Album reviews: Rihanna, "Talk That Talk" and Can "Tago Mago: 40th Anniversary Edition" - Reverb

Album reviews: Rihanna, Can


Rihanna, “Talk That Talk,” (Island Def Jam)

If the formula isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Call it the Def Jam way.

Take Mariah Carey: Four years after her “Glitter” flop, she officially bounced back with the label’s “The Emancipation of Mimi,” one of the last decade’s best albums. She followed that with “E (equals) MC2,” which had the same musical plot.

Rihanna’s latest, “Talk That Talk,” is the follow-up to last year’s “Loud,” and is just as good, full of upbeat jams and some slower ones (although those are the weaker tracks), helmed by top hitmakers.

Calvin Harris, a singer and DJ from London, produced the album’s best track and lead single, “We Found Love.” He works with mega-hitmaker Dr. Luke on the danceable “Where Have You Been.”

Rihanna’s secret weapon is Ester Dean, one of the best songwriters in contemporary music. Dean co-wrote seven of the 11 tracks.

Rihanna is raunchy throughout the new disc, and it works. She’s downright nasty and demanding on the addictive “Birthday Cake,” produced by The-Dream and Tricky, and she’s schooling her man in the bedroom on the fun “Watch N’ Learn.” We’re not sure if anyone else could get away with having these played on radio. Rihanna did it with “S&M,” and will surely do it again.

Her slower songs need work: “We All Want Love,” produced by No ID (Kanye West, Common), drags, as does the album closer “Farewell,” helmed by Alex da Kid. –Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press

Can, “Tago Mago: 40th Anniversary Edition” (Mute)

Can is the sort of band that frustrates and delights in equal measures, a band that music lovers become obsessed with in college and either abandon in their early 20s or listen to for the rest of their lives.

A pillar of experimental rock ‘n’ roll, the German group’s varied discography can be intimidating to approach, but there are a few sure bets, and “Tago Mago” is one of them.
This seven-song double album (some tracks clock in around 18 minutes) is remarkable for a number of reasons, from the groundbreaking use of percussion to the balance of sinister and playful, precise and slapdash. Perhaps its greatest achievement is its ability to inhabit so many styles at once.

“Tago Mago” — and the best of Can’s ’70s output in general — is a lesson in context. These avant-garde musings may sound surprisingly palatable to some contemporary ears, but their deliberately repetitive, obtuse, groove-driven structures were the definition of cutting edge upon “Tago Mago’s” 1971 release.

Four decades on, “Krautrock” may be just another sharpened stick in the music blogger’s arsenal, but you can still detect the stirrings of any number of now-pervasive genres (trance, jamtronica, noise-rock) in tracks such as “Paperhouse” and the groovy “Oh Yeah.”

Of course, some experiments remain as grating as they’ve always been, such as the tongue-tied, frequently tuneless “Peking O.” Resident screamer Kenji “Damo” Suzuki’s vocals are less performance than percussive aid on this track, if only because they lack the sublime, almost religious determination of “Halleluwah” and “Bring Me Coffee or Tea.”

A superfluous but interesting second disc provides a 1972 snapshot of Can in all its live glory, but it’s not the main attraction. For the average music geek, this remastered “Tago Mago” is a much-needed blast from the past — and the reason why bands like Radiohead and Queens of the Stone Age worship at Can’s weird, brilliantly damaged altar. –John Wenzel

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John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.

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