Jarv Is — ‘Beyond the Pale’
THE GOOD: Former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker introduces us to his new project, Jarv Is.
THE BAD: The idea behind “Pale” is cool. The end results are mixed.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Jarv Is was a “live performance only” band. The six-piece outfit played a bunch of festivals and did some experimental songs on stage, and the pieces evolved during subsequent gigs. When Cocker was finally convinced to release an album, he simply took the live tapes and enhanced them in the studio. Then the band recorded some more tracks properly. “Beyond the Pale” is the end result.
Musically, it’s not that different than the dramatic stuff Cocker did with Pulp back in the Britpop days. I’m especially reminded of the brooding “This Is Hardcore” album (1998). Sometimes, he gets his groove on (“House Music All Night Long”). Other times, it’s as if Cocker is channeling a young Leonard Cohen (“Swanky Modes”). “Pale” is definitely a darker set that works best after midnight, and probably after a bender.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Throwing Muses — ‘Sun Racket’
THE GOOD: Rhode Island indie legend Throwing Muses is back with its 10th album (first in seven years).
THE BAD: Tanya Donelly did not return to the lineup for this outing, but there are more Muses records without Donelly than with her.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh remains the band’s driving force, and she’s managed to keep the same three core musicians together for almost 30 years. On “Sun Racket,” they all sound as sonically adventurous as ever.
Throwing Muses has always flirted with non-traditional song structures, played with varying textures of volume and softness, and made sure its albums never stopped turning weird, unexpected corners. Here, we go from the fragile “Maria Laguna” to the fierce, jagged “Bo Diddley Bridge” in the blink of an eye. “Bywater” plays like a heavy, haunting waltz. “St. Charles” is built upon ugly riffs that scrape at our senses. “Kay Catherine” is almost graceful, with Hersh’s distinct rasp swaying over ragged guitars.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Bob Mould — ‘Blue Hearts’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/guitarist and all-around indie legend Bob Mould gives us his 13th solo effort.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Strap yourselves in for a wild ride. Just last year, Mould seemed to be in a middle-aged happy place with the loud yet melodic “Sunshine Rock.” And then, 2020 happened. “Blue Hearts” is just as loud, and even melodic, but lyrically it hails from a different universe altogether.
Mould is no longer content. He’s furious about everything from the environment to world politics to an uncertain future. Not that he hasn’t traveled these bumpy roads before. Switch out Donald Trump for Ronald Reagan, and you’re suddenly recalling the glory days of Husker Du. Everything old and awful is new again.
“Blue Hearts” is also the kind of straightforward, tight rock album Mould has given us for at least the past decade. And he still does it better than a lot of kids less than half his age. Rage on, old man. Rage on.
BUY IT?: Yes.