This week has seen new single releases from West Coast rapper Ice Cube, electronic rock band PVRIS, indie-pop group Wolf Alice, and desert rock supergroup Queens of the Stone Age. I listened to each, to establish whether, in each case, the wait for new material was worth it.
Ice Cube – “Only One Me”
Following on from last Friday’s “Good Cop, Bad Cop”, which saw veteran East Coast rapper Ice Cube detail inflamed tensions regarding police brutality in America, this week the gangsta pioneer dropped “Only One Me”, and the two tracks share notable similarities. “Only One Me” rides on a confrontational, unflinching horn-based beat, providing the perfect backing for Cube to restate his claim to hip-hop’s mantle of ‘hood credibility – the Californian wants no-one to forget that he “taught 2Pac how to keep it gangsta / I showed Biggie Smalls how to release his anger“. Unlike some rappers from the original ’90s gangsta scene, Cube hasn’t let the intervening years dampen his ability or his attitude. There’s only one Ice Cube, and he’s here to stay.
PVRIS – “What’s Wrong”
American three-piece PVRIS won over the rock/alternative genre community with their 2014 debut White Noise, and this week released “What’s Wrong”, the second single from their upcoming second LP following last week’s “Heaven”. Their sound, a blend of electronic, rock, and hardcore influences, with lead vocalist Lynn Gunn’s wide-ranging vocal talents, is just as potent here as it was three years ago. Stellar production value and atmospheric vocal sampling lift “What’s Wrong” to a place of raw, intense emotionality, with its latter section defined by Gunn’s screams of “No-one ever sold my soul“. With their new material, PVRIS are only strengthening the qualities which had already made them a band to watch.
Wolf Alice – “Yuk Foo”
Wolf Alice, female-fronted British four-piece indie outfit, walked a line between raucous, care-free insolence (“You’re a Germ”) and woozy, wholesome pleasantries (“Bros”) on their diverse 2015 debut My Love Is Cool. Their first new music since then, “Yuk Foo”, takes the former sound and releases it back into the wild as a feral beast – from the off, “Yuk Foo” is an abrasive, tireless tirade of drums and distorted guitars, but it’s singer Ellie Roswell who owns the track, with unapologetic vocal savagery used to deliver lines like “You bore me to death, you deplore me / Well I don’t give a sh*t“. In all its deranged glory, “Yuk Foo” not only destroyed the peace, but also any preconceptions about what a second album from Wolf Alice could sound like. Less Alice and more Wolf, probably.
Queens of the Stone Age – “The Way You Used to Do”
Following up a masterwork like 2013’s Like Clockwork… would be a challenge for any artist, but if anybody can pull it off, it’s American hitmaker Josh Homme and his ever-changing band of troubadors, the Queens of the Stone Age. Since the late ’90s, Homme and co have produced nothing but dark, raunchy, swaggering desert rock stompers, and while new single “The Way You Used to Do” boasts a swinging, ragtime rhythm, it’s largely a springboard for the band’s traditional busy drums, sinewy guitar lines, and Homme’s charming lyrical turns – “Is love mental disease or lucky fever dream?” he asks, “Fine with either“. This, and the teased snippet of another new song, “Feet Don’t Fail Me”, provides a tantalising view into what could prove to be another classic Queens release, and another sultry success story in the Homme canon.
Josh Will Eden