Mariah Carey, F---ed Up top this week's CD reviews

Mariah Carey and F---ked Up's Damian Abraham. (Reuters/QMI file photos)

Mariah Carey and F---ked Up's Damian Abraham. (Reuters/QMI file photos)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 PM ET

F---ed Up
Glass Boys


If I never have to see Damian Abraham’s gonch again, it’ll be too soon. Don’t get me wrong; I respect and admire Abraham and F---ed Up’s work ethic and egalitarianism as much as the next aging punk. But after catching them live more times than I can count, the vision of Abraham stripping down to his skivvies and moshing away with the kids in the pit has begun to seem somewhat predictable. Staged. Perhaps even forced. And judging by Glass Boys, perhaps I am not alone. Abraham seems to spend much of the Toronto post-hardcore collective’s fourth full-length airing some personal laundry — namely, the difficulty of retaining your teenage-punk integrity when you’re a married father in a successful, famous band. As he puts it: “We traded our moral high ground so they would sing along. But is it so bad? Is it as dark as it seems? To trade a little purity to prolong the dream?” The answer, of course, is that it depends. In F—ed Up’s case, the tradeoff — at least on this album — has obviously been minimal. While these songs are slightly more focused and melodic than the feverishly ambitious epics of 2008's The Chemistry Of Common Life or the concept-album grandeur of 2011's David Comes To Life, their wall-of-guitars approach, wiry energy and relentless post-punk propulsion is every bit as intense as ever, no matter how fast they’re playing (as if to emphasize that point, the disc comes with bonus tracks with the drummer playing at half-speed). Likewise, Damian’s gravel-gargling bellow hasn’t softened, though he has become slightly easier to understand as the years go by. So even if they haven’t sold out — as if a band with their name ever could — the fact that they’re even concerned about it shows you their idealism remains intact. As for Abraham’s unease, well, trust me dude, it’ll get easier as you get older. Just keep your pants on.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)



Mariah Carey
Me. I am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse


It’s easy to laugh at Mariah Carey. Especially right now. From the extreme PhotoShop-liposuction treatment and pinup-poster airbrushing of its ridiculous cover art to the egomaniacal grandiosity of its absurd title, the obliviously vain diva has really outdone herself on her 14th album. But overdoing it is the whole point of Carey, of course. Her fans don’t really want to see the real curves of her post-baby body or hear her professing humility any more than they want to hear her sing heavy metal. They want the eternal Mimi in her permanent bubble, looking fabulous and effortlessly wielding her otherworldly voice on hip-hop, soul and R&B. Naturally, Carey is happy to oblige, flitting between featherweight pop and lush ballads that allow her to flirt girlishly, coo seductively, wail in dog-whistle tones or unleash her force-of-nature pipes as befits the occasion. And even if the bulk of the tracks — much like the presentation — are forgettable fluff more concerned with reaffirming Carey’s unassailable goddess status than with breaking new ground, well, no matter. Her fan base will likely eat it up as eagerly as they always have. And as always, Carey will have the last laugh.



RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Parquet Courts
Sunbathing Animal


Slackerdom is in the eye of the beholder. From their perspective, these Brooklyn indie-rockers quite understandably seem to feel like they’re taking it up a notch with this third studio album — which was recorded in multiple studios over the course of several weeks, as opposed to the near-instantaneous creations of their past. From your perspective, however, it will hardly seem like they’ve evolved into ELP (or even ELO) — their scrappy little nuggets of post-VU, post-Pavement post-punk still seem tossed-off, stitched together and loosely packed with all the wiry guitars, mumbly vocals, ramshackle playing and underproduction that attracted you to them in the first place. So regardless of whether they’re working hard or hardly working, that rough-and-tumble vibrancy and casual brilliance remain a pleasure to behold.



RATING: 4 (out of 5)

NOW HEAR THIS

Stiff Little Fingers
No Going Back


Who says? Returning after a decade away, these Irish vets revisit 1977 — in the form of old-school punk spiked with politically charged messages, poppy melodies and a few Celtic touches.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Tiger Lillies
Lulu: A Murder Ballad


German tales of pedophilia, prostitution, depravity, lust, suicide and murder — all gleefully recounted in a scratchy falsetto over gypsy-accordion cabaret jazz. What else could you possibly expect — or desire, for that matter — from Martyn Jacques and co.?

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Protomartyr
Under Color of Official Right

Post-punk’s not dead! These Motor City rebels breathe life into the classic sound, filling their sophomore album with the clanging guitars and brooding baritones of Joy Division and Wire. Tight.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)


Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs
All Her Fault


Well, not totally. British garage queen Golightly shares the blame (and credit) with musical partner Lawyer Dave on this batch of shambling folk-blues, revved-up rockabilly and country-punk.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

OLDIES OF THE WEEK

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III


Q: How many more times? A: As many as they can get away with. The latest Zeppelin retreads arrive after months of nearly incessant (and increasingly suspect) drum-banging from Jimmy Page — and no surprise, they prove once again that the bigger the sizzle, the smaller the steak. The remastered albums (or at least the digital versions I heard) actually sound worse than the last few CDs, with diminished bass, harsh high end and paper-thin mixes (the left and right channels on the first album are actually reversed). The bonus tracks on the first two discs consist almost entirely of long-available bootlegs, who-cares alternate mixes and instrumental backing tracks that add little to the story. The so-called “unreleased song” La La sounds like nothing more than a fleshed-out jam. Only III offers a few highlights like an alternate Since I’ve Been Loving You, the proto-Bron-Y-Aur instrumental Jennings Farm Blues and an acoustic medley of Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind. And finally, I can’t vouch for the deluxe box-set packaging and whatnot because I didn’t get the physical versions. Bottom line: Your dad deserves better.

RATING: Led Zeppelin - 3, Led Zeppelin II - 3, Led Zeppelin III - 3.5 (out of 5)

MORE REISSUES

KISS
40


KISS by the numbers. The title of the shameless seniors’ latest career-spanning two-disc compilation is a reference to their 40 years together (give or take), their 40-plus albums (including live releases, solo sets, compilations and boxes) and these 40 more-or-less chronological tracks — all but one of them (the Christine Sixteenish piano-rocker Reputation) previously released. Hey, you wanted the blah blah blah, you got the blah blah blah.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

R.E.M.
Complete Rarities: I.R.S. 1982–1987
Complete Rarities: Warner Bros. 1988–2011


Old adventures in hi-fi. Hot on the heels of their Unplugged Sessions, the defunct Georgia alt-rockers continue their nostalgia trip with not one but two downloadable comps. The first collects 50 singles, demos, covers, live cuts, B-sides and strays from their indie-label days; the second gathers a whopping 131 similar offerings from their major-label tenure. But while the latter certainly delivers more bang for your buck, the initial release was also riddled with bugs, including duplicated tracks, audio dropouts and poor-quality source material. Still, they’re both pretty persuasive.

BOTH: RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Oasis
Definitely Maybe: Deluxe Edition


No maybe about it — the first Oasis album is more than one of the biggest and best debuts of the Britpop era, it’s definitely their swaggering, supersonic peak. And now, it’s been given the standard makeover for its 20th anniversary. The three-disc Chasing the Sun Edition (supposedly the first instalment in a campaign that will include their next two albums) follows the familiar reissue pattern: Disc 1 includes the remastered original album with a couple of bonus mixes; Disc 2 collects previously released B-sides from the disc’s singles; and Disc 3 features rare live recordings and demos. Bloody fookin’ excellent, innit?

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

UPCOMING:

June 10

Arch Enemy
War Eternal
First Aid Kit
Stay Gold
Paul Hardcastle
The Jazzmasters VII
Imogen Heap
Sparks
Hellyeah
Blood for Blood
Chrissie Hynde
Stockholm
Night Ranger
High Road
O.A.R.
The Rockville LP
Maxi Priest
Easy to Love
Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses
Blow
Quantic
Magnetica
Rancid
Honor Is All We Know
Say Anything
Hebrews
Third World
Under the Magic Sun
Walter Trout
The Blues Came Callin’
Umphrey’s McGee
Similar Skin
Uriah Heep
Outsider
Jack White
Lazaretto
The Who
Quadrophenia: Live in London (DVD)

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca
Twitter: @darryl_sterdan


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