ARTIST: Eskimo Joe
RATING: 2 out of 5

From the distant shores of Western Australia comes the latest from critically-acclaimed, award-winning rockers Eskimo Joe.

Based in Perth and hitting big with two chart-topping albums in 2004’s A Song is a City and 2006’s Black Fingernails Red Wine, the group claim to have changed direction with this latest, middle-eastern influenced record, named for an Arabic word that translates to “God willing”.

As singer Kav Temperley has explained, much of the album was inspired by a trip to Egypt in 2007 and from the opening bars of “Foreign Land” that influence seems clear, with a haunting intro echoing out over a dark guitar riff, before finding its way to a catchy hook (and a subtle nod to kids tale Jack and the Beanstalk, and its message of the risk in dream-chasing).

Sadly, however, the eastern theme is abandoned all too quickly and by the time you hit tracks like “Losing Friends Over Love” and “Sound of Your Heart” the group has reverted back to bland rock beats and uninspired, generic lyrical content which grows tiresome very fast, and undermines the few highlights.

One can’t help but feel that Inshalla simply doesn’t break new ground, constituting a huge missed opportunity for the group.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

To be honest, I wasn’t actually aware that Yusuf Islam – the man formerly known to the world through his stage moniker Cat Stevens and responsible for a number of all-time classic songs like “Wild World”, “Father and Son”, “Where Do The Children Play” and “Moonshadow” – was still making music, until I happened to catch him perform live on The Colbert Report a couple of weeks ago.

When a copy of Roadsinger, his latest release, landed on my desk last week I knew I had to review it.

In fact, the first thing that struck me as I sat, listening through opening track “Welcome Home”, was how timeless Yusuf’s sound truly is.

That track, indeed the whole album, still bears the same warm voice and the same crisp acoustic guitar that was the hallmark of his work during the 1970s. Highlight tracks like “Everytime I Dream”, “This Glass World” and the gorgeous title track sound completely at home among any of Yusuf’s work.

Marked by subtle vocal harmonies and sly, ambiguous lyrics, Roadsinger is a journey down memory lane, reminiscent of a time when life was simpler and a man and his guitar could change the world.

ARTIST: Green Day
RATING: 5 out of 5

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Most music critics don’t like to admit that they enjoy the same songs or albums as the casual fan and arguably no group has demonstrated this as well as Green Day have with their last 2 albums.

Major music critics panned American Idiot upon its release in 2004, saying that Green Day had given up on their roots and released an album that pandered to a mainstream audience, many repeating those comments this month with the release of 21st Century Breakdown, with little understanding that the group had just decided they had something to say and went about saying it.

Breakdown is split into 3 smaller parts, subtitled Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints and Horseshoes and Handgrenades, loosely following a young couple as they deal with the mess left behind by the presidency of George W Bush and the “collapse” of American society. It would be easy to take a couple of highlight tracks out of context and without meaning, and assume the album is flawed in some way, but the truth is that Breakdown is a near perfect record, and will – I believe – be remembered as one of the best albums released not just this year, but this decade.