The 21st was a quiet week for releases again so I thought I’d include the Black Angels in my 28th April blog. However I’ve also been struggling for time this week, and obsessed with the Ryan Adams B-Sides, so this blog is a “28th April part 1”, with Thurston Moore and Life of Agony to follow next week alongside the 5th of May release by At The Drive-In.
So I’ll start with Texan psych rockers Black Angels. They’ve been around since the mid 00s but Death Song was the first release of theirs I’ve listened to and I enjoyed it. It didn’t sound like a “standard” psych rock album to me, I could sense other influences in there – the opening track “Currency” sounded like Late 90s/early 00s prog-metallers Tool in places, “Grab as Much (as you can)”, with a chorus that reminds me of Mansun, has a bit of a Britpop vibe and there is some stoner rock-esque slow riffs on “Hunt Me Down”. I’ll definitely give their earlier releases a spin when I have time.
First up from the 28th April releases is the new Descendants single “Who We Are“. The Descendants are one of my favourite bands and I thought their last album “Hypercaffium Spazzinate” was probably the best of their career to date, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed by this. It does have a lot of the hallmarks of a good Descendants track, like the punk rock guitar solo around the 2 minute mark is a nice touch, and the sentiment of the track (it’s an anti-Trump song with the proceeds going to a women’s charity) is definitely right, I just feel that it’s a bit basic, perhaps written and released in a bit of a rush (a bit like some of my blog posts!)
Next up is Volume 1 by BNQT, an indie “supergroup” consisting of Travis frontman Fran Healy, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, Midlake’s Eric Pulido, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, and Jason Lyttle of Grandaddy. This is a pleasant enough listen but there’s nothing outstanding across the record. I like the 60s vibe on piano rock track “Unlikely Force” and more ballady “Failing at Feeling”, the radio-friendly “LA on My Mind”, and the less safe “Hey Banana”, but the rest of the album feels a bit like “indie-by-numbers”. Being released in the same week as so many other big name releases doesn’t help their case either.
The release I was most excited about this week was Ryan Adams‘ Prisoner: B Sides. These were originally intended as an exclusive part of a limited edition box set of the album but has been made available as a stand alone release. I was concerned it was a case of “17 songs that weren’t good enough for Prisoner”, but it appears to be more like a collection of songs that didn’t fit with the “Ryan Adams sings The Smiths and Springsteen” vibe of the record. There are a couple of songs that would have fitted well on the album, like “Juli” – which has a Dire Straits feel to it – and “Hanging onto Hope” with its Smiths-esque jangly guitar, but most of these songs encompas broader styles than the main release.
Grungey opener “Where Will You Run”, has vocals reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, or perhaps a Radish-era Ben Kweller. At the opposite end of the album, and the other end of the musical spectrum the fragile acoustic-led Americana of final track “The Empty Bed”, which is one of my favourites on this release. Other stand out tracks that would definitely have been out of place on the main record are country rock track “Crazy Now”, and the slightly more upbeat (musically) “Please Help Me”.
Lyrically, the songs very much follow the theme of Prisoner and document Adams’ break up with pop star turned actress Mandy Moore. “No Words” is the prefect example of this, and opens with the lyrics “Carry all my things into the hall, Carry all my things into the hall, stack ’em up in piles against the wall, stack ’em up in piles against the wall maybe I was wounded too, maybe my head’s on backwards”.
Although not quite as good as the main album release, this is another great set of songs by one of music’s most prolific geniuses and, because of this, I haven’t had time to listen to Life of Agony or Thurston Moore – I’ll review them, alongside At The Drive-In (and Mac DeMarco if I have time) next week.