Rock, February 2024

Theatre Of The Absurd Presents C'est La Vie
BMG 4050538958959; LP: 4050538955279

In the '80s, Madness established a reputation as storytellers and scene-setters in song, and C'est La Vie is presented as a theatrical production, and also a peek behind the curtain at the turbulence of modern times. For their first album in seven years, Madness regrouped in North London and they sound fresh and inspired. Their peculiar chemistry is intact, with music hall and ska influences, crisp drumming, see-sawing keyboards and some spicy horn arrangements – the production is particularly vivid. On 'Lockdown And Frack Off' Suggs sings of paranoia and furtive activity in the deserted city. Throaty sax powers the sinister cabaret song-cum-morality-tale 'Baby Burglar' and 'Beginners 101' evokes their pop heyday. MB


Cat Power
Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert
Domino WIGCD524; LP: WIGLP524XM

Chan Marshall aka Cat Power replicated Bob Dylan's historic Manchester show – misreported later as having being held at the Royal Albert Hall – in a November 2022 concert there. Someone even shouts out 'Judas!' (as occurred at the event) for extra authenticity, and an electric band joins her halfway through. Marshall's breathy, grainy voice is perfect for Dylan's songs. Her love for the material comes through strongly. On an acoustic 'Mr Tambourine Man' she replaces his sardonic hipster drawl with a sensuality and tenderness, and makes the dense, surreal imagery of 'Visions Of Johanna' seem oddly moving. MB

Layout 1

Raze Regal & White Denim Inc.
Raze Regal & White Denim Inc.

White Denim singer James Petralli and guitarist and songwriter Raze Regal met in 2019 and bonded over their love of '60s and '80s pop, '70s rock, and jazz. Regal claims he's 'not really a studio cat', but Petralli is, and this debut collaboration was recorded in his Austin TX studio. The sound is warm with a reverby sonic glow around his voice, and the songs pivot on exotic chord changes, their twists and turns accentuated by Jeff Olson's tight, all-action drumming. Regal's lyrical invention peaks with his dissatisfaction with eternal life on 'Complaining In Heaven', while 'Dislocation' has a '70s soul feel with its funky groove and sweet flute lines. MB


Micko And The Mellotronics
Le Vice Anglais
Landline CD015

Micko Westmoreland played enigmatic glam icon Jack Fairy in Velvet Goldmine, and the album title comes from one of his lines in the film. No Mellotrons were involved, but this is terse, locomotive, punk-ish guitar rock pivoting around some killer chord changes. The Specials' Horace Panter is on bass, JD Kickdrum plays tight on the beat and Micko sings as if flicking through a rolodex of cultural observations, delivering the frustrating scenario of 'School Report' ('Focus – Atrocious/Retainment – minimal') and the droll narcissism of 'Autosexual'. Guests include actor and comedian Kevin Eldon on vocals, guitarist Leo Abrahams and Terry Edwards on sax. MB