Listening Post: Sleater-Kinney/Lovin' Mightly Fire/Scott H Biram/Spoon
Our weekly wrap of new music.
Live in Paris
100% pure, total rock and roll. That's Sleater-Kinney, an all-female outfit who've been one of the most important punk bands of the last two decades. Live at Paris captures them not long after their 2015 comeback, and given how great they sound it's hard to believe they took a break at all. The thirteen songs here find them in vintage form. The sprinkling of numbers from their comeback album No Cities to Love sit snugly alongside a host of their older offerings, stretching right back to their early days in the '90s. There's nary a dud to be seen. They launch straight into opener Price Tag and, save the odd "merci, merci", barely let up over the course of the next 45 minutes. To single out just three: Oh! is a slice of perfect pop rock, A New Wave drives along and Dig Me Out sounds as fresh as it did 20 years ago. You won't hear rock and roll much more powerful than this.
Lovin' Mighty Fire
(BGP/ Ace/ Border)
Much of what passes for soul music in Japan comprises sentimental karaoke bar ballads known locally as Enka, but here, London record collector Howard Williams compiles 14 rare tracks where Japanese musicians responded more directly to the hectic energy of black American funk, soul and disco of the 70s and early 80s. There's a lightness here that can at first make the songs seem a tad thin to western ears weaned on fatter basslines, gutsier vocals and thicker orchestration. But on repeated listening, this buoyancy is attractive in its own right, with some tracks almost lifting off the ground, powered by their own joy. The By By Session Band's low slung jazz-funk gem Lily features crushing drum breaks, and keyboards from a young Ryuichi Sakamoto, pre-Yellow Magic Orchestra. Recorded in 1976, former rockabilly star Masaaki Hirao's Funky Miyo-chan revisits his earlier 1960 hit with beefed up bassline, hefty drums and an overactive robotic talk-box that would put Zapp's Roger Troutman to shame. Transmitting from some previously uncharted territory midway between disco, 70s yacht rock and Colombian cumbia, Haruomi Hosono's Bara To Yajuu tells an age-old Beauty and The Beast tale over percolating bass and scissor-sharp hi-hats.
Scott H Biram
The Bad Testament
Texan maverick Scott H Biram has been delving into the dark abyss for nigh on two decades as a one-man-band on a mission to put Humpty Dumpty back again. The rebellious zeal of his early years has been tempered (though Train Wrecker is a blunt redneck punk-rocker of a song) by a country-bluesy-rootsy back alley kind of musical redemption where songs of heartbreak such as the edgy Red Wine, with its crunchy guitar, and the forlornness of Long Old Time call are the bastard children of a lost soul still searching for righteousness.
Spoon have been around for over 20 years now, and they're yet to make a bad record. It's an impressive streak, and one that's continued on the thoroughly enjoyable Hot Thoughts. For such a cerebral, hip indie band, it's amazing how funky Spoon can be. Though Hot Thoughts is certainly a sonically diverse album - with touches of vibraphone, punky guitar and even barrelhouse piano — it's supremely danceable throughout. A lot of it comes down to Rob Pope's disco-flavoured bass playing. It anchors the album, lending a deep groove to highlights such as Shotgun, Can I Sit Next to You and Do I Have to Talk You Into It. Overall, it's 40 minutes of elegant indie pop. Another winner from one of the genre's most consistent bands.
- Sunday Star Times