The Veronicas, Garbage, Roxana Amed and Billy F Gibbons


Roxana Amed can cast you adrift in a musical world with no horizons.

Roxana Amed can cast you adrift in a musical world with no horizons.

JAZZ

Roxana Amed

ONTOLOGY (Sony)

★★★★½

I had goose bumps before she had even started singing, so disturbing were the guitar chords. The bass, brushes and piano then compound the unease, and the wonder is that when Roxana Amed’s voice and Mark Small’s tenor saxophone join, they deepen the mystery further. Amed, a US-based Argentinean, writes or co-writes most of the material, and she is one of the few genuine jazz vocalists whose songs are not only as compelling as her singing, they actually play to the strengths of her voice. The darkness of her contralto is matched by that of the words, melodies and harmonies, so that the effect is like being cast adrift in a musical world that eschews resolutions; akin to finding oneself in a brooding Turner painting, with no horizon and therefore no reference points. It is as though Amed and her brilliant band have just invented jazz, and put a unique slant on it that is partly exhilarating Latin flights and partly the hushed, interval-leaping options of contemporary art music. It is not just sophisticated musically, but emotionally, primarily speaking to us from the abyss of love and death; leading us to complex places and leaving us there to find our own way home. Exceptional. JOHN SHAND

ELECTRONIC ROCK

Garbage

NO GODS NO MASTERS (Liberator)

★★★½

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With its Scottish front-woman and three US multi-instrumentalists, Garbage is the sturdiest transatlantic alliance since NATO. Once their self-titled debut vividly exposed the growing orthodoxies of alternative rock in 1995, the group forged a studio identity through sharpened beats, guitars laced with a hint of glam, menacing keyboards and Shirley Manson’s vigilante vocals. Garbage albums – this is their seventh – are essentially variations on their signature sound, and the songs here extend that lineage, with a diffident defiance to the throbbing Wolves, while the bittersweet Anonymous XXX has the boilerplate definition of Manson’s lyrical stance: “Love is pain, pain is love”. Social commentary informs the songs, made explicit on the opening The Men Who Rule the World, but it bends to Garbage’s penchant for high drama – these songs groove on evocative retorts rather than on detailed critique. Challenging the application of power by coolly staring down the system is not an easy gambit to pull off, but Garbage knows how to give the seditious a stinging authority. Godhead lances misogynistic privilege with stark retorts and throughout No Gods No Masters they don’t just march in these demonstrations, they absolutely strut. CRAIG MATHIESON

POP

The Veronicas

GODZILLA (Sony)

★★★

The Veronicas have ended a seven-year hiatus with the release of their much-anticipated fourth studio album, Godzilla. The twin sisters, Lisa and Jessica Origliasso, return with high-octane pop-punk thrills, unexpected metal moments (Godzilla) and at times even break out into sing-song rap flows (High Score). It’s an unexpected record from the twins, who have commanded their place in the music industry with sleek pop bops for over 15 years. But it’s clear that The Veronicas are ready to take some risks. At first glance Godzilla is a meditation on love, spanning the good, bad and untraditional. Album highlight Sugar Daddy is an irreverent closer that sees the duo wryly wink at the listener with an ode to transactional romance. The only guest feature comes from Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker on Silent, an emo-trap-meets-pop punk song embellished with booming 808s. Over the 12 tracks Jess and Lisa exhibit their range, with lashings of piano-laden EDM (In My Blood) and cheerleader-like anthems (In it to Win It). Despite these highlights, the record fails to make a lasting impression, sounding more like a frantic experiment with genre rather than a cohesive and triumphant return. KISH LAL

ROCK’N’ROLL

Billy F Gibbons

HARDWARE (Concord)

★★★

Young Billy Gibbons never took a glance backwards after his band opened a handful of shows for Jimi Hendrix in the late ’60s. Soon after disbanding psychedelic outfit The Moving Sidewalks, he set up with a couple of new guys, forming ZZ Top, and his third solo album has the familiar swagger of that little ol’ Texas band. Before he’d even blown out the candles on his 10th birthday cake, Gibbons had his breath taken away seeing Elvis and great Mississippi bluesman BB King. The pure showmanship and electricity he discovered early in life is unleashed here with no-holds-barred rocker She’s on Fire, complete with its short, sharp, no-nonsense Gibbons guitar solo. More-Moore-Moore shuffles along with ex-Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum hammering a heavy groove behind Gibbons’ trademark growl, and Stackin’ Bones comes with a welcome guest slot from Nashville’s mighty Larkin Poe, featuring vocals from Megan and Rebecca Lovell. West Coast Junkie serves up an extra shot of surf guitars with Austin Hanks back in the saddle, having played with Sorum on Gibbons’ previous album Big Bad Blues, while I Was a Highway is two-and-a-half minutes of stone-cold cool that just gets stuck in your head. MARTIN BOULTON

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Read More | Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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