Rock, September 2020

hfnalbum.pngSeasick Steve
Love & Peace
Contagious 0190296852275 (LP: 0190296852152)

When on the title track, Steve Wold sings 'Hey man, what's the issue here?/Things have all got tangled up' it feels reassuring, like we are once again in capable hands. This latest instalment of timeless electric blues nods back to Willie Dixon's songs and John Lee Hooker's boogie, but is imbued with his characteristically cool worldview, as exemplified by 'My Woman', a droll paean to his wife. Love & Peace is sparse and gnarly, with Steve's raw, imaginative guitar playing backed by Dan Magnusson's clattery, syncopated drumming. It was recorded both at home and in commercial studios and as Steve is an accomplished recording engineer and producer, he has achieved a satisfying mix here of the rough and the smooth. MB


Fontaines DC
A Hero's Death
Partisan PTKF2182-2 (LP: PTKF2182-1)

The young Dublin-based group admits that relentless touring following their acclaimed 2019 debut Dogrel has put a strain on band relationships, and so it's more than coincidental that A Hero's Death displays a wider range of moods. Their more typical uptempo songs carry echoes of Joy Division, Wire, Josef K and The Fall, but the way their edgy, melodic guitars mesh together over speedy drum patterns has already created an original sound. Here these are balanced with slower, more introspective tunes like 'I Don't Belong', which finds singer Grian Chatten in casually defiant mood and although it might wrong-foot some of the band's fans, it's a potent combination. MB


Sam Prekop
Thrill Jockey THRILL524CD (LP: THRILL524LP)

Over the last two decades, Sam Prekop has been most closely identified with Chicago guitar band The Sea And Cake. And while few would choose to wear a t-shirt bearing that name, they are acclaimed for their subtle, hypnotic grooves and Prekop's sweet-toned vocals. On this instrumental solo album he evokes a similar atmosphere and sense of space but through the use of electronics. With chiming keyboards and a drum machine, 'Approaching' evokes the spirit of '70s German group Harmonia, while on 'Circle Line' Prekop's lush soundfield and bubbling rhythms nod towards Vangelis and mid '90s 'Intelligent Techno', but with a rock sensibility. MB


The Pretenders
Hate For Sale
BMG 4050538603569 (LP: 4050538603576)

This release features a new Pretenders lineup with Martin Chambers back on drums, and it showcases the first songwriting collaborations between Chrissie Hynde and guitarist James Walbourne: ten finely-wrought tracks, which all sound like potential singles. And while 'The Buzz' evokes memories of their 1979 single 'Kid', another cautionary anti-drug song 'Junkie Walk' is a tougher proposition, with scorching fuzz-toned lead guitar. They purvey gritty rock on the title track, some skank on 'Lightning Man', and Hynde delivers a moving vocal performance on the piano ballad 'Crying In Public', all of which are captured in vivid detail here. MB