“Dig Out Your Soul”
Since the Gallagher brothers’ dizzying peak with 1995’s omnipresent “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” and subsequent fall from grace with the coked-up bombast of follow-up “Be Here Now,” each new Oasis album has been greeted with a similar reception (especially in the UK, where they remain musical gods): The press eagerly proclaims that Oasis has returned to form, buzz builds up for the album release, and then everyone realizes it’s fairly average.
I’d like to say that “Dig Out Your Soul” defies that trend, but the album’s mostly another workmanlike effort.
There are certainly some high points, with Noel Gallagher contributing two of his strongest songs in years. His “Shock of the Lightning,” the album’s first single, barrels along with more fuzzed-up guitar bravado than anything Oasis has done since the title track of “Morning Glory,” while “The Turning” oozes with real menace, a rude reminder of some of the more snarling, snotty tracks on “Definitely Maybe,” back when the Gallaghers actually seemed dangerous at times.
Sadly, that’s as good as it gets. More characteristic of “Dig Out Your Soul” are the plodding and inane “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” or the self-consciously psychedelic “The Nature of Reality.” The lyrics, as usual, crib from The Beatles liberally (see “Shock of the Lightning’s” “Love is a litany, a magical mystery”), and the Liam-penned ballad “I’m Outta Time” even features a sample of a John Lennon interview, taking Oasis’ Fab Four fixation to an eye-rolling new extreme.
“Dig Out Your Soul” is by no means a failure, but like the last couple of Oasis albums, the filler detracts from a handful of very strong tunes. Perhaps next time around the brothers will finally re-create the musical alchemy that produced hits like “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” We should all know by now never to count out anyone as stubborn and persistent as the Gallaghers.
— Travis Gass
“Who Killed Amanda Palmer”
Amanda Palmer’s first solo outing apart from her band the Dresden Dolls is a bracingly candid, deeply melodic collection of songs that span nearly 10 years of her songwriting. While her flair for the theatrical remains firmly in place, the musical and emotional content is even more fiercely idiosyncratic and in your face.
There’s no topic out of Palmer’s reach — she balances a beautifully rendered cover of “What’s the Use of Wonderin’?” from the musical “Carousel” with “Oasis,” a hilariously offensive pop song about abortion. She tackles dysfunctional relationships in songs like “Guitar Hero,” and mental illness and insecurity in songs like “Runs in the Family,” the latter a rapid-fire confessional, the former a swaggering rock anthem.
Palmer’s dramatic alto voice is in fine, expressive form, as is the production by Ben Folds, who wraps Palmer’s percussive piano playing in layers of strings, horns and raw rock guitar. Her bold, vastly intelligent personality is the star here, though, and while you wouldn’t be wrong in accusing her of having a rather large ego, she’s got the chops and the words to match it.
By the end of the album, you get the feeling that even though it’s cathartic for Palmer to write with such clarity, humor and freedom about her big, messy life, it’s even more cathartic for the listener. Someone has to put it all out on the table, and thankfully, it’s someone as smart and talented as she is.
— Emily Burnham
“George Clinton and Some Gangsters of Love”
When you hear the name George Clinton, you ready your ears for a big slice of nasty funk.
After all, the rounder of Parliament-Funkadelic is the grandfather of funk, so that would be a natural assumption.
However, Clinton, 67, has gone back to his musical roots on his latest release, all the way back to 1955. That’s when he was the leader of the stand-up vocal group The Parliaments, who crooned doo-wop and love songs of the day.
Yes, “George Clinton and Some Gangsters of Love” is that release which every singer of a certain age does, a vanity project in which he or she gets together a bunch of their friends and records cover versions of songs, both theirs and others.
But Clinton has gathered such an interesting group of friends that he makes old songs sound new again.
How about these combinations with Clinton: RZA and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on “Let the Good Times Roll,” Sly Stone and El DeBarge on Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar,” gospel singer Kim Burrell on P-Funk’s “Mathematics,” Carlos Santana on The Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman”?
You would think that all those years on funkin’ would have taken a greater toll on Clinton’s voice. Yet on “Some Gangsters of Love,” he croons surprisingly well on love songs, nothing but love songs.
George, now that you’ve got this out of your system, how about creating another Funkenstein monster for your fans?
— Dale McGarrigle
All That Remains
(Razor & Tie)
Remember heavy metal music when it still included the word “heavy”? When Metallica was “One” and Dimebag (rest in peace) was thrashing with Pantera? All That Remains vocalist Phil Labonte and lead guitarist Oli Herbert remember, or they’ve seriously studied heavy metal history.
This is not to say that “Overcome,” the band’s fourth release, is stuck in the past. Songs such as the single “Two Weeks” wouldn’t sound out of place in rotation next to radio-friendly hits by heavy hitters Disturbed and Slipknot. And the band, an Ozzfest alum, now is spreading its smart sound to the masses during an ambitious tour across the country.
Labonte’s voice, ranging from soulful to screeching, is compelling and balanced well with Herbert and fellow guitarist Mike Martin’s fine guitar work and an amazing Jason Costa on drums. But from the opening track, “Before the Damned,” this album is defined by its guttural yet graceful guitar licks.
However, these songs deserve stories. Great metal bands have used their epics to tell tales, and All That Remains settles for lyrics that vaguely reflect titles that might be interpreted as metal cliche: “A Song for the Hopeless,” “Believe in Nothing,” “Do Not Obey.” A particularly weak attempt at rhyme in the “Two Weeks” refrain, “And I can see the fear in your eyes/I’ve seen it materialize,” saps the song’s energy.
The musicianship on “Overcome” can’t be faulted. But the lyricism struggles to match.
— Judy Long