Plus,more from Tom Odell, Justin Bieber and The Thermals...
A Week In Reviews... This week saw 14-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys head to the UK for a series of dates, and boy did it seem that the girl really was on fire. A storming appraisal from us here at Contactmusic, for her show in Manchester proved that Keys hasn't lost her spark over 16 years in the game."If one thing's for certain tonight it's that Alicia Keys is the perfect crossover star, with an old school approach to music and a new school approach to showmanship; the girl really is on fire" we reckoned.
Meanwhile, across the Pennines in Leeds, Mercury-nominated Ghostpoet was in town to perform plenty of new material. However, there was plenty to take in for both fans old and new, with Contactmusic's Joe Wild writing "Whilst the show was unquestionably a vehicle to promote his new material, the MC did sprinkle some Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam favourites into the set-list, such as 'Liiines' and 'Cash and Carry Me Home' to keep the faithful fans happy. But it was the renditions of newbies 'Dial Tones,' 'MSI MusmiD' and new single 'Meltdown' that really got the crowd amped and responding to his metaphor-laden lyrics and urban-decay-inspired beats."
There's something reassuring about the urgency that runs through the veins of The Thermals' sixth album Desperate Ground. It's the Portland trio's first record in three years, but there's no sign they've mellowed with age. The 10 songs here demonstrate why they're among the best of what the Pop-Punk genre has to offer; it's lo-fi, angry and incredibly catchy. But there is an underlying feeling that Hutch Harris' acerbic social commentary falls a little flat on The Thermals' debut release for Saddle Creek.
The band finished recording Desperate Ground in Hoboken just hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall last year, and perhaps it's that which adds to the urgency on display here. But, unlike earlier releases, some of the more raw edges have been smoothed down, leaving Harris' lyrics to carry the burden of packing the emotional punch required. He therefore decides to focus his attentions on a loose theme of war and conflict. Unfortunately, that's where my problems with Desperate Ground lie.
First single and opening track 'Born To Kill' highlights the sometimes unnecessary physical and mental sacrifices required on the front line ("Blood on my hands, when you command, I will."). But while it provides an insight into what The Thermals are rallying against, it's perhaps a little too generic to hit its target of US foreign policy properly. In a post-Bush era where America seems to be less likely to resort to a military solution as the first option, Harris' critique appears to already be somewhat dated. It's a theme that continues with 'I Go Alone' ("Each night I dream of a war") and 'Faces Stay With Me'. While he's also tackling post-traumatic stress here, it's a well-publicised issue faced by veterans, and again something that's been hitting the headlines for years.
Continue reading: The Thermals - Desperate Ground Album Review