This album recap is abbreviated because there weren’t many new releases of interest to me during the year’s final two months. However, the second full-length album by The Struts was highly anticipated on my side of the musical street, and it has not disappointed.
At Drowned in Sound, reviewer Andy McDonald gets straight to the point.
The general consensus between film reviewers is that recent Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody fails to capture the essence of the seminal British pomp-rockers. Fortunately, in the same week came Young & Dangerous from The Struts, which goes some way to doing just that. As their stylistic forefathers’ legacy is committed to film, the Derby lads continue to write the early chapters of their story with this second full-length release.
There’s no real mystique as to what The Struts are doing – unashamedly paying homage to Britain’s genre-defining prestige through a resuscitation of glam rock, their sound bursting with cocksure Stones grooves, Queen’s theatrical panache and T. Rex’s irreverent-but-ensnaring lyrical riddles. They’ve even previously invoked the subversive spirit of the Sex Pistols by recording a video on a Thames boat for hit ‘Could Have Been Me’ from their debut Everybody Wants.
It is likely there cannot possibly be a greater contrast than that to be found between The Struts and The 1975, with the latter’s new album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships tagged as “the millennial answer to OK Computer” by one reviewer.
Spin’s Ian Cohen offers this take.
… The 1975 are just a lot. They make overwhelming albums about being emotionally and technologically overwhelmed. More than anything they’ve released to date, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is prone to maniacal ambition as well as crippling self-doubt and anxiety, obsessed with the granular details of social media etiquette while contemplating the benefits of going off the grid for a while, if not forever. This is a brief inquiry—58 minutes is not a lot to ask when you consider the scope of it all—but “I don’t know” serves as a mission statement rather than a copout to analytic paralysis. Healy probes everything about making music and consuming music in 2018 without resorting to cynicism or nihilism.
As a wheezing geezer, I concede to having had too little time the past month to properly digest the album, which means the arbitrary constraints of chronological reference may fail me in this instance and there may be more to say.
But verily this track is masterful, an absolutely gorgeous commentary on suicide — if there can be such a thing.
Remarkably, ‘Parcels’ manages to be an album that transcends elements from across pop history while still sounding remarkably fresh. The shimmering disco tendencies of the ‘70s turn ‘Lightenup’ and ‘IknowhowIfeel’ into dance floor smashes, as influences from ‘80s pop titans like Hall & Oates and The Cars rear their heads on gooey cuts like ‘Withorwithoutyou’ and ‘Yourfault’. Meanwhile, ‘Tape’ sounds like it would sit nicely on The Strokes’ underrated synth-heavy 2011 album ‘Angels’, and ‘Everyroad’ has a chunky bassline wobble in its exuberant final third.
Kindly note that when it comes to synthesized electronic robot music, if I can (a) at least imagine the songs being played live by humans with instruments, and (b) locate a tune or melody capable of being whistled somewhere amid the digital layers, then it’s okay by me. The Parcels fit therein.
Yes, I love the grandiosity, the bombast, and even the pilferage.
… “Something Human” requires using Muse and trop house in the same sentence, at least until the acoustic guitars arrive. The song then becomes an uncanny homage to George Michael. The airy backing track of “Get Up and Fight” could pass for Balearic pop or a Sweetener outtake, while those whoa-ohs during state-of-the-art guitarless rocker “Thought Contagion” should be of great interest to both satellite radio providers and Imagine Dragons’ copyright lawyers. Leave it to Muse to discover Fleetwood Mac in 2018 and go straight for Tusk. They get the lesser-known of Los Angeles’ major college marching bands to play on the alternate version of “Pressure”—that it’s a highlight for UCLA says more about their current football team than the song itself.
In other November/December musical news, the following topics engaged my ear — and the end-of-year favorite album wrap will be published in a few days, or whenever I get around to it.
Flight documentaries: An indispensable documentary about Mick Ronson, the under-appreciated guitarist and arranger for David Bowie.
And Gordon Lightfoot: