There’s nothing more thrilling than taking a sly peek inside a diary that someone has left lying around. Just a few furtive glances before they come back into the room. It gives you a glimpse into their innermost thoughts, their mind, their soul. It’s thrilling. There’s scarcely anything less exciting, though, than someone offering you their diary to read. The entries seem banal, humdrum, everyday. How could it be otherwise? Why would anyone let you read their diary if the entries were anything other than that? When Mark Kozelek started his new musical style around the time of Perils From The Sea with Jimmy LaValle, it was as if he had distractedly left his personal journal on the bedside table. Suddenly, we got the chance to get a brief glimpse inside his head. It was thrilling. Over the course of a few albums, we came to know his deepest feelings about his father, his girlfriend, his cat. It was so thrilling that even the expressions of boredom became somehow compelling. The long flights. The drudgery of touring. But then the experience changed. As album followed album in quick succession, what were once intimate insights seemed more like meaningless meanderings. The subjects remained the same, but the entries became banal, humdrum, everyday. The solution is to put the journal down and go listen to something else for a while. If that’s context in which you find yourself putting on Mark Kozelek’s new album, then it’s a delight. Prettier sounding than some of his recent outings, it’s a window into his innermost thoughts, his mind, his soul. His dad’s still there. His girlfriend. His pets. He tells us what DVDs he watches and when. So, if you’re discovering Mark Kozelek’s new style for the first time, or if you’ve taken some time off and are coming back, then enjoy his new album. It’s thrilling.
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
The internet will tell you that The Dark Side of the Moon synchronises perfectly with The Wizard of Oz, which is puzzling given the former lasts 43 minutes and the latter 101. But whatever. Anyway, soon the internet will be alive to the fact that the Arctic Monkeys’ new album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, synchronises almost equally perfectly with Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, 2001. Apart from the bit at the beginning with the monkeys, of course. Because from the first notes of the first song, ‘Star Treatment’, you can nearly taste Alex Turner’s martini as he steps on board the highly futuristic yet somehow slightly retro spaceship on his way to the moon. Throughout, there’s also the unnerving presence of the sentinel. Or Alex Turner’s bandmates as they’re called here. Silent and misunderstood. They’re part of the bigger picture, but goodness knows what they’re up to, so rarely are they called upon. For this could be an Alex Turner solo album. One man’s journey into the mysteries of life. It all comes to a head on the song ‘Science Fiction’. There’s a clue in the title. Sucked into the void, Alex emerges a better person, apparently having watched a Batman film on the way. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a departure from the magnificent AM. It will divide audiences. Some just won’t get it. As HAL 9000 would say, “I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal.” Yet it’s not a bad album. Just different. And one that’s best enjoyed when synced to Stanley Kubrick’s psychedelic masterpiece. But just not the bit at the beginning with the monkeys.
Neil Young – Roxy – Tonight’s the Night Live
“I want to get into Neil Young. What album should I listen to?” To this – oh so jejune – question, there is only one answer. “Try Rust Never Sleeps and get back to me”. If they say they like only the first half, then pat them on the head and direct them to the Harvests and perhaps Silver and Gold if they’re the adventurous type. If they say they like only the second half, then shake their hand and tell them to check out Ragged Glory and hope that they discover Broken Arrow. However, if they say they like both My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) and Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black), then there’s a further response. “Now go check out Tonight’s The Night and tell me what you think”. If they find it unlistenable, but still vow to put on Rust Never Sleeps every now and again, then at least there’s that. It’s a classic after all. But if they totally get it, then you’ve got them. Forever. For Tonight’s The Night is the quintessential Neil Young album. Full of gorgeous tunes (one of them borrowed from The Rolling Stones and not included here) and featuring steel, acoustic, and electric guitar, it brings together many of the different eras of Neil Young’s long career. (Excepting Trans). But its the magnificent approximateness of the performance that’s the clincher. It’s the key to Neil Young’s career overall. He may be the most fastidious curator of his own archives, but as an artist he revels in the gaps between the notes, the sounds that jar, the voice that wavers, the beauty of the immediate. Tonight’s The Night embodies this ethos. And this live version of the album at the Roxy from September 1973 captures that spirit perfectly. There’s about the best ‘Speaking’ Out’ you could wish for. A relatively tight run through of ‘Albuquerque’. And a moving rendition of ‘Tired Eyes’. So, if the question is “I want to get into Neil Young. What album should I listen to?”, the trick is to answer it in a way that gets them to wind up at Tonight’s The Night. Studio or Live at the Roxy version is just fine.