The September Music Guide
Sharpen Your Teeth
Casanova has been with us officially (or at least in an
acoustic sense) for about two years or so, really, thanks
to Edgar Graham, a fan of Isaac Brock's Modest Mouse, who
shared some of his songs with the MM boys backstage during
a tour about four years ago. From that brief collaboration,
a brand-spankin' new side project for Brock, with Red Red
Meat's Brian Deck; Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession;
Califone's Tim Rutili; and John Orth of Holopaw, was created.
Four years later, Ugly Casanova has finally released their
first full-length album. Yeehaw and Amen.
Sharpen Your Teeth rocks out, lo-fi style, with
blended sounds that vacillate between rocks hitting your
car's windshield ("Parasites" & "Diamonds
on the Face of Evil") to sweet lullabies suitable for
cooing to the nearest baby ("Hotcha Girls"). Sharpen
Your Teeth could be called interactive listening since the
track progression creates a narrative with Brock's lyrics
to keep you on your toes, guessing what to expect next.
Trippy, melodic tunes bookend the album as "Barnacles"
kicks off the ride and "So Long to the Holidays"
slows everything down to an easy coast before coming to
a safe stop. Along with Brock, Deck who also helped produced
infuse a bluegrassy, from the hills-hick-twang
sound we've grown accustomed to from Brock's earlier MM
efforts. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this album
is Brock's lyrics which, on such tracks as "Cat Faces"
and "So Long to the Holidays," retain Brock's
signature depressed, on-the-verge-of-death-so-I-can-explore-the-vast-universe-appeal
that MM's first major label release: The Moon and Antarctica
hit us with a few years ago.
When I heard about the release of this album I skeptically
wondered whether this was merely Subpop's way of appeasing
us with wasted-talent-on-side-project-junk as we awaited
Modest Mouse's newest effort to hit the streets. As it turns
out, I am not only delightfully appeased but also blissfully
surprised. As side projects go, Sharpen Your Teeth has a
lot of great twists and turns. While Ugly Casanova is not
Modest Mouse, it's a kick booty way to return to Brock's
world once more. Hit play and listen often.
Space Monkeys vs Gorillaz
"Laika Come Home"
maybe the joke is a little too cute.... you know, Gorillaz
and Monkeys. And maybe the Gorillaz record has been a tad
overhyped and was a little bit too cute in the first place
as well. And wasn't there just a B-sides Gorillaz collection
released a couple of months ago? True, true, and true a
third time. But should you stop the franchise by not purchasing
this album? Absolutely not. That is unless you want to miss
out on a great time.
Space Monkeys (who have done nothing worth noticing up to
this point) have remixed this baby of Damon Albarn and Dan
the Automator to a dubby splendor. Beautiful brass arrangements
aside, there is nothing new or cutting-edge about this collection,
but fans of dub will find Laika Come Home to be infectiously
catchy. And what's that you say...you can't stand Damon
Albarn? Fear not, his voice has been all but removed from
a majority of the tracks. What remains is a ghostly echo
of his nasal draw accentuated by the la la las of Miho Hatori
and bounding bass galore. This would have been a great chill
out record for early summer, but with its late release I'll
be listening as the air grows crisp as I lament the pathetic
fate of that poor dog, Laika.
-- Robert Lanham
one enjoys loungey retro-rock more than me. Jim O'Rourke's
Insignificance was one of my favorites of last year.
And I've always been a huge fan of Prewitt's Sea and
Cake. When I picked up his most recent record, Three,
a few weeks ago, I assumed it would be a sure thing for
me. Sadly, I was mistaken and found myself wishing I had
bought that Kinks record I had decided against instead.
To be fair, Three isn't horrible. It is just exceptionally
dull and sounds derivative of most of the retro seventies
pop rock coming out of Chicago these days (which makes Three
derivative time two). There are even a few catchy tracks
at the beginning of the disk. During my first listen, I
remember actually digging the record until about track 4
when the unforgivable occurred; the keyboards licks began
to sound a tad like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and the violins
unmistakably like Kansas. I ran to my disk player and skipped
forward to track 10 "Sister Ice," a lovely track
that almost redeems the rest of the album. Almost.... those
ELP-sounding licks and an overall lack of energy ultimately
suffocates this bland record.
-- Robert Lanham
Virginia music lovers and art-school students who supported
the local underground music scene around 1991 enjoyed the
output of a unique circle of talented artists and musicians
whose dark and experimental approach delighted the town's
multitude of drunken, tattooed punks desparate for stylistic
unity in the face of indie rock's rising tide of influence
The artists in question effectively merged the town's penchant
for math-metal and heavy doom-core with their own tastes
in industrial and electronic music. None of the bands they
formed (Brainflowr, Sliang Laos) leaned as heavily on electronic
sounds as Malacoda, which revolved around the chunky beat
sequences of Rob Guess, the sonic guitar of Scott Hudgins,
and Andrew Sigler's occasional trumpet blasts and rhythmic
Originally released on cassette, "Datura" has
been lovingly re-released on the Arms Vs. Legs imprint,
a label run by a rabid fan and friend of these early 90s
Richmond scenesters. Completely instrumental, the sound
of "Datura" combines evolving rhythmic sequences
and distorted guitars to create brooding end-time anthems.
"S-Kill D", a brief teaser, sets the stage with
its slow, ritualistic rhythm and rising horn, summoning
forth Malacoda's ominous movements. The wailing guitar makes
it's first appearance amidst the crawling chaos of "Llo
Silva", weaving in and out of synth stabs, sampled
scratches, and funky-clunky beats.
"Datura" is generally pretty rhythmically inspired,
the sequenced beats enjoying their place at the center of
each track, however there are some nice ambient numbers
as well, providing fluid transitions and thematic mood.
Malacoda later went on to join the World Domination roster,
releasing the slicker sounding "Cascade" full-length
in 1997. However, the dark shroud of "Datura"
was lifted to reveal a somewhat mainstream sounding disco
pop, gaining few followers, and leaving their original fanbase
Now that "Datura" has received its digital debut
almost twelve years after it's original release on cassette,
Malacoda's vision can be effectively reinstated in the hearts
of its fans and hopefully introduced to new followers of
distorted, doomsday funk.
friend Mr. Lif is not one to mince words... or in this case
The cover for his long-awaited album Emergency Rations
features two nearly identical pictures: simple iconic drawings
of planes dropping ordinance on houses and their residents.
Nearly identical; the first image is of planes bombing and
in the second planes dropping rations on those same bomb
victims. The effect is as polarizing as it gets and achieves
much more than a simple "Parental Advisory" could
ever hope to. You're either with or against him, and you
can't pretend to be astonished by anything said on this
If you've guessed that the picture is in direct relation
to the Bush administration's bombing campaign in Afghanistan,
then ding-ding-ding, all those hours of CNN haven't dulled
your powers of deductive reasoning. In this world of Eminem's
brand of attention grabbing antics that have the effect
of lyrical pork rinds (tastes good for a bit, but leaves
you feeling greasy and bloated) it's refreshing to see that
someone has taken up the mantle of being an asshole for
an actual purpose. Let it be known that there is nothing
sacred for Mr. Lif in this "Post 9-11 world".
The man is in no mood to beat around the... ahem... bush
and has made it known that Emergency Rations is his soapbox
and you are his passing audience. And what better way to
introduce you to his world where questions are mandatory
and fear is a defense mechanism than such an (un) ambiguous
picture. In the news we're allowed the separation of media
coverage, time lapse and spin to make the pill a bit easier
to swallow... when it's presented as two stark yet similar
pictures side by side, then it's that much harder to dodge.
Yes, Emergency Rations is one of those albums, and at the
same time it isn't. Channeling the spirit of Public Enemy
and Rage Against The Machine, Mr. Lif does a lot of looking
over his shoulder on this release. The intro track is basically
a conversation between two individuals, Akrobatik and Brotha
PC, discussing the disappearance of Mr. Lif, and how it's
related to his "speaking the truth" (the gag is
carried through the liner notes where Akrobatik notes that
he "would've liked to thank his parents"... luckily
his captors saw fit to let him perform at a Def Jux release
show). It's a fitting introduction, as it lays out Mr. Lif's
philosophy in a clever way: people openly believing what
they're told, the need to question government and everything;
a prevalent theme throughout. Then there are also other
tracks, like one that merely talks about respect for hip
hop's culture (Pull out your cut) and a beautiful throwback
to an earlier style of rhyming and DJing on Get Wise '91.
In this way, it's a politically-heavy album, but not solely
To call the album preachy would be unfair, only because
it doesn't really come off that way. It's too creative and
aurally sure of itself to feel mired by the message, but
the message is definitely in the forefront. Luckily, as
the result of several producers (including Mr. Lif himself),
Emeregeny Rations never feels boring in the music department.
That the tracks are put together by so many personalities
gives the album a good amount of texture and the feeling
of not quite knowing what the next track will hold. Throughout,
Mr. Lif is lyrically strong and has the ability to change
styles from song to song as the mood dictates. Given the
strength of his live shows, you don't expect anything less.
You may not know what to think of Emergency Rations by
the time it all comes to a close. It's an enjoyable listen,
but there are one or two problems. Most noticably, it's
a damn short album, proving that Weezer isn't the only group
adept at stuffing a lot of material into 30 minutes. Especially
after such a fierce ender like Phantom, I felt like there
was still more to come... eight tracks, and one of them
is an intro? Grrr.... but that intro track was actually
necessary (for once) as it frames the rest of the album.
Then you may not be a fan of Mr. Lif's world philosophy,
which would certainly be a problem, because he has no problem
presenting it. The especially incendiary "Home of the
Brave" pulls no punches as it describes "how they
killed us, 'cause we've been killing them for years".
The possibility of being offended by this album looms high,
while others may just not be in the mood for his brand of
paranoid rantings... if you see his words as such, that
Emergency Rations deserves more regard than that, really.
Is it a message album? Definitely, but it's not a chore
to listen to for that reason. Mr. Lif signs albums by saying
"Question what you're taught". This album should
make you question why more music can't be more things to
is an all-star Danish trio who are also known collectively
as Future 3, and individually as Opiate (Thomas Knak), Dub
Tractor (Andreas Remmer), and Acoustic (Jesper Skaaning).
Reformed to explore the dubby, clicky sound of chill minimalism,
the System experience fails to break any new ground and
manages to provide fans of the Berlin-influenced genre with
perhaps the sleepiest example of glitch-pop yet. There are
nice sounds to be found on this self-titled release, but
they never seem to go anywhere special.
Simulated melodica sounds and plinky guitar pickings abound
but never really get to skankin' and only tease the listener
into indifference after awhile. The miniscule rhythms crackle
and pop but ultimately fizzle for lack of a bassline. True
to minimalist form, the tracks leave a lot of space open
for the listener's imagination to fill in, but the trio's
overall lack of a unique vision unfortunately fails to ignite
the senses. They seem to be working from a blueprint that's
already been put to use by their contemporaries and labelmates,
and fail to bring anything new to the dubby, glitchy style.
System displays an adept sense of craft, but the end result
of their efforts simply cannot be recommended by this reviewer.
Free All Angels
have liked Ash for many years now. I even saw them play
in late 1998 during CMJ. This was during the time of Nu-Clear
Sounds which many consider their worst album. Ash was
formed in Belfast around 1993 when Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton,
and Rick McMurray were still in school. Their first mini-album
Trailer was released in 1994. The band released their
best album two years later called 1977, when they
were all still teenagers. They were called Bratpop. Songs
like "Kung Fu" and "Girls from Mars"
made them famous. They got much more attention in 1998 when
they added guitarist Charlotte Hatherley. Their record Nu-Clear
Sounds tanked and their fans moved on to JJ72. Their
experiment with being into New York City and heavy rock
and being like an Irish Jonathan Fire Eater failed. They
were quiet for three years. The drug addiction then started
and Ash was getting calls from Behind The Music. They have
come back with one of the biggest albums of the past year
with Free All Angels.
"Walking Barefoot" reminds us of Ash's fascination
with NYC punk. It's a return to their earlier sound and
is a great summer song. Once you get to "Shining Light"
you know that the excitement is back and all is forgiven.
Its big chorus of "Burn Baby Burn" will remind
you why you loved Ash in the first place. "Pacific
Palisades" is like a punk Beach Boys. It is about their
experiences in California and echoes the intensity of the
opening track. Most bands get to their fourth album fully
sucking. Ash has evolved. The American release also includes
a DVD and three bonus tracks.
Burn and Shiver
are interested in Azure Ray at this point because they hang
out with Moby and The Faint. Band member Orenda Fink is
becoming the Justine Frischmann of the Athens/Williamsburg/Nebraska
axis of cool. With the support of Moby and producer Eric
Bachmann, Azure Ray have improved nearly every aspect of
their essential formula. Burn and Shiver is twelve
songs of ambient ooze. It's a marriage of Julie Cruise and
Electroclash. It is Leonard Cohen with a vagina.
The first two tracks "Favorite Cities" and "The
New Year" have a sense of being displaced and being
trapped in urban landscapes. Eric Bachmann has brought in
more inventive percussive elements than those found on their
debut. "How You Remember" has the most memorable
hook, and is the strongest song on the album. Some songs
sound like a tribute to Beth Orton or Dot Allison. With
Burn and Shiver, Azure Ray will massage the ear.
The Little Pacific
discovered this Long Beach band when reading about them
in one of the local papers recently. Greater California
are a quiet, exotic and subtle band, full of breezy melodies
and moody moments. They are hard to describe. They sound
like they are doing their own thing and don't remind me
immediately of any other band. They may be seen vaguely
as stoner music that would have found itself comfortable
in the mid 1970s. There's a sort of studded optimism in
their music that is sort of infectious. There's a psychedelic
edge to their music mixed with a California-ness recalls
the band Call and Response.
They seem at times like a jazz group wanting to be a pop
group, as on "Waiting" which may be the best song
on the album, with the haunting chorus of "Everything
is just fine." You can tell that you are in the presence
of something special. You just can't put your finger on
it. Since most bands in Southern California are these horrible
punk bands who are only good for a laugh, it's a surprise
that Greater California can co-exist here. Don't they feel
like getting tattoos or stripper girlfriends? They seem
uninterested in the junk culture that surrounds them. They
don't resort to snobbery really. They just want to be floating
on Highway 1 with a pleasant tune in their head. What more
can you ask?
our collective search for clarity and comfort following
September 11th the music industry anted up its answer --
tributes, covers, and re-hashings of patriotic standards,
most of which felt forced and flat, a compulsory gesture
to a grieving nation. Just the national tragedy, it seemed,
to roil the country set into churning out the musical equivalent
of "These Colors Don't Run" bumper stickers and
"Osama, Yo' Mama" t-shirts -- epitomized, perhaps,
by Toby Keith's shameful cowpoke poetics on his chart-topping
single, "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue."
("And you'll be sorry that you messed with The U.S.
of A./'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American
way.") Keith's tribute succeeds only in portraying
his own ongoing personal struggle with rhyming.
Bruce Springsteen's first collection of new material in
seven years, The Rising, -- songs inspired largely
by the terrorist attack and its aftermath -- seemed doomed
to follow the same lackluster path. It wouldn't have been
his fault either. Scoring a tragedy of this scale without
inadvertently blaspheming the victims and the heroes, without
making the events appear small and distant, seemed nearly
impossible. Springsteen pulled it off, though. He addresses
his subject matter with compassion and subtlety, and thankfully,
keeps any cheese-ball sentimentality to a minimum.
The Boss has spent the bulk of his career painting vivid
images of American life, narratives told from the perspective
of factory workers, miners, and highway patrolmen - blue
collar workers largely forgotten by popular music. He connects
with his audience, because he speaks to them, for them.
Fittingly Springsteen's tribute is the first to graze the
topic of September 11th with taste, honesty, and power.
Backed by the E Street Band for the first time since 1987,
Springsteen cycles through a collection of songs ranging
from high-spirited rock numbers, to soaring spirituals,
to sparse folk ballads. Lyrically, he doesn't provide answers,
he doesn't preach love or vengeance; he simply echoes our
confusion and sadness with wrenching, slice-of-life anecdotes:
a firefighter who "disappeared into dust" ("Into
the Fire"); the survivor's guilt of a man who lives
to read about his heroism in the local paper ("Nothing
Man"); a widow's incomprehension -- "Pictures
on the nightstand/TV's on in the den/your house is waiting/for
you to walk in" ("Your Missing").
The Rising is not without its low points. "Let's
Be Friends (Skin to Skin)," an up-tempo love song,
briefly throws the somber through-line that ties the album
together. A clinker or two, however, is not enough to dampen
Springsteen's inspired message, or offset the impact of
his monumental achievement.