This is a deceptively dreamy album by the joint venture between legendary producer-musician Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) and singer-guitarist of the Shins, James Mercer. The swirls that introduce us to Broken Bells’ eponymous debut album in ‘The high road’ have a neat funky odour. And why shouldn’t it? After all, Danger Mouse is one half of the two-rodent set of Gnarls Barkley, the Everly Brothers of alt hip-hop-trop.
But it’s in the next track ‘Vaporize’ where I sense something more than just kaftan’n’denim wearing duo churning the cheese. The hummable, deeply contagious melody gets into the ear and sort of wraps round the head with its slightly retro strumming, electric organ chord-pumping and the James Last-ish horns. But it’s Mercer’s voice moving up, up and away that hypnotises. Especially as he sings, “Common fears start to multiply/ We realise we’re paralysed/ where’d it go, all that precious time?/ Did we even try to stem the tide?” with the words ‘paralysed’ and ‘tide’ escaping like alcohol fumes from a bottle mouth. Music and voice are twisted tightly and left to unfurl.
‘Your head is on fire’ with its strings and guitar twangs brings an ‘Ennio Morricone’ a sense of clippety-clopping along a vast plain. ‘The ghost inside’, a gritty falsetto-driven number reminds us that Danger Mouse was also the producer of Gorrillaz’s Demon Days and Beck’s Modern Guilt. By which I mean to direct your ears to the keen indie funk buzzing from the stereos.
Sailing to nowhere returns us to a shimmering ground. The hurdy-gurdy wall of sound erupting in between delicate high-hat taps is pale and ghostly. ‘The Doors’ is the kind of song that you would have liked to have composed on your old Casio keyboard in your bedroom, and feeding your reverbed voice through the microphone. It’s a strangely moving chamber song. The mood, greyed a notch, continues in ‘Citizen’, a misty choral that slows things down almost to a still. It feels like watching a tall building uncollapse from dirt. ‘October’ haunts its way into a cloudburst with the tinnitus piano leading up to all-enveloping cloud. ‘Mongrel heart’ and ‘The mall and misery’ ends a remarkable album that not only plays into the mood of the listener but actually burrows into one’s head and changes it.
Sony Music, Rs 399
Use His Illusions
Don’t be put off by the curly hair guitar beginning to ex-Guns’n’Roses axeman Slash’s solo album, Slash. You haven’t gone back in time and your jeans haven’t shrunk incredibly. It’s just that with the Cult vocalist Ian Astbury, Slash is bent on having a good time — and showing off his chops in ‘Ghost’.
The British-American guitarman has collaborated teams up with Ozzy Osbourne in ‘Crucify the dead’ to bring us straight up kerrang! stuff. Things get interesting in ‘Beautiful dangerous’ where Fergie rubs her voice against a wicked riff that’s part-hard rock and part-soft focus photography. Slash shows that he hasn’t forgotten his melodic fretwork in ‘Promise’ where Chris Cornell’s unimitable voice fills up the glass.
Andrew Stockdale dallies up with Slash in ‘By the sword’, a bottleneck rumbler where voice the digs its stirrups into the song. The guitar responds fittingly — never mind the overlong solo in the middle. Old sweet G’n’R buddy Duff McKagan and Foo Fighters Dave Drohl join forces with the Dangling Cigaretted One and bring us to the moshpit in ‘Watch this’. Very honestly, the overtly long and over-the-top guitars do sound more than a bit dated, but the rhythm guitar chops and the general mahyem gives us all a fun time.
Blues gent Rocco de Luca does a Jeff Buckley-type sopranic voice and makes Slash pluck acoustic to give us a gentle song — a breather of sorts in an album filled with grindhouse guitars. The chunky riffs of ‘We’re all gonna die’ (not to be confused with the Everlast song) could have only one kind of creature in front of the microphone and there he is — Iggy Pop without disappointing. The chorus line, “We’re all gonna die/ so let’s get high” does bring a giggle to my intensely bitten lips. But when he gets to, “We carry our women wherever we go/ If you keep their mouth shut they’re gonna moan,” I do switch to the last track.
Which just happens to be Fergie again with Cypress Hill belting out a very hair-sprayed, rapped-up version of ‘Paradise City’. Nope, no Axl Rose on this CD.
Slash and Various
Universal, Rs 395