Tuesday, August 8, 2017
A- Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire is darkly happy-go-lucky on Everything Now, applying Euro disco and new wave to somber themes such as consumerism, flummoxed youth and suicide prevention.
Working with co-producers Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk) and Steve Mackey (Pulp), Arcade Fire's new music bears abounding sonic similarities with those bands.
The title cut is one of Arcade Fire's most successful singles, it's Abba-esque, Pulp-ish rhythms sparkling behind Win Butler's narrative about information overload matched with a swelling emotional vacuum.
"Signs of Life" is about "cool kids stuck in the past" looking in the night for what they'll never find there. "Creature Comfort" is back in Pulp territory as Butler exhorts those thinking about ending it all to come off the ledge.
"Infinite Content" furiously claims "we're infinitely content" and reprises itself in a Wilco-like Americana style, detached and involved. Your choice. "Electric Blue," sung in a crystalline falsetto by Regine Chassagne, laments a love that dissipated as quickly as the summer heat.
"Put Your Money on Me" has a pulsating synth bass line like Jean Michel Jarre and forms a neat pair of (relatively) straight songs about troubled-but-hopeful relationships with "We Don't Deserve Love." U2 and Bob Dylan producer Daniel Lanois adds pedal steel to both tracks.
Hot tracks: "Signs of Life," "Infinite Content," "Everything Now"
-- PABLO GORONDI
The Associated Press
B- Original Broadway Cast Recording
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
With songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, this London-to-Broadway transfer gives Roald Dahl's classic cautionary tale a new musical makeover.
Sweet, impoverished Charlie Bucket (Jake Ryan Flynn, Ryan Foust, Ryan Sell, who rotate the role and are all on the album) can hardly believe his luck when he's one of five children who get to tour the mysterious Willy Wonka's (Christian Borle) chocolate factory. The other four children are all walking, talking examples of the dangers of permissive parenting and all meet grisly ends in Wonka's tasty, twisted shop of delights and horrors.
The songs, particularly the Oompa Loompa numbers, don't shy away from the darker side of Dahl's story and in fact revel in the brutal way each heinous brat is dealt with.
For fans of the classic 1971 film version, there are a few familiar songs, like "The Candy Man" and "I've Got a Golden Ticket." But while new songs like "More of Him to Love" and "Strike That, Reverse It" are clever and catchy, there aren't any real standouts in the new crop of songs and the holdovers from 1971 lack some of the originals' magic.
Hot tracks: "More of Him to Love," "Strike That, Reverse It," "Pure Imagination"
-- JENNIFER NIXON
B Alice Cooper
It's still summer, but school is back in session as Alice Cooper teaches us how it's done.
The shock-rock godfather goes old school on this two-disc set, reuniting most of the original Alice Cooper Band from the '70s on two tracks. Guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith join Cooper on "Genuine American Girl," a satiric look at gender identity from one of rock's original gender-benders, and "You and All of Your Friends," an apocalyptic revenge song against those who despoiled the planet and "painted Heaven black."
Cooper is just as lethal with his current band. "Dynamite Road" is about a fatal car crash that kills his entire band, but leaves Cooper alive to complain that God allowed his beloved Cadillac to be totaled. The album is produced by longtime collaborator Bob Ezrin, who also did KISS' signature album Destroyer.
"Rats" is a jaded look at how politicians, entertainers and big businesses view the public. It could have been a classic Chuck Berry anthem but for the lyrical content.
The disc also includes six live tracks. Guests include ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover.
Hot tracks: "Dynamite Road," "Genuine American Girl"
-- WAYNE PARRY
The Associated Press
B+ Sam Baker
Land of Doubt
Sam Baker makes elegant, original music. His career emerged from a remarkable life story. In 1986 he was on a train in Peru when a bomb set by terrorists exploded. Baker suffered brain damage, hearing loss and a hand injury that forced him to teach himself to play guitar left-handed.
The simple grace of his craft is on full display in Land of Doubt.
With a sound both soaring and sad, the Texas-based Baker sings in a raspy talk-whisper that makes you stop what you're doing, sit down and listen. The words emerge in sharp relief from a soundscape of restrained guitar, piano, strings and muted trumpet.
Baker's songs are mostly about heartbreak and loss. There are hints of bitterness, and if there is hope to be found, it lies in the majesty of the music.
"The Feast of Saint Valentine" dwells on a "wish you well" card that hints at a recent breakup. Impossibly sad, it's delivered against an ascending backdrop that could be the soundtrack of mountains. Somehow, it lifts the spirit.
The effect, utterly evocative, may or may not qualify as poetry. But it is certainly poetic.
Hot track: "The Feast of Saint Valentine"
-- SCOTT STROUD
The Associated Press
Style on 08/08/2017
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