Music Pop: Hot Fuss

Artist:  The Killers
Year:  2004
Example Song:  All These Things That I’ve Done

I’ve listened to a number of albums over the last few days and been mostly unable to decide which of them to review, but in the end since I don’t have the time to really scrutinise something new I’ve settled on the one I probably know best:  Hot Fuss, the debut album from Las Vegas natives the Killers.  I quite like the band, having been relatively familiar with them for a good while, and it’s safe to say this album is one I’ve listened to a number of times over the last five or so years.  It had been a while, and so it was an LP I was glad to revisit.

Hot-FussThe first song from any band’s debut album is a significant one (as far as I’m concerned), and on Hot Fuss the Killers produce a good impression with “Jenny was a Friend of Mine”. Although not released as a single, the catchy song is one of the band’s most respected.  The album then kicks up to another gear entirely, running through some great songs (all released as singles).  “Mr. Brightside”, a depressing yet optimistic tale of a man who suspects his girlfriend of cheating, “Smile Like You Mean It”, conversely more downbeat, and “Somebody Told Me”, with lyrics that confuse me a little, are all excellent, powerful songs and undoubtedly some of the Killers’ best-known. “All These Things That I’ve Done”, an anthem to self-improvement, is just that little bit even more special, making it my favourite song from the album.  The second half of the album doesn’t hit these heights but is not at all bad nonetheless; “Andy You’re a Star” is an impressive new-wave influenced rock song and “On Top” is a decent if unspectacular track.  Then comes “Change Your Mind”, a relatively short interlude.  “Believe Me Natalie”, next, is another pretty standard effort.  It’s followed by “Midnight Show”, quite a fast, energetic song, While “Everything Will Be Alright” is a much more laid-back tune that draws the album to a relaxing finish.

I like the Killers, although to be honest I probably like this album more than I like the band.  In fact it’s almost too good of a début, as nothing they’ve done since has been able to live up to such an impressive first effort (see Sum 41 for another example of this unfortunate affliction). In addition to this, as good as the album is overall I find it very hard to get past the decision to spunk the album’s four singles and (best-known songs) in the first five tracks – to a casual listener there’s very little reason to continue listening after the end of “All These Things That I’ve Done”.  But still, I’ll forgive them for that because I don’t think the Killers are the kind of band who made an album for the casual listener, and that’s a respectable trait in itself.  Hot Fuss is a great example of the early 2000s’ indie rock revival (along with the likes of the Strokes), and all in all one of my favourite rock albums of the 2000s.

My Rating:  8/10

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Music Pop: Push and Shove

Artist: No Doubt
Year: 2012
Example Song:  Settle Down

I was a little too young to appreciate No Doubt when they were first active, but several years ago I became familiar with them (although I had been well aware of Gwen Stefani for a while by then).  Since then, they’ve grown steadily into one of my favourite bands, and so when in 2012, after a recording hiatus of over ten years, they released their long-awaited sixth studio effort I was very keen to hear their new material.  The album had been in the pipeline for a few years before release, after Stefani’s solo albums in 2004 and 2006.  The title, Push and Shove, was announced early in 2012 and the first single of the same name in July before the full record the next month.

Push_and_Shove_-_No_Doubt_album_cover“Settle Down”, the single preceding the album, is in fact the first song on the record.  It’s a powerful song, making it clear that No Doubt are back with a bang.  It’s a very strong start to the album, which I always worry about, but the following song (and second single) “Looking Hot” is almost as good.  Both songs are very upbeat and rocky pop and remind me more of Gwen’s solo work than early No Doubt, but then “One More Summer” is much slower and “Push and Shove”, featuring Busy Signal and Major Lazer, incorporates heavy reggae influences that are characteristic of the group.  “Easy” is laid-back but good, and “Gravity” is a more moving song that sounds full of emotion. “Undercover” and “Undone” are two decent songs although unspectacular, and then “Sparkle” is a poignant, rueful ode to a breakup (not unlike Stefani’s “Cool” from Love.Angel.Music.Baby.). It’s followed by “Heaven”, a much more optimistic track, and the album finishes off with “Dreaming the Same Dream”, which is a good enough song to end the record.  There’s quite a lot of bonus material on the deluxe edition, but I want to give a special mention to the rendition of Adam and the Ants’ “Stand and Deliver” (recorded in 2009), which suits the band perfectly.

Push and Shove is a great album, although it took me a while to get accustomed to it (but everything does), and it unfortunately drops off a little towards the end.  The sound is also quite different from what No Doubt originally released; it almost leans closer to Gwen Stefani’s solo work stylistically.  This might well be deliberate on the band’s part because they’re all significantly older than they were and this seems much more polished and contemplative than their earlier, more youthful and exuberant work.  This shouldn’t be taken as a negative, because I don’t think it would be good to see a bunch of musicians in their forties act like young rebels; it’s good to see that No Doubt are above that.  They didn’t reunite to recreate the old days – they did it because they’re a bunch of great friends who enjoy making music together, and Push and Shove proves that they’ve still got the magic.

My Rating:  8/10