Arthur Buck


Arthur Buck

Album: “Arthur Buck”

Grade: B

Former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and often-experimental singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur have teamed up for an album that was written mostly in a few days after a chance encounter in Mexico and recorded nearly as quickly. Fresh and spontaneous, it’s also filled with precious sonic details, like little flashes sparking the songs.

Unsurprisingly, Buck’s layers of acoustic guitars and bright and brief solos provide numerous R.E.M. textures and the tunes bear plenty more traces of the 1985-1995 pop decade. Arthur’s role and contributions are just as significant. As he often does on his own albums, he plays most of the instruments, wrote the lyrics and sings the songs.

“American Century” sounds like “Pop Life”-era Prince, but sung by Axl Rose in his low register, while “If You Wake Up in Time” echoes the Talking Heads. David Bowie’s spirit infuses “Wide Awake in November” and the brief “Summertime” could be a David Sylvian/Robert Fripp interlude.

Opener “I Am The Moment” would have fit seamlessly on one of the last R.E.M. albums, while closer “Can’t Make It Without You,” with its haunting, dolphin’s cry-like faux string section, could be from “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.”

Buck is a known and treasured commodity but if you’re not familiar with Arthur’s albums, search out gems such as “The Family,” and you’ll hear just how much he brings to the collaboration.

—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

Johnny Marr

Album: “Call the Comet”

Grade: A-

The two leading forces behind The Smiths have offered new music lately, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This fall, we found Morrissey spending the day in bed in “Low in High School,” hiding in his sheets and warning us to “stop watching the news.”

Now it’s time for his former bandmate Johnny Marr. On his third solo album, “Call the Comet,” Marr couldn’t be more opposite — charging into the world, definitely watching the news and making vibrant, scintillating music in the process.

The 12-track rock album is easily his best as a solo artist, deep and rich both musically and lyrically. Playing “Call the Comet” is like biting into a meaty, hearty stew after years of getting by on just broth. Most of the songs are over four minutes, showing an artist less concerned with radio play and more with complexity and beauty.

Marr uses jangling guitars, progressive hooks and thick synths to create unexpected parings, like on “Bug,” a jaunty, foot-stomper about the virus of right-wing ideology.

Other standouts are The Cure-sounding “Spiral Cities,” the warm and smooth “Hi Hello” that nods to Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot,” the dark and moody “Actor Attractor” and the spacy, brilliant “Walk Into the Sea.”

The last track is vintage Marr — a complex rock song with a pop sheen and lyrics that go for the throat. “A Different Gun” was inspired by the 2016 Bastille Day attack in which 86 people were killed.

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

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