May Music Reviews
Burn, Piano Island, Burn!
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
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.
Animal Chin EP
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.
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.
Tokyo Sex Destruction
Le Red Soul Comunnitte Has The Pleasure to Introduce
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
The Essex Green
The Long Goodbye
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.
Baby I'm Bored
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
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.
Keep On Your Mean Side
Red Meat Heart/Rough Trade
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.
"Drum Machine Madness" 7"
(Robotic Empire) http://www.roboticempire.com/
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.
Mr. Velcro Fastener
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.
(The Arena Rock Recording Co.)
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
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
-- Laura Markley
Babies are for Petting
(5 song EP on RCA)
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
"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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