Monday, October 27, 2008

Reviews: Los Campesinos!, Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol

This week is a big one for bands hailing from the U.K. Here are a few reviews of albums making their way across the Atlantic.

Los Campesinos!
- We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (* * *)
Los Campesinos! went into the studio to record an EP and emerged with a full-length album. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, is the group's second release in well under a year and provides another (mercifully) short blast of hyper-literate indie pop sure to have the music scene in a frenzy.

Those who liked Los Campesinos! before will love this record, but it probably won't win over legions of new fans. The opener "Ways To Make It Through The Wall" and the title track showcase the band at their best, full of energetic storytelling and boy/girl harmonies. The act is getting a little worn, though, and by the end of the album I found myself bored. The stories are cleverly and earnestly told, and the music is brimming with ideas, but I became less and less interested in each passing tale of complex relationships and lost love. Even at 32 minutes, the album felt stretched. We Are Beautiful includes some solid songs but not enough to keep me from wishing Los Campesinos! had just stuck with producing what could have been a fantastic EP.

Like I said before, if you liked it then (Hold On Now Youngster), you'll like it now, but don't expect much you haven't heard from them already.

Kaiser Chiefs - Off With Their Heads (* * 1/2)
Kaiser Chiefs bring more of their retro-flavored pop rock with their new release, Off With Their Heads. The five-piece from Leeds shake things up a bit this time around, featuring rapper Sway, Brit-pop queen Lilly Allen, and composer David Arnold during 11 tracks of synth and guitar-driven tunes.

Off With Their Heads is, at least, a fun album, but unfortunately it's also derivative, repetitive and frequently uninteresting. The band certainly seem to be enjoying themselves, especially on upbeat numbers like "Never Miss A Beat" and "Half The Truth," but the hooks wear off fast, and singer Ricky Wilson never seems to have much to say. Granted, simple lyrics don't always sink an album, but the music here isn't so distracting as to draw attention away from some fairly boring writing.

In the end, most of the songs end up sounding like good ideas poorly executed. Nothing on Off With Their Heads is especially bad (with the exception of the rapping on "Half The Truth"), but there is little that's very good either.

Favorite Tracks: "Never Miss A Beat," "You Want History," "Addicted To Drugs"

Snow Patrol - A
Hundred Million Suns (* * * 1/2)
Snow Patrol found a smash hit in "Chasing Cars," their 2006 single that vaulted the Scottish lads into superstardom and beyond. Bearing the weight of sky-high commercial expectations, the band release their latest effort A Hundred Million Suns on Tuesday behind the lead single "Take Back The City."

A Hundred Million Suns follows a pattern similar to Snow Patrol's last album, Eyes Open, though it's clear the band intended to take some chances as well. While "Take Back The City" and "Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands
" sound like carbon copies of previous hits, the simple, beautiful "Set Down Your Glass," and the 16-minute, 3-part epic that is "The Lightning Strike" are examples of a band trying to stretch themselves while retaining their radio friendliness. Even with improved talent and execution, however, A Hundred Million Suns feels overblown and overlong (almost 60 minutes!) and sounds as if the band can't quite reach the heights to which they aspire.

While Snow Patrol have crafted perhaps their best album (and one that I admit I enjoy), it still feels like a guilty pleasure instead of a truly compelling collection of songs.

Favorite Tracks: "If There's A Rocket Tie Me To It," "Lifeboats," "Set Down Your Glass"


Kickcity903 said...

been following your blog for the past 2 weeks or so. I like you. We have common ground.