Boygenius’ new album is a ‘bravura blend of chiming soft-rock, indie-pop and acoustic folk’
BOYGENIUS: The Record (Polydor)
Verdict: Perfect combination of talents
The notion of the supergroup is not new. It dates back to the 1970s, when rock bands like Cream and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were formed by musicians who had made a name for themselves in other bands.
Now the concept is being revived by three American singer-songwriters pooling their talents as Boygenius. For anyone confused by the name, a humorous reference to the tortured male mastermind idea, Boygenius is an all-female affair, formed five years ago by Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. Bridgers, 28, is best known here, having duetted with Taylor Swift and supported The Rolling Stones. Dacus and Baker, both 27 and from the southern United States, have also made their mark as solo artists.
Virginia-born Dacus is a lively and fun songwriter, and Memphis-based Baker brings a crunchy pop-punk sensibility to the table.
Any fears that the collaboration could dilute their individual strengths are soon dispelled. Recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, The Record is a bravura mix of soft rock, indie-pop, and acoustic folk. Julien says that he wanted ‘sick riffs that make you really dizzy’, and The Record delivers.
Oh boy (from left): Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker
However, it starts moderately. With responsibility for the trio’s a cappella vocals, Without You Without Them is a vintage number about how our ancestors have shaped our identities. From there, it’s a case of fast-forwarding to the kind of full-tilt, but slightly off-kilter rock and roll made popular by bands like the Pixies.
The album articulates the hopes and anxieties of its millennial creators, while its songs are enriched by the inclusion of seemingly mundane everyday details. “Some October in the future, I’ll run out of junk TV,” Dacus deadpans on We’re In Love. There is also a rich understanding of the rock canon.
Not Strong Enough is a brilliant homage to The Cure that works on a mention of one of that band’s biggest songs (“Drag-racing through the canyon, shouting Boys Don’t Cry”), and there’s even a song called Leonard. Cohen.
It’s not just about the power chords, either. Paul Simon is credited for inspiration on Cool About It, while Emily I’m Sorry is an acoustic strum.
When Bridgers sent Dacus and Baker a demo of the latter, he asked if they could “be a band again”. They had first made music together when they released an EP to promote a joint tour. Now they’ve returned as a supergroup, and a compelling one at that.
ELTON JOHN: Honky Chateau 50th Anniversary Edition (EMI)
Verdict: Honky Cat Gets Funky
With the final leg of his farewell tour underway and Glastonbury on the horizon, Elton John continues his search in the archives with a deluxe version of his fifth studio album.
Originally released in 1972, and his first US No. 1, Honky Chateau marked the point at which Rocket Man’s career went into orbit. Done quickly, in just two weeks, at the legendary Chateau d’Herouville near Paris, a studio said to be haunted by the ghost of Chopin, it stripped away the opulent orchestrations of its predecessor, Madman Across The Water, released six months earlier. . and instead singled out the ensemble’s performance of a tight, soulful band that included drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, both of whom are still with Elton today.
With the final leg of his farewell tour underway and Glastonbury on the horizon, Elton John (pictured) continues his archival search with a deluxe version of his fifth studio album.
Now expanded to two discs, with the addition of some remarkably accomplished demos plus a 1972 live show from the Royal Festival Hall, it’s intimate and spontaneous.
Honky Cat is one of John’s minor singles, but its funky New Orleans spirit is hard to resist.
Given its haunting subject matter, I Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself is unnervingly optimistic, but the 1950s Hercules pastiche is a surefire simulacrum for Crocodile Rock, which would arrive five months later.
ANDY WHITE & TIM FINN: AT (Floating World)
Verdict: Uplifting stories-songs
There are two bona fide classics, both of which are still sung on tour. Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters is Elton’s lyricist Bernie Taupin’s take on an English boy’s first trip to New York and Rocket Man, written in 30 minutes over breakfast at the castle, has become so ubiquitous it topped the charts. of hits in 2021, when his chorus featured on Cold Heart (Pnau Remix), Elton’s combined collaboration with Dua Lipa.
Fans of the sunlit tunes that were a Tim Finn specialty in his days with Split Enz and Crowded House, for whom he co-wrote It’s Only Natural and Weather With You, will find plenty to delight in the New Zealander’s latest collaboration with Belfast. Melbourne-born singer-songwriter Andy White.
The pair’s previous full-length project, the 1995 album Altitude, was completed in a fully equipped Australian studio with a third band member, Liam Ó Maonlaí (of Dublin band Hothouse Flowers), also on board.
TRACK OF THE WEEK
EYES CLOSED by ED SHEERAN
Sheeran’s new album taster sticks to his super-catchy formula. Written after a breakup, it took on new meaning after the death of his close friend Jamal Edwards.
The new AT album was done more modestly, with Liam absent and musical ideas exchanged by Zoom. Ironically, it is a more dramatic and epic production than what was made 28 years ago.
That’s due in part to John Leckie, the producer behind The Stone Roses and Simple Minds, who layered the duo’s strummed guitars and keyboards to create a well-rounded, band-worthy sound.
Several songs are reinforced by strings and woodwind, arranged by film composer Jonathan Dreyfus. There’s even a barking dog and a bleating sheep.
But the album’s appeal revolves around its uplifting story-songs. Family and friendship loom large, with Bundle Of Their Dreams recounting the long marriage of Andy’s mother and father (“They did everything together through thunder and rain”), and Tim doing the same for his father, who died when they were starting the album, in It’s Family. Adult pop has rarely sounded so hummable.
- Boygenius will start a tour on August 20 (ticketmaster.es). Honky Chateau is available on double CD (£13), double vinyl LP (£32) and digitally. Elton John’s tour continues tonight at The SSE Arena, Belfast (eltonjohn.com).
Michael Buble’s got all that jazz
LIVE: MICHAEL BUBLÉ (The O2, London)
Verdict: Dazzling Spectacle
Michael Bublé performing at London’s O2 on Sunday
Michael Bublé knows how to make a tackle. He rose slowly from a trap door, engulfed in fireworks and flanked by three chorus girls, plus a band of 26 violinists and jazz musicians. For his second song, Haven’t Met You Yet, he had already posed for selfies and led fans through a chorus of olés.
His arrival set the tone for an evening that brought in big money, while reiterating the Canadian’s showmanship and artistry. He gave fans their best Kermit The Frog impersonation, transforming into Elvis and making self-deprecating jokes about his sex appeal.
Bublé, 47, made a name for himself reinterpreting jazz standards, and his affection for the golden age of song was made clear when he revamped hits once sung by Nat King Cole and Dean Martin. He has become a more versatile performer since his early years. There was no trace of ‘Christmas Boy’, a reference to his 2011 holiday album, but he did offer a few select soul covers as well as some of his own songs.
The finale included an Elvis medley, with the singer discussing his friendship with Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla. He told fans that the show was his 26th time headlining The O2. “We’ll hit 50 if you want,” he added. I wouldn’t bet against it.