Rock, July 2020

hfnalbum.pngJarv Is
Beyond The Pale
Rough Trade RT0129CD (LP: RT0129LP; cassette: RT0129LPE2)

This new project – Jarvis Cocker's first new music in over a decade – is an inspired, fresh-sounding set and a career highlight. Recorded live in 2017 and then overdubbed, the six-piece band plays it lean and syncopated, with electronics, keyboards, guitars, drums and violin occasionally tightening up into propulsive rock grooves. The female backing singers are a perfect foil to Cocker's lead vocals, echoing and answering his proclamations. His witty, pithy lyrics deal with existential topics, like human development and the misfits of society. On 'House Music All Night Long' he is partying alone and his take on evolutionary theory finds him 'Dragging my knuckles, listening to Frankie Knuckles' on 'Must I Evolve?' MB


A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
BMG 538600762 (2LP: 538600810)

It's astonishing to think that Ron and Russell Mael's sibling pop combo was first recorded in 1971 and almost inconceivable that on this 24th album their chemistry remains this potent. Production-wise it's brash and punchy, with big guitar and synthetic string chords set around Ron's keyboards. 'Nothing stays the same as it was', sings a youthful-sounding Russell on 'I'm Toast', but much here will feel familiar, particularly the brothers' brand of archness and drollery. They address technological envy in suburbia reaching absurd levels on 'Lawnmower', the language barrier on 'Onomata Pia', and the classical composer recast as pop star on 'Stravinsky's Only Hit'. MB


Kavus Torabi
Hip To The Jag
Believers Roast BR23CD (LP: BR23V)

Guitarist and vocalist Kavus Torabi is best known for working with The Cardiacs, Knifeworld and more recently the version of Gong that continued with the blessing of founder Daevid Allen, who died in 2015. But this is a strictly solo effort, vividly recorded at Torabi's Skyhenge studio. With harmonium and santoor – an Indian hammer dulcimer – woven into guitars, synths and occasional percussion, it's a personal and reflective form of psychedelia, with an exultant, acoustic guitar-based song, 'Cemetery Of Light' and the elegiac moods of 'Break My Fall'. 'Slow Movements' a panorama of juddering synth drones closes the album in spectacular fashion. MB


Throwing Muses
Sun Racket
Fire FIRE 574 (LP: FIRELP 574)

Guitarist and vocalist Kristin Hersh's songs for Throwing Muses have always been full of dark and surreal images that hint at mental turmoil, but the Boston trio's third album since re-forming in 2003 is also one of their more approachable and melodic sets. She accurately describes it as being made up of 'two disparate sonic vocabularies – one heavy noise, the other delicate music box', and on 'Bo Diddley Bridge' her guitar sound is dense and gnarly, with drummer Dave Narcizo and bassist Bernard Georges a powerful rhythm section. By contrast, 'Upstairs Dan' is a sparse, waltz-time song with twangy, reverbed guitar and ghostly, multi-tracked backing vocals. MB