My plan with this here blog thing is to write about old and newly released albums with equal relish.
The intention was to focus on at least one album a month and write something informed (and sometimes excitable) about a current 5" silvery disc filling the quieter moments in my house.
In the main, I think I started well but tailed off in the Summer - and then September comes along and provides 3 new albums all deserving a write-up.
And as they all arrives within a couple of weeks of each other, I've crammed the listening in, formed opinions and thoughts about them, but not had enough time with them to create an aimless stream of conscious post about each of them.
So let's just bung em all in one post, and offer a mini-review of each
Iron Maiden - 'Senjutsu'
You can't be in the game for 40+ years without knowing what your audience want, what your artistic muse craves, and how to deliver both with quality.
Iron Maiden have managed a high quality output (bar a couple of mis-steps) through their life. And with 'Senjutsu' they've kept the hit rate going.
Similar to recent albums, they're proggy tendancies are indulged - only 2 of the 10 tracks are below 5 minutes. But as with Maiden of the near past even the epic moments are filled with melody, invention and commitment.
All the hallmarks are there - duelling guitars, traded solos, bass harmonics, solid drums with Nicko's ride cymbal playing a part, topped of with clear, almost operatic, vocal delivery.
"The Writing On The Wall" is the obvious pick - mixing proggy-Maiden with galloping-Maiden - but "Days of Future Past", "The Time Machine", "Darkest Hour" and "Death of the Celts" are fine additions to the cannon.
It may be 80+ minutes across 2 discs, but worthy of the time investment.
Manic Street Preachers - 'Ultra Vivid Lament'
Another year, another Manics album - and (like Iron Maiden above) their quality quotient remains high.
Yes, they have a tendency to be a bit insular, rail against politics (sometimes me thinks slightly naively) and use the word "revolution" quite a lot.
But the sometimes 6th Form Poetry, and the ever present reading of a lyric as a "missing Richey" moment, can more than be forgiven when bolted to tunes like these.
One can't help but notice (or say again) that since the loss of Richey Edwards, the Manics output has adopted a tunesmithery and emotion that was perhaps lost in the early days posturing.
The album is not without some slightly flawed moments - "Don't Let The Night Divide Us" is a bit filler-esque, and the duet with Mark Lanegan "Blank Diary Entry" just doesn't seem to fit - they have succesfully pulled in co-vocalists before (Ian McCulloch on the near epic "Some Kind Of Nothingness" being a good example) but this one just doesn't work as perhaps all parties hoped for.
Although, lay that off against tracks like "Still Snowing in Sapporo", "Orwellian" and "Afterending" then those flaws are more than forgiveable.
And speaking of duets, the co-vocal with Julia Cumming on "The Secret He Has Missed" upholds the trend of there being at least one sure-fire classic Manics single on each album
Public Service Broadcasting - Bright Magic
Public Service Broadcasting's modus operandi is to find a concept/story (Public Information Films, the Space Race, Welsh Mining Industry), find archive documentary, and weave an atmosphere around it all.
With this album though, they don't have the "hook" of a story I (and others) know of, and can then go "on the journey" with them,.
What they have done is eschewed the archive and created a full concept celebrating Berlin.
Being simple about it, it's Public Service Broadcasting's trademark trance-like, indie/dance grooves, bolted to Krautrock, with moments of Berlin-era Bowie ("The Visitors" would not be too far out of place on 'Low').
"Im Licht" and "Lichtspiel II: Schwarz Weiss Grau" are two particular highlights, and nestled away in the middle of the album is (a firm contender for The Song Of The Year/Earworm Of The Year) "Blue Heaven" which evokes both Marelene Dietrich and Goldfrapp in equal measure.
This is their 4th full album, and one suspects there must be a duffer somewhere - well 'Bright Magic'; is most definitely not that album.
Iron Maiden - "The Writing On The Wall"
Manic Street Preachers - "The Secret He Has Missed"
Public Service Broadcasting - "Blue Heaven"