These are the dog days of summer as far as the music industry is concerned. All the records that needed to be out for the season are out, which means we’ve got a bit of a lull before things pick up again with the fall schedule.
As usual, though, there are some notable exceptions.
1. Tool, Fear Inoculum (single)
Without much warning on Thursday, Tool released their first new music in 13 years, three months, and five days. To put things another way, the last time this happened, the iPhone was still more than a year away from being unveiled. Better yet, consider this: in the time since the release of 10,000 Days in 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched, crossed the solar system, met up with Pluto and is now well into the Kuiper Belt. The 85-minute Fear Inoculum album is due Aug. 30, with the deluxe edition coming in a case with a 4-inch HD screen, a 2-watt speaker, and a USB charging cable. Overkill? Or does the band have something more planned?
2. Slipknot, We Are Not Your Kind
After teasing the album for months, the record, the first in five years, finally arrived Friday (Aug. 9) complete with a new mysterious member, percussionist Tortilla Man. While much of the fanbase is fixated on finding out who this guy is, the album is a masterclass in rage. In fact, this might be the best thing they’ve done since Iowa eighteen years ago. If you have to channel some aggression, this just might be the ticket.
3. Blinded by the Light Original Soundtrack
Javed is a young Pakistani growing up on a council estate in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Everywhere he looks he sees racism, poverty and dead ends. But then he’s introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his whole life begins to change. Blinded by the Light, based on a true story, opens in theatres next week and as industry customs, the soundtrack precedes the movie by seven days. There’s a lot of Springsteen material here along with some British songs of the era, but also some original songs by the cast. Feel-good stuff, really.
4. Lil Nas X, Panini (single)
After a record-breaking run at #1 with Old Town Road (18 weeks and counting), thanks in large part to an endless series of remixes, it’s finally come time to move on to a second single. While Old Town Road is built on a Nine Inch Nails sample (Trent Reznor has made some good coin from the song since he was properly created as a co-writer), Panini melodically references Nirvana’s In Bloom. And according to Nas, he’d never actually listened to Nevermind before. Sounds like someone needed to point out what he’d done. And like its predecessor, the song clocks in at less than two minutes.
5. The Regrettes, How Do You Love?
Let’s end with some playful L.A. power-pop. Students of pop will note the influence of yé-yé pop, a form of music from 1960s France. The songs are fun, the lyrics witty, and the themes of how love can get messy will resonate with many people. It’s almost a concept album, too, with the songs relating to the birth, growth and ultimate death of a relationship.
London Calling: Fat White Family, Fringe Runner
While still as polarizing as ever, the south London outfit continues to ride the wave of their current album, Serf’s Up. Right now the band’s success is concentrated in the U.K., so it’ll be interesting to see if anyone will try to break them in North America.
Undiscovered Gem: Joseph of Mercury, Pretenders
If you’re looking for a description for this Toronto-based singer, you might go with “alt-rock crooner.” Or you might just go with how he describes himself: “Born to the synthesized bells of the 80s” and “reincarnated from the velvet men of the 50s.” One thing is for sure: there’s plenty of Bowie in here.
Throwback Track: The Ramones, Rock’n’Roll High School
Forty years ago this month, Rock’n’Roll High School received its theatrical debut. Shot for less than $300,000, it was supposed to be The Ramones vehicle to superstardom. That never happened, but it did bring their brand of punk to suburban theatres across North America. There are three versions of the song: the original, a slight remix and the version produced by nutball Phil Spector. This is the second version and the way The Ramones performed the song live.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.