A Flicker Of Sparks is the Perfect Contradiction to Motorhead and their brethren.

Round 1 – Group 216:

1.) Perfect Contradiction:  Paloma Faith
2.) III:  The Lumineers
3.) Legends Of Rock (News Of The World):  Various
4.) Flicker:  Niall Horan

This is more like it! A much improved group from that last miserable effort, the luck of the draw eh? Any one of these four albums would have breezed through the previous group ahead of those two dubious albums by Dido and Christine and the Queens. Yet, here we are, another difficult choice to make but this time it’s which decent album to lose, rather than which terrible album to keep!

Redneck Rocking

First impression of this Lumineers album? It’s a bit weird, are all their albums like this? Also, it’s called III which implies it might have a couple of prequels. Nope, I just looked it up and it doesn’t, it’s just their third album. It also contains three ‘chapters’ apparently, so that’s a nice little tie-in as well I suppose. It says here that III got to number 2 on the American Billboard Chart so it must have sold pretty well.

Personally I’d never heard of The Lumineers until I saw them on the Brits, doing what I thought was a pleasant, if fairly run of the mill pop number. This album is nothing like that, so it’s possible I’m remembering a different band! Well there *is* usually quite a bit of drinking during the Brits, amiright? Gotta keep up with tradition and all that.

This III album is quite sombre and melancholy, totally emphasising the piano and semi-acoustic guitar as the instrumentation of choice. Indeed, it does feel a bit different with hardly any bass guitar, tightly controlled use of percussion and a dash of violin here and there. The majority of the piano is played at a high register which makes it sound quite dark. It’s certainly an engaging atmosphere coming across a bit like The Killers and/or Springsteen in places. Maybe even a little bit of a Jeff Buckley vibe on a couple of tracks, like My Cell for example. I can easily imagine these songs being played around a campfire. Gloria & Jimmy Sparks are excellent and despite it being some kind of weird redneck soap opera, III is a most engaging listen and only a whisker behind Perfect Contradiction.

Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good about this compilation.

Legends (New Of The World) is yet another giveaway disk. You may have guessed by

Carlos Santana

now that I have stacks of these, not sure why they keep getting pulled out the iTunes randomiser but I still have about 20 left to get through. This rock compilation looks pretty solid on paper, with Boston’s More Than A Feeling, Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades, Alice Cooper’s Poison, Santana’s Black Magic Woman and errrr, Buck Rogers by Feeder??

When I think about it, Feeder is a rather ominous name for a band dontcha think? Feeder, Feeder. Just what are they feeding and what are they feeding it? Such a moniker conjures images of a man eating plant, possibly named Audrey 2. Or maybe it’s a reference to a creepy 10 yr old vampire called Kirsten? We just don’t know.

Grant Nicholas of Feeder during Feeder in Concert at Carling Academy – April 1, 2005 at Carling Academy, Brixton in London, Great Britain. (Photo by SAV/FilmMagic)

Leaving the name of the band aside for a moment, let’s have a look at the name of their song here. Don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious when somebody names a song after an icon of pop culture and yet never reference it in the actual song? Take this Buck Rogers song. I’m pretty sure ‘ole Buck was a futuristic spaceman with an overly attached butler droid thingy but I don’t ever recall Buck driving a Jaguar with a CD Player or indeed, drinking cider from a lemon. Do Lemons even grow in space? Excuse me while I DM the ISS to find out.

I believe Prefab Sprout made the same mistake with their album Steve McQueen, a cynical marketing ploy if ever there was one. 10 million ppl bought the album because they thought Steve McQueen was singing on it (probably, I haven’t actually verified that).

Onto the compilation though whch like a thousand compilations before it, and probably a thousand yet to be made, contains More Than A Feeling by Boston. This really is more than a great song and will still be a great song even when the Sun has exhausted its fuel. In summary, yes there’s a few spurious choices here (I’m not even going to get started on the inclusion of Nickleback’s Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good) but this remains a fun, if lightweight collection.

Another Direction

One Direction are (or were) like the Bay City Rollers of the ‘Teenies’. Yes I said ‘Teenies’, that’s what we’re calling 2010 – 2019 right? If One Direction proved one thing, it’s that with the right talent and creativity, a highly skilled group of….. marketing execs, can make literally any 5 random blokes, pop icons, regardless of any genuine musical factors, and this, ladies and gentlemen is a true achievement for mankind.

Ok, I’ll stop. How did I even get this album? The wife gave it to me for Christmas as a ‘stocking filler’. “You’ll like it” she said. Well, proving that I will literally listen to anything sent my way, I’ve spun Flicker a good dozen times and you know what? It ain’t half bad at all. It’s a laid back, gentle MOR album mostly. There’s a few lovely vocal tracks (Flicker and Fire Away) and it begins with a strong opener in the shape of On The Loose, Horan obviously recognising the importance of a strong musical unveiling.

Slow Hands is good too, sounds contemporary with its catchy chorus. But hang on, uh-oh, Niall must be taking lessons from Captain Blunt on how to short sell your fans, why is there only 35 minutes of material here?
Actually the brevity is rather telling when you combine it with the lesser quality spread across the album. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no disasters here but if your album is less than 45 minutes and it isn’t wall-to-wall killer, it kinda says to me that you’re struggling for output.
To be fair though, on the whole this is a professionally produced effort and musically it’s good too. Niall Horan comes across as an excellent musician with a lot of potential to push on from this.

The duet with Maren Morris (Seeing Blind) is worth mentioning too, that’s nice. However, some of the album, while sounding superficially pleasant at first, can get borderline tedious with repeat listens, This Town/Too Much To Ask being a couple of examples. Flicker then, brings up the rear but bettered my expectations.

I Just Can Rely On Her

Perfect Contradiction is musically rock-solid and yet it all hinges on Palomas excellent vocal delivery. When Paloma won group 198 with Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful, it suprised me, because despite her superb voice, the type of music she does isn’t the sort that normally attracts me too readily. Was that a one-off though? Looks like the answer is no. Just why do so many of these tracks sound familiar to me? Is it because I’ve sub-conciously consumed them via background radio over the years or is it because they just sound ‘right’?

There’s more than a few excellent tracks on here, Ready For The Good Life, Other Woman, Mouth To Mouth, The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall) and talking of big, just how ‘big’ do these songs sound? Quite the contrast against The Lumineer’s more stripped down affair.

Perfect Contradiction makes it sound like you’re in a small venue with an oversized jazz/pop ensemble blowing instruments through the amp all the way up to 11. That’s before you put Palomas’ sensationally powerful and technical vocal delivery into the mix. Yep, Perfect Contradition is a fun album albeit with a largely romatically & emotionally charged subtext, another quality effort from Paloma Faith.

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