Ah, January. A time of optimism – New Year resolutions not yet broken, the unshakable belief that the wretched Tory government will be ousted in an absolute rout for the Labour party, who are obviously going to win, of course they are, and Lionel Richie is blissfully unaware that he will, this summer, become lauded as one of the seminal Glastonbury acts since the turn of the millennium.
Despite all this positive energy, let’s not forget that it was also a time of some grim events – terrorist attacks, the further rise of Ed Sheeran, and, perhaps worst of all, some artists may have had their albums overlooked by GIITTV.
Allow me to redress the balance…
Unless you spent the beginning of 2015 in a small airtight container, chances are you’ll have heard Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ smash hit ‘Uptown Funk‘ at least a hundred times and probably begrudgingly admitted that yes, it was indeed a fine tune, and likely to be regarded in years to come as something of a classic, but what of its parent album, ‘Uptown Special‘?
Well, it’s a mixed bag affair really, starting with Stevie Wonder‘s not inconsiderable harmonica skills seemingly leading us through a cave of dripping stalactites on ‘Uptown’s First Finale‘, after which we encounter one or two gloriously rousing numbers, of which ‘Feel Right‘ and ‘Leaving Los Feliz‘ are arguably the strongest. The former features Mystikal and is a James Brown meets Public Enemy romp that bizarrely ends up sounding like Pigeonhed, while Tame Impala mainman Kevin Parker guests on the cool and breezy latter track which surely takes its guitar cues from the much missed Mick Ronson.
All too often though, the sound gets a bit wishy-washy which renders the likes of ‘Summer Breaking‘ as memorable as the name Hrztyglrmpstyn Kravinchrtylthrank. It’s all very well to have all your favourite artists of yesteryear visit your house at the same time – and trust me, there are hundreds here – but not when you only have one toilet.
Far less commercially viable, the enigmatic Mutado Pintado returned with ‘336 W 17th St‘. A hugely likeable record with tunes reminiscent of The Nails (‘Keep On Flying’ is like a companion piece to ‘88 Lines About 44 Women’), it’s a real hotchpotch of musical styles ranging from the filthy Fuzz of ‘Juanita‘ to the rather disturbing, challenging headfuck that is ‘Sunday Morning‘ which, if you left it on repeat, would turn you clinically insane in no time.
Some of it sounds light hearted enough to conjur up comparisons with They Might Be Giants, Liam Lynch or Brendan Benson, but others, such as the ferocious, intense ‘I Kill What I Eat‘, would make you reconsider whether crossing the road to shake Clams Baker‘s hand is such a good idea after all. Baker barks rather than sings these songs, and for the most part, it works tremendously. You’re either going to end up pumping the air with your fists or needing a rapid trouser change…
It’s certainly preferable to Fall Out Boy anyway, who, judging by ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’s opener ‘Irresistible‘, are starting to morph alarmingly into Maroon 5.
The odd moment of intrigue ensues – ‘Uma Thurman‘ features some jangly surf style guitar riffs, which at least holds the interest for a few seconds before drowning in a wave of mediocrity. ‘Centuries‘ starts with the tiniest snippet of DNA and Suzanne Vega‘s ‘Tom’s Diner‘ but becomes ten times less interesting from thereon, all the tracks kind of welding themselves together to become one long, tedious yawnfest. [Rating:2]
So what of Joey B4da$$? I should hate him with a vengeance with a name like that, in the same way that someone who introduced themselves to me as Tommy Hardbastard would instantly gain my contempt. So it came as a huge shock to me when I actually quite liked several of the tunes here. Pretty old school rap, clearly taking its lead from the likes of De La Soul and Tone Loc, whilst also harnessing his inner Kanye as a means of keeping things up to date. No, ‘B4.D4.$$‘ was not a bad record at all, much to my surprise.
One of the most surprising omissions from the year’s earliest GIITTV write-ups was perhaps Sleater-Kinney‘s comeback album ‘No Cities To Love‘. The girls sound utterly rejuvenated here after their almost decade long hiatus, from the spiky Slits-like punk of ‘Price Tag’ (no, not THAT one), through the thunderously funky, growling angst of ‘Fangless‘ right up to the Patti-Smith-meets-Pretenders silent seething of finale ‘Fade‘. They’ve been more consistent than most of us would ever have expected for the past ten years, and they came up trumps again with another winning combo of devil may care attitude, simmering tension and frantic, unrelenting hooklines that felt like a great night out with some long lost, much missed friends.
So that’s a handful of January’s missed releases now covered and, I’ll tell you what, let me know if you think there’s still a gaping hole where an album you love should be, and I will add my review of it to this page, before we get all loved up and move on to February…