Everyone likes a good musical rivalry. Beatles versus Stones. Kanye West versus Taylor Swift. Nicki Minaj versus Cardi B.
While we once enjoyed a near-death match between Oasis and Blur, that hatchet seems to have been buried. However, the ongoing dogfight between the Brothers Gallagher shows no signs of abating.
This week, they’ve got new material out at the same time.
1. Noel Gallagher, Black Star Dancing EP
Gallagher the Elder seems to be done with writing songs in the style of Oasis with all its Beatlesque references and cues. For his next trick, Noel tries something different with songs he says were influenced by everyone from David Bowie (note the reference of the title) to INXS (cf. the funky basslines) and even disco (ditto).
“I might have been watching too much Top of the Pops recently,” he says. Warning: May lead to dancing.
2. Liam Gallagher, Shockwave (single)
Like his older brother, the last album from Liam was released in 2017. He’s been busy, too. First, there was a documentary (Liam Gallagher: As It Was) along with a North American tour with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft. A new album will arrive in September.
“Yeah, it’s heavy, man. It is heavy. Like heavy as in makes you wanna — it’s like a bulldozer, man,” the younger Gallagher says. Liam also adds there will be more songs like this in which he continues to carry the torch for the classic Oasis sound.
3. Bastille, Doom Days
Up until now, Bastille seems to have had an optimistic view of life on planet Earth. Now, with their third album, dark reality seems to have settled in (blame Trump and Brexit, apparently). Bastille’s concept record follows our heroes through a night of partying while everything goes to hell. The album begins with Quarter Past Midnight, which is set in the back seat of an Uber and ends — well, you’ll have to listen, won’t you? (Hint: Things start desperate, but everyone ends up partying like it’s 1999.)
4. X Ambassadors, Orion
A new X Ambassadors album is long overdue. Coming four years after VHS, Orion finally arrives after writing and scrapping a whole other album entitled Joyful because “it didn’t feel like it fully represented where (they) were at.” Then again, they were distracted. The band co-wrote songs for other people while lead singer-songwriter Sam Harris went off and wrote and produced eight songs for For the Throne — Music Inspired by the HBO Series Game of Thrones. Joyful is gone and has been replaced by 11 fresh tracks.
5. Bruce Springsteen, Western Stars
Another blast of E-Street Band energy? More acoustic musings a la Nebraska? None of the above. For this record (his 19th), Bruce instead has obviously absorbed some of the sounds of Broadway that he heard during his theatre stint. No big beats, no giant guitar parts, zero sax solos. Instead, it’s … orchestral. Not Beethoven orchestral, but more in line with what Brian Wilson was doing in the ’60s tinged with Roy Orbison-ish crooning along with a dollop of pre-Sgt. Pepper California. It’s a different approach for Bruce, but it’s satisfying to see him try different things this deep into his career.
London calling: IDLES, Mercedes Marxist
Punky, political and very working class, Bristol’s IDLES released a very good album entitled Joy as an Act of Resistance last summer. This single telegraphs where they’re going with their next record.
Undiscovered Gem: Mauno, Really Really
I first heard about this Halifax-based four-piece when I was trolling for new music out of the U.K. It appears they’ve found some important fans in Britain, including some folks at the BBC. I’m always intrigued when a Canadian band finds success outside of the country first. It’s like, “What did we miss?”
Throwback Track: The Slits, I Heard It Through the Grapevine
When The Slits came together after seeing The Clash and other original punk rockers perform, none of the four young women in the band had a clue about how to sing or play an instrument. But in those days, that didn’t matter. All you needed was the right attitude and you could form a band. The Slits went on to become one of the most important all-female bands of their day, inspiring other women and introducing more than a few humans to the sounds of dub.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107 and a commentator for Global News.