Album reviews: Karnivool, Gogol Bordello, Johnny Borrell, Helen Love

What's on the Evening Times' playlist this week? Here are Stef Lach's latest album reviews...

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Aussie cool: Karnivool
Aussie cool: Karnivool

Karnivool - Asymmetry (Columbia) *****

Let's not beat about the bush - this isn't just our album of the week, it's by far and away the album of the year up to this point, as far as The Playlist is concerned.

Big, bolshy soundscapes are tempered with subtly beautiful vocals in a mix that overall delivers a sound quite unlike anything else we've heard in the last few years.

Australian band Karnivool will be filed under 'metal' in your local record store, but they deserve so much more than to branded as such.

Album opener Aum is the teaser, rumbling along gently before it explodes into Nachash, the second song and one of the best on this gem of an album.

The album is heavy where it needs to be and quiet when singer Ian Kenny needs the room to do his thing.

He never falls into the metal trap and avoids any unnecessary aggressive vocal stylings, preferring to gain emphasis through subtlety. But the boy can wail, oh yes he can.

On A.M War he cuts loose in spectacular style, while guitars and drums pound out a mind boggling rhythm. And after an explosive chorus, it all falls apart into a spacey verse that shows this band at their very best.

Aeons features some of the creepiest bass guitar work you'll have heard in ages and Sky Machine is every bit as epic as its title suggests it will be.

The Last Few is as heavy as the album gets, and still it doesn't descend into heavy metal territory. It's another track that allows each of Karnivool's talented members to shine, and shine they do.

If you're looking for a reference point, think A Perfect Circle, Mew and The Mars Volta - each of which appear to have had an influence on our new favourite Aussies.


Johnny Borrell - Borrell 1 (Stiff Fingers/Virgin EMI) **

Some frontmen just have it. That rock star quality, the sheer arrogance that sets them aside as one in a million.

Love him or hate him, Liam Gallagher has it - or certainly had it at any rate.

When Razorlight singer Johnny Borrell first burst on to the scene with his talk of already being a better songwriter than Bob Dylan (LOL), he just didn't pull it off.

Liam made similar bold claims, although he insisted his band wrote better songs than The Stone Roses. Sure, we still laughed ... but not quite as loud as we did at Borrell's ridiculous bleating.

Now the man with more self confidence than sense has carved out a solo career, and though it's not bad, neither is it very good.

It's not what you'd expect in that piano and brass take precedent over guitars. But Johnny Borrell still has a very, very long way to go to even come close to living up to his own hype.

Gogol Bordello - Pura Vida Conspiracy (ATO Records) ***

Self-styled gypsy folk-punksters Gogol Bordello are a fine live act, often stealing the show at festivals and making fans even of those who are initially bemused at the sight before them.

A Gogol gig is something few ever forget. And in order to deliver memorable live shows, a band needs a back catalogue of tunes.

With their sixth album, the Manhattan-based eight-piece have successfully added to their collection of crowd pleasers.

There's no new ground being furrowed here, this is typical of their sound - if gypsy folk-punk could ever be described at typical.

Up tempo, with shout-a-long bits to guarantee crowd interaction and featuring instruments you won't hear on any other pop records, Pura Vida Conspiracy will prove a hit with old fans and will arm the band with the weapons they need to snare new followers at a festival near you soon.

Helen Love - Day-Glo Dreams (Elefant) ****

Once you get over a band who have been around since 1992 singing "we are the lo-fi kids", this album is a whole lot of fun.

Welsh act Helen Love long ago mastered the art of writing pop punk tunes to make you dance, but on their seventh album they've swapped the 70s punk homage for an 80s tribute instead.

All synths and smiles, Helen Love have changed up their sound and it works a treat.

We Are The Lo-fi Kids is a great introduction to the album, and title track Day-Glo Dreams continues in much the same vein.

My Imagination is a cheesy, cheerful affair which you can see uniting the Barrowlands in a mass, bouncing sea of bodies.

Things take a turn for the (slightly) more serious on Our Mum And Dad, but it's still unmistakably Helen Love.

The band channel Blondie on album closer Teenage Soap Opera, bringing a close to a record that made us smile from start to finish.

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