Rock, July 2021

hfnalbum.pngThe Chills

The Chills' career has been fraught with such difficulty since they formed in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1980 – including geographical isolation, endless personnel upheavals and mainstay Martin Phillipps' struggle with ill health and addiction – that it feels nigh-on heroic that he is still making music of such freshness and quality. Scatterbrain is up with his best work and carries on the familiar Chills traits of buoyant melodies, lean ensemble playing of a subtle complexity together with an atmosphere of haunted strangeness. Phillipps is an imaginative lyricist and writes on topics as diverse as the allure of ancient stones, alien travellers, the pleasures of domesticity, and his own mortality on the chilling 'Destiny'. MB


Roadrunner 0075678645372; LP: 0075678644511

On the single 'Born For One Thing' the French metal band show off their trademark combination of brutal power and melody as juddering unison bass and guitar chords build up to a soaring chorus. Mixed by Andy Wallace – who has worked with Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine – Fortitude finds Gojira twisting through some complex structures with electronics and spacey keyboards adding texture. And while still formidably heavy, it's their most accessible offering. Gojira are a principled bunch and bark out environmental warnings in a way that you wouldn't want to argue with, on 'Amazonia', and explore ancient cultural roots on the ritualistic 'The Chant'. MB


Blackest Blue
Fly Agaric FLYG9.2; LP: FLYG9.1

In the bewildering world of 21st century musical taxonomy Morcheeba are classified as 'downtempo', which feels a rather perfunctory description for their genre-warping music. Fidgety drum-beats land somewhere between triphop and funk, and they make great use of space, with punchy synthetic horns, drifting electronics, and distant synth lines. Guitarist Ross Godfrey plays wah-wah rhythm, spooky slide, gentle arpeggios and the occasional searing solo, but the star of the show is Skye Edwards. Her phrasing sounds so smooth and effortless and on the standout track, 'Say It's Over', she sings a gorgeous duet with guest vocalist Brad Barr. MB


Gary Numan
BMG 4050538658682; LP: 4050538658743

On some of his recent releases, Gary Numan strove for an industrial-strength heaviness. Intruder contains more contrast, with luminous piano on 'Black Sun' and his daughter Persia providing backing vocals. But with its blocky keyboard chords, synth clarion calls, eastern flavoured melodies, and panoramic production, it still sounds epic – rather like Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' on steroids. Numan's adenoidal whine used to signify coldness and distance back in the '70s and '80s, but here he sounds angered and anguished, singing of an impending apocalypse caused by our 'total disregard' for the planet – although he allies this approach to some cracking tunes. MB