CD reviews: MGMT, Grant-Lee Phillips, Ewan Cruickshanks, Germlin

MGMT - Little Dark Age (Columbia)

Where the direction of travel for many bands once they taste success is to rehash or bland out, US indie duo MGMT rebelled against their early popularity by floating further out on the dreamy psychedelic elements of their pop sound. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasse’s fourth album continues that voyage with slightly off-kilter rhythms and distorting effects employed to produce the noir whimsy of When You’re Small, the blithe but hectic electro funk of 'She Works Out Too Much' and the woozy exotica of 'TSLAMP', about the intoxicating effects of a phone screen. (FS) ****

Grant-Lee Phillips - Widdershins (Yep Roc)

The erstwhile frontman of LA roots rockers Grant Lee Buffalo has titled his ninth solo album after an old word for anti-clockwise to sum up his anxiety over where humanity is heading, as he sets off on a musically jaunty but lyrically baleful path with 'Walk In Circles'. The state of his nation lurks in the background but is addressed in universal terms. What he wrote in a heightened state comes out as a soft croon on the breathy sensitivity of 'King of Catastrophes' but there are glimpses of the more dramatic Phillips of old in the Springsteenesque guitar squall and martial beat of Liberation and the punkier strut of 'Scared Stiff'. (FS) ****

Joe Germlin - No Master Dynamics

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Joe Howe, aka Germlin, has been making music at the more ‘alternative’ end of the electronic spectrum for many years now, collaborating with the likes of Momus on his Sunbutler project. Previous releases have delved into ‘glitchcore’ - jerky, pulsating instrumentals with off-kilter beats - and ‘chiptune’ - blips and squawks reminiscent of a retro video game. However, Howe’s latest release brings in more regular rhythms, and catchy hooks - well, some of the time. ‘Slime’ has an infectious theme, while ‘Chainscooter’ sounds like a puggy is about to pay out. And while ‘Rollerskating Jam’ has the doomy chords of (early) Human League, there’s also a fair amount of vocals here, as grime and garage influence. However, it’s not (at) all easy listening - ‘Cuts and Scratches’ pretty much sums itself up - so long-term followers shouldn’t be disappointed. (SMcH) ****

Ewan Cruickshanks - A Glasgow Band (Armellodie)

This (yes) Glasgow-based troubadour is not wanting for character nor variety on his debut album, which is littered with immediate indie pop songs and enhanced by some impressive guitar work, plus the skill-on-a-shoestring production of Catholic Action’s Chris McCrory. A Glasgow Band kicks off with the headlong garage rock thrash 'Youth Never Dies', before taking in the Glitter Band rhythm of 'C.A.A.G.B.', rapturous lo-fi indie croon 'For A Girl', soulful chiming guitar on Superman, blissed-out psychedelic rock on 'Treasure Chest' and an all-out 80s sax break on 'Cosmic Star' in a confident, carefree display of mixtape eclecticism. (FS) ****

Reviews by Fiona Shepherd and Stuart McHugh