Adverts for horrors like Barbra Streisand's Guilty Pleasures are polluting the airwaves with increasing regularity now, so it's time to prepare ourselves for the terrors of music aimed at the non-discerning Christmas market. We've still got enough interesting releases to bring to you this week, though. It's a bit guitar-y this week.
Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
Shout Out Louds are from Sweden, they play guitars, and they've just released an album introducing themselves to the British public which cobbles together a load of previously-released material. Thankfully, comparisons to one-trick ponies The Hives end there. A more apposite comparison can be made to The Wannadies, whose music has hardly dated. And so it is with Shout Out Louds. There's nothing earth-shatteringly different about the music on display here, but that doesn't stop it from being a lot of fun. It's good old-fashioned indie guitar pop, and it's done to perfection.
While it's 'just' indie guitar pop, there's plenty of variation, with nods to other bands, to keep your ears entertained through the whole album (unsurprisingly, given that this is a 'best of so far' affair). The Comeback kicks off the album in a wistful manner ("I'm a reasonable man but I can't believe what's on your mind"), and if you like what you hear in that track, then it's a fair bet you'll love the rest of the album. Oh, Sweetheart's verses' rockabilly beats are juxtaposed with a lugubrious lament of a chorus, and is followed by the Belle and Sebastien-esque melancholic male/female vocals in A Track and a Train and the tearjerker Go Sadness. Fans of The Smiths will have their ears pricked up by Please Please Please (surely not an accident with a title like that), and fans of The Cure might take interest in There's Nothing.
Despite the points of comparison made above, Shout Out Louds wear their influences lightly. A perfectly balanced and sequenced album, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff is stuffed full of interesting melodic pop. It may not be 'now', it may not be part of a scene, but that isn't to its detriment; it is simply timeless and timelessly simple. Howl Howl Gaff Gaff will appeal to indie kids of every vintage. Album of the week, by a long chalk.
Listen to the album streamed at NME.com.
Echo and the Bunnymen - Siberia
If you don't know what Echo and the Bunnymen sound like by now, you're beyond redemption, quite frankly. They're not going to surprise you with sudden changes in influence, they're more likely to be the ones to provide the influence to other bands, yet they've been in danger of fading away.
Siberia, thankfully, proves there's plenty of life in the Bunnymen yet. Openers Stormy Weather and All Because Of You Days set a cracking standard generally maintained throughout the album, culminating in the standout track Everything Kills You. If there's an element of 'Bunnymen-by-numbers', that's forgiveable when there's a gorgeous album closer like What If We Are?. McCulloch's voice is as gruffly cynical yet naively hopeful as ever, in keeping with the expansive anthemic instrumental backing.
Good to have the Bunnymen back and firing on all cylinders.
Nada Surf - The Weight Is A Gift
Yet more guitars this week in the form of Nada Surf. The Weight Is A Gift starts off promisingly enough but, unlike the other two albums reviewed this week, fails to carry that promise consistently through the entire album. The guitars here, perhaps reflecting a more American influence, sometimes overwhelm the mix so that the vocal melody becomes secondary to the instruments.
The Pixies, of course, are an influence over many a band and song, but at times it's too overt here, and Nada Surf suffer by comparison, in songs like Do It Again and What Is Your Secret?. The tracks that work best on this album tend to be the simpler tracks like All Is A Game and In The Mirror which stray furthest from the fuzzy guitar-laden template. In fact, In The Mirror bodes well for Nada Surf in the restraint shown in not chucking in the loud guitars towards the end, which must have been extremely tempting. Imaginary Friends hints at another mode of operation for the band, with its West Coast harmonies, not a million miles away from sounding like the excellent Brendan Benson.
An enjoyable enough album, with hints at a bright future, The Weight Is A Gift just lacks enough variety to hold onto the attention in every track.
You can get a few previews of the Nada Surf tracks at their site.