New sounds, old acts. This week, we look at how two one-time chart-toppers fare with new albums.
Years of Refusal by Morrissey: Morrissey is no stranger to the artful expression of frustration, but here he blows off steam with an unusually high level of rock intensity. At times reminiscent of 1992's Your Arsenal and 2004's You Are the Quarry, the latter also produced by the late Jerry Finn, Years of Refusal is full of satisfying attitude, from the driving distortion of Something Is Squeezing My Skull to the confident swing of All You Need Is Me.
But as with much of Morrissey's work, there is a deceptively joyful energy in the music itself, especially present in songs like first single I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris, which is almost pastoral in its resignation that "only stone and steel accept my love".
Though a few tracks, like That's How People Grow Up, fall back on overused Morrissey formulas, others add welcome variety, among them the Latin-tinged When Last I Saw Carol.
Mr Lucky by Chris Isaak: It seems impossible that it's been seven years since Chris Isaak's last set of all-new songs. But Mr Lucky makes up for lost time with 14 gems that showcase his sharp vocal stylings, particular brand of countrified pop music and (given his sex appeal) hard-to-believe preponderance of romantic heartbreak.
The Isaak who sings about the woman who done him wrong in Cheater's Town sounds as pained and remorseful as the guy who sings about the woman he done wrong in We Let Her Down. These tracks are rich in sonic detail and lyrical nuance, riding through the classic lope of We've Got Tomorrow and the rockabilly stomp of Mr Lonely Man.