The Hip, Muse top CD reviews

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip and Matt Bellamy of Muse (WENN.COM, Reuters files)

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip and Matt Bellamy of Muse (WENN.COM, Reuters files)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Another week, another cornucopia of fall releases. On the menu: The Hip, Muse, Wallflowers, Heart, Mumford, Deadmau5, 3DG, Big & Rich and more. Hope you’re hungry:

The Tragically Hip

Now For Plan A

Can-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

In between evolution, they are the same. But not fully completely. True to its title, the 12th album from Kingston’s favourite sons is a return to form, resurrecting the scrappy rock and wiry jangle of old while retaining some dusky intimacy from 2009’s rootsy We Are the Same. Thankfully, Gord Downie’s idiosyncratic poetry and unhinged yawp remain. Some things are sacred, after all.

Download: At Transformation; Streets Ahead

Muse

The 2nd Law

Prog-Rock

4 stars out of 5

How much is too much? So muse Muse on this sixth disc, using thermodynamics to illustrate the unsustainability of rampant technological growth. Ironically, the principle doesn’t apply to them; their artsy aspirations continue to expand, veering from Zeppish bombast and Floydian prog to Bowiesque funk and U2ish arena-rock, with dubstep and orch-rock thrown into the mix. Massive.

Download: Madness; Animals

The Wallflowers

Glad All Over

Roots-Rock

4 stars out of 5

More like Starting All Over. The first album in seven years from Jakob Dylan and his latest crop of Wallflowers (including former RHCP/PJ drummer Jack Irons) brings it all back home superbly. Eschewing perfection and slickness for raw immediacy, these energetically ragged rockers are the sound of a veteran band remembering where they come from — and where they want to be.

Download: Hospital for Sinners; Reboot the Mission

Heart

Fanatic

Pop-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

They’re kicking it out again. More than 30 years after the days of Magic Man, the Wilson sisters reconnect with their inner ’70s rock chicks on their 14th album. Nancy peels off gnarly licks over bombastic swaggering grooves, Ann wails like a spurned Valkyrie and producer Ben Mink layers on the Kashmir strings and Baba O’Riley electronics. No corsets, no power ballads. No kidding.

Download: Fanatic; Skin & Bone

Mumford & Sons

Babel

Folk-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

Only a sucker draws when he’s got a winning hand. Marcus Mumford and co. hit the jackpot with the reverently rustic hoedowns, hootenannies and heartbreak of their 2009 debut Sigh No More. Not surprisingly, the British Americana brigade double down and go all in on this followup, raising the sonic and stylistic stakes slightly without taking any substantial risks. A safe bet for fans.

Download: Whispers in the Dark; I Will Wait

Deadmau5

Album Title Goes Here

EDM

2 stars out of 5

Big head, big ideas? Not this time. Helmet-topped EDM emperor Deadmau5 isn’t exactly roaring with genius on his sixth disc. The cavalier cynicism behind the title carries over into the blandly repetitive tracks, which lazily repackage sonic and stylistic cliches — zipper-toothed synths, rapper and rocker cameos, the Close Encounters theme — like so much leftover cheese. Snore.

Download: Professional Griefers; The Veldt

Three Days Grace

Transit of Venus

Grunge

2.5 stars out of 5

“I’ll give you what you need,” wails Adam Gontier near the top of 3DG’s fourth full-length. Perhaps he’s right. Assuming, of course, you need another conglomeration of aggressive post-grunge bashing, craggy guitar riffage and Gontier’s eternally miserable bellowing — flecked with some electronics this time to appear contemporary. If not, you’ll likely hate everything about these guys.

Download: Sign of the Times; Chalk Outline

Beth Orton

Sugaring Season

Folk-Rock

4 stars out of 5

Remember Beth Orton? It’s OK if you don’t. The haunting singer-songwriter has been on maternity leave for nearly six years. And on this long-overdue comeback, she’s hardly her old trip-folky self. The trendy electronics and angst of the old days are gone, replaced by warm acoustic instrumentation, a timeless vibe and the hard-won wisdom that comes with age and maturity. Sweet.

Download: Magpie; Call Me the Breeze

Big & Rich

Hillbilly Jedi

Country-Rock

2.5 stars out of 5

The Farce is strong in these two. Mostly. The Nashville rebel alliance of Big Kenny and John Rich strike back after five years, rebooting their shtik with the aid of Star Wars gags, some synths and two songs co-written Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. But ultimately, it’s just the same jarring collision of party-hearty hick-hop and cloying sentimentality as always. Attack of the Clones.

Download: Party Like Cowboyz; ’Cause I Play Guitar

Dwight Yoakam

3 Pears

Alt-Country

3.5 stars out of 5

Guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music — and Beck? Believe it. The enigmatic alt-rocker co-produces two cuts on alt-country iconoclast Yoakam’s first disc of new songs in seven years. And Dwight doesn’t stop there; the rest of his typically eclectic set bounces between Bakersfield honky-tonk, British Invasion pop and psychedelia, orchestrated Burritos balladry and more. A winning pear.

Download: Dim Lights, Thick Smoke; A Heart Like Mine

************************************

R.E.M.

Document: 25th Anniversary Edition

Alt-Rock

4.5 stars out of 5

Their finest hour? That’s a tough call. But there’s no disputing the critical and commercial success of the Georgia jangle-rockers’ fifth disc, which became their first platinum album thanks to the top 10 hit The One I Love. This reissue expands the original, um, document with a vibrant 1987 live recording from Holland — but not the B-sides that were included on an earlier version, sadly.

Download: The One I Love; It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Frankenweenie: Unleashed

Various Artists

Soundtrack

3 stars out of 5

It’s alive! Or at least vaguely inspired. In contrast to the standard mish-mash of oldies, leftovers and who-cares filler, the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s animated horror-comedy stars a slate of suitably spooky (and sometimes kooky) new ditties and sharp covers from Karen O, Robert Smith, Imagine Dragons, the unholy union of Grace Potter with Flaming Lips and more. A cut above.

Download: Strange Love by Karen O; Witchcraft by Robert Smith

Aimee Mann

Charmer

Pop-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

Eighth time’s the charm? Yes and no. Criminally underappreciated singer-songwriter (and ex-’Til Tuesday frontwoman) Mann’s first album in four years finds her once again doing what she does best: Penning superb, smouldering pop-rock that dissects modern life, love and relationships with a sharp critical eye. Fans will rejoice; everyone else may resume kicking it Gangnam Style.

Download: Charmer; Gamma Ray

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Meat & Bone

Blues-Punk

3.5 stars out of 5

Put some whiskey in a ass pocket of your bellbottoms, brothers and sisters; the JSBX are back. And on their first disc in eight years, singer-guitarist Spencer and his cohorts waste no time in reviving the buzzy blues-punk freakouts and fuzzy funk jams of their youth — although their crash-bash mayhem, feral howling and unhinged slapback-echo swagger has lessened a bit with age.

Download: Bag of Bones; Bottle Baby

Richie Sambora

Aftermath of the Lowdown

Rock

3 stars out of 5

It’s his life. And every now and then, Richie Sambora reminds us it doesn’t begin and end with Bon Jovi. The singer-guitarist’s third solo album — his first since 1998’s Undiscovered Soul — finds him leaving his arena-sized comfort zone and venturing into everything from fuzzy blues-punk and near-metallic guitar heroics to Foos-style modern-rock jangle. Better than you’d expect.

Download: Burn That Candle Down; Sugar Daddy

Rickie Lee Jones

The Devil You Know

Folk

3.5 stars out of 5

As the cliche goes, it’s the singer, not the song. In Jones’ case, it’s both. On the third covers collection in her restlessly creative catalog, the idiosyncratic troubadour — in collaboration with producer/performer Ben Harper — tackles a selection of late ’60s and early ’70s classics, stripping them down to their melodic bones and recasting them as hushed boho ballads. Heaven sent.

Download: Sympathy for the Devil; The Weight

Steve Harris

British Lion

Hard Rock

1.5 stars out of 5

He’s running free — but going backward. After more than 30 years with Iron Maiden, founding bassist and primary songwriter Harris braves the solo spotlight with his new band British Lion. To his credit, he doesn’t recreate the galloping metallic epics of his day job. Pity he replaces them with ridiculously overblown ’70s shlock-rock topped with absurd, preening vocals. Laughably bad.

Download: Karma Killer; A World Without Heaven

************************************

DVDs

Paul Simon

Live in New York City

Folk-Rock

4 stars out of 5

Still adventurous after all these years. Rhymin’ Simon isn’t resting on his ample laurels in his latest concert vid; instead, the singer-songwriter continues to live in the present, showcasing his superb 2011 album So Beautiful or So What — while tastefully revamping some Simon & Garfunkel and solo classics with his large band — at an intimate theatre. The sound of excellence.

Rockwell

Various Artists

Brit-Rock

3 stars out of 5

No, not the Somebody’s Watching Me singer. This Rockwell was a 2009 charity gig at London’s O2 Arena, highlighted by British rockers like Robert Plant (who regrooves Zep oldies with Indian and African textures), Tom Jones (who time-shifts from It’s Not Unusual to Sex Bomb), Joss Stone (who brings in the funk) and more. A bit slight at 66 minutes, but fairly well done nonetheless.

************************************

GARAGE BAND

Endivera

Edmonton, Alta.

www.reverbnation.com/endivera

Just what the world needs: Yet another post-grunge modern-rock band from Alberta — but with a name that combines all the metallic qualities of leafy greens and hand lotion. What, was Arugulaveeno already taken? And it gets better: They have a song titled Killing Me, which is precisely what I believed they were doing as I struggled to endure all their uninspired grinding, hamfisted chugging and substandard yawling. On the plus side, I was inspired to have a nice salad and moisturize afterward.

VERDICT: “Crud-blort.”

1 star out of 5

************************************

UPCOMING

Oct. 9

All Time Low

Don’t Panic

Danko Jones

Rock and Roll is Black and Blue

Don Felder

Road to Forever

Ellie Goulding

Halcyon

Wanda Jackson

Unfinished Business

KISS

Monster

Jeff Lynne

Long Wave | Mr. Blue Sky

AC Newman

Shut Down the Streets

Rick Springfield

Songs for the End of the World

Xzibit

Napalm

 


Photos