sun 10/12/2023

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Chelsea - The Step-Forward Years

Kieron Tyler

On 21 June 1977, listeners to John Peel’s radio show heard a song titled “Pretty Vacant.” It wasn’t a preview of the forthcoming Sex Pistols single of the same name, which would be in shops on 2 July, but a different song. The band lifting the title was Chelsea, a UK punk outfit whose first single, “Right to Work,” had been released on 3 June.

Album: Samara Joy - A Joyful Holiday

Sebastian Scotney

This six-track EP on Verve/UMG brings the breakthrough year of 2023 for Samara Joy to a neat close. In February she won two Grammys, as Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Linger Awhile”. In July she was Downbeat’s Critics’ Poll’s Rising Star Female Vocalist of the Year and Rising Star Artist of the Year. And just a couple of weeks ago she passed the mighty age of… 24.

Album: Cher - Christmas

Katie Colombus

I honestly never thought I'd add a Cher song to my painstakingly curated Christmas Spotify playlist. But after listening to the ultimate diva's new...

Album: Gregory Porter - Christmas Wish

Tim Cumming

The cat in the hat with the mellifluous voice delivers his Christmas Wish for the festive season, his first Christmas album, and it sounds more or...

Album: Neil Young - Before and After

Liz Thomson

Down memory lane, taking us back some six decades to the Buffalo Springfield, the latest Neil Young album's almost 50 minutes of continuous music,...

Music Reissues Weekly: Myriam Gendron - Not So Deep As A Well

Kieron Tyler

The surprise reappearance of the Canadian stylist’s interpretations of Dorothy Parker’s poems

Album: Shirley Hurt - Shirley Hurt

Kieron Tyler

Canadian singer-songwriter’s enigmatic debut

Album: Ghost Woman - Hindsight Is 50/50

Guy Oddy

Psychedelicists add a bit of va-va-voom to their sound

Album: Trevor Horn - Echoes: Ancient & Modern

Thomas H Green

Downtempo cover versions run the gamut from the bland to the excruciating

Album: Peter Gabriel - I/O

Graham Fuller

Nearly three decades of reflection have produced a likely classic

CMAT, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow review - an evening of exuberance

Jonathan Geddes

The Dublin singer's tales of a toxic relationship were transformed into a party

Album: Harp - Albion

Kieron Tyler

The exquisite comeback of former Midlake mainstay Tim Smith

This Is The Kit, Barbican review - familiarity and charm

India Lewis

A beautifully orchestrated end to a tour

Music Reissues Weekly: Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

Kieron Tyler

Head-spinning box-set makeover of Marc Almond and Dave Ball’s landmark 1981 debut album

Album: Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain - Double You

Tim Cumming

Divine harp-and-violin duets focused on the folklore of bees

Album: Take That - This Life

Thomas H Green

The national treasure trio don't have enough tunes to counteract the bland production

Album: Joe Jackson - Joe Jackson Presents Max Champion in What a Racket!

Graham Fuller

A note perfect music hall pastiche with a potent whiff of modernity

Nikki Iles featuring the NDR Bigband, EFG London Jazz Festival, Cadogan Hall review - boundless artistry in harmony

Peter Quinn

An unforgettable hymn to the beauty of imperfection

Greta Van Fleet, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - all rock and very little roll

Jonathan Geddes

The retro rock band were too often sluggish during their arena show

Album: Abigail Lapell - Lullabies

Thomas H Green

Canadian singer takes a short, sweet, somnambulant sojourn

EFG London Jazz Festival 2023 round-up review - vital sparks crossing and uniting generations

Sebastian Scotney

From Sultan Stevenson, 22, to Elaine Delmar, 84, great small-venue shows around the festival

Eurythmics Songbook Featuring Dave Stewart, London Palladium review - Annie Lennox would be proud

Liz Thomson

Forty years on, father and daughter let it rock

Album: Kurt Vile - Back to Moon Beach

Ellie Roberts

Recycled riffs and covers are an enjoyable listen

Music Reissues Weekly: High Tide - The Complete Liberty Recordings

Kieron Tyler

Heavy, dark and relentless music from the London underground of 1969 and 1970

Christine Tobin, EFG London Jazz Festival, World Heart Beat review - an enchanting ode to home

Peter Quinn

A new song cycle from one of contemporary music’s unique compositional voices

Sisters of Mercy, KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton review - Goth veterans return to the fray

Guy Oddy

Former arch Goths add a metallic sheen to songs old and new

Album: Matt Berry - Simplicity

Kathryn Reilly

Berry writes for TV - but not in the way you'd think

Les Égarés, London Jazz Festival, Cadogan Hall review - a wondrous musical conversation

Mark Kidel

Singular talents make collective magic

Album: Rockstar - Dolly Parton

Liz Thomson

An indulgence, but who would begrudge her?

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

Close Footnote


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

I Fagiolini, Hollingworth, St Martin-in-the-Fields review -...

“Nobody likes a Messiah…”, deadpanned Robert Hollingworth, with the timing of a practised stand-up. After a pause, “…more than I do.” At...

Music Reissues Weekly: Chelsea - The Step-Forward Years

On 21 June 1977, listeners to John Peel’s radio show heard a song titled “Pretty Vacant.” It wasn’t a preview of the forthcoming Sex Pistols...

Please Don't Destroy: Treasure of Foggy Mountain review...

Despite an ominous title, there’s always fair weather in the debut comic adventure film featuring Please Don’t Destroy, a NYC sketch...

Wonka review - a confusingly mixed bag of bonbons

As the 117 minutes of Wonka tick by, the question it poses gains momentum: who is this film actually for? Children of all ages...

Smyrna review - Greece at twilight

The Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922, in which tens of thousands of Greeks and Armenians were slaughtered by Turkish soldiers, is a topical subject...

The Peasants review - earthbound animation

After a few years of cinema, the wow factor of seeing actual things moving about on a screen wore off a bit and showmen saw that jump cuts...

Mathias Énard: The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers'...

"Death, as a general statement, is so easy of utterance, of belief", wrote Amy Levy, "it is only when we come face to face with it that we find...

Album: Samara Joy - A Joyful Holiday

This six-track EP on Verve/UMG brings the breakthrough year of 2023 for Samara Joy to a neat close. In February she won two Grammys, as Best New...

Monica review - sombre American drama

There’s a rich seam of folk stories about changelings, infants snatched from home and replaced with a substitute child, to the horror and...