Music reviews

The Killers battle Take That for attention in this week's album round-up.

Music feature

The Killers
2/7
Day & Age

We could never understand why critics fell hard for The Killers while repeatedly digging up, punching, laughing at and promptly re-interring the corpse of Shed Seven. On the nagging Britpop of tracks like ‘Mr Brightside’, The Killers were Shed Seven, only without the excuse of actually being Brits. Obviously things have gone downhill since then. Album two, Sam’s Town, was a synth-obsessed Shed Seven covering U2 covering Springsteen; and never forget ‘Tranquilize’, the bafflingly dreadful Lou Reed collaboration in which Brandon Flowers’s ego exploded all over a children’s choir. But that still doesn’t quite prepare you for the range of ways in which they overblow it on the Stuart Price-produced Day & Age.

‘I think about moments when we were coming up with [tracks like] ‘Spaceman’,’ says Flowers of a glam rock number about as glamorous as dressing in tin foil and eating out of a tube. ‘If we’d decided at that moment, “Let’s go to the park,” they might not have happened. It’s scary. It almost makes me not want to stop because I could be missing out on these wonderful songs.’ Hopefully, in time for The Killers’ next album, scientists will have come up with a way of wiring Flowers so that he can still be recording songs while he’s sleeping, eating, taking the air and taking a dump.

But until then we must make do with only 10 tracks, lurching from the funky bass and writhing sax of ‘Joyride’ to the jiggy acoustics and steel drums of ‘I Can’t Stay’, and various other vile sonic combinations comparable to the mess you get when you allow a six-year-old to design their own pizza topping (FYI, Day & Age would be dieci formaggio with pineapple and tuna). Lead-off single ‘Human’, which sounds like Shania Twain’s ‘You’re Still The One’ sung by a lobotomised Wayne Coyne and set to a bloated disco beat, is catchy enough. But if their pop is to be palatable rather than preposterous, The Killers really need to learn to lay off a little. ‘Pray for peace and self-control,’ Flowers sings on ‘The World We Live In’. Amen to that, Brandon.
Bella Todd. Available in stores

Michelle Williams
3/7
Unexpected

Unexpected was supposed to be the big, opinion-shifting record for Michelle Willians, aka the-other-other-one-from-Destiny’s Child. After spending years in the wilderness of gospel and soul, this was supposed to be the album that would let her compete with former bandmate Beyoncé. Or at least Kelly Rowland.

And to be fair, the change in sound gets off to a good start. Tingeing regular R&B with a contemporary, electronic twist, Unexpected starts off strong, with ‘Hello Heartbreak,’ and ‘We Break the Dawn’ promising some real body-shaking and hip-coiling. And Flo Rida’s appearance in ‘We Break The Dawn Part 2’ gives the album some much-needed testosterone.

But a couple of songs in and it just felt like we had heard it all before. The lyrics are far too familiar (‘Déjà Vu’, anyone?), the slower tunes became somewhat nauseating and the fast-forward button came into play as we realised that the pulsing rhythms are a desperate attempt to mask screeching vocals. Frankly, the only thing that’s unexpected about this album is that Williams thought it would be. There’s a reason why she never made it past Destiny’s Child, and this is it.
Natalia Elhage. Available in stores

Take That
2/7
The Circus

Railing against Gary, Howard, Jason, and Mark (that’s in alphabetical order – lest fans imagine some slight against their fave) is like flailing at the Matterhorn with a mitten or, perhaps more appropriately, trying to stem a tide of treacle with a tissue. Take That have all but transcended the boundaries of criticism, because their idea of what might deeply move us – or even make us want to waggle our tush – is so radically different from what actually does, that we’re left floundering for references.

If the second studio album since their 2006 Lazarus-like revival is at all interesting, it’s for quasi-sociological reasons. Take That are now an adult-pop concern – it’s hard to imagine girls screaming their way through the Wings-like ‘Up All Night’ or the confused blend of Blur and Slade that is ‘Hello’, with its talk of filter coffee and house prices – and the Coldplay effect has now kicked in. It’s there in the descending chords and the piano cadences, and it blows through the chorus of ‘How Did It Come To This’, which we’d never have picked as a Take That tune. But then, we’re no experts. Those that are will no doubt clutch this record to their bosoms and sigh, dreaming of Gary, Howard, Jason or Mark. Or possibly all four. We’re (still) non-plussed.
Sharon O’Connell. Available in stores on December 8

Lordi
3/7
Deadache

Four albums on and Lordi’s novelty factor is beginning to wear off. The Finnish hard rock band’s obsession with mutilation and monstrosity still underlies every single one of their tracks, but this time round they’ve tried to take themselves too seriously. Deadache’s confessional lyrics and vocalist Mr Lordi’s characteristic growl have reached new levels of incompatibility, something never more obvious than on this album’s title track. Still, the band haven’t lost their comedic edge, which is aided by their fumbling attempts to climb over the English-Finnish language barrier. Case in point: ‘Man Skin Boots’, in which they try (and fail) to flaunt their fluency by making up idioms like ‘you’re a frog in the road’.

Add to this a more melodic style and you end up with something that’s more pop than hard rock, full of repetitive songs, ballads and cheesy refrains. But while Deadache runs the risk of losing any followers that they’ve managed to maintain, fans of their darker materials will still enjoy the band’s fascination with death and Amen’s ever-fresh guitar solos. At their best, they sound like a modernised version of KISS – on most tracks, however, they sound like Mötley Crüe with a hint of ’90s boy band.

As the opening of their Rocktaurant eatery in Finland suggests, Lordi already have a firm grasp of the ridiculous – if only they could achieve the sublime.
Yasmine Amr. Available in stores

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