Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow (SPV)
Pomp rock was a US thing in the late '70s and early '80s, and you'd have to class Magnum as the main purveyors from the UK. Too guitary for prog and too melodious and fruit-zesty for the NWOBHM, the guys have been going since '73, first record in '78, now onto the 19th, depending on how you count. Princess Alice carries all the trademarks - all music and lyrics are by guitarist Tony Clarkin; strange, but that's how they've always done it. And yeah, the band are writing hard-hitting but weirdly soul-replenishing songs... melodic like Styx, Kansas and Journey (even Meat Loaf... New England... Touch!), but quite guitary as well as keys-drenched and subsequently shined up like an apple for teacher. Further distinction comes with Bob Catley's passionate, thespian and somewhat odd vocals. Love the fat 'n' flat drum sound of Jimmy Copley as well, and in total, the whole swooping, high relief variety from track to track. Of note, the title is concept album-ish, as is the artwork (which goes with the title), but then there's only three or four songs with any link to the title, and not forcefully or in sequence. Strange huh? In any event, Princess Alice is sure to be a fan-pleaser for Magnum's quite sizeable European throng, offering all manner of AOR, art rock, plush balladry and the vaguely NWOBHM-lite touchstones that the band has been tirelessly pursuing, catching and releasing in the spirit of hope and optimism.
The Weirdness (Virgin)
There was no way this was going to satisfy, I suppose. I mean, The Weirdness is going to be measured against something that was highly dangerous but at the time only, and to boot, simple, lo-fi, heavy but only taken so far, even dated in a weird garage rock way back to the mid-'60s. So immediately, Steve Albini has been taken to task for the In Utero-ish production. It's actually fine - he balances the explosive and dirty and heck, it isn't even that dirty, all the bass and treble you would want is there, all the instruments are the right volume in the mix - what more do you want? Too grungy and he gets more of the same, too clean and it gets called too clean. It's fine. The songs? Well, again, Iggy, Ron and Scott (all original Stooges), plus Mike Watt on bass have to ride the line. They bash simply, with a bit of retro, and so they are competing with hundreds of bands who've emulated anything about The Stooges over the last 37 years. 'Mexican Guy' is of course the most authentic bit of "weirdness" being a bit raga and blanga like Hawkwind. Iggy's been taken to task for the lyrics too, and yes, they're a bit upfront and shocking but only in his amusing way. He's done this for years, and actually there a bunch of good lines in here. However, you could probably make a better "Stooges" album by cherry-picking songs from his last half dozen Iggy albums. Y'know, it's an OK album, but I suppose they didn't really create gloriously in the name of art, like, say, the way The Who did with Endless Wire - now that record is the real Sex Pistol of the last couple years. Nothing about that damn thing falls along the expected. So The Stooges bash out happy, hummable garage rock. Yes, I suppose they faltered or screwed up. We could have got art, darkness, maybe some stuff that was a little difficult to love (and I'm not asking for L.A. Blues or We Will Fall, but y'know, a bit like that) but instead we get rocked appreciably by generalist material that really, could have come from any kid or co-oldster of the Ig.