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May Music Reviews

Blood Brothers
Burn, Piano Island, Burn!

I know that if I were to bitchslap the lead shrieker in the Blood Brothers, he would shriek real good. And he's got the kind of voice that makes you think about hitting him…kinda mincing sometimes, kinda whiny other times, really shrieky most of the time. This shrieking could be a deal-breaker for a lot of listeners, but not me: just because I want to bitchslap him does not mean I don't love him (reminds me of something I saw in a Meredith Baxter-Birney movie).

If you enjoy The Dillinger Escape Plan (especially their release with Mike Patton), or anything by Refused or Drive Like Jehu, or just shrieking in general, then The Blood Brothers' Burn, Piano Island, Burn! will make your dick hard/cunt wet. (If you're put off by such phrases, then, please, go buy some John Mayer and listen close when I say: your body is a dick-cunt-dick-cunt-dick-cunt.)

The Blood Brothers have two vocalists, both of whom do some screaming, but one who takes lead shrieking duties over the other's muttering obligations. There are guitars (four- and six-string), there are drums, some keyboards, highs and lows, softs and louds, and plenty of shrieking. Some recordings are described as visceral, but on very few of those recordings can you actually hear the viscera being disengorged from the body. The lyrics can be abstract, which doesn't always make for the best shrieking material, but it's not much of a drawback.

Opening with "Guitarmy," a 33 second menace, this CD is unrelenting on all twelve tracks. Other stand-outs include the title track, "Ambulance vs. Ambulance" (which I read somewhere is "the single," though I can't imagine where it would be so…I picture a Clear Channel programmer slapping this CD on, listening for the single, and then going home to gut his wife and children), and "The Shame." There is even a track with a little acoustic guitar, which, thankfully, gives way to much louder guitars and shrieking.

This is a kick-ass CD for kids and nihilists of all ages, and wherever Piano Island is, am I sure that it's burning. One more thing about this wonderful recording: it has some shrieking on it.

--Matt Casper

Jaga Jazzist
Animal Chin EP
(GSL)

Heavenly. Heavenly music. Angels strumming harps, choir boys hitting octaves in upper registers. But for this review I offer a literal, redefinition of heavenly music; as the sounds actually played in the favored afterlife - in the hallways, the Elysian fields, on the long, slowly moving line to the hallowed pearly gates. How could you pick one group whose music would appeal to an audience of nearly infinite size and variety. Maybe you could focus group with Jaga Jazzist, a 10 member Norwegian jazz juggernaut who incorporate so many different styles into their repertoire that a track by track review of their new EP would paint me schizophrenic (band members moonlight with such differing units as Röyksopp, Jazzkammer and Motorpsycho). With their foundation solidly rooted in jazz, you can expect nothing less than expert musicianship, yet it's the divergent styles that spawn from their jazzy sound that make this ensemble really special. Animal Chin is more or less a sampler for audiences on the left side of the Atlantic, touching on the various sonic touchstones of their two full-length releases, 2002's A Livingroom Hush and the forthcoming Ninja Tune release The Stix.

Released on GSL, it is no doubt a disservice to the band that their record will wind up primarily in the hands of indie kids who will undoubtedly and immediately reference Tortoise. But as Tortoise begins to literally exhibit the languid torpor of their namesake, Jaga Jazzist embrace the upbeat energy of the vibrant European dance community and stitch it into the headphone fabric of intellectual post-rock and glitch. Like early Red Snapper, Cinematic Orchestra, Lake Trout and yes, at times even Tortoise, Jaga Jazzist have been pigeonholed into a niche auidience that belies their ubiquitous appeal - they should be playing to rock crowds, jazz heads, indie kids; any and all who appreciate virtuoso musicianship that pushes creative boundaries. Perhaps a bore to read about, but a pure delight to listen to, even if you're stuck on line in heaven and can't even manage a Snickers bar to hold you over.

--Steve Marchese

The Forms
Icarus
(Three Spheres)

I'm growing tired of writers labeling every rock band specializing in minor chords, soft/loud dynamics and earnest vocals as "emo." Without getting into a conversation about the definition of the term, I hold steadfast to the opinion that The Forms are anything but. This enigmatic 18 minute "album" of driving, empowering rock has been employed by few bands over the last couple of years, making it nearly impossible for me to accurately compare them to any one act. But what good is a review if not to provide a mental collage of a band you have yet to hear. Produced by Albini and marked by the ever-successful combo of taut stops/starts and swelling guitars, The Forms resurrect the lineage of great deceased power rock acts like Arcwelder and Hurl, and at times can build to the propulsive payoffs of early Sunny Day Real Estate, Seam and Hum. It is a solid, teaser of a debut - one step forward, one head nod back - and the Brooklyn trio exhibits a refreshingly conscious desire to do their own thing despite the musical trends of their locale.

--Steve Marchese

Tokyo Sex Destruction
Le Red Soul Comunnitte Has The Pleasure to Introduce…
(DimMak Records)

Four men with funny accents, mod haircuts, black clothing, white belts and monochromatic ties playing a souped up blend of garage and soul mixed with hyper-political anti-capitalist lyrics. Sound familiar? Spain's brilliantly named Tokyo Sex Destruction may receive an A for stylistic effort on their American debut. They look the part and even have matching last names (Sinclair), in their attempts to invoke the spirit and style of such past greats as the MC5, the Ramones and Nation of Ulysses. Musically the band does an equally successful job of sounding like their respective influences. Tracks like "She's so fine", "You gotta do it" and "Black money" feature the soulful call and response vocals, guitar solos and handclaps that one could expect from any band delving into the world of political soul inflected garage rock. Yet it is the bands supposed selling points that is, in the end, the weakness of Le Red Soul Comunnitte. Every song is apparently, albeit competently, cut from a play by numbers Detroit songbook. The album is chock full of style and high intent, but it lacks the innovative grit needed to fully carry its message across to listeners whose ears have suffered under a deluge of similar bands within the past few years. The only truly stand out track is "Don't make try your love (song about love, about soul music)" due to its pleading vocal breakdown where the band begs you to love and to love soul music as well. Tokyo Sex Destruction may be trying hard to win our amorous affection but its going to take a lot more than what has become a cookie-cutter formula to win over little more than a handful of converts

--Charles Ubaghs

The Essex Green
The Long Goodbye
(Merge)

Post-punk, electroclash, neo-garage, anti-folk, no wave - in these complicated times the nondescript descriptors abound. Nearly gone are the days when categorizing music didn't require a glossary. Lucky for us bands do still exist that fit snugly within genre lines. The Essex Green, for one, play pop music (indie-pop if you must), and they play it extraordinarily well. Brooklynites by way of the Burlington, Vermont, the Seekers-esque trio is filled out by Sasha Bell and Jeff Baron, also of the Ladybug Transistor, and founding member Christopher Ziter. Drenched in bewitching melodies and rich harmonies their second full-length, The Long Goodbye, recreates the sounds of the '60s with songs more authentic than atavistic. The highlights are many: Bell's affable flute passages and blithe vocals, Baron's eloquent guitar lines, and the anthemic rocker "The Late Great Cassiopia" to name a few. The Long Goodbye's tuneful, feelgood refrains are instantly memorable after the first play, unforgettable after the second. Alas, at 38 minutes in length, this Long Goodbye, as any other, is far too brief.

--Daniel Schulman

Evan Dando
Baby I'm Bored
(Bar None)

During Evan Dando's career with the Lemonheads, his knack for crafting deliriously fetching pop songs was routinely overshadowed by media scandalmongering covering his escalating drug abuse and sordid offstage antics. Following the 1996 release of the Lemonheads' last album, Car Button Cloth, Dando absconded from the public eye. Maintaining a low profile, he surfaced over the years for rare live appearances and released Live at the Brattle in 2001, a double-disc spotted with acoustically rendered Lemonheads standards and alt-country covers. Drug-free and recently married, Dando has at last returned from the breach with his first collection of new material in seven years.

On Baby I'm Bored Dando's path of self-inquiry manifests in a diverse collection of songs from stark folk musings, to clap-happy pop ballads, to rumbling honky-tonk serenades. Each song like his private confessional, Dando ruminates on the machinations of love, indulging destructive desires, and loss of identity. Occasionally his soul-searching turns up a jarring strain of truth. "I can't believe how far I slipped/But secretly I'm glad I did/Can't believe how far I slipped/I guess I had to see," he sings on "The Same Thing."

Oddly, the track that appears to find Dando's self-awareness at its pinnacle, "All My Life," was penned by Ben Lee. Dando lays claim to it as if it were his own. Stretching his meditative tenor over a sparse acoustic backdrop he croons, "God knows what I thought I'd do/I bit my own sweet heart in two/All my life I thought I needed all the things I didn't need at all."

Bracingly sincere and infinitely catchy, Baby I'm Bored picks up where Dando left off years ago. Most Lemonheads fans will agree it's sure good to have him back.

--Daniel Schulman

The Kills
Keep On Your Mean Side
Red Meat Heart/Rough Trade


This is one of those CDs that has been on my CD rotation for over a month now. I have it all literally memorized. It is much better than their "Black Rooster EP." I saw them play last summer in what seemed like some recreation room in some industrial park. They played about six songs to thirty people. They have spent the rest of last year trying to be Bonnie and Clyde to a media who loves every minute of it. And they have made so many "Cool New Band" lists that it's hard to see them in an original way. Part of this is their own manipulation. Who is Kid Tsunami? Why do they use fake identity papers and old typewriters. Whatever their public persona may be doesn't matter; we will always need junkie scumbags, to make us feel better. "Fried My Little Brains" and "Fuck The People" are great songs nonetheless. How long will this band last? Will they kill each other? Only the future knows.

--Alexander Laurence

V/A
"Drum Machine Madness" 7"
(Robotic Empire) http://www.roboticempire.com/

Robotic Empire - a label based out of Reston, Virginia - has just unleashed a new one-sided, colored vinyl 7" compilation featuring five tracks by five bands that specialize in pre-programmed, end-time grind anthems. The bands on "Drum Machine Madness" share a common fascination with technical metal composition as well as a calling to "raise the flag of programmed deviation" in the face of heavy metal and hardcore purists who look upon drum machines as a kind of cheating.

Canadian artists WADGE begin the proceedings by exposing their machine's canned presets, clunking them clumsily at first, before ripping into breakneck blastbeats. The song speedily transforms itself from a cheeky beatbox breakdown into a grindcore frenzy, complete with vocalized anguish and heavy, six-string riffage.

The programmed beats of ALIEN CRUCIFIXION whip by like a machine gun, providing a whirlwind backdrop for their guttural, grave-digging death metal sound. AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED, who are perhaps the most popular drum machine-propelled heavy rock band since Big Black, have the single's final say, and reveal rhythmic programming and percussion sounds that sound damn-near close to the "real" thing.

Real or not, the rhythmic compositions these heavy rock guitarists rock out to create the same crushing effect that such heavy rock demands, the effect of which ultimately results from the human touch. This approach arguably represents a paradigm shift - one that opens the door for more complex and technical approaches to a style of music most commonly associated with simple chord changes and high volume.

--SK

Mr. Velcro Fastener
Deep:Inside Vol.2
(E:motion)

Everyone loves a good mix tape, mp3mix, or cd-r mix, depending on how well you've caught up with the latest technology. Some folks like to make them even more than listen to them and have the process down to a science - as portrayed by Nick Hornby's Rob Gordon character in High Fidelity.

Such is also the case with Tatu Peltonen and Tatu Metsätähti, the Finnish duo known as Mr. Velcro Fastener. For the second volume of e:motion's Deep:Inside series of mix cds, the two artists have compiled a collection of old, underground favorites as well as more recent tracks they describe in the liner notes as meaningful to the their recording career as Mr. Velcro Fastener. The disc also comes with detailed information on the tracks themselves. Much of the tracks they chose reflect the duo's own melodic, electro-soul sound and includes one of their own numbers, "Testarossa".

The collection is unmixed and features some classic techno tracks, such as The Black Dog's "Sharp Shooting On Saturn," one of the best tracks from their impossibly hard-to-find second album. Older tracks like "Bike," from Autechre's first album, and "Worm In My Foot" by Doctor Rockit also re-emerge on this collection. The Finnish duo show their appreciation for classic Detroit sounds with the inclusion of Kenny Larkin's "Tedra", as well as their taste in pure pop with their choice of tracks by the likes of Mouse On Mars and Fujiya & Miyagi.

Are you the type of person that feels completely overwhelmed by over-stocked techno record stores? Do you love electronic music but have no digital-friendly friends to make you that sort of special mix? Then this is the mix for you.

--SK

Calla
Televise
(The Arena Rock Recording Co.)

"Strangler" starts things off with a wiry guitar phrase reminiscent of Television and I brace myself for another rehash of all that is fashionably post-punk. But the moment vocalist/guitarist Aurelio Valle opens his mouth, the mood shifts to something more langourous. "Something's gotten into your head," he breathes, and it has, it's that sensuous VOICE. Distanced yet intimate, sexy without meaning to be, it's the voice you hear as you drift off to sleep late at night - if you're lucky.

Girls have been spotted pretending not to swoon at Calla shows. I've seen Calla twice and was promptly won over by Aurelio's low-key charisma on stage, his smooth black hair falling over his face, his calm demeanor and above all that VOICE and those obliquely sad lyrics pulling me out to sea. It's a voice that emanates a narcotic unease while somehow offering warmth and comfort. I'll bet he gets stalked a lot at Kim's Video (I've heard he works there).

But the Voice is merely one color on Calla's sophisticated, carefully controlled yet fluid musical palette. The weaker Calla songs tend to drift to no purpose or perhaps they're simply meant as mediations. The stronger songs, such as "Strangler," "Customized," and "Televised" (grittier, more caustic) often start slowly, in measured tones with liquid bass lines. Then they build almost imperceptibly to scale more dramatic heights. For example, on "Don't Hold Your Breath," continuous shakers, slow, minimal guitar lines and a melodic bass wrap themselves around Aurelio's incantation: "This day is dead." "if I could tell you I would..." "I thought I saw you crawl back for more.." Sleigh bells and phased guitar accent this and then the guitars gather volume and strength, the drums segue into a march with cymbals splashing and the whole thing blossoms into something truly epic. This is music to dream by - or maybe songs that take the place of dreams.

-- Laura Markley

The Vue
Babies are for Petting
(5 song EP on RCA)

This music makes me want to drink bottled beer, wear cowboy boots and get picked up at the bar just like people did back in the 1970s. They'd kill me for saying this, but I think their sound, especially on the amazingly catchy first track, "Look Out For Traffic," is like the Strokes meet the Stones. And I mean that in the best possible way. It's got that Stonesy, blues-based raunch with keyboard, harmonica and world-weary vocals contributing to an Exile on Main Street vibe. But there's something wiry and contemporary about the guitars on "Look Out." That song's instantly memorable, upbeat guitar riff makes me giddily happy even after innumerable listens. Also, The Vue's drums are very dynamic and propulsive, giving the music a post punk urgency. There's a psychedelic underbelly, too, in layered, repetitive song structures that work to keep the buzz alive. And somehow they fuse all these influences to come up with their own sound.

"Babies Are For Petting" (what is that, Michael Jackson's Neverland theme song?) brings it down a notch, with a laid back, see-saw rhythm and lyrics I can relate to: "if you stay up late you can compensate/you can sleep all day." An unexpected touch: Atari game sounds followed by a backwards guitar break. On the last track, "It Won't Last," everything collides in an exhilarating cacophony with the guitars, keyboards, drums and cymbals spilling over each other in a mad, accelerating bliss.

"I want more than anything/to see my friends in the magazines/to dress you up in my favorite things/but mostly I wanna be free/ 'cause I know that it won't last." "It" may not last, but The Vue's CDs will enjoy a long shelf life in my collection.

-- Laura Markley


 

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