Tracks of the week reviewed: the Hotrats, Rihanna and Chai

This week weve got a chewy take on a Kelis classic, a husky slow jam and a beguiling piece of art-pop

The Hotrats


In lockdown, where Pringles dipped in peanut butter is an acceptable breakfast, its hard to know what we actually need. Do we really need a Kelis cover from Gaz and Danny from Supergrass? Is it actually a chunky, wonky, thigh-slappy hoot, or is it like slamming through a pack of Tunnocks before Bargain Hunt ie, Its Just Something To Do? Difficult to say. I think its magnificent. But then again, I havent left my flat for three weeks and just ate a whole a jar of jalapeos.


No More Cake

Cabin fever or not, this box-of-frogs whopper from artsy Japanese four-piece Chai absolutely bangs. Look at you, thats way too much / Your face is made up like a cake! they wail in prissy unison, over what sounds for all the world like Bjrks Army of Me and Nine Inch Nailss Closer nipple-twisting each other to death at a sexy party. The cake is a metaphor for makeup. Of course it is.

PartyNextDoor ft Rihanna

Believe It

Where has Rihanna been? Not a peep from her for three years, then out of nowhere she sticks her head above the parapet to wibble five words on this not wholly unpleasant yet instantly forgettable conjugal jam, before shes off again, disparu. Lovely to hear her dulcets, but for the Ri-Public thisll be like a nicotine patch, or screaming into a pillow because you want to go outside: itll take the edge off, but not for long.

Jess Williamson

Infinite Scroll

Time did unfold like an infinite scroll seems prescient at the moment, but rather than watching all three Lord of the Rings films while you languish in the Ocado queue, Austin tunester Williamson is deconstructing societys addiction to social media, making its languid desert-pop genuinely heartbreaking.

Kings of Leon

Going Nowhere

Few phrases these days conjure as little excitement as theres a new Kings of Leon song. And this is basically Oasiss Songbird, only with all that songs affable, doofus charm sucked out, so it sort of just plods hither and thither like a dying dog. Young people: KoL used to be good, honest. This, though, is toilet.

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Abba announce first new songs for 35 years

Swedish four-piece take to Instagram to announce two releases that will form part of an avatar tour project

Abba have announced that they have written and recorded their first new songs since they split in 1983.

The Swedish four-piece, who had nine No 1 hits in the UK between 1974 and 1980, and who have sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide, announced on Instagram that they had recorded two new songs for a project in which avatars of the band will perform.

The band said in a statement: The decision to go ahead with the exciting Abba avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence. We all felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio. So we did. And it was like time had stood still and we had only been away on a short holiday. An extremely joyful experience!

One of the two new songs that resulted, called I Still Have Faith in You, will feature in a TV special to air in December.

The statement concluded: We may have come of age, but the song is new. And it feels good.

Abbas Bjrn Ulvaeus revealed details of the bands forthcoming project in Brussels earlier this week. The centrepiece is the two-hour TV show co-produced by NBC and the BBC, which will see the band perform as computer-generated avatars. Ulvaeus said the band had been digitally scanned and de-aged to look like they did in 1979, when they performed their third and final tour.

The avatars are then set to tour the world from next year.

Abba formed in Stockholm in 1972. They comprised two couples: Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fltskog; and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, all of whom had enjoyed musical careers in Sweden. The group burst on to the international stage after winning the Eurovision song contest in Brighton in 1974 with their song Waterloo.

From the mid-70s until they split, Abba built up a formidable arsenal of global hits including Knowing Me, Knowing You, Take a Chance on Me, Dancing Queen and The Name of the Game all of which reached No 1 in the UK.

Fltskog and Lyngstad were the lead singers; Andersson and Ulvaeus composed the songs. Never less than impeccably produced and performed, Abbas records were critically disdained at the time, but their popularity has endured. Their 1992 compilation Abba Gold has sold 30m copies more than 5m of those in the Britain and spent 833 weeks in the UK album charts.

Their jukebox musical Mamma Mia! debuted in the West End in 1999 and is still running both in London and worldwide; its website claims that it has been seen by 60 million people in 440 cities.

The stage show was adapted into a film in 2008, which grossed $615m (447m) worldwide. A sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, will be released in June. The actor Lily James who is set to appear alongside the cast of the first film including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Colin Firth told the BBC last week: Theres lot of songs in there, lots of new ones. Lots of ones, actually, that werent in my repertoire of Abba and I think theyre going to be huge hits again, and reawaken the love of Abba.

Abbas split in 1983 followed the divorces of both couples. Ulvaeus and Andersson went on to write two musicals, including Chess a revival by the English National Opera opens on Friday in London before largely devoting themselves to Abbas legacy. Fltskog and Lyngstad have kept much lower profiles, though Fltskog long claimed to be a recluse returned to pop music with an album, A, which was released in 2013.

The group have long held out against lucrative offers to reform they were reported to have been offered $1bn to play a concert in 2000. In 2014, Ulvaeus told Billboard: you will never see us on stage again we dont need the money, for one thing.

Peter Robinson, editor of Popjustice, described the announcement as the biggest pop news of the 21st century. Most fans grudgingly admired Abbas refusal to record new music, but I think we all sometimes daydreamed about the band possibly, maybe, one day having a rethink at the right time, on the right terms and for the right reasons, which seems to be whats happened here. He added: Its a pop miracle.


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Tom Petty: US rock musician dies aged 66

Frontman of the Heartbreakers died on Monday night in Los Angeles after he suffered a cardiac arrest

Tom Petty, the rock musician whose hits included American Girl and I Wont Back Down, has died in California aged 66 after suffering cardiac arrest.

Petty was reportedly rushed to the UCLA Santa Monica hospital after being found unconscious in his Malibu home, but could not be revived.

We are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty, his manager Tony Dimitriades said on behalf of the family.

He died peacefully at 8.40pm surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.

The singer-songwriter and guitarist gained fame in the late 1970s with his band the Heartbreakers, who were seen as an integral part of the heartland rock movement.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2002, praised them as durable, resourceful, hard-working, likeable and unpretentious.

Petty was originally part of country rock band Mudcrutch, which gained regional popularity in Florida but did not attract a mainstream audience. They split after Petty and other members joined the Heartbreakers, later reforming in 2007.

In 1977 the new outfit gained success with the song Breakdown, but it was their second album Youre Gonna Get It! that became a Top 40 hit.

Throughout the 80s, the band enjoyed major hits including You Got Lucky and Change of Heart, collaborating with Bob Dylan as well as Stevie Nicks. Petty continued to work with Dylan as part of the Traveling Wilburys, alongside Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2002. Photograph: Ed Betz/AP

Its shocking, crushing news, Bob Dylan told Rolling Stonein a statement. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and Ill never forget him.

Petty also enjoyed solo success but always returned to the Heartbreakers, releasing their final album in 2014. I dont see that I have anything to offer as a solo artist that I couldnt do within the group better, he told the Sun. We get along so well its embarrassing really. Its a love fest!

The band had been on a 40th anniversary tour since April that finished last week at the Hollywood Bowl. In an interview with Rolling Stone in December, he suggested it would probably be his last.

Were all on the backside of our 60s, he said. I have a granddaughter now Id like to see as much as I can. I dont want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, thats a lot of time.

Petty was outspoken in his protection of the rights of artists, taking issue with record companies on a number of occasions about what he believed to be unjust practices. Earlier this year he was named MusiCares person of the year for his career-long interest in defending artists rights as well as for his charitable work with homeless people in Los Angeles.

Throughout his career, he sold more than 80m records worldwide.

Florida-born Petty caught the rocknroll bug after he was introduced by his uncle to Elvis Presley, who was shooting the picture Follow That Dream on location in Florida in 1960.

He said he began working on music in earnest after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964.

He would speak of being consumed by rock music since childhood, to the point where his father, whom Petty would later say beat him savagely, thought he was mental.

Awed by the chiming guitars of the Byrds, the melodic genius of the Beatles and the snarling lyrics of Dylan, he was amazed to find that other kids were feeling the same way. Youd go and see some other kid whose hair was long, this was around 65, and go, Wow, theres one like me, he said in 1989. Youd go over and talk and hed say, Ive got a drum set. You do? Great! That was my whole life.

Amid his successes, Petty also suffered dark periods during a career spanning five decades.

A 2015 biography of the singer, Petty: The Biography, revealed his heroin addiction in the 1990s.

Author Warren Zanes said in an interview with the Washington Post Petty succumbed to the drug because he had encounters with people who did heroin, and he hit a point in his life when he did not know what to do with the pain he was feeling.

Petty also suffered from depression, channelling his pain into 1999s Echo, during which he was also dealing with a divorce. In 2002, he married Dana York and said he had been in therapy for six years to deal with depression.

Its a funny disease because it takes you a long time to really come to terms with the fact that youre sick medically sick, youre not just suddenly going out of your mind, he said at the time.

An initial version of this story said Tom Petty had died, before this was officially confirmed. This was based on erroneous reports. The Guardian apologises for this error

Wire services contributed to this report

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Hotel California owner says Eagles’ trademark claim is ‘baseless’

The company behind the hotel in Baja California flatly denies trying to mislead travellers into thinking it is linked to the famous band

The owner of a Mexican hotel being sued by the Eagles for using the name Hotel California has called for the case to be dismissed.

Hotel California Baja, the company which runs the Todos Santos hotel in Baja California, said the band long ago waived its trademark rights, having waited four decades to assert them since releasing the song Hotel California on a 1976 album with the same name.

The owner flatly denied the bands baseless contention that the 11-room hotel sought to mislead travellers into thinking the property was associated with the band.

Any alleged use of plaintiffs trademarks is not likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake as to association, connection, sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of plaintiff, the owner said in a filing in Los Angeles federal court.

Lawyers for the Eagles were not immediately available for comment.

In their 1 May lawsuit, the Eagles said the defendant encouraged guests to believe the hotel was associated with the band, including piping its music through a sound system and selling T-shirts and other merchandise.

The hotel is located about 1,000 miles (1,609km) south of San Diego and 48 miles (77 km) north of Cabo San Lucas.

It was named Hotel California at its 1950 opening, underwent some name changes, and later revived the original name after a Canadian couple, John and Debbie Stewart, bought it in 2001.

US district judge Gary Klausner scheduled a conference in the case for 21 August.

The single Hotel California is one of the Eagles most famous songs and reached number one in the US charts in 1977 and number 8 in the UK. The album of the same name won the 1977 Grammy for record of the year.

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Harry Styles: Harry Styles review ticking every box on the Take Me Seriously checklist

This post-One Direction debut is a melange of musical homages that fails to reach the heights of Styles idols. But one thing it isnt is dull

Whatever else you may have made of them, you could never accuse One Direction of not following the script. Over the course of their career, they did everything boybands are supposed to do sell millions of records, tire of being objects of pre-pubescent desire, ride out tabloid scandal when blurry photos appear of one or more members smoking a joint, insist they will continue when a loose cannon member announces his departure, then split up a year later. Now, the bands former members find themselves doing the things former members of boybands always do: releasing pop R&B with arty inclinations, dabbling in dance music, or attempting to reinvent themselves as earnest acoustic singer-songwriters.

Harry Styles may have chosen the trickiest path of all. His debut album, Harry Styles, ticks every box on the Take Me Seriously checklist. Team of triple-tested songwriting help assembled, including platinum-plated hitmaker and former alt-rock artist? Tick: the credits include Uptown Funk co-author Jeff Bhasker and one-time indie singer-songwriter turned Florence + the Machine collaborator Tom Kid Harpoon Hull. Longest and ostensibly least commercial track released as debut single-cum-warning shot? Tick: the doleful six-minute-long ballad Sign of the Times. Songs that knowingly reference classic rock, including early-70s Elton John (Woman), the Beatles Blackbird (Sweet), U2 circa The Joshua Tree (Ever Since New York) and the Rolling Stones circa Sticky Fingers (Only Angel)? Tick. Slightly self-conscious stabs at sonic experimentation? Tick, not least a rhythm track punctuated by what sounds like one of those tin toys that moos like a cow when you turn it over being repeatedly inverted. Lyrics that attempt to address topics more grownup than dancing all night to the best song ever? Tick, up to and including the closing From the Dining Table, a bit of fingerpicked folk that opens with the diverting image of Harry Styles assuaging his loneliness by and in the forthright spirit of the song itself, let us not mince words having a wank.

In America at least, this series of manoeuvres already appears to have borne fruit. Styles is on the cover of Rolling Stone, the recipient of an extremely serious profile by Cameron Crowe, august music journalist, film director and, it would appear, stranger to the concept of Laying It On A Bit Thick: over the course of 6,000 words, he variously compares Styless voice to that of Rod Stewart in his prime, his backing band to the Help!-era Beatles, and the studio in Jamaica where much of the album was cut to Big Pink, the Woodstock house where Bob Dylan and the Band changed the course of rock music in 1967.

Without wishing to pooh-pooh the writer-director of Almost Famous and Jerry Maguires musical judgment, anyone who buys Harry Styless solo debut in the belief that its going to sound like a cross between Every Picture Tells a Story, Help! and The Basement Tapes may find themselves slightly disappointed. That in itself doesnt mean that its a bad album, merely that some people should calm down a bit in their efforts to convince the public that its all right to listen to music made by a one-time manufactured pop idol.

The debut largely avoids the biggest pitfall awaiting the boyband member keen to shed his old image, the belief that maturity is somehow signified by making music exclusively in shades of beige: only the dreary Two Ghosts sounds as if it was tailor-made to fit in between the factoids on Steve Wrights afternoon show. Styles is remarkably good as a confessional singer-songwriter, notwithstanding the sneaking feeling that spending his entire adult life as a member of a hugely successful boyband hasnt left him with a great deal to confess, beyond the fact that being trapped in hotel rooms is boring and having it off with an inexhaustible supply of attractive and occasionally famous ladies isnt quite as efficacious a cure for existential ennui as one might have hoped. Theres an affecting tenderness and emotional punch about the Nilsson-ish Sign of the Times and if you can get past the opening image of him, as he puts it, playing with myself From the Dining Table.

Not all the albums musical homages work: Styles is desperately ill-equipped for the rocknroll raunch of Only Angel and the glammy Kiwi. Alas, his voice sounds no more like Rod Stewart than it does Rod Hull, while the lyrics are a torrent of hoary pub-band cliches that suggest his heart isnt really in it: with a certain inevitability, the titular heroine of Only Angel turns out to be wait for it a devil in between the sheets. Others, however, are really enjoyable: Carolina sets a guitar part borrowed from Stealers Wheels Stuck in the Middle With You against a wall-eyed, Beck-like vocal and seasick strings; Woman, meanwhile, melds its Bennie and the Jets piano and Crocodile Rock backing vocals to a gauzy, echo-drenched, faintly psychedelic sound filled with retorts of fretless bass to brilliant effect.

You hear the latter sound again, stripped of its Elton references, on Meet Me in the Hallway, which may be the best thing here. For one thing, on an album that understandably finds him trying on a variety of musical costumes, with varying degrees of success, its the one that best suits his voice. For another, it doesnt sound obviously indebted to anything else. More of that next time and he might genuinely do what he clearly wants to do, and carve out a musical niche of his own in a post-One Direction world.

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