Danger lurks in every Delhi living room. As it did in mine when someone held a gun to my head this week and, “in the spirit of approaching Christmas”, insisted that I listen to that Canadian cretin Michael Bublé’s Christmas offering, the subtlely titled Christmas. But while I am yet to get a handgun for situations like this, I made the intruder sit down, gave him a glass of the grog I was having and took off the earphones on which I was listening to the surprisingly robust and tuneful songs by Swedish heavy metal band In Flames.
Frankly, ever since I returned from Göteborg this summer, I’ve had a soft spot for Scandinavian rock of a louder disposition than Abba. (Yes, I admit I was listening to ‘Honey, Honey’ a few days with moderate relish, but I was accosted by another gun-toting intruder and had nothing playing then....) So when I got to hear this quintet from Göteborg strut their stuff from their tenth album, Sounds of A Playground Fading, on my sound system, I was delighted to hear melodies that would even calm Michael Bublé.
Ok, that may have been an exaggeration. But the first (title) track, with its Red Hot Chili Pepper-style guitar start, has the music wrap its not-so-lissome legs around a melody that happily falls just short of ‘silly anthemic’. ‘Deliver us’ starts on a pulsating tone that could easily have been from a New Order song or a soundtrack from Tron... until the guitars come chainsawing in. Anders Fridén has a slashing voice that reminds me of good old Rob Zombie and he really bites into the chorus that — I’m not kidding — has ‘California Dreamin’’ buried two feet under it. (“Fly into the distant/disappear for awhile... [California dreamin’/ on such a winter’s day].
The harmonic guitars trill before being punched in by pneumatic drill drums in ‘All for me’. The guitars gyre and the high hat is hit as Anders goes classic metal on us. But in the next track, ‘The Puzzle’, the boys go thrash metal on us — with a keyboard drench in the background (?!). Better things lie in store in ‘Fear is the weakness’, with a more traditional tempo, tune, crescendo trajectory and Van Halen guitaring. For those who have grown their hair considerably for the sole purpose of nodding your heads violently until your Adam’s apple starts hurting, may I suggest ‘Darker Times’. There’s a stretch for air-guitarists too.
What makes me relish Sounds Of A Playground Fading is that here’s a no-bullshit metal album that isn’t soft, has body-slamming possibilities galore and has some pretty tunes couched in happy growls. Perfect Christmas listening.
I’ll stick to my Jameson
I have tried to be not swayed by the fact that the words in all the songs in this Waterboys’ album has been written by William Butler Yeats — “adapted for song” by frontman Mike Scott, of course — a bloke whose poetry I dearly like even though I am yet to foresee my death. The result: An Appointment With Mr Yeats has some delightful virtuoso music coming together and some very painfully, pretentious Celtic pap-rock.
First, the tracks that worked for me. ‘Song of Wandering Aengus’ certainly does. It starts with an organ that could have been Dylan with the Dead. In fact, with a clothes-clip squeezed to his nose Scott would have sounded like Bob the Zimmerman. It’s a slow, feet and bass dragging talk-song with a wonderful wall of sound firming things up.
So when things head totally for the toilet in the very next song, News for the Delphic Oracle. First, I’d advise everyone from refraining to put lines like “There sighed amid his choir of love tall Pythagoras...” to music. Any music. And this is hurdy-gurdy music that comes out on this track. ‘White Birds’ puts a rock’n’roll sway into the Irish pub-song tune. Which is all very fine in an Irish pub but outside...
‘Mad as the mist as snow’ train-chugs along and breathes heavily and I find my right heel tapping. Even the mandatory Irish fiddle isn’t that corny. But when I find ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ is a groovy, mystic Austin Powers-turned-grey chant, I realise what this album is: a Scottish band’s Irish album. Och!