Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come was such a visceral, unimpeachable, career-defining classic that it was almost a relief that the band broke up a few months after it came out so as not to risk tainting its lasting legacy. Refused’s dissolution in the face of imminent success was also consistent with its anti-capitalistic ethos. So, when rumors started to circulate in 2010/11 that something was brewing for Refused, the band’s perfectly encapsulated legacy was on the verge of compromise.
Inevitably, a reunion tour was announced in 2012 followed by the dreaded “new” album in 2015. Even though Freedom wasn’t a terrible comeback record, it didn’t hold a candle to The Shape of Punk to Come. And four years on the band has announced a follow-up: War Music is out in October. The first single, “Blood Red,” serves up a healthy dose frenetic agitation and a hint of metal, replete with a memorable chorus.
Last summer Robert Smith curated the Meltdown festival in the UK with handpicked acts ranging from My Bloody Valentine to Nine In Nails to The Church. The Cure, of course, headlined but were billed as CURÆTION-25 so as not to violate a contract for its massive headlining slot a few weeks later in London’s Hyde Park. Both shows are being combined for a DVD/Blu-Ray release this October to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary. The setlists are expectedly massive, showcasing every idiosyncratic incarnation of the band.
Smith recently revealed an update for the band’s progress on its first new album in 11 years in an interview at the Fuji Rock Festival, claiming that the record will be delayed until next year. He had originally claimed it would be out close to Halloween this year. Even casual Cure fans know not to trust anything the man says with regard to release timelines.
Prince’s estate has just released an animated video to accompany “Holly Rock”- the latest single off the posthumously released Originals compilation. It’s a song Prince originally wrote for Sheila E. back in 1985. He recorded it at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles the same week he recorded “Kiss” for his own Parade album. Sheila E.’s version ended up on the soundtrack for the film, Krush Groove. It’s fascinating to hear how he wrote for Sheila E.’s perspective, even don’t to the rapping shout-outs. She was given writing credit on the original single.
David Bowie’s estate has just released an official video to accompany the 2019 mix by longtime producer Tony Visconti of “Space Oddity,” which was Bowie’s first big hit released 50 years ago this month. To the chagrin of some fans, the footage mixes eras of Bowie’s career. This was a song that he kept in sets throughout all of his chameleonic musical and artistic shifts so to complain of the blended eras seems a bit short-sighted.
To further capitalize on the semicentennial anniversary of Bowie’s career launch, a 7″ box set has recently been issued, featuring the original mono release as well as the new 2019 mixes housed in new picture sleeves complete with a double-sided poster.
Bowie’s estate has released a glut of small-scale rarities this year but still no word on the next catalog box set, covering his musical rebound in the 1990s.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Joy Division’s unimpeachable debut, Unknown Pleasures, the band has commissioned a visual campaign whereby a new video will accompany each track- all with different directors. The latest addition is the reimagining of “Insight” directed by Makato Nagahisa, best known for this year’s We Are Little Zombies.
Creating a visual companion to music that fans have internalized for decades is no small task. Anton Corbijn carried a similar burden in 1988 when he directed the post-humous video for “Atmosphere” to coincide with the release of Substance. Corbijn didn’t stray far from the band’s gloomy image, whereas these latest videos seem to play fast and loose with visual poetic license.
Madonna’s roll-out for her new album, Madame X, has not been without controversy but not the usual brand. Faced with a relentless barrage of ageist condescension for daring to turn 60, much less continue to make music, Madonna has unsurprisingly struggled to connect with any of her new singles. So, it’s not without a pinch of cynicism that she has released an elaborate storyline video for her latest single, “God Control,” protesting gun violence. Piggybacking woke activism is not exactly a tactic without questionable baggage. Is Madonna genuinely concerned about mass shootings in America? Is she exploiting the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub for her own promotional gain? Probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B. But the gratuitousness of her “message” can’t help but be met with a raised eyebrow. The video itself is beautifully filmed by Jonas Akerlund, and the song is kind of a Daft Punk-ian banger, mixing vocoder disco with impressively catchy faux symphonic strings. The rapping breakaways, however, are undeniably cringeworthy.
A few months ago Sirius XMU played a song by an English band called Black Midi. I was driving when I heard it and completely dumbfounded: It was noisy, anti-melodic, primal and tight- not the type of stuff you hear on the radio in 2019- even on the “indie” radio stations. Several friends have sent me messages in the last few days asking if I’d heard this band yet. Barely. But now I’ve watched the band’s performance filmed at a hostel in Iceland that was aired live on KEXP back in November of last year. In an age when electronic music drives the trends, it’s almost jarring to see a new band this young channeling no-wave, math rock, English post-punk, and Don Caballero-esque compositional chaos. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it yet, but I know I’m intrigued.