World Peace Is None of Your Business
by Morrissey. $25.98
In 2014, World Peace is None of Your Business marked the grand return of his Mozjesty. The critically acclaimed album is musically loose and varied, and Morrissey is in fine voice — proving he is perhaps one of the finest male singers in the business today. His subject matter is as opinionated and loveably earnest as ever, like an undergrad in a first-year gender studies course (“I’m Not A Man”). And it’s been decades since Bono made a political statement as biting as the title-track: “Each time you vote/ You support the process.”
The requisite statement on animal rights is present in the Tejano-flavored “The Bullfighter Dies,” and the melancholy romanticism that is Morrissey’s strong suit shines in “Kick The Bride Down The Aisle”: “You’re that stretch of the beach/ That the tide doesn’t reach/ No meaning, no reason/ The lonely season.”
Pick up the vinyl edition and get a download code unlocking several fantastic bonus tracks including “Scandinavia” and “Art Hounds,” from which only Moz could proclaim: “My life is opera!” In “Oboe Concerto,” rounding out the standard tracklist, Morrissey croons, “All the good ones are dead.” Not quite all of them, Moz — not quite.
Under Color of Official Right
by Protomartyr. $9.99
“Hello there,” proclaims Protomartyr vocalist Joe Casey from “Ain’t So Simple” on the band’s 2014 debut Under Color of Official Right. “You are my witnesses,” he continues, “to a kind of confrontation between me and these three men.”
Rarely does a record have such a clear and direct statement of purpose. Under Color of Official Right is a stark and artfully plain post-punk dispatch from the mean streets of — where else? — Detroit. Not since the heyday of bands from Manchester, England, have we seen this kind of monochromatic portrait of a time and place. Casey pontificates in a school-of-hard-knocks, blue-collar slur, thick with whiskey and too many broken noses.
The band, led by guitarist Greg Ahee, makes exhilarating and exciting noise: angular rhythms, mixing downtown artiness (the post-punk, minimal disco groove of “Tarpeian Rock”) with plain-old, 1-2-3-4, stop-start gutter punk in “Son of Dis” and “Scum, Rise!” Throughout, Ahee disregards his guitar solos like so much trash in the breeze.
A band from Detroit can’t so much as sneeze these days without it being read in a political context, and in “Come & See,” Protomartyr touch on their hometown’s role in the Great Recession. “I will try to live defeated,” Casey sings. Protomartyr isn’t about sloganeering or anthems. Instead, the band says most through absence and negative space — the essence of what punk rock is all about.
By Eagulls. $10.99
Listen to Eagulls (from Leeds, England) and it becomes clear that the long, dull, post-Oasis era of British rock seems to have ended. Eschewing the Gallagher brothers’ bricklayer, workaday bloke rock, Eagulls’ self-titled debut is fast, frenetic art-punk; vocalist George Mitchell’s tortured howl recalls Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs or early Robert Smith.
Musically, guitarist and founding member Mark “Goldy” Goldsworthy plays like a siren blaring an emergency across an anonymous cityscape while the Eagulls’ rhythm section rumbles like an oncoming train in a tunnel. In “Fester/Blister,” Mitchell spits in the track of the same name. The lead guitar line from “Tough Luck” (or “Toof Look” when Mitchell sings it) is a MTV 120 Minutes-era zinger; “Possessed” has the relentlessly woozy spin of too many pints at the pub.
What’s most keen about the record (clocking in at an LP-appropriate 37 minutes) is its distinct lack of filler. There’s no dragging ballad, no focus-group lead-off single reminding us that great rock ‘n’ roll needs nothing more than ferocious blasts of creative intensity. In a just world, Eagulls will be kicking off America’s umpteenth British Invasion.
Say Yes To Love
By Perfect Pussy. $12.99
If you’re fed up to here with holiday cheer, tap into the dystopian fury of Perfect Pussy. The album is called Say Yes To Love, but ignore that: It is top-to-bottom unbridled noisy rage and infectious energy organized into something that resembles songs. Perfect Pussy vocalist Meredith Graves rails against unnamed assailants in a Kathleen Hanna-style non-singing shout.
Yes, the music is noisy, but if you stop at “turn this noise off,” you aren’t giving Perfect Pussy a chance.
Listen closely and the melodies in Ray McAndrew’s guitar work emerge from beneath the racket — particularly in the almost-pretty, chorus-like section of “Work” and the intro to “Interference Fits.” Elsewhere, the rhythm section lives and dies somewhere between breathless and desperate in the hardcore punk “Advance Upon The Real.” “VII” goes beyond music into pure sonic architecture, appropriate for the burgeoning noise scene here in Eugene.
There isn’t much precedence for Perfect Pussy (you could name Bikini Kill, The Pixies and At The Drive-In) and it’s tough to say what will come next for the band. But standing alone, Say Yes To Love is a fascinating exercise in contrasting musical ideas and experimental noise, led by a whirlwind, challenging and charismatic vocalist innovating her own style of expression.
Give My Love To London
By Marianne Faithfull. $10
Marianne Faithfull has a bee in her bonnet. And after 50-plus years in the music business, you’ll forgive her for airing her grievances, particularly since 2014’s Give My Love To London is as compelling and vital as anything released this year.
Faithfull’s shitlist includes politicians: “You treat your dogs better than you treat each other,” she scolds on “Mother Wolf.” Her next target, former lovers: “A veil over your eyes/ I never knew the real you,” she laments in the blistering “True Lies.” And finally modern pop culture from the Roger Waters-penned “Sparrows Will Sing,” Faithfull sings “The new generation is eager to master the helm/ They cannot be seduced by the candyfloss techno hell.”
Faithfull now and then writes her own words, almost always collaborates on the music and quite often performs covers. Give My Love’s list of collaborators includes Steve Earle, Nick Cave (his “Late Victorian Holocaust” is a highlight of the album) and Anna Calvi. Faithfull is amongst the last of the great “interpreters of song.” And what makes an artist a great song interpreter is heart and soul, the indelible mark they leave on the work. At 70, Faithfull’s voice is not a beautiful instrument (a rheumatic drag queen is frequently brought to mind), but this remarkable album is better than pretty: It’s a statement.
Burn Your Fire For No Witness
By Angel Olsen. $12.99
Can we talk about Angel Olsen’s voice for a sec? ’Cause it’s amazing in an old-timey seersucker-suited record-exec-cigar-chomping way. “Stick with me, doll, and I’ll make you a star!” she cries. Sure, there are moments on Olsen’s 2014 release Burn Your Fire For No Witness that threaten just another average song-mumbling, guitar-strumming indie siren. But then Olsen sets her voice alight (as she does in “Unfucktheworld,” singing “If all the trouble in my heart would only mend”) and oh, the heavenly choirs. Oh, the chilling, Patsy-Cline heights she reaches with those vocal chords.
From “Hi-Five,” Angel sings, “I feel so lonesome I could cry,” a sentiment as old as boy meets girl, but when Angel sings it, it’s fresh all-over again. And from the taut and fuzzy indie-rocker “Forgiven/Forgotten,” she croons, “I don’t know anything, but I love you.”
Hell, I’m all out of purple prose. Just go listen to Angel Olsen. You won’t regret it.