Album reviews

LANA DEL REY – NORMAN F***ING ROCKWELL

Lana Del Rey’s new album is a vibe. Not only is she bold enough to include the f-word in its title, but she’s also secure enough in herself to litter the record with swear words, in both the track names and throughout her lyrics.

But the amount of cussing does not detract from her shining example of a contemporary yet nonconformist piece of musical brilliance.

Years on from her breakthrough mega-hit Video Games, Del Rey now has the confidence to take a wide step away from the rest of her peers, and Norman F***ing Rockwell is a jaunt through hazy, classic rock-inspired, ethereal, majestic, hypnotic, anthemic folky-pop, her voice floating like chiffon across each intriguing track.

From the nearly 10-minute long mesmerising Venice Beach, filling your heart and soul with the warmth of a sun-dappled Californian sunset, to the melodic and retro-sounding The Greatest and the haunting Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have It (originally titled Sylvia Plath after the tragic poet), Del Rey has proved any detractors wrong. If she even has any.

She’s one of the best artists we’ve got, no contest.

9/10

(Review by Lucy Mapstone)

IGGY POP – FREE

After the release of Post Pop Depression in 2016, I didn’t think there would be another album from Iggy Pop. Free however is a work of performance art.

The titular track, also the first single, is a short jazz-like piece with Pop pondering over the top. “I wanna be free” is both a longing phrase and a swift change from his last sound. There is a definite melancholy running through from beginning to end. At times an almost Bowie-esque tone runs into the Beatnik throng come lounge room croon that is the 2nd single James Bond.

The horns on Dirty Sanchez raises the mariachi game, a sunset on the horizon of a dusty desert with funky punk lyric about the state of the world today. The emotion in Pop’s wavering vocals on Page as he cries over humanity and places himself in the universe as we move so far away from where we used to be.

This is a cracking entry in a 59-year career.

8/10

(Review by Rachel Howdle)

MILES DAVIS – RUBBERBAND

This long-awaited recreation of Miles Davis’ unreleased album Rubberband is a glorious example of “What if?”. What if the legendary trumpeter and jazz hero had continued down this pop-oriented path? What if Rubberband hadn’t been scrapped? What would the critics have thought of his adventures into funk, rock, calypso, Latin and soul?

Recorded in 1985, it is perhaps the Chief’s most mythologised “lost” album, of which he has a few. Ditched after three months’ work by his new record label, Warner Bros, the tapes languished in the archives. They have finally been restored 28 years after his death by Davis’s drummer nephew Vince Wilburn Jr as well as original producers Randy Hall and Attala Zane Giles. Lalah Hathaway, daughter of Donny, and Ledisi take the parts originally written for Chaka Khan and Al Jarreau.

Thankfully Rubberband is devoid the clunky raps on its pop-sibling, 1992’s posthumous Doo-Bop. Gems like the suspenseful See I See and opener Rubber Band Of Life feature a potent mix of low-swung rhythms and Davis’s twisting trumpet runs.

It’s more than a curio for die-hard fans. Rubberband may not demand repeat listens but it unveils a side to Davis often forgotten in time.

6/10

(Review by Alex Green)

SLADE – FEEL THE NOIZE: THE SINGLEZ BOX

Spanning Noddy Holder and Co’s peak commercial years but wisely eschewing Merry Xmas Everybody, this box set brings together nine chart singles and their b-sides, on 7″ vinyl in their original European sleeves, plus unreleased rocker Night Starvation – and shows more range than might be imagined.

Confession time: I didn’t recognise the title Coz I Luv You, but in fact knew the song well and had always assumed it was by The Kinks. You live and learn.

Among the b-sides, Wonderin’ Y boasts a proto-Oasis guitar hook while Kill ‘Em At The Hot Club Tonite has almost a 1940s tea dance feel. The glam rock sound is present and correct in the likes of Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Cum On Feel The Noize and Mama Weer All Crazee Now – and you can even pick out the point at which Holder learned to spell, from 1973’s My Friend Stan onwards.

7/10

(Review by Tom White)