Friday, April 26, 2013

Torres - Torres

Torres - Torres

Torres is the most absurdly assured debut I've heard so far this decade. A full band's worth of musicians played on the album, but much of it is just Torres' electric guitar and voice, backed as much by reverb, hard panning and other devices as by the musicians. However, the band isn't there for perfunctory arrangements, nor are the sonic details a mere bag of tricks; in fact, one of Torres' talents is knowing how much of each a song needs. "Come to Terms" is an outlier; it's the only song to feature an acoustic guitar, and it's arguably the most lyrically conventional. Hear it out of context and you might peg Torres as an entirely different songwriter, one of a sort that aren't in short supply. Hear it in sequence as the penultimate track, however, and you've already heard the arrangements and songwriting and recording nuances that make her float to the top. You know she recorded it with an acoustic guitar and little else because she already had something to say and decided it was the best tool to help her convey it, as opposed to too many young songwriters who have nothing to say, but think that everything will fall into place if they strap on an acoustic and folk shit up.

The whole album expertly negotiates the line between self expression and self indulgence thanks to Torres' sense of restraint and her lyrics, which are emotive, but never lapse into simplistic "Dear Diary" cliches. Torres puts herself out there without burying her vocals in the mix or obscuring her lyrics with obliqueness, which would be a risk if she didn't have the talent and assuredness of a songwriter several years into their career. The bigger risk would have been to put in anything less than total commitment and hope nobody would notice.


Related:
Torres - Moon & Back (live)

Monday, April 22, 2013

RIP Chrissy Amphlett

 

RIP Chrissy Amphlett of The Divinyls. She touched many people besides herself throughout her long career.

 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Richard Thompson - Electric


Richard Thompson - Electric

When I reviewed Richard Thompson's last album, the live document Dream Attic, I pointed out how ridiculous it was that a man the same age as my mother was putting out better rock music than 95% of young bands. I'll give them a pass on technical ability, and obviously lacking Thompson's nearly 50 years' experience is a handicap, but there's no excuse for them to be outdone in the category of raw enthusiasm. Young bands, you had three years to get your shit together, but Richard Thompson has owned your ass again!

Thompson assembled what he calls a "less powerful power trio" - less powerful than Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience - but then who isn't? The similarities begin and end with the fact that the Electric trio is led by a guitar virtuoso whose rhythm section can not only keep up, but easily so. In the EPK he described the music therein as "funk folk", and while that might not be entirely apt, Michael Jerome's drums make many of the songs inspire dancing, which Thompson will be the first to tell you people didn't always consider a separate activity from listening to music. Like other drummers such as Janet Weiss and Dave Grohl who are accustomed to playing in trios, Jerome knows how to sound "big".

While the standout track here is "Stuck on the Treadmill" - strange how Thompson's songs with the most epic solos tend to be my favourites - the real revelation is how inspired some of the quieter numbers are. Some slowly build ("My Enemy"), while others such as "The Snow Goose", nothing but acoustic guitar and vocals, stay tense and still for their duration. That one sounds like something Thompson could have written in the 70s with Linda's vocals in mind. Instead he takes the lead while Allison Krauss provides backing vocals.

Thompson isn't constantly reinventing himself at this point in his career, and individual thresholds for variations on what he's been doing for decades now will vary, as will where Electric fits in with his recent albums. For my money it's no Dream Attic, but it would still be a hell of a year in which it wasn't a highlight.

Related:
Richard Thompson - Dream Attic
My 200 Favourite Albums of All Time

Sex, War & Robots