Jet and Joe Henry join this week's new releases reviewed
3/5 Shaka Rock Before we continue, let’s pause for a moment and accept both that Shaka Rock is a terrible, terrible name for an album and that the album artwork looks like it was done on a dare. Guys, a burning van is already a striking image: it doesn’t need some Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo cheesy graffiti action badly superimposed over the top, honest. Not unless you’re going to stick Crazy Legs on top doing some sweet body poppin’, that is.
That being said, the music within the record is a blessed relief for anyone who found Shine On turgid and overproduced (so basically everyone, right?). Shaka Rock shows a band that’s remembered what they do best: shout-along rock ’n’ roll songs.
The opening ‘KIA (Killed In Action)’ combines marching-band percussion and a choir of shouting kids with a song that rocks a good deal harder than anything they’ve done in years. It’s followed by ‘Beat On Repeat’, a surprisingly successful dub experiment amusingly offset by Nic Cester’s very thickest Australian accent. First single ‘She’s A Genius’ sees the band update the riff to ‘My Sharona’, ‘Black Hearts (On Fire)’ is the sort of song that every inner-city three-piece is trying and failing to write, and ‘La Di Da’ adds a bit of Tex Mex to the mix. Even the obligatory ballad (‘Goodbye Hollywood’) is more Reef-style belter than ‘Look What You Done’ piano noodling.
It’s not without flaws – the lyrics are consistently trite and there’s certainly no ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’-style breakout single on here – but those who feared an Oasis-like retreat into mid-paced slop can breathe a sigh of relief. Andrew P Street Available to buy in stores.
3/5 Blood From The Stars Joe Henry’s growing reputation as the empathetic, resourceful producer behind some kick-ass R&B comebacks (Solomon Burke, Bettye LaVette) may have overshadowed his unique gifts as a singer-songwriter. The ambitious Blood From The Stars insists you pay attention, and Henry makes it easy to do so with his cinematic arrangements from an assortment of pros including guitarist Marc Ribot and pianist Jason Moran. The presence of, in Henry’s parlance, ‘bent horns and bowed banjo’ lends a New Orleans swagger, defiant amid the clouds of ghostly effects that give these songs a dark, fugue-like quality. Lines like ‘Someone used my mouth and laughed out loud’ and ‘I clawed at your skirt like it was a dirt floor’ seep with blues feeling and a soul-bruised air of dislocation that only deepen the mystery. Steve Dollar Available to buy online.