1.) Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: Arctic Monkeys
2.) Time: Rod Stewart
3.) By The Way: Red Hot Chili Peppers
4.) Fallen Empires: Snow Patrol
Gotta Find My Way To The Light, Heavy, Middleweight
The Chili Peppers have always been cool. Rod Stewart? Not so much. Even in Rod’s Small Faces days, prior to the cringy and yet admittedly pleasant and catchy Do You Think I’m Sexy? phase. Don’t get me wrong. Rod has lived a rock n roll life unparrelled by most, his entertaining autobiography is testament to that. Trashing hotels, sleeping with supermodels and much more beyond. In the end, this group turned into a straight 2nd place shoot-out between The Chili Pepper’s 2002 effort By The Way and Rod’s 2013 release Time.
By The Way, the Pepper’s 8th studio effort is a grower, as an old friend said to me at its time of release. Something that bugs me is the seeminly patchy audio. The production on I Could Die For You gets messy, like they’ve ‘overcooked’ it. I used to think this was a dodgy mp3 copy I had but nope, it’s present on my pristeen CD version too. If you listen carefully you can hear the production strain from the get go on opening track By The Way. Slightly annoying but it’s just A Minor Thing yo.
At almost 70 minutes long it certainly doesn’t skimp on material and while there are some splendid moments, it’s length eventually works against it, especially when it lines up tracks like Throw Away Your Your Television and Calbron side by side. Whilst not containing any filler, the album just seems to be underwhelming in places, next to the killer parts of the album. Best passage in my mind is tracks 3-7: This Is The Place, Dosed, Don’t Forget Me, The Zephyr Song and Can’t Stop.
Listen Son You Got To Find A Sense Of Perspective
Despite Rod’s prehistoric origins, Time is actually the newest album in this group. An album that went to number 1 no less and once you’ve spun it a few times you start to see why. Sure, I’m not gonna argue that the first two tracks She Makes Me Happy & Can’t Stop Me Now are not a bit cheesy and I won’t deny that later tracks Sexual Religion and Make Love To Me Tonight aren’t a little bit cringey. Yet, Time is such a joyful album with Rod’s contentment in later life shining through like a beacon.
Let’s face it, I could listen to Rod’s voice all day but when you combine that vocal gift with some lustrous melodies you have a winning formula. There’s a few stand-out moments but Live The Life is possibly the album’s highlight, an excellent life-lesson letter to his son with a beautiful melody. Instrumentally the musicans are all top draw and a nice mix of instruments too with guitars, drums, violins, saxonphone, harmonicas, even a bit of Maggie May style mandolin creeps in. All beautifully produced by Rod himself no less. Old man music for an old man this may be but it’s a collection of songs that endure and an album that takes 2nd place here above By The Way.
You’re From New York City, I’m From Rotherham
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is Arctic Monkey’s debut smash album. It is an album that carries you along with it. The personality of frontman Alex Turner shines through as he literally describes a very believable and unnervingly familiar picture of northern nightlife with tales of bouncers, taxi’s and encouters with the police(!). I love that way that he and the rest of the band attack these songs. These are rapid lyrics, conversational, tangled, almost rap-like and they are especially sardonic, delivered with an imprudent drollness throughout.
It’s an incredibly well crafted album with a rock ‘n’ roll spirit and style that harks back to beat groups and RnB. A sound that’s meshed with some angsty power guitar. Some of the lead melody guitar passages seemingly ramble around the centre of the song and yet somehow always return to the main thread beautifully. This is such an enjoyable and amusing album, which feels like a night out with the boys. Truly a modern classic.
Every Eye Trained On A Different Star
Fallen Empires is so frustrating an experience. Gary Lightbody and his cohorts are consumate musicians but this album stops and starts. It teases you at first with a glimpse of what could be with third track in, The Weight Of Love. A building, mid-tempo storytelling rocker that makes you sit up and listen. A good tune but much like the album, it doesn’t seem to be able to captilise on its promises. Towards the end, the album finishes with a mini flurry of excellence too, in the shape of Those Distant Bells and probably the album’s best track ‘The Symphony‘, a rousing, sweeping rock anthem. Unfortunately the rest, slower paced stuff just doesn’t cut it. Bland tracks like The President and The Garden Rules quickly diminishing any hopes that this could be as good as their previous two efforts. The final short instrumental is ok but feels at best, out of place if not altogether unecessary.
So, Fallen Empires is rather wishy-washy in comparison to the other three albums here. It’s an album that’s disappoints you in the same way that your previous straight ‘A’ student son might disappoint you when he suddenly comes home with a C minus. Because, while it’s an ‘ok’ listen, you know that Lightbody can do better. If truth be told, it’s a little bit of a chore to listen to the whole album and can I just add, that I thought stupid ‘hidden’ or elongated nonsense at the end of albums was a thing consigned to the New Millenium bin and yet here Snow Patrol seem to think that I want to listen to four minutes of bird tweeting at the end of the album. Well, no. I don’t. It’s not welcome and is the final nail in the coffin for this album, this empire has truly fallen.