Manic Street Preachers live up to lofty pop touchstones on Resistance Is Futile, while Pinned doesn’t quite pack the punch of prior A Place To Bury Strangers releases. These, plus Rival Consoles and the debut solo album of Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls in this week’s notable new releases.
Rival Consoles, Persona
A deep sense of anxiety pervades the latest from Rival Consoles, a.k.a. Ryan Lee West, which draws inspiration and its title from Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 psychological drama about the disparity between the image we project and our authentic self. That’s a tall thematic order for electronic music, even from a producer as uniquely emotive as West. But like Bergman’s film, Persona gets there through masterful use of tension and juxtaposition: the huge, pulsating synth echoes that keep intruding on opener “Unfolding”; the way the muted techno beats on the title track are repeatedly overtaken by frantic arpeggiation and washes of staticky dissonance; the shimmery, synthesized female voices of “Sun’s Abandon” bleeding into a martial drumbeat and just slightly out-of-tune brass tones. Persona is uneasy listening, with heavier rhythms and more fragmented melodies than West deployed on previous works like Howl and Night Melody, yet it’s equally engrossing. It leaves a deep psychic impression—a truly “arthouse” album that begs repeated revisiting, to explore its many conflicting faces.
RIYL: Jon Hopkins. Kiasmos. Clark. Nils Frahm. Electronic music that feels composed, not generated.
Start here: The particularly dramatic “Hidden” begins with the pinging, glassy notes that have become West’s signature before a propulsive beat rolls in, carrying the song on a determined journey through the dangers of strobing klaxon tones before reaching the triumph of its quietly resilient piano chords. [Sean O’Neal]
A Place To Bury Strangers, Pinned
A Place To Bury Strangers is best at its most ferocious, and the Brooklyn band’s four previous albums offer plenty of punch. The new Pinned opens with an appropriately anxious swirl in “Never Coming Back,” which escalates from the pounding percussion of Dion Lunadon’s two-note bass line and new drummer Lia Simone Braswell’s fleet rhythm into a storm topped by Oliver Ackermann’s guitar squalls. Oddly for a band whose music is so visceral, Pinned frequently feels distant. Tracks like “Too Tough To Kill” and “Was It Electric” sound like they were recorded via mic placed next to a speaker playing the songs. Ackerman’s vocals in particular sound especially far away, and his tinny, Steve Albini-esque guitar adds to the remove. Even Lunadon’s bass and Braswell’s drums sound surprisingly trebly. When the low end is there—as on “Act Your Age” and “Attitude”—Pinned sounds more immediate. Those moments are great, but not as frequent as fans may like.
RIYL: My Bloody Valentine. Swervedriver. Hearing loss.
Start here: “Never Coming Back” is the album’s peak and best point of entry. [Kyle Ryan]
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Manic Street Preachers, Resistance Is Futile
In an NME interview prior to the release of Resistance Is Futile, Manic Street Preachers bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire invoked both David Bowie’s Station To Station and the Manics’ own hard-rock opus, Generation Terrorists, when discussing the record’s earworm lead single, “International Blue.” If anyone can live up to these lofty touchstones, however, it’s the veteran Welsh rockers. Resistance Is Futile, the band’s thirteenth studio album, distills the Manics’ pomp and melancholy into buoyant pop songs with biting electric guitars, sugary synths, and majestic strings. As its name implies, “Liverpool Revisited” is an earnest Britpop throwback, while marbled ’70s-rock licks anchor the urgent “Broken Algorithms.” On the lighter side, “Hold Me Like A Heaven” blooms into a harmony-drenched song with candied pop aspirations, and the piano-spliced “Vivian” recalls Duran Duran’s crushed-velvet glam ballads. Resistance Is Futile, well, embodies its title.
RIYL: Getting up early in the morning to watch English football. Britpop nostalgia. ’80s hard rock. Gooey melodies.
Start here: The frothy, string-swept jangle-pop number “Dylan & Caitlin,” a duet with Welsh singer the Anchoress, was meant to evoke Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” (Mission accomplished.) [Annie Zaleski]
Derek Smalls, Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)
Maybe The Simpsons isn’t keeping Harry Shearer as busy as it once did. Besides his annual holiday live show with his wife, Judith Owen, he has also returned to the recording studio for a new album from Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls. Smalls Change offers a sometimes-poignant look at the aging process from the point of view of a lifelong rocker. As “Rock And Roll Transplant” wryly notes, “Rock ’n’ roll never forgets / But it sometimes has trouble remembering,” and its unhinged keyboard solos should please Tap followers. Famous friends like Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen show up to guest star; unfortunately, Fagen’s appearance is wasted on an ode to Derek’s penis, “Memo To Willie” (“Willie don’t lose that lumber”). Shearer’s vocals, especially on a four-minute-plus opus like the title track, unfortunately demonstrate why he was never that band’s lead singer, detracting from another promising rock opera like “Faith No More.” For die-hard Tap fans only.
RIYL: “These go to 11.” Simpsons oddities. “Jazz Odyssey.” Lukewarm water.
Start here: “Gimme Some (More) Money” is a fun Spinal Tap callback, with David Crosby on backing vocals and Paul Schaffer (Artie Fufkin himself!) tearing up the piano. [Gwen Ihnat]
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