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Monday Music Review

By londonist_mark Last edited 142 months ago
Monday Music Review

Ahh, a lovely weekend (ignoring the occasional isolated spots of rain), we sincerely hope our loyal readers spent the time outdoors slathered with liberal dosages of factor 80 sun cream. Londonist, on the other hand, spent the weekend checking out new music for you. That's how much we love you. Today we bring you a new improved Monday Music Review on Tuesday in that we dare to give you our opinions as well as letting you know what the rest of the web think.

In today's MMROT:

Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth

Tom McRae - All Maps Welcome

Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm

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Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth

We provide an extensive review of the return of Reznor so we can't think why you'd want to read any others but for the sake of completeness, here's what other people think:

The Observer is well-inclined to the album, saying "a few songs here are as taut and fresh as Reznor has sounded in a decade". XFM are similarly happy with the album: the most complete album [Reznor's] ever done, with consistent flashes of... genius. RockReview.co.uk stick their necks out and actually give a rating - 9/10 - concluding that Reznor has again come back to prove he can write amazing songs, with production to match.

But we don't just rely on a few reviews from other sites to award our coveted Album of the Week award. Of course the fact we've featured this album first might make you think this is a dead cert for the award. For the purposes of suspense though, you'll have to read our full review to find out for sure...

The Londonist view

Trent Raznor: Godfather of industrial noise, father to Marilyn Manson, idol to millions of doom obsessed techno-goths, multi instrumentalist serial substance abuser and a man who’s life’s work was eventually upstaged by a septagenarian Christian country and western singer. It would seem that the twenty first century has given Mr Raznor time to brood on his own miriad definitions of hurt.

But here we are six years after Nine Inch Nails released their last proper studio album and Reznor’s back to stamp his authority over the bastard hellspawn he unwittingly unleashed on the world. And what do we get? A sparse drum machine beat with patented nu-metal piano (you know the kind of thing you get on Linkin Park albums) that keeps threatening to turn all Ibiza on us whilst Trent ponders repeatedly: Why do you get all the love in the world? Presumably because we know what the sun looks like and smile occasionally. A brooding opener maybe but more a set of dentures than sharpened incisors.

And suddenly there’s Dave Grohl’s hammer of Thor impression, the synths start squalling like U2’s Even Better Than The Real Thing played at a hundred miles an hour and we’re back in familiar NIN territory: distorted fuzzy bass and guitars and Raznor screaming Don’t you fucking know who you are? at us. The addition of some real live musicians to the recording process, including ex Marilyn Manson bass player Twiggy Ramirez certainly help to give Raznor’s traditionally sparse sound some added depth and vitality. It’s also helped create what’s probably Raznor’s most commercially accessible work to date. These are real ROCK songs, albeit undermined by Raznor’s constant hunt to create dance music for a really really really bad trip. The Collector, The Hand That Feeds, Love Is Not Enough all steam through in this way until Every Day Is Exactly The Same re-discovers 80s synth pop as written by the Foo Fighters on a downer.

Title track With Teeth is classic industrial brooding, what every serious stalker should have on his or her iPod...

Wave goodbye, to what you were. The rules have changed the lines begin to blur. You’ve finally found the place that you belong...

...driven along on a crest of Ramirez’s familiar bass lines before dropping into a soft almost classical piano and then suddenly remembering that there’s a moshpit going on somewhere.

Lyrically the album draws from Reznor’s battles with addiction and loss of self.. In the funked up Only he’s becoming less defined as days go by...sometimes I think I can see right through myself. This is a document of self destruction, at times quite uncomfortable but great for dark rooms with mysterious puddles, creaking pipes and the sound of continually dripping water. Getting Smaller is a thrash metal stomp, Sunspots an eerie creeping whisper, The Line Begins To Blur all staggered distortion and haunting synths. Why is this man not writing soundtracks for extreme Japanese horror flicks? Beside You In Time a droned suicide note that builds into an almost Dandy Warhols esque refrain.

Right Where It belongs is probably the most commmercial song on the record and a sure fire bet for his Hurt for 2005.

If you look at your reflection is that all you want to be but if you could look right through the crack would you find yourself afraid to see.

he broods over gentle piano and synth. The sudden inclusion of crowd noise veers dangerously close into Linkin Park territory once more but it’s quickly brought into line as if Raznor knows that this is a stadium pleaser but it’s still a NIN stadium pleaser. The alternate version included on the UK release is even more stripped back as if he was writting the soundtrack to a death scene on the OC.

So nothing dangerously new here, no one’s rewritten the musical rule book and yet it’s still all good stuff and it’s going to sell by the bucketloads regardless of what anyone says. Yes, this record does have teeth but it’s the bite of a man who’s been bitten more than a few times himself. Less innovative, more commercial than before but in many ways more settled; the work of a battled scarred veteran who at least still remembers the fire that drove him.

You can agree or disagree with Londonist by listening to With Teeth here but for our money, it's worth the Album of the Week award. (MM)

Oh, sorry, the final word on the NIN album goes to Limp Bizkit: New NIN is so fucking great. (We're still trying to work out if the blog site that appears when you click on the link is a parody or for real.)

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Tom McRae - All Maps Welcome

The Londonist view

Brit and Mercury Prize nominated Tom McRae’s also got a few issues to deal with although his are all women related. Where would pop music be without women eh, all falling in love and breaking hearts... Tom’s obviously had enough heartbreak to create eleven fragile torch songs of sublime and understated beauty. Hummingbird Song is all Damien Rice meets Coldplay’s Amsterdam, The Girl Who Falls Downstairs a gentle strum that strives to soar into U2 territory. Packing For The Crash builds into one of those cinemascope choruses so beloved of today’s ‘thinking man’s bands’ reminiscent of the kind of thing Marillion used to do post Fish. Now that’ll set the cat amongst the pidgeons. When’s the last time anyone mentioned Marillion on this or any site? Elsewhere It Ain’t You and My Vampire Heart are so gentle they almost don’t exist whilst Strangest Land has a kind of Mexican Musical feel to it. Silent Boulevard is another stirring builder in the Elbow model that goes down so well at the end of a set, uplifting and yet heartbreaking at the same time.

Ultimately it’s hard not to draw the Damien Rice comparisons. From the cracked voice to the use of strings and tales of the broken hearted All Maps Welcome will no doubt soundtrack dinner parties in expensive suburbs for the rest of the summmer and yet this is deserving of a little more time. It’s the kind of record you can fall in love to so that when it all goes pear shaped you can immerse yourself in the beauty and the heartbreak without having to change discs.

You can catch up with Tom McRae at Fopp on Wednesday lunchtime (2pm) or on the XFM listening post. (MM)

The Observer is somewhat equivocal about All Maps Welcome, starting off sweetly enough by saying McRae's music has taken a swoop upwards... [and his] writing isn't bad either before sticking the knife in at the end, declaring that "McRae's wispy voice remains unassuming to the point of bloodlessness." The Observer's sister paper The Guardian takes a similar sort of tack when it says that a previous relationship has done something to "bring out the Enya" in McRae. Ewww. The Guardian is actually a little kinder in conclusion (3 out of 5), although not without pejorative undertones: "This album will appeal mostly to the coffee-table massive: they'll be discerning coffee tables, mind - this is a classy product."

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Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm

The Londonist view

Londonist likes to stand out from the rest of the world which is why we’re happy to hear that there’s a new Aimee Mann album in town.

The Forgotten Arm is the tale of two kids who fall in love, try to escape to a better life and then fall apart in a mess of cheap boxing matches and drug addiction. Hmm, we’re trying not to use the ‘concept’ word here (the album is packaged as a pulp novel). So it looks as if this is finding itself somewhere between NIN and Tom McRae. And of course it’s absolutely nothing like the either of them but reviews like this tend to rely on links like that for some kind of continuity and this’ll be about the last time anyone mentions Aimee Mann in the same breath as Nine Inch Nails.

Most will know Aimee Mann’s work through the film Magnolia, which is a decent enough primer for her slightly smokey nasal voice and character tales of lost souls wrapped up in oft times mournful melodic rock. For those a little more familiar with Mme Mann, The Forgotten Arm is a return to the styles of Batchelor No 2 after the slightly disappointing Lost In Space. Tracks like I Can’t Get My Head Around It revisit her ability to pen intelligent catchy pop songs sitting over an alt.country piano and soft southern 70s rock. Little Bombs could have been an outake from REM’s New Adventures In HiFi (and yes it was a damn fine album unbelievers) whilst That’s how I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart could have sat nicely in Magnolia with it’s strings adding that essential gravitas to a pretty self explanatory track. I Can’t Help you Anymore is pretty classic Aimee Mann, I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas all rolling Stones piano building into a little burst of keys and guitar.

If there’s any criticism here it’s that there’s no real standout tracks, but then that’s quite possibly the idea. A solid album that probably won’t win any new fans but with enough scope to pick up a few stragglers from the current crop of piano led pomp pop bands (Athlete, Keane, Coldplay) if they would ever give it the time. Aimee Mann’s show at the Shepherd’s bush Empire on the 16th July is almost sold out. (MM)

Also released today

Stevie Wonder - A Time 2 Love

Robert Plant - Mighty Rearranger

Limp Bizkit - The Unquestionable Truth

Last Updated 03 May 2005