More Reviews

24 10 2008

It’s been a while since I last updated the old blog, so I’ll fling a few things up now as I’ve a spare five minutes.

Below are a selection of reviews that ran in Hot Press….

AC/DC

Black Ice (Columbia)

Three out of five

Back when I was a kid, I used to have two long boxes full of AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne albums that I had taped from friends’ older brothers’ record collections. In those days, it was hard not to love the cheeky imagery of the ‘DC. Whether they were singing about who had the biggest balls of them all (that would be ‘Big Balls’ from the near-mythic Dirty Deeds Done Cheap) or dabbling in a little devil imagery (which to a pre-teen Christian Brothers student was as exciting as getting your first feel) Angus Young and the boys had the world of rock ‘n’ roll sewn up.

            As we all got older, AC/DC floundered quite a bit in the 90s. For a while the schoolboy uniforms, duck walks, four on the floor rhythms and boogie-woogie guitars seemed a little too simple in an age of Radiohead-esque mini-symphonies. Undeterred, the five-piece kept their head’s down and continued to kick out the jams and after a long break from the limelight they’re now releasing Black ice, their first album in eight years.

            It seems absences really do make the heart grow fonder and these days every music fan seems to be confessing a love for the outfit. So have Acca Dacca capitalised on the renewed interest? Well, kinda. Black Ice lacks the bite of earlier material such as Back In Black and the Bon Scott era, but that’s not to say we don’t have some tasty sonic treats on the Brendan O’Brien produced slab of wax. Kicking off with more of a whimper than a bang, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Train’ is a pedestrian, plodding blues rock number that at first made this listener feel like the boys had made the biggest blunder of their careers to date by deciding to give it one more crack of the whip. But they redeem themselves three songs in with the fiery ‘Big Jack’ and the remorseless rocking of ‘War Machine,’ which are as good as anything from their storied 70s and 80s hey-day.

            What’s most noticeable about Black Ice is the fact that all of the fifteen songs are mid-tempo stompers. As statements of intent goes, it’s AC/DC declaring that they’re always going to stick to their guns and will continue to deliver timeless rock ‘n’ roll until they’re six feet under. It’s a noble gesture for sure, but when none of the tracks contain the same venom of ‘Thunderstruck,’ ‘If You Want Blood, You Got It’ or ‘Problem Child,’ it can make you wonder why they bothered making another album and didn’t just go on another greatest hits world tour instead.

            But let’s look at the positives. The rock hard rhythm section of tub thumper Phil Rudd, bassist Cliff Williams and guitarist Malcolm Young still packs as much wallop as an Ultimate Fighting Champion, vocalist Brian Johnson’s pipes continue to sound like they were bathed in paint-stripper and Angus’ riffing still has a few sparks of genius left (‘Decibel,’ ‘Wheels’). If this is your first AC/DC album, you’ll no doubt fall in love with Black Ice but Let There Be Rock it ain’t. Thirty plus years down the line and the ‘DC may now need a bit of Viagra to give them the biggest balls of them all; but there’s still more than enough gas in the tank to keep the fans pleased. All in all, it’s a welcome, but not essential addition to their canon.

 

Key Track: ‘Big Jack’

Edwin McFee

The Pussycat Dolls

Doll Domination (Universal)

Three and a half out of five

After surviving not only the somewhat flaccid reunion of the Spice Girls, but two series’ of Search For A PussyCat Doll which actually saw the group with less numbers than ever before, PCD are back into the limelight with another super-charged slab of provocative pop music that will appeal to young girls, hairy handed gentlemen and anyone with an appreciation for good tunes and (more importantly) good times.

What this writer likes most about the feisty felines is their ability to realise what they’re good at and their willingness to stick with it. Doll Domination features the same formula that has made them a household name and once again we get impassioned vocals from lead pussycat Nicole Scherzinger and a butt-load of guest appearances from Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliot and alleged home video enthusiast R. Kelly to boot.

As you’d expect from a million-dollar brand, the Pussycat Dolls are impeccably produced and any rough edges have been smoothed away for our aural pleasure. Tear-jerking ballad ‘I Hate This’ is a future hit in the making, current single ‘When I Grow Up’ has more sauce than a Heinz factory and the aforementioned Kelly has even left behind his half-arsed Trapped In The Closter hip-hopera in favour of getting back to what he does best on ‘Out Of This Club’ (and by “what we does best” we actually mean “acts a bit sleazy”). While Doll Domination will never change anyone’s world, it will certainly brighten it up a little and for that reason alone we’re glad to see these cats get their cream.

 

Key Track: ‘Out Of This Club

Edwin McFee

Michelle Williams

Unexpected (Columbia)

One out of five

Michelle Williams, if you didn’t already know, was one third of Destiny’s Child. If we were cruel, we’d say she was “the talent-less one,” but we’re not, so we’ll just call her “the religious one” instead. Unexpected is her third album and sees the singer moving from gospel to sleazy R ‘N’ B (as you do). Cutting to the chase, this album is full of Rihanna b-sides that sound like a carbon copy of everything in the charts right now (‘Private Party,’ ‘Stop This Car’) and are completely personality free. Hopefully if we close our eyes she’ll go away.

 

Key Track: ‘Hello Heartbreak.’

Edwin McFee

 

Siouxsie,

The Tripod, Dublin, July 1, 08

When the end of the world inevitably comes our way there will only be two survivors left standing-our old friends the cockroaches and former Banshees ring-leader and all-round ice queen Siouxsie Sioux. Tonight, the former member of the Bromley Contingent looks positively evergreen, scampering around the stage like a woman half her age. Most of her set is culled from her first ever solo record Mantaray and this writer is happy to report that while she may be getting older, Sioux’s pipes sound as pleasing as ever.

It’s been well over a decade since the now Budgie-less Banshee played in Ireland and thankfully she seems happy to give us the hits from yesterday too, which include a particularly ghoulish rendition of ‘Christine,’ that sates the crowd’s thirst for the old stuff. Siouxsie, for her part, also plays the dutiful host to the assembled black-clad massive and at one point gleefully accepts a bunch of flowers from an especially enamoured fan before launching into a disappointingly flaccid version of ‘Hong Kong Gardens’ that now sounds all of its 30years and positively creaks towards its climax.

Still, Siouxsie was never into nostalgia trips in the first place and tonight is all about living in the present. On the strength of new songs such as ‘Into A Swan’ and ‘They Follow You’ her future is, rather ironically, quite bright actually and as she bids farewell to her fans she seems proud that she’s turned the Tripod into her very own ‘Happy House’ for the night. I’ll get me cloak….

 

 

Edwin McFee

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