Here come the Bombs
Hot Fruit Recordings, CD Rs. 395; LP 995
Gaz Coombes — also known as the Great Monkey Man from Oxford Town — first rattled the rock'n'roll cage as the frontman of '90s Brit pop band Supergrass. Apart from their debut 1995 album, I Should Coco — with knock-out tracks like 'Alright' and 'Caught by the fuzz' — being the highest selling album for Parlophone since the Beatles' Please, Please Me, Supergrass was jampacked with the sheer chutzpah and loopy fun of the early Beatles. So it doesn't come as a total surprise that Coombes's solo record, Here Come the Bombs, sounds remarkably like a Beatles solo album, most particularly that of 1970s George Harrison.
The opening track, 'Bombs', is a lame-ish tickler. Perhaps Coombes is keen here to establish the fact that he doesn't want to be super-goofy any more. Thus the heavy strain of luscious strings that accompany the words, "I cannot see through the space and time/ but there's others over here/ you're not on your own."
But my worries about this being a Roger Waters tribute album are dusted away when I get to the dynamite 'Hot fruit'. It starts as a guitar scab that builds up and catches you like a fire. Coombes drives through a blizzard beat with "In the silence we move through the city of light/ I'll make my way through that look in your eyes/ our lives in slow motion like an endless dream/ I wonder where can the madman be". Great vocals, great guitar, great drums and fab bass — Coombes on all the aforementioned instruments.
The pumped up rock-pop takes on a similar manic form in 'Whore'. The heavy thuds of drum'n'bass have a prog rock signature. The melody isn't strong and after a point the song dissipates into general clashing sounds and chorus. Which isn't the case with the eerie, gaseous 'Sub-divider', a rhythm guitar strum rising above the fog. Coombes has a Billy Corgan whisper fitted to this track that exactly midway changes direction (and key) with surprisingly beautiful consequences. As he sings, "I found myself where only dogs survive/ I want to set this world alight", we share his vision of a beautiful apocalypse. Or at least a damn good mind trip lying on the couch.
In 'Universal cinema', we hear an injured big animal dragging itself along the ground with the riff of the Beatles' 'Come together' buried inside its DNA. 'Simulator' that follows is far more stimulating. Riding a fast-and-slow circuit in the song, Coombes has a half-shimmy hit-half-pumping chords rocker in his pocket.
The Spanish guitar strumming thing happens in 'White noise', replete with an MOR beat that flows rather aimlessly as Coombes tells someone that he's always tried to tell you "I've got problems/ that I can't work out". Try going easy on the reverb and lose the xylophone, perhaps?
It's 'Break the silence', which comes after the phat synth-soaked 'Fanfare', that has the bompity-bomp required to adapt itself on the dance floor once remixed. Is it just me or does Monkey Man here sound like Paul McCartney-meets-Bono?! Skip the filler ('Daydream on a street corner') and you're at the end with 'Sleeping giant', a lullaby you can put your pet monkey to sleep with.
Here Come the Bombs has a genuinely lingering sound that doesn't go away after a couple of listens — especially when you're listening to it on vinyl. But at the same time, there aren't any stand-out 'I can't get it out of my head' tracks either. But with Coombes swinging again — and this time unafraid to make music that's not always natter-fun — I'm keeping a look-out for when the Monkey Man's out on his next prowl.
Warner Brothers, Rs. 395
California rockers Linkin Park have seen better times. And we, better music from them. Their fifth album, Living Things, is a box of wet cornflakes. In 'Lost in the echo', the Mike Shinoda rap-Chester Bennington chorus combo sounds dated and overused. Tracks like 'In my remains' and 'Burn it down' could be LP parody songs, with Bennington sounding at times like one of those Swedish bands that are very popular across Europe. Will.i.am, if he teamed up with a Geffen producer, would have sounded far more effective than Linkin Park does in doorknockers such as 'Lies greed misery' and 'Victimized'.
The problem of bands repeating themselves becomes acute in rap-rock, where permutations and combinations seem to be limited. If there's one track where we get the Park doors to open, it's "I'll be gone'. But even that feels like loitering.