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record reviews

Saturday, July 29, 2017

record reviews

Arcade Fire

Album: “Everything Now”

Grade: A

Arcade Fire are darkly happy-go-lucky on “Everything Now,” applying Euro disco and new wave to somber themes on their fifth album like consumerism, flummoxed youth and suicide prevention.

Working with co-producers Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk) and Steve Mackey (Pulp), Arcade Fire may have picked up a case of Stockholm syndrome, with abounding sonic similarities with those bands.

The title cut is one of the Montreal band’s most successful singles, it’s Abba-esque, Pulp-ish rhythms sparkling behind Win Butler’s narrative about information overload matched with a swelling emotional vacuum.

“Signs of Life” is about “cool kids stuck in the past” looking in the night for what they’ll never find there, only the mortal coil. “Creature Comfort” is back in Pulp music territory as Butler exhorts those thinking about ending it all to come off the ledge.

“Infinite Content” furiously claims “we’re infinitely content” and reprises itself in a Wilco-like Americana style, both detached and involved. Your choice. “Electric Blue,” sung in a crystalline falsetto by Regine Chassagne, laments a love that dissipated as quickly as the summer heat.

A laid-back version of the title song ends the album, similar to a snippet at the start. It creates a seamless loop should you choose now to listen to everything again.

Every Arcade Fire album has been nominated for a Grammy Award – “The Suburbs” won album of the year in 2011 – and “Everything Now” should continue the streak.

— Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

Alice Cooper

Album: “Paranormal”

Grade: B+ It’s the middle of summer, but school is back in session as Alice Cooper teaches us how it’s done.

In fact, the shock-rock godfather literally goes old school on this two-disc set, reuniting most of the original Alice Cooper Band from the ‘70s on two tracks. Guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith join Cooper on “Genuine American Girl,” a satiric look at gender identity from one of rock’s original gender-benders, and “You and All of Your Friends,” an apocalyptic revenge song against those who despoiled the planet and “painted Heaven black.”

Cooper is just as lethal with his current band. “Dynamite Road” is his own “Detroit Rock City,” about a fatal car crash that kills his entire band, but leaves Cooper alive to complain that God allowed his beloved Cadillac to be totaled. No surprise here, since the album is produced by longtime collaborator Bob Ezrin, who also did Kiss’ signature album “Destroyer.”

The disc also includes six live tracks. Guest musicians include ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover.

— Wayne Parry, Associated Press

The Isley Brothers & Santana

Album: “Power of Peace”

Grade: B

Ronald and Ernie Isley team up with Carlos Santana on the vigorous “Power of Peace,” putting their stamp on mostly spiritually inclined songs from the likes of Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Bacharach & David and Swamp Dogg.

Ronald Isley guested on “Santana IV,” the 2016 album which reunited most of the band’s original lineup, and the collaboration continues here, with Santana’s current band providing the foundations and Ernie Isley’s guitar pyrotechnics proving a harmonious foil for the bandleader.

Versions of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman,” a pair of Chamber Brothers songs, Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” is pushed over the top and ends up sounding like an audition for an NBA promotion, name-checking many of the league’s legends and stars.

Cindy Blackman Santana wrote the record’s sole original, “I Remember,” which she sings with Ronald Isley. The ballad is a true revelation – tonal shades of Brazil and Santana’s delicate guitar lines heighten the regret. Hopefully Blackman Santana, married to Carlos and also the band’s astonishing drummer, will contribute more songs to the next album.

— Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press