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The Early Bird: Top New Recordings Released 1-29-21 – 2-4-21 Reviewed

Cheap Trick 2021


Will this year’s new album releases kick it into gear? I reviewed Weezer’s chamber pop genre exercise OK Human earlier today (here) and the best album of the week as it stands is yet another PJ Harvey compilation of demos from a specific album, this time the excellent Is This Desire?  That’s the one where she put away her guitars for synths and piano, but on the demos you still get the guitars in full swing. The problem with all her demo albums is that what you want is the skeletons of songs being worked through, but the demos here are just about completed and waiting for the band to flesh it out a little but if that is what it takes to hear the album again, so be it  (Grade: A-). Back in the day, Ani DiFranco was an outre, young folkie appealing to teenage lesbians everywhere, today we would call her non-binary (indeed, her last album was called Binary) and her new album Revolutionary Love, mixing a folkie pacifist dream with soulful songs on a very strong collection, though I doubt the then teens will ever forgive her untouchable face (Grade: B+). If your problem with Christian Contemporary is that it takes a personal relationship with God to whole new levels of weirdness, Common Hymnal adds a little objectivity where it connects the dots between pacifism, poverty, and social equality on  Praise And Protest (Grade: C+).

Meanwhile, the action is all on the singles side. One of the last things Trump did in office was pardon Kodak Black -I once saw the great, great, great rapper (Cardi B’s first hit was the tributeish namecheck ” Bodak Yellow”) who blew away all comers at a Tidal X gig a coupla years ago. “Last Day In” is Kodak rhyming to the beat on the unadorned song describing what happened and happens  next -for sure it’s great to have him back (Grade: B), Robin Zander said “We’ve made a lot of records, and we just continue making records — for ourselves mostly, but also for our immediate fans that still cling to us. It’s something, I think, that is our lifeblood; it keeps us going… And I believe that we still make quality records. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t do it anymore.” Certainly their latest song “Light Up The Fire” is a standard issue hard rocking classicism (Grade: B+),  The Hold Steady’s second single of the year, “Spices” is Finn at his sing speak most annoying though the riff is killer and the lyric is first rate (Grade: B), Rob Zombie’s second single “The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man,” is patented horror heavy metal (Grade: B). Top country rocker Eric Church drops another fine single that adds a glamminess to the twang of “Heart On Fire” (Grade: A-), the problem with first couple of Americana,  Jason Isbell and Amanda Shire, is that post Southeastern their self importance raised upwards as their songwriting skills went down the drain, and never truer than on the abysmal “Our Problem” where the likes of Angie Stone and Cyndi Lauper, on the pro-choice remix with stars… it’s a complete abortion (Grade: D).

Our Problem – Amanda Shires, Angie Stone, Cyndi Lauper, K.Flay, Lilly Hiatt, Linda Perry, Morgane St

Revolutionary Love – Ani DiFranco – B

Light Up The Fire – Cheap Trick – B+

Praise and Protest – Common Hymnal – C+

Heart On Fire – Eric Church – B

Last Day In – Kodak Black – B

Is This Desire? – Demos – PJ Harvey – A-

The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man – Rob Zombie – B

Spices – The Hold Steady – B

OK  Human – Weezer – C

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