Here’s another installment in my occasional series of capsule reviews; this time ’round I’m focusing on new releases from long-established artists who nonetheless aren’t quite household names. My self-imposed limit for this particular exercise is 100 words on each album.
House of Love
– She Paints Words in Red
If you love the jangle of The Smiths
and early R.E.M.
, you should have known about House of Love
in the 80s (me neither). But you have a chance now, with She Paints Words in Red
. Rocking in a knowing tuneful way that recalls some of The Church
‘s best work (especially Guy Chadwick
‘s intimate low-register vocals that draw favorable comparisons to Steve Kilbey
), the band shows that it’s possible to be upbeat and low-key at the same time. Shimmering acoustic guitars and loping rhythms make this album every bit the equal of the band’s best work from the 1980s.
– Low Standards
Yes, I know that Jeff Berlin
was once asked to join Van Halen
. Now, why
this was, I have no idea. He’s far too talented and innovative a bass player to have sat around playing those Michael Anthony
basslines; they could have gotten Dee Dee Ramone
. Anyway, Berlin’s impressive chops are on display in the proper context on his new solo album Low Standards
. This is eight tracks of instrumental jazz, much of it in hard bop style. The playing is thrilling and rooted in pop-accesibility; it’s sure to please both jazz fans and those who are generally musically open-minded.
The Blow Monkeys
– Feels Like a New Morning
Quite big in their native UK, The Blow Monkeys
scored fewer hits stateside. Inactive for 17 years, the Dr. Robert-led group picked back up six years ago. Feels Like a New Morning is tuneful, warm and frinedly, a bit like Squeeze without their level of wordplay and humor. With a high style approach that recalls both Roxy Music
and The Style Council
, The Blow Monkeys are less distinctive than either, but still far better than their modest success in the US charts would suggest. The album includes a bonus disc full of Dr. Robert’s solo acoustic readings of band favorites.
– The Ride
Outside the Midwest, Michael Stanley
isn’t well known. That’s a shame. Despite having a hit in the 80s with his MSB
, he’s never received commercial success commensurate with his talents as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. I realize that I use the work of John Hiatt
perhaps a bit too often to provide a useful reference when highlighting quality music in a sort of heartland-America style, but once again the comparison is apt. The Ride
features great arrangements that hearken back to the days when AOR existed and was actually pretty damn good. Long-AWOL legend Bill Szymczyk
mixed the record.
Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.