The Sound of the Universe
Until I listened to "Fragile Tension," I had no idea how much of an influence Depeche Mode (I prefer my Depeche a La Mode, with ice cream) had on The Killers. Either that, or, The Killers are rubbing off on Depeche Mode, which would just be a strange, strange thing. The same old furrough is getting old, boys, though points for doing it with style for so long.
Kingdom of Rust
When the biggest complaint I can file about an album is that most of its songs are merely infinitely listenable, that says something. Now, that's not meant to be poor rationale; it falls in the same general category as "This artist knows how to make a good record" (See "Born to Re-Run"), but is a less severe infraction. You can place Doves in the same general category as Elbow and Coldplay, which is to say bands that are Radiohead with a sense of humour, and a more obviously commercial sensibility. Not that that's a bad thing. I find Radiohead's wilful anti-consumerist approach (which is bullshit anyway, since no band has kept as keen an eye on staying commercial as Radiohead, albeit in their own way) to be tiresome. There is a lag halfway through this album, again a result of an age where albums are regularly three songs too long (Try it as an experiment at home, you'll find I'm right. Name the album made in the CD era, I'll show you the three songs that can be chopped off to make it stronger.) But the opening salvo, "Jetstream," "Kingdom of Rust," "The Outsiders," and "Winter Hill," is impossible to ignore, and it closes well. Cut out "The Greatest Denier," "Birds Flew Backwards," and "Spellbound," and this might have been the best album of the year. Ah, well. Maybe next time.
Pet Shop Boys
I do love PSB. They are a special group, no question. I find their early albums a bit bland, but that was part of the point. You were meant to feel like you were trapped in suburbia with the kids they wrote so effectively about. Very, their best album, had nearly vibrant arrangements, and you can spot a Very track from a mile away, if you're even slightly aware of the PSB aesthetic. Neil Tennet is a favourite singer, with an erudite tenor and a tempured, withdrawn delivery. That they are in their fifties and still making music that's catchy and poppy without sacrificing intelligence is to be commended. Their knighthoods, rest assured, are fast-approaching. But I digress. Yes is not their best album, and it's not their best since Very, that would be Nightlife, but I know for a fact that "Love, Etc." and "Did You See Me Coming" (*wink*) are two of their better singles in ages. As for the rest? Like X&Y by Coldplay, this is an album that you remember enjoying less than you do when it's playing. I still haven't decided whether that's a good thing or not.