BBC Album Reviews: Some of the Best, part one

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So I figured, what with the service’s imminent closure, I’d post a few of my favourite reviews to have run on the BBC Album Reviews pages since the summer of 2009.

I say “part one” as it’s been a real treat to run so much high-quality content these past weeks, months and years that to not dive into the archive again for another selection would be doing myself a disservice, not to mention the team of contributors.

I haven’t thought long and hard about the below picks, either – I’ve just scanned the pages, little lights going off as I recall standout examples of critical thoughts (turned into compelling copy).

But if something piques your own interest from the below, click through and have a rummage yourself. I think you’ll agree that a bloody fine job’s been done.

Jude Rogers reviews Paul Weller’s Sonik Kicks
“Thirty years ago, Paul Weller was number one. The Jam’s A Town Called Malice spent three weeks at the top of the charts, its Motown bassline bustling, its finger clicks rustling. Watch its video now, and the 23-year-old at the middle of it has hardly changed in some ways. His Woking vowels are still ‘ow’s-yer-father; the haircut’s still cockatoo-daft. But he sings a line in its first verse that’s practically become his motto: ‘Stop apologising for the things you’ve never done, because time is short and life is cruel, and it’s up to us to change.'”

Adam Kennedy reviews Aesop Rock’s Skelethon
“It’s a difficult listen, no doubt. But just when Skelethon appears to be drifting towards a less-than-lapel-grabbing conclusion, closing confessional Gopher Guts pulls an astonishing passage from nowhere. It’s built on possibly the most affectingly honest lines Aesop has ever delivered: ‘I have been completely unable to maintain any semblance of relationship on any level / I have been a bastard to the people who have actively attempted to deliver me from peril.'”

Alex Deller reviews Goat’s World Music
“Basslines hulk and lurk, goading you pushily towards the dancefloor while psychotropic guitar parts conjure impossible colours and chanted, voice-as-instrument ululations score a deep path through your subconscious despite only one word in 50 ever actually making sense. Dip in at any point and you’re bound to hit gold, whether you light upon the cartwheel riffing of opener Diarabi, the glorious, organ-dappled funk of Disco Fever or the primal rattle and grunt of the beautiful but far-too-short Run to Your Mama.”

Barney Hoskyns reviews Foreigner’s Can’t Slow Down
“Like so many veteran rock bands, Foreigner is now little more than a trademark owned by its British founder Mick Jones. Fifteen years after their last album release, Jones has cobbled together a unit of proficient hacks to craft a ghastly collection of songs that might as well have been written by a computer programme. Pulsing rhythms, glistening guitar arpeggios, hideously clichéd lyrics and heroically angsty vocals: they’re all here in abundance, tailor-made for future X Factor contenders.”

Paul Lester reviews Drake’s Thank Me Later
“Drake is the Vampire Weekend of rap – he ticks all the wrong boxes, especially for a milieu that privileges poverty and strife. He’s a handsome 23-year-old ex-actor from an affluent background who has effortlessly achieved even greater wealth via music that utterly refuses to flaunt its street-tough credentials. More heinous still, Thank Me Later is virtually a concept album about the loneliness and lovelessness of the successful celebrity, a sort of sequel to Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, only more audaciously dolorous because he’s only just started. In fact, as morose meditations on the miseries of fame go, it comes across like a rap version of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories or Deconstructing Harry.”

Spencer Grady reviews Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica
“Replica sees Lopatin stray from his traditional templates, making occasional forays onto the dancefloor, shackling his amorphous ambient tides to the tyranny of the beat. Sleep Dealer and Nassau sound like The Field hitting hiccup hi-scores with the snooze function on, while Up forges a natural alliance between Muslimgauze’s souk-saturated rhythms and Cut Hands’ abrasive appropriation of Congolese percussion.”

Chris Roberts reviews Dexys’ One Day I’m Going to Soar
“A quarter-century on from the last Dexys Midnight Runners album Don’t Stand Me Down (mocked upon release, now recognised as a work of genius), Dexys (so named because, says Kevin Rowland, ‘It’s the same, but also not the same’) return. Recent live shows induced collective rapture in audiences. Can the ‘comeback’ album possibly live up to expectations? It can. It certainly can… There is so much personality, poetry, vulnerability and resilience here that most other records sound like dry runs by comparison. Dexys are back with wisdom and wings. Some of us never doubted.”

David Quantick reviews Buzzcocks’ Another Music in a Different Kitchen
“Upgrading and referencing the Spiral Scratch EP’s Boredom as bookends to the whole thing, Another Music… mixed Shelley’s remakes of Devoto lyrics (Fast Cars being a standout) with new brilliance like I Don’t Mind. Diggle added one of Buzzcocks’ greatest songs, the motorik genius of Autonomy. And the whole thing finales with punk’s greatest end-of-side-two track, the epic Moving Away From the Pulsebeat, which still sounds like nothing else ever recorded. It’s my favourite album ever; buy it and find out why.”

Daniel Ross reviews Rachel Zeffira’s The Deserters
“Canadian Zeffira has a uniquely simplistic and powerful melodic knack which satisfies the head, but to massage the heart she has a real aptitude for arrangements. Oscillating strings, reeds and flutes are used with invention throughout, on the chug of Break the Spell and in the closing organ expanse of Goodbye Divine – all evidence that Zeffira is skipping wildly ahead of the pack. The Deserters is unequivocally demanding of your attention, as accomplished as it is tummy-meltingly wonderful to listen to.”

James Skinner reviews Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid
“Monáe and her Wondaland collective span styles and epochs seamlessly over these 18 tracks, touching on everything from fantasia strings to psychedelic trad-folk, cabaret jazz to traditional R’n’B; heck, even goth and Eurotrance get a look in… Across the breadth of the record, songs and icons are recalled and reinvented, flickering like ghosts you recognise but can’t quite place; Monáe’s skill is to fashion them into something bordering indefinable. She is an easy, natural star, and The ArchAndroid is a kaleidoscopic, breathless run through the genres and eras that have inspired her.”

That’ll do, for now.


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