early 70s and with this typically diverse outing it's clear he's not going to start now. Here with guest singers Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenburg he beds that distinctive guitar playing behind their street smart, bluesy vocals and over some sassy electro-influenced beats. But the results are uneven and there are too many points (the sleaze-funk of OIL for example) where you feel Beck has become just another purpose player on his own album, albeit one who has genius in his fingertips. Another Beck album where great moments don't add up to a great album. Unless you are a fan still in awe -- as you should be -- of his attack and nuance.

 

Mudcrutch; 2 (Warners)

When Tom Petty got back together with his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch in '08 (two of whom, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, had become Heartbreakers), he sounded like any weight of expectation had been lifted and he could just have a good time, inna serious kinda way of course. Their self-titled "debut" was a good and familiar country-rock album. This belated follow-up tracks a similar path although the rock and ballad ends of the spectrum have been pushed out a little further, which means material like Trailer and Dreams of Flying which open this have echoes of his late Seventies Heartbreakers incarnation. And the ballads are more akin to his Free Falling/Traveling Wilbury characteristics. Any way you cut it this is another good Tom Petty album, even if Mudcrutch most often are just the supporting cast. Straight ahead pop-rock (a few like Beautiful World sound by-the-numbers), country-rock (the tightly wired Other Side of the Mountain) and hints of that New Wave spirit of old.

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