Rock, October 2020

hfnalbum.pngThe Flaming Lips
American Head
Bella Union BELLA1052

Here, The Flaming Lips investigate their cultural identity through the disorientating prism of drug use. With its acoustic guitar, 'Mother I've Taken LSD' initially sounds like a warped take on Neil Young before the introduction of looming strings and rolling, Ringo-esque drums. If that title suggests that we're in for a bit of a laugh, it's actually a poignant collection, evoking a loss of both innocence and sanity, a feeling amplified by the reverby haze around Wayne Coyne's melancholic vocals. On 'When We Die When We're High' the restless drumming, chiming vibraphone, wah-wah guitar and ghostly vocodered voice shape one of the more impressionistic highlights of this disquieting and beautiful album. MB



After a seven-year silence the highly rated Icelandic group return in grand style. Typically, their songs are melodic but with twisting, episodic structures reminiscent of Danish group Efterklang. On 'Chestmark', Högni Egilsson and Sigrídur Thorlacious intone over twitchy drum patterns, which cut to brooding Bollywood style orchestrations, while on 'Row' they juxtapose electronics and synthetic percussion with sumptuous string arrangements. Hjaltalín's instrumentation is subtly deployed, with much use made of space, while on 'Love From '99' they show their rapport by smoothly gearshifting through unexpected time changes. MB


My Morning Jacket
The Waterfall II

If the title sounds familiar, My Morning Jacket released The Waterfall back in 2015, but vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter Jim James insists that these songs, also from those sessions, are not left-overs, as it was initially conceived as a double or triple set. The sunny sound of this second serving again reflects the Californian rehearsal and recording location. The atmosphere is often languid with country inflections becoming more overt on 'Run It', but the mood changes on the funky 'Magic Bullet' with its punchy horns and burst of lead guitar, and the dramatic 'Wasted' allies this approach to transcendental vocal chorales to spectacular effect. MB


The Wolfhounds
Electric Music
A Turntable Friend TURN76CD (LP: TURN76LP)

Vocalist and guitarist Dave Callahan has rather drolly described the group's third album since re-forming in 2005 as 'a dose of brash, bombastic misery'. Back in the mid '80s indie scene, The Wolfhounds were a tougher proposition than their jangle-pop peers and here they have achieved a thrilling synthesis of melodic hooks and adrenalised dual guitars – on 'Lightning' he and Andy Golding play like a cross between Television and Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. It's invigoratingly edgy throughout and full of ominous portents, but on 'Pointless Killing' Callahan's sweet vocal harmonies and his metaphorical escape from the world offer resolution. MB