Painkillers finds Fallon trading the punk stylings of his main band for an attempt at a singer-songwriter record (read: an acoustic-based affair). Fallon does a little experimenting, too: “Long Drives” sports some country-rock flavor and “Mojo Hand” is a solid bar band impression. The anthemic nature of his writings remain, too – “Smoke” and “Nobody Wins” match the highs of his best sing-alongs. Lyrically, it’s not as heavy as TGA’s Get Hurt; however, Fallon still sings about the pain of lost love and past mistakes. Painkillers is gravelly-voiced jangle-pop that’s polite, inoffensive, and without risk. On those terms, it’s a success.
Kendrick Lamar’s glorified B-sides collection from the TPAB sessions. As a window into his creative process, it’s infinitely fascinating. As anything else, not so much. The wonderfully broken jazz of Butterfly is on full-display here, allowing Lamar room to explore every possible mental alleyway. His trust in his listeners to follow him regardless of how weird he gets is his greatest strength and weakenss. The brevity here (34 minutes) is welcome, despite an aimless, eight-minute stitch-job. As both rapper and writer, he’s the best alive. Still, as with TPAB, this demonstrates the difference between being an artist and making art.
First things first: this isn’t Super Collider 2, thankfully. Aided by newcomers Chris Adler and Kiko Loureiro, Dystopia sees Megadeth righting the ship: in this case, a return to the radio-thrash of Countdown and Youthanasia as the basis for Mustaine’s songwriting. There are killer guitar parts (“Dystopia”, “Bullet to the Brain”); flashy solos (“Death from Within”, “Conquer or Die”); and overall memorable songwriting (“The Threat is Real”, “The Emperor”), a welcome distraction from Dave’s cringe-worthy lyrics and high school-level rhymes. Despite that, Dystopia isn’t a bad record per se but it’s not particularly interesting or essential, either.
He hired a free-form jazz band. He sings, “Where the fuck did Monday go?”, and sings in the language from “A Clockwork Orange”. He opens the record with a 10-minute mutating pop gem. This is David Bowie making music for himself and all the while giving no fucks. Blackstar may be Bowie’s weirdest album—which is saying something—and it’s easily his best in 35 years. Saying goodbye is certainly a morbid note to leave on, but what a note it is: “I’m not a pop star/ I’m a blackstar”. Indeed your are. Your genius will be missed.