Dolly overdoes it and British Sea Power continues its decline
Dolly Parton Backwoods Barbie (Dolly Records/A2M Distribution)
Dolly Partonâ’s celebrity is highly accessible, built partly on her awareness of her excessive fashion choices; but having long ago admitted to every nip, tuck, suck, and plump available, even Parton seems bored with insisting sheâ’s more than â“too much make-up, too much hairâ” on her self-released album Backwoods Barbie. And the conversational singing she usually uses to her advantage becomes mawkish on â“Made of Stoneâ” after she chokes on the words a few too many times.
But Backwoods Barbie is a satisfyingly big-sounding album, full of slick production and piled-high arrangements, even if pushing Partonâ’s pop tendencies sometimes feels like overkill. The covers of Smoky Robinsonâ’s â“The Tracks of My Tearsâ” and Fine Young Cannibalsâ’ â“Drives Me Crazyâ” are, respectively, forgettable and regrettable. (Though the latter eventually moves from karaoke night to hootenanny with some success, Partonâ’s performance on the first verse is inexcusable without Alvin, Simon, and Theodore on backing vocals.)
For an album by a gal who managed to sing about heartbreak in wildly celebratory tones on â“Whyâ’d You Come in Here Lookinâ’ Like That,â” Backwoods Barbie is noticeably lacking in fun. But the Parton-penned tracks on the last half of the albumâ"from the classy, swinging â“The Lonesomesâ” to the affecting â“Cologneâ” and â“I Will Forever Hate Rosesâ”â"find her sounding more convincing, more like herself. And thatâ’s all we wanted. (Amanda Mohney)
British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)
British Sea Powerâ’s first album, The Decline of British Sea Power, was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2003. The 2005 follow-up, Open Season, barely registered on any critical radar, much less any sales charts. The bandâ’s third album, Do You Like Rock Music?, seems destined for the same kind of middling obscurity. The bandâ’s recasting of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen already seems quaint five years in, even though British Sea Power does it as well as anyone else.
There are passages of drama and emotion on Do You Like Rock Music?â"the quiet interlude two-thirds of the way through â“Lights Out for Darker Skies,â” the sweeping intro to â“Waving Flagsâ”â"but British Sea Powerâ’s straight-faced appropriation overshadows the bandâ’s solid songwriting and heartfelt performances. Thereâ’s plenty to like here, but you canâ’t help feeling like youâ’ve ended up inside a John Hughes movie. (Matthew Everett)
Bauhaus Go Away White (Bauhaus Music/Redeye)
Iâ’ve always given Bauhaus some leeway. The band did what they do so right a long time ago that theyâ’ve earned a little extra latitude.
But Bauhaus has ruined that by announcing that Go Away White, its first album since 1983â’s Burning From the Inside, will be the last thing its members will ever do under the name Bauhaus. Call me incredulous, but when the first thing out of Peter Murphyâ’s mouth is a lamentation about wanting to be a better singer, I start to wonder how easily the members of Bauhaus might change their minds.
Go Away White does have one thing going for it: Nothing else this year will sound like it. Some songs, like â“Saved,â” are intentionally lean, while others, like â“The Dogâ’s a Vapour,â” are wailing cacophonies, fine-tuned to sound like rough cuts from the grave of a long-forgotten recording era. Whiteâ’s complete lack of evolution is a curious thing. Everything that made Bauhaus great is thereâ"its stark, screechy non-melodies, overlaid with Murphyâ’s voice, evoke a sinuous, club-friendly atmosphere. At the same time, everything that was wrong with early Bauhausâ"the bandâ’s tendency toward beating the things they do well to death, making the whole blood-and-darkness-and-spider-webs thing look even sillierâ"came along for the ride.
Letâ’s face it, though. You already know if youâ’re the kind of person who would buy a Bauhaus album. Look deep within your heart, or maybe your closet. If you find enough black lace in either place, White wonâ’t disappoint you. (Dave Prince)
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