The Final Frontier
EMI, Rs 395
One of the finest scenes in cinema was the one from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 visual stunner, 2001: A Space Odyssey where we saw a dead astronaut spinning slowly in space. The vision of the rotating body in a canary yellow space suit with the utter empty blackness of space in the background was, as my friends who can speak fluently while holding a cigarette between their lips, a poignant moment.
A year later, in 1969, David Bowie's song-tale of an astronaut, stranded in space far away from his family down below and aware that Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do was also poignant, even as it scored high on the maple syrup quotient.
Nearly 40 years after Stanley and David, it's veteran heavy metallers from East London Iron Maiden's turn to take a stab at the lost-in-space-and-never-coming-back-home routine. Just in case you didn't know, Iron Maiden doesn't do 'poignant'.
The Final Frontier is a schoolboy's wet dream. Which doesn't mean that frontman Bruce Dickinson (he's chopped his hair off!) is gnashing, growling and bansheeing away without knowing that he's a 52-year-old member of a 45-year-old mega-heavy metal band (the man joined Iron Maiden in 1981) roleplaying a moron with a death, destruction and space opera fetish. Oh Dickinson and Co. know that doling out metal riffs welded to gaming and pulpy science fiction'n'horror metaphors is part of a great service to youngsters who love chugging the beer but can't really relate to genuinely hard rock and cheesy acts whose lyrics deal with chicks and cars (think Def Leppard, think the descendants of 80s air guitar bands).
The opening number, Satellite 15...The final frontier is puzzling though. It's a 8 minutes 41 seconds track that till its 4 minutes 34th second is a sound effects-filled stretch of crap. It's only from the 4 minutes 35th second that the hammer comes down to bring a riff worth the headbang. El Derado, the track that follows, thankfully doesn't diddle me — and I lurrv the chorus El Dorado come and play/ El Dorado step this way/ Take a ticket for the ride where Dickinson suddenly yanks his voice up into the very edge of the atmosphere and lets it bust the ozone layer.
Coming home has the classic Maiden-British metal multiple guitars sound that leads to a ballady stretch that in turn leads to the higher plane of lighter fuel music. Numbers like Talisman and Mother of Mercy pick up bristle and pace as they roll on. The English chanson-style of When the wild wind blows sounds like the kind of song that Sherwood Forest's Little John with his big staff would have on his merry iPod when Robin Hood's stopped plaguing him with his stupid Rasmus song list.
I'm not at all surprised that The Final Frontier released last month reached No 1 on the charts in 28 countries. It's a fun, no-frilly-hats album that makes the listener turn into a teen who can't hold his drink and doesn't care a frog's cloacal aperture about Coldplay's fifth studio album. Oh, and barring the wasted stretches, Iron Maiden's 15th studio album, well, rocks.
100 Miles From Memphis
A&M/Universal, Rs 395
Rating: * 1/2
Is it her nose job? Is it her desire to try out 'new sounds'? Is it her latest move to make people take her more seriously? I don't know what it is, but when Knoxville.com calls Sheryl Crow's 100 Miles From Memphis "sonically impressive", it's like telling a woman she has very pretty eyes because she's rather plain. Crow wants to turn Soul Sister in this album, not in her beachbilly pop-rock-country bikini-wear. Um, it's not a pretty aural sight.
Crow, not really blessed with a strong voice, was always about her sunny-even-in-the-rain tunes and vulnerable as nails way of singing. But in Our love is fading, the gospel sounds canned.
Things get downright stupid in Eye to eye, a chihuahua-reggae ditty. Things are so desperate that she's credited Keith Richards with 'electric guitars, gang vocals'. If Keith is present somewhere in all the Na, na, na-na-na-na nansense, he must have dropped off behind the tree. The na-na-na takes on a Janet Jacksonosh turn in Summer day. Sign your name could have been sung better by Ms Spears.
The rare pieces of sunshine we find are in Long road home, a simple, strummer of a song and the teasing-easing title track. Why didn't she do more of these? Is it her nose job? Is it...? Let me remember her by the 1998 My favourite mistake.