CD Reviews

I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Donny & Marie and Smother


Steve Earle I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Written during the process of his father’s death, Steve Earle’s 14th album dwells on mortality. Inspired by the Hank Williams Jr. song (Earle’s cover appears in the iTunes version), I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (not to be confused with Earle’s just-released and already-acclaimed debut novel of the same name) isn’t entirely new to fans—“God Is God” and “I Am a Wanderer” were recorded by Joan Baez for her 2008 Earle-produced effort The Day After Tomorrow, and “This City,” a ballad honoring New Orleans’ post-Katrina resiliency, appears in HBO’s Treme. Still, this is a different, introspective side of Earle that usually rides shotgun to his topical material. Just because the BP spill happened a year ago doesn’t make “The Gulf of Mexico” a less effective protest song about our country’s mad thirst for oil. But when Earle bares his heart (“Every Part of Me”), this T Bone Burnett-produced record works deathless magic. ★★★☆☆


Donny & Marie Osmond Donny & Marie (MPCA)

Christ, why didn’t a Flamingo PR hack e-mail me about this sooner, the first Donny & Marie album of new studio material in 30 years? Maybe it’s because this eponymous release by the Flamingo resident duo is a total cheesefest. I can learn to love the hard-core queso as much as anyone—hell, I think Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” is better than anything Bob Dylan did—but when you bring together ersatz-country producer Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney) and a who’s who of only-at-their-peak-in-the-’80s pop songsmiths (like, why Richie Sambora and Richard Marx?), you push the limits of good taste. “A Beautiful Life,” about a modern American couple’s commitment to each other in the face of a ruined economy, has a sweet message and hook, and “Vegas Love,” about the lowlights of Sin City high life, is slinky fun. But they’re sonically marred by banjo picking that Cannon slops like cold, canned sausage on hot biscuits. Next time, D&M, get The Killers to back you and expand your aging audience. ★☆☆☆☆


Wild Beasts Smother (Domino)

Here’s something different, a British synth-chamber pop quartet that, in interviews, insists it wants to “romanticize the mundane and glamorize normality.” The band’s third album doesn’t successfully accomplish either, but there is, in fact, a subtle erotic undercurrent to each of the 10 songs. Singer Hayden Thorpe’s operatic falsetto is haunting, excruciatingly gorgeous, if often similar to the tones produced by Antony Hegarty (Antony & the Johnsons) and Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater). The darkly pulsating “Lion’s Share,” with its unsettling imagery of oral fixation and animalistic devouring, is impossible to forget. The hazy synth and nylon-string guitars that provide lift-off for “Albatross,” a sexy minor-chord progression, are equally poignant. The seven-minute “End Come Too Soon” is so lyrically rich and aurally compelling that it’s all I want to spin during these days leading up to summer’s relentless heat. Beguiling is the only adjective that really does justice. Fans of Coldplay, Doves and Roxy Music will love this if they give it a chance. ★★★★☆

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Jumping the Broom

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Jumping the Broom

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So few ensemble-driven African-American films make it to market—whether with familiar faces or unknowns—that the ones that do get out of the gate provoke a weird degree of scrutiny regarding what they have to say about the black experience. Who needs the pressure? Movies such as the first Barbershop succeed not because they feel important or thesis-heavy; they succeed because they bring the commercial and the sociologically astute cultural touch to a bagful of characters.



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