first_imgChris Walla: Field Manual (Barsuk)Great things are expected from bands who explore new music, and Death Cab For Cutie certainly are such a band. It makes no sense then, whilst the band are currently enjoying such a good streak, that guitarist Chris Walla would wish to produce his second Solo album, Field Manual. Nevertheless, what is done cannot be undone. Oh how we wish it could be. The first thing that springs to mind is that there is clearly an identity crisis here. The opening song, ‘Two Fifty’, is decidedly headed towards the direction of an Arcade Fire/Imogen Heap epic. The problem is, there’s simply not enough epic-ness about it. A few vocalists slung together and an unimpressive repertoire of simple drums and guitar chords produce what is consequently a very dull opening to a fairly average album. A dramatic change in pace on the second track, ‘The Score’, promises an album that may actually be worth listening to after all. But by the time ‘Sing Again’ comes around and we are hit with a decidedly James Blunt-ish sound, it is relatively safe to say that all promise is lost. The rest of the album, with full compliment to Walla, isn’t too bad. There’s some good ideas, although these normally come too far between annoyingly repetitive sequences. Whilst the lyrics aren’t great, they are passable. Most are consolatory rather than uplifting, but when Walla croons: ‘We need everybody onboard’, in ‘Everybody On’, you do have something of an urge to follow his command. There is, however, a problem with the vocals, which unfortunately ruins the album. Walla sings each song in exactly the same way, with the melody hardly apparent. Although this works for one or two of the tracks (namely ‘Geometry &C’), most of the tracks are stolen of all their originality the moment Walla opens his mouth. This is a shame, as the album had potential, but in the end, it doesn’t go anywhere. by Dan CryfieldThe Mars Volta: The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal Motown Records)At the risk of offending the Pope, the occult and good music seem to go well together – Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and, um, Marilyn Manson. Moving on from overly made-up goths, The Mars Volta are the latest to dabble in a bit of black magic. While on tour in Jerusalem, guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López bought a ouija board which quickly caught on with the band. After being blamed for a string of unfortunate events, the board was buried in the desert. The album’s lyrics have been heavily influenced by this jaunt into the supernatural and as a results are as cryptic as hell. Thankfully, they’re aren’t overbearing, just in case you prefer your music without B-movie plots. The Mars Volta have never been known for their accessibility. In tune with the prog-rock traditions of concept albums, long track times and complex melodies, they’re not exactly easy listening. The solos on The Bedlam in Goliath are as wanky as ever but, crucially, they have the hooks that keep the listener interested. Opening track ‘Aberinkula’ bursts in with falsetto vocals and crashing drums before settling into a tense groove. It’s as if you’ve started listening to the album half way through, and it’s damn good. No song sits still for more than about thirty seconds. You’re bounced from one genre to another, over changing rhythms and time signatures, aided by the twisted and deformed vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The first single, ‘Wax Simulacra’, provides an easy way into the album but can give only a tiny taster of what lies ahead. ‘Goliath’ stands out for its hard-rock breakdown and explosive finale, somehow managing to slip smoothly into the down tempo ‘Tourniquet Man’. There’s hardly a single boundary that hasn’t been pushed, but the album remains cohesive and, most importantly, Thomas Barrettlast_img read more