NewsCO.com.au–Taylor Swift, The Cactus Channel, Mista Savona, Morrissey

NewsCO.com.au–Taylor Swift, The Cactus Channel, Mista Savona, Morrissey

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Who’s reppin? Latest Album Reviews: Taylor Swift, The Cactus Channel, Mista Savona, Morrissey.

TAYLOR SWIFT

Reputation (Big Machine)

3.5 stars

THE biggest pop superstars all have an imperial phase. It’s that period when whatever they release will sell in wild quantities, because of the wild popularity of what has come before it.

Ed Sheeran’s knee deep in his imperial phase right now and so is his mate Taylor Swift.

That momentum means Reputation is going to break records but hype and dizzying figures aside Reputation is no 1989. Even 1989’s seventh single, New Romantics, is better than Reputation’s first, Look What You Made Me Do.

Of course, the album is far from a disaster and does everything it needs to, but does feel like going through the motions at times — something Swift has always avoided doing.

Part of this is due to Swift collaborating with modern pop makeover to hit maker Max Martin (and Shellback). They hit a purple patch on 1989. But 2017 has been uncharacteristically beige for Martin, as his missing hit work on Katy Perry and Pink’s new albums demonstrate.

Swift can write her own songs, but the ultra-modern pop production and killer hooks Martin’s team specialise in that she bathes those songs in (you don’t go to him for b-sides) is too dangerously modern here — where 1989 went for a more timeless ‘80s vibe that others are still copying. And the hooks, well, they’re just not as killer as they should be.

Ironically Martin’s most 1989 moment here, the airy synth euphoria of Dancing With My Hands Tied is Reputation’s peak and a relief after the divisive tracks drip-fed before release.

See also Getaway Car — written with Jack Antonoff, himself no stranger to retro synth pop. He’s also credited on the breathy electro of Dress, some of Swift’s most blatantly bedroom-bound lyrics.

Don’t Blame Me and its big chorus is a future hit — think Rag & Bone Man gone EDM – and Delicate recalls 1989’s Imogen Heap collaboration Clean — all vocoder and wanderlust.

I Did Something Bad retreads I Knew You Were Trouble’s squelchy electro with Blank Space’s lyrical approach — but Swift is better than the well-worn ‘something so bad felt so good’ lyrical analogy.

End Game has an unexpected soul feel over hip-hop beats, but with Future rapping maybe Swift and Ed Sheeran should have stuck to singing.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things continues the horror movie soundtrack vibe of another Antonoff co-write Look What You Made Me Do, the one that’s going to help pay off whatever mortgages Right Said Fred may have left. That self-referencing in the song’s video is all over the lyrics here. You expect them to be self-involved, but it can be dangerously unrelatable.

The tender acoustic closer New Year’s Day is a welcome flashback to her simpler country days, before the celebrity dudes and celebrity feuds.

Swift seems to now adopt the Beyonce approach to avoiding interviews and instead lets everyone else analyse her lyrics online, on her behalf. But there’s enough strategic (yet deliberately still vague) clues to her public private life littered here to make Hansel and Gretel look subtle.

Maybe it’s because Swift has always been so stealth with her fearless creativity some of Reputation disappoints. At least she’s not repeating herself, but it doesn’t feel like a huge leap forward either.

The old Taylor may be dead, but she was a little more fun.

VERDICT: Still much better than Witness

STAY A WHILE

THE CACTUS CHANNEL

(Hope Street Recordings)

4 stars

Three albums in, this is becoming quite a career. The Cactus Channel have progressed from keen funkateers into noirish spy-cam wakka wakka rogues and now they pull back another layer, using vocals for the first time in a move that could have quite easily backfired like a hotted up

Corolla trying to make haste from the cops in a Richmond alley. Lewis Coleman’s slumped shoulders singing slides right under your guard, he opens right up and sings his little heart out on the sway-step of Leech (“I just miss that street, the parking is not free”), the mild panic of How People Speak, and just bunkers down and joins in with the band on the Sugarcubes meets The Meters Look Behind You. A very easy record to get lost in when you don’t want to be found./MIKEY CAHILL

LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL

MORRISSEY

(BMG)

3.5 stars

A good year for Morrissey fans (alarming political views aside) — a belated reissue of The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead with rare tracks exhumed and now his 11th solo album. He’s long been doing it for the disciples but it’s still a quality affair and surprisingly political (Israel, Who Will Protect Us From the Police, I Bury the Living). A new co-writer in the mix, Mando Lopez, adds grunt and glam to My Love I’d Do Anything For You, while When You Open Your Legs is a carnal carnival./CAMERON ADAMS

Staggering this hasn’t been done before: an LP of music from Cuba and Jamaica, together — one nation under a groove. Local doer Jake Savona makes this breezy, blaze-y combination fire ‘n’ flicker. 410 San Miguel feat. Ernest Raglin is a half-stepping, dubby, piano adventure, 100 Pounds Of Collie gives thanks, In the Ghetto adds soul, Carnival Horns shows off the detailed production. It’s an original idea that leans on tropes. Expect to hear this playing from a meaty Bose system over your $22 brunch soon./MIKEY CAHILL

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