In 2018, Kristen Hersh released her 10th solo studio recording and in the fall of 2020, her first band Throwing Muses matched that number. Sun Racket saw the Muses trio, including bassist Bernard Georges and drummer David Narcizo, return after a seven year hiatus. The cover is a photo of what looks to be a Florida back alley – hot, hazy that can turn dark and mysterious in the night time…. Such is the music here. Hersh’s voice on first track “Dark Blue” is scratchy and worn in over a solid drum bedrock, the guitars sludgy and distorted.
The lyrics on second single “Bo Diddley Bridge” is where the album gets it’s name on a track where the guitars make quite the racket before everything slows down, adding a piano reminiscent of Faith No More’s “Epic”. Lyrics can be like short poems, where questions abound. “Maria Laguna” describes a disappearance/return and the reverb drenched “Upstairs Dan” sees Hersh sing about “Dan in drag/barefoot and drunk/Iris gin warm in the trunk”. Sun Racket ends with more atmosphere on the final two tracks on an album that makes a racket then gently releases the listener back into the wild.
After the relative commercial disappointment of 1990’s Behaviour album where only one single reached the top 10, British duo Pet Shop Boys released one of the best hits compilations, Discography. The album featured their cover of U2 staple “Where The Streets Have No Name” and closed a chapter on the first part of their career. It would be a very different musical landscape the lads would return to in 1993, as grunge dominated America and the first roots of what became Britpop were starting to take hold in the UK. No one would have guessed the triumph that would arrive in the lego-like CD packaging of their fifth album, Very.
The only PSB album to reach #1 on the UK album charts, the album is both a coming out for Neil Tennant and a euphoric rush with several dancefloor hits. First single “Can You Forgive Her?” explodes out of the speakers with short symphonic stabs and biting lyrics of a troubled relationship that carried the duo back into the UK top ten. The line “She’s made you into some kind of laughing stock/because you dance to disco and you don’t like rock” still stings nearly 30 years later. “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” is upbeat and infectious dance pop where Tennant actually sounds happy as it sailed to #2 on the Billboard dance chart. “A Different Point of View” is a harder edged track where Tennant contemplates “If I’d say black was white, you’d say it was grey/But in spite of being treated this way/I still dream of you all night and day”
“Dreaming of the Queen” and “The Theatre” are atmospheric and dreamy with a touch of darkness, especially on the latter where the chorus spoken from the point of view of London’s homeless fumes venom. “Yesterday, When I was Mad” returns to the dancefloor with compressed vocals and amusing quotes about touring musicians. Pet Shop Boys turned in a cover of The Village People’s disco anthem “Go West” for an AIDS charity that eventually went to #2 on the UK singles chart. Their version slows the song down and adds much humanity and emotion which hints and both gay liberation and the opening of Russia to the rest of the Western world. It is a very effecting track that continues their streak of expert cover versions. While Very is more heavily loaded at the front with memorable songs, it mixes the theatrical, pop and dancefloor on one of PSB’s finest releases.
The Further Listening compilation is a bit more hit and miss than past collections but still includes several highlights. The 7” of “I Wouldn’t Normally…” ups the BPM and adds Beatlesque horns. “Too Many People” is a slick dance track where Tennant sings about having many different identities while “Shameless” celebrates plastic C-list celebrities that would further increase with the rise of social media. “Decadence” has a bouncy synth buried in the mix that is more effecting than it’s A-side ballad, “Liberation”. After remixing blur’s smash “Girls and Boys”, Pet Shop Boys close out the disc with a live cover version.
Very – 9/10
Further Listening – 7.5/10
A year after releasing, The Man Who Sold the World, David Bowie returned in late 1971 with his first truly great album, Hunky Dory. An eclectic album that takes in a wide range of styles, one The Beatles had done so well in the 60s and blur would do in the 90s. First song and single, “Changes” signifies Bowie’s chameleon like stylings. This enduring track was both his first official US single and also the last song he performed in concert. The horns and piano make it punchy while Bowie delivers one of the finest faux stutters this side of, “My Generation”.
“Oh! You Pretty Things” touches on both Nietzsche and Alesteir Crowley while Bowie wonders – “Oh, you pretty things/don’t you know you’re driving you mamas and papas insane?” “Kooks” is a charming track written for newborn son Duncan where Bowie amusingly suggests that the lad “don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads/cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads”. “Fill Your Heart” is the only track here not written by Bowie, one that let’s the listener know that “love cleans the mind” which is in contrast to the more serious and inward looking “Quicksand”.
A memorable dual acoustic guitar along with a snapping beat powers “Warhol”, a track that the artistic legend was reportedly not fond of. Bowie also references Robert Zimmerman throughout “A Song For Dylan” before presenting the Velvet Underground swagger of “Queen Bitch”, one of the finest album tracks here. MGMT would later ape the sound of album closer, “Bewley Brothers” where Bowie references his brother as the acoustic guitar swells in the chorus.
The space dreaming lad from Brixton once again looks skyward on one of his finest singles, “Life On Mars?”. One of Bowie’s most popular songs, he brings together various dreamlike imagery to wonder what life is like beyond our dreary lives. On both this single and the album, Hunky Dory is a giant leap from previous releases. It is on this landmark recording that Bowie really starts to find his voice on a set of songs that still sound fresh and new to this day.