Different types of music require different approaches when it comes to describing them on paper. Writing, even something as rigid as a music review, can be as varied, unpredictable and changeable as the music that it is aiming to reflect. And whilst I am normally one for a holistic approach, of trying to convey an overall vibe and perhaps the music’s raison d’être, when you come across albums which are so rich and varied as the wonderfully named Greatest Music Album In Recorded Human History, then you have to use different tools, take a more surgical approach and examine each track more closely.
If you come to this album, as I did, via the single So Alive, you might be expecting a set of songs driven by keyboard sounds, and whilst that remains the core instrument for most of the album, it is the other sonic trappings and musical additions, not least some truly gorgeous vocals, that help it remain fluid and forward-thinking. I Love Myself kicks things off, a honky-tonk rhythm creating a weighted piano sound as a platform, the vocals soar and begin the first of the many strange narratives, malevolent thoughts and unusual insights, a perfect kick-off point and a simple balance of heavy chords and sweet vocals with a quick blast of bluesy guitar to help the song push through to its conclusion.
The aforementioned single follows on, a more fairy tale feel of fair-ground organ keys which are at once both fun and frivolous yet slightly eerie, especially when you dwell on the dark lyrical content, before The Sweetest Cyborg takes things in a new direction. The piano takes the role of bass guitar, as it does on most of the songs, anchoring it, providing the beat and groove whilst chiming guitars and resonant root notes add colour and by now you are starting to really appreciate the calibre of the singers who AKM has gathered to the project to add the icing to this unique, slightly brilliant and, to be fair, slightly bonkers, album…meant in the nicest possible of ways.
Have You Seen Sue strips things down to an old-school, rock and roll base, which is never far away through out the thirteen tracks, it is spacious, simple, though not simplistic…it’s too clever for that, cloaked in splintered shards of guitar which just blast sharply through adding the drama to the drive, the light to the shade. It’s a musical theme which Big Mistake continues to explore, though this run through is heavier, more claustrophobic, more pressured and relentless, with greater contributions from the guitar and some lovely additional piano tracks filling out the middle ground.
There is a bitter sweet quality to Summer, sounding less like a celebration of the season and more of a reflection on times passed, melancholic and wistful, again most of the heavy lifting, sonically speaking, being left to the vocals and piano and by contrast Never Give Up is an explosion of musical textures and deft layers of sound: guitars shimmer and brood, the piano adds a contrasting jauntiness and the vocals are particularly sky-scraping, soaring and searing. Make It Beautiful plays the piano pop game nicely, a timeless, balladic tune built of simple lines, slowly building up additional motifs and dexterous layers as it moves along lamenting why things are often not the way we would want them to be.
More classical qualities are on show with Deep In My Heart, a cascading, lilting piano driven piece swirling with lush harmonies and charming, crystal clear vocals, a short interlude before the heavier hitting sounds of Everyday come on freeing the anxieties and deep thoughts of someone who feels that they have little to contribute to the world. Quite ironic for the subject of a song being broadcast to the world, but that is the wonderful dichotomy that wrestles with itself at the heart of NSK’s lyrics. Yes I Do bigs up the rock vibe again, a blend of modern garage rock, grunge guitar and insightful blues licks and Bird of Prey comes on like Jerry Lee Lewis reinvented for the modern, plugged in, (anti-)social media world, slowed down, blissed out and no less scary when you read between the lyrical lines.
Things round off with the titular anthem No Serial Killer, again a juxtaposition of light and jaunty grooves, bluesy blends of six-string buoyancy and more thoughts from the internal monologue of a mind who sees the world in a very unique way. And rounding off this blend of lunacy and beauty, we go from the sublime to the ridiculous, or perhaps the other way around depending on your musical tastes and political views, the album gets a Trumpian endorsement to KEEP ROCK AND ROLL GREAT!
The Greatest Music Album In Recorded Human History is a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek title for the album and whilst it has a lot of contenders for that lofty prize, it is certainly a unique, genre-hopping, outside the box piece of work and lyrically it is simultaneously fresh and fun, dark and troubled. Doesn’t that sound great to you?
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