Getting Vinyl Minded with Excellent Sum 41, Keane, Billy Idol and Steve Conte LPs

Sum 41

Heaven X Hell (Rise)

Gatefold, blue/black vinyl 2LP

Apparently, Heaven X Hell is Canadian pop-punk band Sum 41's last ever album. A lot of bands say that and then go back on their word, so we'll see what happens. But for now, they're done.

That said, it's been a while since we've really thought about Sum 41. A lot has happened since their 2002 sophomore album Does This Look Infected, and the "Still Waiting" single, and we were surprised to learn that their final album is their eighth.

We should go back and revisit, because Heaven X Hell is a great piece of work. If the double album is themed that one disc is heavenly-themed while the second is southbound, that's not immediately obvious. The Heaven side has song titled like "Bad Mistake" while Hell has "Rise Up."

There may be a message there, something to do with tempering expectations. Or maybe it's a metal-esque, AC/DC "Highway to Hell" celebration of darkness in a wonderfully kitschy way. Whatever, the 20 songs on these two LPs are superb. Their debut album was called All Killer No Filler, and that rings true here, 23 years later.

The blue and black vinyl is gorgeous and the album art is on the fun side of hokey. All told, this is a magnificent way to bow out.


Hopes and Fears 20 (Island)

20th anniversary, limited edition blue 2LP vinyl

Where does the time go. Two decades ago, Sum 41 and Keane were fresh-faced indie darlings and now they're either splitting up or, in Keane's case, releasing the 20th anniversary edition of their beloved debut album.

Keane balanced precariously on the line separating the poppest of punk and chill indie rock. If Coldplay just had a little more about them, they could have been Keane.

They never topped their debut, and this monster edition is most welcome. It's been remastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, and it's packed with b-sides ands rarities alongside the original tracks.

The singles, such as "Somewhere Only We Know" and "Everybody's Changing," are still a thrill, but the rare tunes on the second LP make this nostalgic trip one worst taking.

Steve Conte

The Concrete Jangle (Wicked Cool Records)

Orange vinyl

For those not familiar with the name Steve Conte, he's the guy who had the unenviable task of replacing the irreplaceable Johnny Thunders when the New York Dolls reformed in 2004.

Conte was the man under the spotlight for his six year spell in the Dolls; naysayers cited Thunders as the one member the Dolls couldn't reform without. But to his immense credit, Conte settled into the role. It always felt that he and the other Dolls were paying tribute to Thunders, rather than replacing him.

Later, Conte joined Hanoi Rocks man Michael Monroe's band, and did a great job there too. His solo career, however, often goes unnoticed. The Concrete Jangle isn't his solo debut, but it is a solid slab of rock 'n' roll.

Collaborating with XTC's Andy Partridge, Conte has created an impressed collection of power-pop and punk-fuelled rock with a glam edge.

"I pulled out all the stops to make this my most melodic, hard power-pop, Beatles-eque, rock 'n' soul album to date - with lyrical themes I haven't explored before," Conte said. "I cannot stress how much Andy Partridge contributed to this record - it would not exist without him and his input. I’ve given him a co-production credit for helping with the arrangements of the demos, which were ultimately followed when making the final record. To my earlier point, it is the listeners who have have proven to me that I’ve become better on this record because they’ve thought that some of my lyric and melody lines were Andy’s - which is the highest compliment."

Songs like "Hey Hey Hey (Aren't You the One)" and "Motor City Love Machine" are anthemic rock anthems, and frankly we need that right now. The orange vinyl is hot, as is the sleeve art by Rich Jones.

Billy Idol

Rebel Yell (Capitol/Universal)

40th Anniversary 2LP Deluxe Expanded Edition

Rebel Yell is a bonafide '80s classic. A year after the self-titled debut dropped, 1983 saw the former Generation X frontman cement his standing as the snarling, anthem-spewing rock 'n' roll artist that we know and love.

This expanded edition to celebrate its 40th birthday is a reminder of how great prime Idol was, blessed with the swanky guitar stylings of Steve Stevens. They old classics sound better than ever here: the title track, "Eyes Without a Face," and "Flesh for Fantasy" in particular.

But there are also eight bonus tracks, including "previously unreleased demos and session recordings," and they're a ton of fun to dive into too.

The Poolside Remix of "Flesh for Fantasty" is a trip, while the cover of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" is surprisingly lovely.

The 2LP set is also available of colored vinyl, but even in black, the packaging is gorgeous.