The Breeders, Clinic, Phantom Planet

The Shotgun is a monthly column of shotgun reviews by Glide contributor Eric Saeger.

The Breeders, Mountain Battles (4AD Records)

Ignoring the resumes of the band members – Kim Deal from Pixies alongside Throwing Muse Tanya Donelly, who isn’t in this lineup – we’re left pondering what would become of such an album.  After all, to the 20somethings of today, the late 80s – Pixies’ heyday – may as well have been when Abraham Nixon or whoever was president, or am I right?

"Overglazed" rolls out the album in the now-boring alt-rock equivalent of intro-skit fashion, Cool Record Store bombast coming from patented Cool Record Store toilet-guitars, cardboard-box drums and Deal’s voice lost in a cyclone of reverb while singing the line "I can feel it" as if to convince herself – they may as well have titled this "Say Hello to Another Rad Alt-Rock Album."  Same dilly with "Bang On," dolled up in stale vocal effects, dissonant no-wave chants, etc., and "Night of Joy," in which Yoko Ono meets Nancy Sinatra fronting Figurine, and finally "We’re Gonna Rise" (ditto).

Note that by now I’m supposed to have gone grand-mal over the devilish coolness of it all, but I seemed to still have had a few synapses available to take in the Pixies-esque "German Studies," which isn’t bad.

Clinic, Do It!  (Domino Records)

An opening slot for Arcade Fire’s recent Euro-tour didn’t sway Clinic from their irresistible eccentricities but instead put a bigger, more cartoonish voodoo-bug in their ear (they must have fantasized long and hard about sticking it to those Roquefort-nibbling AF fans, really).  The new depths of dissonance are to this album’s detriment only if you were rooting for the band’s finally going from bridesmaid to bride, but they’re devoutly indie to the end, a Black Sabbath to Arcade Fire’s Zep.  
Clinic is now well-settled into working out of their own studio, where their bizarre collection of antique keyboards is unpacked, all pieces ready to use.  If you’ve been missing Iron Butterfly, "High Coin" feeds the need, and the blaring Titanic steamer-horn in "Mary and Eddie" adds brilliant drabness to the band’s hippy-beach-bonfire guitars, the Jesus & Mary Chain vibe they aspired to and surpassed long ago.

Unfortunately, no amount of wizzer organic hocus-pocus can cover up the band’s lack of melodic growth, exemplified most dramatically by "Winged Wheel," a phoned-in copycat of "Gideon" from last year’s Visitations LP.  All know-it-alling aside, however, fans of Raveonettes, BRMC and all their fuzzy brethren will get a lot out of any Clinic record, even this one.

24E, From Stagger To Wind (Jupiter Records)

Brandishing an odd, ear-sticky brew of Van Morrison jangle, Maroon 5 cool-breeze and a crypto-ethnic vocalist, Travis Tingley, whose voice falls in the middle of the two BoDeans guys, 24E took full advantage of their southwest California locale for this record, recruiting Cristina Aguilera/Jacko producer Rob Hoffman to capture their low-key bar-band sound.  "She Moves Me" kicks off the album with the hardest edge they want to run with, a little Van Morrison duking it out with a lot of New Radicals.  "Deeper" is pure BoDeans in mid-tempo strum-mode, down to the Bon Jovi inflections, but Tingley isn’t done morphing at that point, proceeding to whip out a husky Aaron Neville-gone-wild nick for "Love Is," accompanied, appropriately, in Linda Rondstadt fashion by Heather Holly.

Michael Schenker Group, In the Midst of Beauty (Inakustik Music)

Comedy of errors on the listing for this one – release date and, until recently, the track list are/were incorrect.  Lack of attention to detail aside, this is a good example of Schenker’s way with “commercial” metal, with plenty of axe-burning runs and one or two bombastic minor-chord  tearjerkers.  A can’t-miss album for completists of this type of stuff, the keyboards are handled by Ozzy conversation-piece Don Airey and the bass by Whitesnake guy Neil Murray.  Gary Barden’s chalky, low-end Bruce Dickinson vocals are of average timbre but fit the setting (it’s all about the Flying V) as well as one could ask for.  Opener “City Lights” is the most “On and On”-like stomper since, well, “On and On,” but the guitar sound is, thankfully, a leap forward, possessed of a trancelike rapture that indicates Schenker is still into tweaking his sound after all those years.  “I Want You” befits “Perfect Strangers”-era Deep Purple.

Crash Romeo, Gave Me the Clap (Trustkill Records)

Yeah, Crash Romeo, you WISH you gave someone the clap.  But that’s what’s good about these guys – the irrepressibility of not just their somehow-innocent youthfulness or their big hooky been-there-done-that emo tunes, but their geekiness.  Where the guys in Bowling For Soup are the very essence of lardy, hopeless mama’s boys, this Crash Romeo are Revenge of the Nerds, a power-trio-plus-frontgeek bunch you want to see get the chick someday, harmless misfits damned to a suburban purgatory. 

The subtext, if you want to see it that way, is clever marketing, but these hapless Romeos play the part so well that you almost want to send over your sister to teach them how to French kiss.  Nothing new whatsoever in the music department if you’ve ever heard Hoobastank or Good Charlotte, ad infinitum, but if it’s originality you crave, go download Deaf Pedestrians and leave this crew alone – God knows they’ve had enough dope-slaps and whatnot in life. 

A New Revolution, Rise  (Koch Records)

Please kids, don’t scare me.  The revolution will not be texted in from your iPhones – those are the things you’ll be smashing first.
And it won’t comply to standards, as this nu-metal record does every chance it gets.  No subtlety save for the invisible synth lines that raise goosebumps on the easily impressed; essentially you could play a Papa Roach album backward and get the same bang for your buck. 

Chinstraps, flavor-savers, a Mohawk, and one misfit guy who looks like he got roped into the band after getting fired from 7-11 – you know they’ve got checkerboard slip-ons on their feet and their moms cover their couches in plastic.  And of course the singer, who wants to sound evil and ragged and bloodthirsty, but he listens to Slipknot and doesn’t own any Ministry albums.
“Cool guitars,” you say?  You mean those digitally compressed, docile little Pekinese-doggy wave-forms tuned down low to spread total f33r o’er the land?
Note to self:  Build a bunker!

Whitesnake, Good to be Bad (SPV Records)

Times have changed for the most Freudian-named band of all time.  Tawny Kitaen is nowadays more famous for her psychobitch mug shot on than her soft-core slithering over David Coverdale on MTV, and Coverdale’s lower vocal range had a tough time in the studio for this first outing in 10 years.  

Ravaged by time though the band is, this record is in many ways one of their best, revisiting the days leading up to all the cumbersome 80s-hair nonsense, ie this is a flashback to 1984’s Slide It In, again with all due respect to Sigmund.  (One endearing aspect to this new release is Coverdale’s disclaimer to us hateful press jerks, saying in incalculably measured words that even if we maul this album with our keyboards he’s proud to go down with this ship.) 

Thing is, there’s nothing to hate if you’re gunning for slow-poke hair-metal ballads sung over millions of layers of guitar and mile-wide snare-drums.  The slickest song – “Best Years,” a very nifty rewiring of the 12-bar blues idea – is put out front as the opener, a sign that Coverdale assumed the position of a nobody-newbie fighting for his artistic life.  This accomplished, he indulges in a few familiar Zeppelin nicks (“Lay Down Your Love” is a modified “Black Dog”) and “Love Ain’t No Stranger”-like ballads, ending the record with tasteful strings and barely-there drums in “Til the End of Time.”

Dub Syndicate, Overdubbed (Groove Attack Records)

With the weather starting to turn in the other crummy direction toward the usual sweltering, soul-baking hell, it’s time to summer-ize your car’s available cubbyholes with CDs apropos for the season.  One economical choice is Overdubbed, which is simply the first disk of Dub Syndicate’s Rasta Far I 2-disk set, a tour-de-force of all that’s good and modern in dub reggae.  This is old Syndicate territory remixed by former drum n bass guy/Massive Attack producer Rob Smith, who’s possessed of a disciplined but itchy trigger finger for blowing up the sounds of busted-cymbal-rattles, trance-inducing samples and spoken-word stoner-rants with mega-cheesed reverb and the like.  Wouldn’t have mattered much if he’d gone completely mental at the mixing board (and it’s close), as even the most casual reggae afficionado will be left a melted pool of ice cream behind the wheel on the way to the beach before the halfway point of the record.   Highlights include Yasus Afari’s ghetto-kiddie rhyme flow in "Jamaican Proverb" and U Brown’s righteous bellowing in the straight-ahead stomper "Lion King."  

Phantom Planet, Raise the Dead (Atlantic Records)

A single brush with commercial relevance (the song "California," which became the theme for TV’s The O.C.) remains Phantom Planet’s sole claim to fame, that and drummer Jason Schwartzman’s cartoon-oval head, which co-starred in I Heart Huckabees.

Being that Schwartzman is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, one would have expected them to have broken a little bigger than their current position by now, but this generation of rock critics isn’t as fond of oligarchies as previous ones have pretended to be, so, after more than a decade of making ennui-drowned Strokes-inspired surf-rock, they’ve decided to cast their lot with style over substance: the music is still a slop-pile of soul-less Strokes leftovers, but now with new and improved skronk, Pavement monkeyshines and various Brian Johnstown distractions.  Their corporate handlers will be shoving "Leader" into your ear pretty soon, not that it’s all that interesting but because it has little kids singing on it – hopefully your finger is at its ideal weight for quick-changing the radio station this summer.

The Duke Spirit, Neptune
(Artist First Records)
As chick singers go, Liela Moss is a breath of fresh Turkish-cigarette-scented air for middle-road rock fans fed up with lonely bug-eyed waifs and faux-butch leather-jacketed yellers.  Mature but jaded in all the right ways, very akin to Feist doing hard, genuinely edgy alt-rock, Moss has been around the block enough times, but many of those trips were chauffer-driven with Bjork and My Bloody Valentine in the CD player.  Unlike MBV, however, the faster tunes aren’t like staring at an approaching swarm of flying monkeys through a rain-spattered window; tonally innovative shoegazing is present but playing a secondary role to organic guitar rock, all of which conjures a natural grooviness often remindful of The Cult’s first album.  "This Ship Was Built to Last" testifies to that – picture Raveonettes jamming with George Thorogood on an 80s hair-band anthem.  Perhaps the most captivating effort, though, is "The Step and the Walk," where Moss redlines the mixing board in identical fashion to Grace Slick. Later, "Send a Little Love" translates to Billy Idol on estrogen.

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome.  Email [email protected]

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