RECORD REVIEWS

The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia (Sub Pop)
In this, the label’s 20th year anniversary, Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, The Twilight Singers) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers) make a return to Sub Pop for this gem of a collaboration. Conceived from ideas that both musicians had come up with over various recording projects together, Saturnalia is nothing less than phenomenal. Although this duo have both enjoyed hugely successful and influential careers in their own rights, this album contains twelve outstanding tracks that and arguably their best work to date of two highly decorated and respected careers. Musically it offers a panoramic soundscape lush enough to convince the most critical of ears. Each track is progressive in essence, with mesmerising string arrangements dramatic to the point of necessity. The complexity, yet ease of the song structures leave little room for condemnation. This in itself is no sweeping statement as both the twins’ previous works have mostly arrived partnered with critical acclaim. Dulli takes a more laid back approach on his vocal duties but his voice sounds more soulful and heartfelt than ever before. This, mixed with the tobacco stained raspy growl Lanegan provides, delivers the perfect cocktail. Transcending and triumphant is the end result of this project, delivered with more finesse and style than Frank Sinatra on Valentines night. Saturnalia would be on the top of my Desert Island wish-list every time. 10/10

La Coka Nostra – A Brand You Can Trust (Uncle Howie Recordings)
Thuggishly aggressive and violent from start to finish…but all in good fun, if taken with a massive pinch of salt. Machismo personified, telling tales of ‘hood decadence backed with stonking beats and rhymes to boot’, makes for some great listening if you are not too easily offended. La Coka Nostra is effectively a collective made up from original members of House of Pain & Cypress Hill all thrown together with guest slots for Snoop Dog, members of Ill Bill, The Psycho Realm & Immortal Technique (plus a few other golden-oldie-homies for good measure). They actually formed back in 2005 with no real intention of ever recording an album, but after a few years 70,000 MySpace friends was to be enough motivation to stir up this debut. Claiming they are unhappy with the current state of Hip Hop, this album is about bringing the genre back to a place they could be proud of, which is pretty handy really as these tracks offer a picture perfect sound-snap of the mid-to-late nineties, when both bands were commercially at the height of their careers. I mean this isn’t going to change your life by any means, but there are some great songs on here which should take you nicely back down memory lane, if, at the time, this flavour of rap was your bag. So stick your baggy slacks on an’ jump up, jump up ‘n’ get down. 7/10 B Funk

Massive Attack – Heligoland (Virgin)
At long last, these steadfast Bristolian Trip-Hip heads are finally in a position to boast the release of their fifth full studio album. Thankfully I can say that musically this one lies a lot closer in mood, production and melody to that of Mezzanine, than its predecessor and slightly more inward ‘100th Window’. Massive Attack have always made a name for themselves by somehow finding beauty within darkness, but with ‘100th Window’ things got all out of hand on the gloomy front. Thankfully that’s not the case this time around. Staying in tune with all their previous works a number of guests have been drafted in to complete this recording. Which in all honesty is a pretty unbelievable line-up. The album opens with slow builder ‘Pray For Rain’ which features TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, then continues with mesmerizing performances from Martina Topley-Bird, Old Cohort and Reggae legend Horace Andy, Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star and as well as production credits, the unflappable Damon Albarn offers his vocal talents on the downbeat yet stellar ‘Saturday Come Slow’.  Founding members Daddy G and Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja are present and on top form throughout, making ‘Heliogland’ undoubtedly one of the finest releases 2010 is likely to see. 9/10 Marky B     

Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother)
The seventh studio album from the Gallagher dynasty has at last hit the shelves and upon early listens it will definitely maybe be one of their more popular releases. From the outset it is clear that the band have gone for a rawer, more edgy sound which very much suits their new style of material. I’m pleased to announce that the good ol’ manc spirit and attitude that ran through their very being is back, and in full effect. It is evident a new found song-writing maturity has developed nicely within the camp. The most hardcore of Oasis fans out there might feel initially disappointed as this is by far the most diverse record the band have ever made (with writing credits going to all four members), but even so, quality is quality, so after a few listens I’m pretty sure that even the most sceptical will get with the programme. Whatever the tempo of the track, there is an intensity pulsing through these songs delivered certain Rock N’ Roll swagger. It seems to me like these songs have been written for themselves rather than for a pre-marketed audience which, as far as longevity is concerned, can be no bad thing. If you like the single lead ‘The Shock of the Lightning’ then you are going love ‘Dig Out Your Soul’. Both brothers put in great vocal performances and Noel’s guitars are being hit harder than ever. All in all, job well done, as Liam claims it’s ‘the easiest album we’ve ever made’. Packed with a plethora of massive sounding singles, this one is sure to be a Rock n’ Roll Staaaaa. 8/10

The Twilight Singers – Powder Burns (One Little Indian)
Painfully honest word play, amidst swirling guitars and string-driven orchestration can only mean one thing…underground supreme and former Afghan Whigs front-man, Greg Dulli, is back with his forth record new band, The Twilight Singers. Recorded between New Orleans, Milan, Brooklyn and L.A., this may well be his most intimate and focused release to date. From the moment the first track kicks in, you feel like you’ve been included in one of the best secrets of the year. Dulli has pulled an eclectic mix of musicians together for this one, including former Whigs bassist John Curley as well as Ani Di Franco and Joseph Arthur. As with the most sublime releases, this may well take a few listens, but after that you’ll be hooked for sure. Dulli has spent 18 years perfecting his craft and now with ‘Powder Burns’ I wonder how long it will take him to top this. From start to finish, this album flows like the rivers of Babylon, but each track has its own individual personality, which tells intimately of Dulli’s evolution and continual battle between liar and lover. With every new project, Dulli continues to improve and cement himself to legendary status. Powder Burns is the final confirmation that he has made it. 10/10

Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here (XL Recordings)
After a sixteen year hiatus, the original Godfather of Rap, is finally set to unleash the muchly anticipated ‘I’m New Here’. A collection of songs which are mainly between atmospheric soul numbers wrapped together with various spoken word jams…a style which Scott-Heron is probably best known for after his industry changing,‘The Revolution will not be Televised’, first pushed itself on the world as far back as 1971. This record offers a humble amount of food for thought. All in all, life hasn’t been all that kind to the man behind one of the most important voices within 20th Century music. Mostly written at a New York State penitentiary, a place in which the soul legend had spent the best part of a decade, in between various rehab stints to deal with an ongoing cocaine addiction. If life experience offers creative fodder, then a man once described as the black Bob Dylan should be drowning in both thoughts and stories of personal reflection – which is evident from the opening line ‘I did not become someone different…that I did not want to be’. From the outset of this album you are taken on a journey of self discovery…the question is…are you open enough to ingest this ride? 7/10 M Buttons

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