sat 29/04/2017

New Music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Blondie - Pollinator

Javi Fedrick

Instead of resting on the laurels of the great music they made some 40 years ago, Blondie - still led by original members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein - are back with an album that tries to channel their past chart-toppers whilst also keeping in touch with modern pop, as filtered via collaborations with Sia, Charlie XCX and The Strokes’ Nick Valensi. Unfortunately for them, Pollinator reminds more of the Sonic Heroes videogame soundtrack than Parallel Lines.

CD: Mary J Blige - Strength of a Woman

Joe Muggs

Mary J Blige has a voice that was built to age gracefully. Gutsy, churchy, sometimes rough, it was miles away from the over-trained melismatics of the Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston imitators of the Nineties, or the velvet-toned ingenues that Aaliyah ushered in – and 25 years on from her debut album it certainly stands apart from the mannered Rihanna imitators of the current young generation.

Jazz FM Awards 2017

Peter Quinn

Hosted by Jazz FM presenter, Jez Nelson, an impressively varied mix of UK and international artists from the worlds of jazz, blues and soul were...

CD: Willie Nelson - God's Problem Child

Tim Cumming

He’s in his ninth decade, but with no signs of slowing down on stage or in studio, and the good news is that, while God's Problem Child may be...

CD: John Mellencamp - Sad Clowns & Hillbillies

Liz Thomson

The 23rd studio album from the artist formerly known as John Cougar was originally destined to be a religious album, but the songs he and Carlene...

Caetano Veloso and Teresa Cristina, Barbican

Peter Culshaw

Veteran Brazilian idol and new samba star warm up the Barbican

Decade Zero, Dave Maric, Phronesis, Engines Orchestra - preview

Matthew Wright

Composer, conductor and star bassist on exploring the worlds between jazz and classical chamber music

CD: Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubadour

Russ Coffey

Will Oldham remembers country legend Merle Haggard

Reissue CDs Weekly: Brinsley Schwarz

Kieron Tyler

Last gasp album by the pub rock legends shows how Nick Lowe leapfrogged punk

CD: Gorillaz - Humanz

Thomas H Green

Damon Albarn's latest adventure is ripe with ear-wakening inventiveness

CD: Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste - Around Félicité

Howard Male

A film soundtrack of extreme contrasts from the Congolese collective and company

theartsdesk on Vinyl: Record Store Day Special 2017

Thomas H Green

Reviews of Record Store Day vinyl exclusives, including Uriah Heep, Bochum Welt, Jaco Pastorius and Swet Shop Boys

CD: Trombone Shorty - Parking Lot Symphony

Matthew Wright

Blue Note debut brings versatile New Orleans star to the big time

CD: Ray Davies - Americana

Liz Thomson

A love letter to the USA by the most English of songwriters

CD: Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle

Kieron Tyler

Mr Bottom-of-the-boots voice’s best album since 2004’s ‘Bubblegum’

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Vibrators

Kieron Tyler

Whether punk or not, new box set of the opportunistic pop-rockers comes up with the goods musically

CD: Maximo Park - Risk to Exist

Thomas H Green

Longstanding indie rockers offer up a sprightly lyrical and musical twist

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, Green Door Store, Brighton

Javi Fedrick

Ex-Stereolab artiste hits the stage late but still impresses

CD: Be Myself - Sheryl Crow

Katie Colombus

The original country pop singer takes us back to the Nineties

Pink Martini, Brighton Dome

Thomas H Green

American miniature jazz orchestra give a boisterous night's entertainment

CD: Sharon Shannon - Sacred Earth

Liz Thomson

Fusion of Africa, Middle East, America and Ireland lacks wild abandon

CD: Barry Adamson - Love Sick Dick

Guy Oddy

Former Bad Seed and Magazine man gets funky, but he’s still feeling blue

CD: Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Kieron Tyler

High-concept Norwegian art-rockers in pop album shocker

Reissue CDs Weekly: Jon Savage's 1967

Kieron Tyler

Delightful and enlightening compilation pinpointing ‘The Year Pop Divided’

CD: Phronesis - The Behemoth

Peter Quinn

Piano trio meets big band for 10th anniversary celebration

Mulatu Astatke, Jazz Café

Peter Culshaw

Thrilling, mysterious, seductive jazz from a parallel universe

CD: Future Islands - The Far Field

Russ Coffey

Baltimore trio back with their post-breakthrough album

Black Honey, Concorde 2, Brighton

Javi Fedrick

Rising indie pop stars return home

DVD/Blu-ray: One More Time with Feeling

Nick Hasted

Grief and art mix in a subtly intimate Nick Cave documentary

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

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