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The Listening Room: Arcade Fire, Buckcherry and more...
Halfway through Arcade Fire’s third album, as he muses about human divisions and disconnects in “Suburban War,” frontman Win Butler laments that “the music divides us into tribes.” Butler and company wield formal weapons, however, which yields the kind of record that may well unite and even create consensus for what might be the best of the year so far. Arcade Fire has always been about Big, even when it was a bit more rough-and-tumble on its 2004 debut “Funeral.” “The Suburbs” trims the bombast of 2007’s “Neon Bible” and puts in its place the kind of spacious diversity that gives the album a fully realized character to tie together its 16 tracks. The title track’s rootsy melodicism gives way to the guitar-propelled ebb-and-flow of “Ready to Start,” which in turn complements the stuttering groove and New Wave polish of “Modern Man,” “City With No Children” and “Sprawl II.” The group gets loud and dense on tracks such as “Empty Room” and “Month of May,” immerses itself in the ambient washes of “Half Light I” and “Sprawl I,” tries out a country lope on “Wasted Hours” and skips through the classic pop la-las of “Deep Blues.” Everything here is sophisticated and nuanced, with a sweeping lushness best deployed in “We Used to Want” and “Rococo,” blending in strings as well as Butler’s tandem vocals with his wife, Regine Chassagne. There are big statements here, too, about — not surprisingly, given the album’s title — the disaffection of modern life, the fickleness of blog culture tastes and a certain animosity towards the hipster cool that surrounded Arcade Fire’s first two albums. The result is an aural and cerebral treat, a battle cry for a tribe you definitely want to claim as your own.
Buckcherry, “All Night Long” (Eleven Seven Music) ★★1/2
Buckcherry has never aspired to reinvent rock ‘n’ roll; rather, the Los Angels quintet specializes in solid, riffy anthems that shake both arenas and strip clubs. It’s more of the same on Buckcherry’s fifth album, starting with the title track and romping through the likes of “It’s a Party,” “Liberty,” the gospel-tinged “Oh My Lord,” “Never Say Never” and the punky propulsion of “Dead” and “Recovery.” “Our World” offers a bit of political treatise — with its reference to the Gulf oil spill you at least known frontman Josh Todd is paying attention — while “I Want You” and “Bliss” fulfill the power ballad quota, though the latter with an adventurous, trancey rhythm that gives the tune some extra artistic weight. But those are only momentary respites in a party that indeed rages “All Night Long.”
New & Noteworthy:
Autolux, “Transit Transit” (TBD): The Los Angeles modern rock trio ends a six-year wait since its well-regarded debut, “Future Perfect.”
Black Crowes, “Croweology” (Silver Arrow/Megaforce): Twenty tracks from the group’s catalog rendered in acoustic versions as a parting gift to fans before the Crowes’ next for an indefinite hiatus.
Bun B, “Trill O.G.” (Rap-A-Lot/Universal Motown): The UGK member’s third solo album loads up on guests, including Drake, T-Pain, Young Jeezy, Raekwon, LeToya Luckett and more.
Esham, “Suspended Animation” (Aknu): The latest, mostly profound, utterances from the Detroit underground rap hero.
Gov’t Mule, “Mulennium” (Evil Teen): A three-disc set from the vaults captures the jam rockers’ millennium New Year’s Eve show at the Roxy Theatre in Atlanta, Ga.
The Grip Weeds, “Strange Change Machine” (Rainbow Quartz): Call ‘em prolific; the psychedelic power pop quartet from New Jersey emerges from a series of archival projects and spreads 24 new songs across two discs.
Dr. John, “Tribal” (429): The New Orleans legend goes for the funk on his latest album, with help from Derek Trucks, Allen Toussaint, the late Bobby Charles and Donald Harrison.
Gaelic Storm, “Cabbage” (Los Again): The Celtic troupe from California expands its sound with instrumentation from Cuba, Brazil and the Middle East as well as its usual Irish fare.
Lady Gaga, “The Remix” (Interscope): While we wait for her next proper studio album, the Lady offers us this stop-gap of 10 tunes twisted and turned, mostly for the dance floor, including “Just Dance,” “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi.”
Los Lobos, “Tin Can Trust” (Shout! Factory): The East L.A. icons’ first set of new material in four years includes a guest appearance by Susan Tedeschi on “I’ll Burn it Down” and a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway.”
Luciano, “United States of Africa” (Vp): The veteran reggae artist takes a typically political tact after the spiritual tone of 2008’s “Jah is My Navigator.”
Katie Melua, “The House” (Dramatico): The top-selling U.K. singer-songwriter hooks up with producer William Orbit (Madonna, Blur) for a daring album that’s considerably different than its three predecessors.
Dax Riggs, “Say Goodnight to the World” (Fat Possum): The former Acid Bath and deadboy & the Elephantmen member recorded his second solo album at his home in Austin, Texas, during two weeks in January.
Secondhand Serenade, “Hear Me Now” (Glassnote/ILG): John Vesely’s third album is his most upbeat and band-like yet, including three tracks he produced himself with drummer Tom Breyfogle.
Soundtrack, “The Kids Are All Right” (Lakeshore): Tracks by MGMT, David Bowie, Deerhoof, X, Joni Mitchell and more populate the provocative film’s companion album — but not the Who hit from which it takes its title.
Squeeze, “Spot the Difference” (Anger and Hope): Glen Tilbrook, Chris Difford and their latest group of cohorts remake some of the band’s favorites in nearly identical fashion — including a Paul Carrack guest shot to recreate his “Tempted” vocal.
Ryan Star, “11:59” (Atlantic): The debut full-length by the New York rock singer-songwriter — best known for his “Lie To Me” TV theme “Brand New Day” — was produced by hitmakers Matt Serletic and Howard Benson.
Wavves, “King of the Beach” (Fat Possum): The surf punk duo expands the band to a quartet and cleans up its sound for its third studio album.
From The Vaults: Reel Big Fish, “Best of Us...For the Rest of Us” (Rock Ridge); Queens of the Stone Age, “Rated R (Deluxe Edition)” (Interscope)
New Music DVDs: Elvis Presley, “Elvis on Tour” (Warner Home Video); Tom Petty, “Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes”; “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music (40th Anniversary Edition) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray)
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