March Music Reviews
Hole of Burning Alms
Dave Pajo has possibly the best indie music resume of anyone
recording. He has played with Slint, King Kong, Palace,
Tortoise, Stereolab, and Royal Trux. As a solo artist he
has been recording since 1995 as Aerial M, M, and later
as Papa M. Hole of Burning Alms is a compilation
of some of his strongest singles from 1995-2000. Most of
the disc consists of deceptively simple guitar/bass/drum
tracks but as the disc progresses drum machine and subtle
electronica are mixed into the blend. Pajo's take on "Turn,
Turn, Turn" (a song I thought I never needed to hear
again) is lovely. A great record for anyone who missed out
on these singles the first time around.
- Steve Raskin
Under Achievers Please Try Harder
Another band that sounds like Belle and Sebastian,
but one of the better bands that sound like Belle and Sebastian.
The cover image (which combined with the title seems dated
in a nineties, geek chic kind of way) was in fact taken
by B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch. Plus, like Belle and
Sebastian, Camera Obscura are from Glasgow. Derivative sound
aside, Under Achievers Please Try Harder is one of
the best records so far this year. Unless you're one of
those people who think retro-folk-pop music with ironic
lyric is for fags (and there are plenty of you out there),
this record is sure to please.
- Steve Raskin
Greatest Palace Music
Some people hate the lonesome and raw vocal style of early
Will Oldham from his Palace days. I'm not one of those people.
I love his newer records recorded under the Bonnie "Prince"
alias, but will always have a softer place in my heart for
his earlier, rawer work. Nevertheless, I was happy to hear
that the man of many aliases was re-recording Palace's greatest
tracks instead of simply repackaging them on a greatest
hits disc. If you prefer Bonnie "Prince" Billy
to Palace, you will love this record. If it's the other
way around for you, you'll still really like hearing reinterpretations
of some of your Palace favorites. Either way, this is an
enjoyable record through an through.
- Steve Raskin
Bows and Arrows
( Record Collection)
This is a highly anticipated record for me. I have seen
the Walkmen play a few times in the past year and they have
featured many of these songs like “Little House of Savages”
in their set. I find a lot of it familiar, and at the same
time it’s a whole new chapter. Their idea of a song has
expanded and there are more vocally challenging bits on
this one. I think two years of playing live together has
benefited the band. Songs like “The Rat” bring in a more
new wave feel. But others like “No Christmas While I’m talking”
show more of the exciting heroic range of the band. I took
a friend to see them recently. He is one of those people
who believe that little has been done in music since Jimi
Hendrix. I couldn’t believe that he was able to keep quiet
and watch the band play for a full hour. They were that
good, that they even interested the most jaded. They are
a band to check out.
Since this is the first Stereolab disc recorded following
the tragic, horrible, heartbreaking death of Mary Hansen,
the biggest question in most fan's minds is how the band
will handle her loss. Though no mention of Mary can be discerned
in the lyrics, the band seems to be paying her homage by
sounding more inspired than they have since " Dots
and Loops." The record sounds exactly like the last
several -- no surprises, no innovations, and a little too
familiar -- but it will please fans nonetheless. Margerine
Eclipse is simply too melodic and breezy to not enjoy.
And this time around, the songwriting is refreshingly stronger
than it has been on the last several outings.
- Steve Raskin
Vincebus Eruptum, a five-armed metal monster native to
Providence, R.I., leaves behind eight tracks of ugly mono-metal
on its debut full-length for Load Records. The band's precise
execution and uncanny ability to force so much passion out
of their one-note symphonies makes up for their somewhat
retarded, cathartic lyrical transgressions and brown reason
Monotonous pounding, crashing cymbals, distorted gravel-vocals,
sawtooth guitar chords, undignified rumblings -- this is
the soundtrack to Vincebus Eruptum's "Blood Orgy"
-- "smoke dope / snort coke / drunk broke / no hope
/ no hope / no hope / no hope" etc...
This isn't your older brother's heavy metal, unless your
older brother listened to Eyehategod and The Melvins. With
Vincebus Eruptum, maintaining a demented plateau of intensity
trumps any sort of progressive composition or skillful soloing.
Besides, who's got time to string different time signatures
together when there's the existential necessity of contemplating
the mystery of "Black Socks" -- "the longer
you wear'em / the stronger they get / i wanna wash'em /
but something inside says not yet / not yet, not yet / not
yet, not yet" etc...
Vincebus Eruptum's eruptions straddle a fine line between
serious metal mosh-ups and deranged excursions into toilet
training and repetitive stress syndrome. Listeners are excused
for proceeding with caution, but don't blame me if you actually
get into it.
- John Rickman
- Aw C'mon
Lambchop - No You C'mon
Two simultaneously released records that are fairly indistinguishable
from one another. If you liked Lambchop's last record "Is
a Woman," you'll dig both of these. They are very similar
to the band's last release, though a tad more sophisticated.
Both records are filled with sleepy, piano-filled ballads
and there are some undeniably inspired moments on each.
Most, we suspect, will be left wondering if the band is
on Oxycontin since both records are so relaxing that they
ultimately put you to sleep.
- Steve Raskin
"Old Cuts and Blunt Knives"
Sweden's Crowpath, the first European signing on the prolific
and tinnitus-inducing Robotic Empire label, lays down eleven
tracks of righteous technical metal on their new full-length
"Old Cuts and Blunt Knives."
"Knives" contains every one of their previously
released tracks in remastered form for an American audience,
and also includes two brand new tracks as yet unheard on
From the first note of their first song, "Like Flies
to Flames," I couldn't help but hear a very American
sound. The Swedish quartet's turn-on-a-dime chord progressiveness,
galloping drum roll and blast-beat style, and vocal gruffness
is astonishingly similar to that of Atlantan metal-masters
Mastodon -- but perhaps in a way that is more immediate.
And while they may also be significantly less pretentious
and arty than their American counterpart, they just don't
seem to have a sound that's new or original. Sure their
execution is spot-on, and their drummer's ride cymbal rolls
are mind-blowing, but I've already marched with the fire
ants and strode with the behemoth, baby.
on the Radio
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch and Go)
Brooklyn's own TV on the Radio surprised the indie music
scene last year with the amazing EP, "Young Liars."
Across the board, the critics raved and "Young Liars"
made the number two spot for the best of the year on this
site (see the rest here).
Their much anticipated full length Desperate Youth, Blood
Thirsty Babes (due to hit the shelves in March) is very
enjoyable, but a sidestep in the wrong direction. With a
much, much looser production, the band's syrup thick sound
has been transformed into something that sounds, well, a
little thin. Desperate Youth starts well with the
pulsating pop of "The Wrong Way," followed by
an abbreviated version of "Staring at the Sun"
and the beautiful new track "Dreams." Unfortunately
most of the tracks to follow, suffer from their own roughness
and feel in need of a manicure. Nevertheless, it's hard
not to respect a band who have the balls to try something
different the moment they get noticed by critics. Given
the genius and brevity of "Young Liars," I simply
wanted more of the same.
-- Robert Lanham
We wanted to like this disc. We like Morr Records, and after
hearing so many average double disks lately we thought maybe
someone was up to the task of recording a successful double
album. Truth be told, Welcome Tourist is a perfectly
listenable collection of glitch and electronica with an
ambitious piano-driven 45 minute song included on side two.
Unfortunately, it's one of those records that you forget
is on until it is replaced by silence at its completion.
Perfectly nice, perfectly dull.
- Steve Raskin
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
Alexander Laurence calls it the curse of FREEwilliamsburg.
Last year we gave the album of the year award to Liars and
they broke up. This year, the award went to My Morning Jacket
and the same thing happened. We were excited when we discovered
that Liars had quickly reunited, albeit with a new drummer.
Hopefully My Morning Jacket will follow suit. Unfortunately,
listening to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a
grueling experience. The drunk, chaotic, post-punk sounds
of earlier Liars recordings have been replaced by a droning,
pulsing, electronica-filled mess of a record. People who
like to listen to music because it's "challenging"
may like this record. Everyone else should avoid it.
- Steve Raskin
Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection
When my Mom bought her powder blue 1973 Cougar (deluxe
luxury edition) it came with an 8-track player. Being that
my Mother was of a fair and generous nature each child in
the family got to pick out one 8-track each to inaugurate
our collection. The cartridge family. My choice was "Fragile"
by Yes. What I would give to have that 8 track again, but
I'm afraid it has been lost in the vast junk pile of obsolescence
so endemic to our culture. Similarly all of the prog rock
stars of the 1970's have been ejected long ago like so many
well-worn carts (that was lingo for cartridge back then).
In the years that followed I saw them three times. The
first concert they played second bill warming up for Black
Sabbath (also my favorite band at age 15) at Winterland
in San Francisco. It was like billing Einstein with a Neanderthal,
a great combination. My experience of listening to Rick
Wakemen do an extended solo while I was summarily whacked
on White Doubledome (a brand of LSD), Cross Tops (amphetamine
in pill form), Wahakan (named after a place in Mexico where
they grow bunk weed) and Jack Daniels (you know what that
is) is forever etched into my brain, or whatever is left
of it. The second time I saw them headline at Winterland
with resplendent stage sets, massive lighting and fog, as
well as Quadraphonic sound. The third time I saw them at
the Oakland Coliseum. They played perfectly, but it wasn't
quite the same as their (and my) burgeoning years. Soon
all things progressive were to fall into the grand abyss
created by the Sex Pistols never really to respectably come
back. Until now?
Oddly just a couple of weeks before I had heard of the
release of The Ultimate Yes 35th anniversary collection
(now you know how old I am) I made a special trip to Amoeba
Records with a sudden pent up demand to hear Close To The
Edge, the first (and I think best) side long cut that Yes
had produced. Truly this track is something very ultimate.
I couldn't decide if it was ludicrous for all of its ornate
detail and turgid grandiosity, or a fine accomplishment
for popular music. No one would argue that these were daring
and masterful experimenters. Their message was a surreal
and open-ended tribute to the new age values of love and
cosmic awareness. I guess I really think although corny,
(there was no Dada in their surreal), their goals as spokespersons
for the time were fulfilled with a bang. Make no mistake,
for this kind of music they were the very best by a long
I love listening to the three CDs in the set. It is camp
nostalgia and great music at the same time. Is that not
the perfect formula? They are touring the U.S. later this
year. Maybe its time for me to see them for the forth time.
Attention promoters, send me those tickets!
-- Rex Bruce