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May 24, 2007

The Bravery brighten up their synth-rock on 'The Sun and the Moon'



The Bravery, "The Sun and the Moon" (Island)

Stripped of the heavy, synth-driven sound of their debut, The Bravery inject a little more rock and a few bright moments into their sophomore effort, "The Sun and the Moon."

Favoring dominant yet simple bass lines and more aggressive lead work on guitar, the disc is still drenched with new wave and the keyboards remain vital.

Vocalist Sam Endicott stretches out on refreshing acoustic tracks like "Tragedy Bound" and "The Ocean" - but seemscliche with lyrics like "The ocean rolls us away." Similarly, disc opener "Believe" sports a catchy bass riff, but seems uninspired with the chorus, "So give me something to believe, 'Cause I'm living just to breathe."

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They hit a few high notes with infectious keyboard lines on the trippy "Fist Full of Sand" and the poppy "Angelina," as well as the love-lost rocker "Split Me Wide Open" and a soaring "Time Won't Let Me Go."

"Bad Sun" is a guilty pleasure with its whistling - yes, whistling - hook line, but they fail to strike the right chord of irony and get a little too cute with "Every Word From Your Mouth Is a Knife in My Ear."

"The Sun and the Moon" is a bit more adventurous for The Bravery, so don't let the few sprinkles of repetition on a few tracks spoil the enjoyable leaps they manage to take here and there.

Check this out: OK, so you can argue that it sounds like Franz Ferdinand, but "This Is Not The End" has plenty of kinetic energy and start-and-stop guitar jangle - at least enough to tell you right away if you'll love or hate this band.




Where's the beat? Listless R&B covers from Joan Osborne on new CD



Joan Osborne, "Breakfast in Bed" (Time Life)

"Breakfast in Bed" is an apt title for Joan Osborne's latest release, because she sounds barely awake. The album is supposedly an homage to the soul and R&B of the late '60s and '70s, but the irresistible groove common to such songs is absent.

Instead, there's often barely a pulse. "Sara Smile," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Midnight Train to Georgia" - Osborne delivers them all politely at midtempo over the sort of faithful, soulless arrangements provided by a karaoke machine.

A singer capable of generating considerable heat, Osborne sounds more engaged and energetic on the songs she wrote, and one of them - "I Know What's Goin' On" - even musters a dance beat. The best covers are the closing "Heat Wave" and "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," both renditions from her appearance in the documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."

But they seem tacked on, because they are, and they're too late to salvage the set. After "Breakfast in Bed," listeners may need a nap.

Check this out: "I Know What's Goin' On." Some 45 minutes into the album, Osborne rewards her audience's persistence by humming, and she's one of the great hummers.




Ozzy Osbourne goes to bat for the environment on new album 'Black Rain'



Ozzy Osbourne "Black Rain" (Epic)

Who woulda thunk it: Ozzy Osbourne, environmentalist?

But here it is, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness" morphing into Defender Of The Planet on "God Bless The Almighty Dollar," in which the Oz Man rails against corporate America and government conspiring to sell out the Earth and rape the environment. A surprising message, particularly given the amount of toxins Ozzy has polluted his own body with over the years, but it does sound sincere.

On his first solo studio album in six years, Ozzy shows the influence of recent reunion tours with Black Sabbath on a disc that sounds like a cross between "Supernaut"-era Sabbath, and his 1991 solo opus, "No More Tears."

It's big, beefy and bassy throughout, and laden with Zakk Wylde guitar chunks. Ozzy seems a little too fond of singing through a megaphone effect on this disc, though.

It's not the best he's ever done, but it's far from the worst.

Check this out: It's a rare artist that can pull off a song that you can bang your head to while your girlfriend dances to it, but Ozzy succeeds on "I Don't Wanna Stop," an ode to his illustrious career set to an infectious beat, adorned with molten guitar riffs and pounding bass.

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