CD reviews: Ketih Urban, Arctic Monkeys

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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Capitol Nashville/AP
“Fuse,” the latest release by Keith Urban.
  • “AM,” the latest release by Arctic Monkeys.
    ( Domino/AP )
    “AM,” the latest release by Arctic Monkeys.

Keith Urban

Fuse/Hit Red/Capitol


Even though Keith Urban scored three No. 1 hits on his last outing, the veteran country star decided to shake up his production team for his new album, “Fuse.”

Longtime studio partner Dann Huff still collaborates on a couple of songs, but Urban branches out to duet with young country stars Eric Church and Miranda Lambert and to work with a bevy of hot producers.

Urban joins up with Mike Elizondo, Butch Walker and the Norwegian duo Stargate from the pop world and recruits hot newcomers Nathan Chapman, Zach Crowell and Jay Joyce on the country side.

While Urban wanted to expand his sound, it’s to his credit that so many songs bear his distinctive artistic stamp. For example, “Even The Stars Fall 4 U,” which is co-produced by Walker, may feature a pumped-up chorus, but it sounds like a natural evolution of Urban’s upbeat hits from the last dozen years.

Elsewhere, the “American Idol” judge tackles new sounds, and “Fuse” benefits from how Urban rises to these challenges.

“Shame,” co-written and co-produced by Stargate’s Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen, takes Urban’s confessional lyric and turns it into a heartfelt pop anthem.

On “Love’s Poster Child,” co-produced by Joyce, Urban embraces the hard-rock edge of young country stars and cranks out an up-tempo tune as fierce as any of the newcomers.

Not everything works. “Good Thing,” co-produced by Elizondo, apes too many current country cliches to sound fresh.

Overall, though, “Fuse” shows Urban maintaining his consistency while challenging himself creatively.

By Michael McCall, Associated Press

Arctic Monkeys

AM/Domino


A woozy, psychedelic collection cooked up in the Californian desert, Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, “AM,” is the sound of Sheffield via San Francisco.

Fans expecting anything approaching the kinetic, snot-punk blast of the English group’s highly revered 2006 debut, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” will be disappointed as frontman Alex Turner and cohorts rarely break a sweat as they strut and swagger their way through 12 tasty rock nuggets.

Turner cites Aaliyah and Black Sabbath as album influences and, when the R&B backing vocals of “One for the Road” give way to a punishing guitar solo from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, a potentially unholy marriage makes perfect sense. Other highlights include the crunching “Arabella” (complete with riff borrowed from Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”), glam-rock stomp “Snap Out of It” and starlit ballad “Mad Sounds,” which is sonically one of the most beautiful songs in the band’s impressive canon.

The album’s harmonic strengths are occasionally undermined by repetitive, perfunctory lyrics. Turner recounts tales of parties and wild nights with such disinterest that one can’t help but wonder why he bothered going out in the first place.

The album’s most memorable couplet — “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust, I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust” — from “I Wanna Be Yours” was penned by punk poet John Cooper Clarke.

Despite the lyrical letdown, there’s a lot to admire about Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album, the band’s self-professed “West Coast record.” The sunshine obviously suits them.

By Matt Kemp, Associated Press