Glasvegas, Glasvegas (Sony Records)
Britain’s New Music Express touted this crew as the “Best New Band in Britain,” which, as you may know, is a scarily common outburst from that particular gaggle of geeks. This is actually cute in a way – it’s as if this band picked up a copy of How To Sound Like The Raveonettes For Dummies, and then, after avoiding listening to the Raveonettes, set about throwing a Raveonettes tribute together. So yes, it’s zit-hormone 50s-angst doo-wop swashed with slug-like Jesus & Mary Chain things, but what really strikes you at boot-up track “Flowers and Football Tops” is how much it sounds like End of the Century-era Ramones, and I mean down to the Joey adenoids. “Go Square Go” does all the right things, a gloomy-Gus leather-and-black-lipstick poseur dream of Warlocks trying to destroy “Runaround Sue” once and for all, but best of this tightly pigeonholed collection is “S.A.D. Light,” a notion of Tom Petty fronting Clinic. Sacrilege I know, but with this thing’s lack of subtlety I actually dig it more than Raveonettes.
[street date 1/6/09]
Babyland, Cavecraft (Metropolis Records)
This lot might as well have called themselves Critic’s Darlings for all the things they do right and wrong, the politically correct wrong referring to Dan Gatto’s singing voice, a ratchety, sloppy, deliciously noncommercial nick of a young Al Jourgensen after huffing a carton of Newports. Cheap techno production is your bag, baby, you say? Step right up and meet the Flashdance soundtrack as interpreted by a 16-year-old who just discovered hardfloor. This is music for and by poor kids, the ones who have more than a vague inkling of what dub and glitch can do but don’t have the credit cards to explode the world with it; ie we’re talking techno-punk as God intended, no goths in Kiss boots or Hot Chip middle-IQ-ers trying to bore the planet to sleep. Raw and desperate almost to the point of verism, this laptop duo – who started as an art project – are revolutionary reaction personified, just in time, even if the straights won’t ever bite.
[street date 2/3/09]
Outtasite, Careful What You Wish For (Rhyme Cartel Records)
The wheels grind on in the backpacker world, all the professed love for oldschool, which generally translate to stuffy (if unscrubbed) seriousness. If you’re more in line with oldschool as, you know “Old. School.,” a la Run-DMC/Sir Mix-A-Lot, ie throw a Flying V or some bull-in-a-china-shop funk in the mix because, like, who cares, this may help deaden the pain of all the revolting bling to which radio’s been subjecting you. Outtasite’s been around the block a few centuries; he’s got a credit on Mix-A-Lot’s 1996 track "Funk Fo da Blvd" under the name Fury, but this highbrow volume isn’t possessed of the funk and Hoover of a Mix-A-Lot fossil, instead opting for the (literally) sharp-edged Ibanez poser-metal guitar of Joel Davila of Fury in the Temple. Subjects are treated about as seriously as a Cypress Hill term paper on the subject of panties, the whole pot simmering in Outtasite’s uncolorful but appropriately nasal monotone. It can sound a bit Tone-Loc throwaway-LA at times, but the Hendrix-sucking title track and post-black-metal “No Nevermind” for two are likeable enough ideas.
[street date 3/18/08]
The Model, Physical (Playloop Records)
Stop-the-presses-level radio-techno from Philadelphia, but that’s how good those bands have to be, what with top-dog record labels Metropolis and Dancing Ferret running the show in that town. From the start of the LP these guys prove themselves, with “What Does It Look Like I’m Doing,” a rapturous foray into what INXS might have sounded like today after a weekend spent binging on Kraftwerk. Fractals swoop in and around the heavy-lidded vocals of (please kids, already, with the single names) Markie, his role in the mix laid slightly bare by what must have been a budget not exactly envied by Ne-Yo, but that makes it a little more 80s, which is in part the game here. But before you run away screaming, know that these guys aren’t a bunch of goobs sitting around trying to get the 80s vibe intravenously from a steady diet of Molly Ringwald vidiot schlock; although there are astoundingly catchy runs buzzing all over the place, the aesthetic template of the core sound might get the seal of approval of a more sentient house guy, say, Deadmau5. At this writing I’m not seeing this on Amazon as yet – it’d be tragic if this never got some sort of wide release.
[street date 11/18/08]
Lights, Lights (Drag City Records)
Please bug off, Lights, and quickly. Though you’re not the famous, fake-ass Sixpence None the Richer chick-borg from Toronto nor the Depeche Mode-bootlicking 80s cesspool from Dublin, you’re thrice as bad: a textbook exercise in self-serving artless overindulgence as a lifestyle, wasting perfectly good trust-fund money on some puzzling impulse to foist nauseating waves of half-thought New Age drone on the vampire geeks. Like a yoga classful of white-collar divorcees getting “down n dirty” to work out their “issues” through the catharsis of vocal vibration, the girls yearn for deep meaning in their interweaving, unschooled chanting, but instead come off as a surprisingly bad Softies album gone slightly metal. The good that could come from mercurially concepted surf-guitar (“Break Run Fly”) or Dracula-temple baroque is crushed under the wheels of way-too-hippie women-running-with-wolves dreck like “Branches Low,” which appears to be a very, very scarily serious effort. One or three Okie newcomers to the big city might conceivably have a brief romance with this in their freshmen year, but that too shall pass.
[street date 4/22/08]
Sharokh, Dripping Point (Compost Records)
Like a fine cognac from some alluring faraway land, the deep house team of Shahrokh Dini and Andreas Kohler offer, well, fine house from an alluring faraway land, that being (originally) Iran in the case of Dini and (currently) Germany for both. This meeting of quite interesting minds has Dini in the wizened DJ role and Kohler assuming the position of classical cello guy trying to fit in somewhere in the laptop world, and what’s resulted from their jams (and that’s what these are, not merely direct-to-bytes phone-ins) is a collection of high-end chill-out that competes strongly with Zero 7 and Massive Attack while leaving your King Britts and Laurent Wolfs and so on sucking exhaust fumes. You should be thinking Sade meets 70s chill-disco if you’re the least bit confused about what’s on tap, but even that isn’t quite enough accolade. Techno-torch-chick Siri Svegler turns in her best Kate Havnevik vocal cribbing on the more traditionally Chicago-house decorated “Letting You Go” and “Leave Your Hat On,” while “Break It Down” offers a muted but gorgeous desert-oasis backdrop for Jamie Lloyd’s faraway baritone.
[street date 2/10/09]
Taxi Doll, Here and Now (Antidote Media Records)
You have to be quite the grinchy sonofabitch to knock modern dance-pop when it’s danceable, because it’s the danceability, stupid. You’re likeable enough, Taxi Doll, with the accidental liftings from Gwen Stefani and No Doubt and The Gwen Stefani Band, and I’m more than a little smitten with the idea of the chick from Sixpence None the Richer doing a breezy, carefree refrying of Hall & Oates’ “Maneater,” which is what “Follow Lead” is. And the hot chick factor is in fine fettle – singer Dhana Taprogge looks like Tina Fey with big bazoongas. Insert wolf whistles, and stuff. The filler is so LA-hack, “Give You More” for example, a tune that’s more than a little like Collide trying to impress Shakira’s audience (actually Gwen’s, but we need to stow that a little at this point). Filler is surviveable, of course, but when it rears its boring head so soon, at track #4, alarm bells start ringing. And ringing louder, ha ha, when track 5, “Look At What You Got” is health-negligent carbohydrate again. Surely we’ll see the guitarist or drummer or whoever touring with something gigantic like Tom Petty whilst valiantly battling the drugs, and all will be right in the universe.
[street date 2/10/09]
Guggenheim Grotto, Happy the Man (United for Opportunity Records)
I vomited at the thought of one more weirdie-beardy, ski-cap-wearing indie band shoving a glockenspiel in my face (and can we knock it off and just call it a “xylophone” maybe already?), and at first listen I’ll have to confess at having no great jones to have another round of this. But – and I’m not the first to say this – Happy the Man is a sneaky little grow-on-you that requires a little patience; once given just a little, the subtle high-production things start to appear as though from nowhere. I didn’t hear the Elton John-level background vocals, for example, in “Sunshine Makes Me High,” which becomes more regal and important with each successive visit to the chorus. These Scots match up well to Bright Eyes, as both bands have an eye toward wine-sipping account-indie types like Broken Social Scene, but where Bright Eyes wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking a deep, dangerous gloomfest like Brokeback Mountain, Guggenheim extend fig leaves to boy bands (“Fee Da Da Dee”) and Gordon Lightfoot (“The Girl With the Cards”) – their 70s dreams are etched in bold strokes that celebrate the power of solitude.
[street date 1/27/09]
Midatlantic, The Longest Silence (Underground Sun Records)
I’ve tried selling you before on Boston prog-poppers Vital Might and apparently failed; now it’s their neighbors down the street Midatlantic I’ll be shaking the pompoms about. Heavily doused with U2 guitars, these guys want the folks at the back of the room to be spazzing, and to get there they take a route that bypasses Coldplay’s subtler moments (ie bad songs) and wrap their excitement and joyful angst around a vibe that’s equal parts Minus the Bear and Last Goodnight, pulling nuke-tipped major-key hooks out of po-faced minor-key runs. Listeners who flip over insistent, imperative tunes like Coldplay’s “Clocks,” there’s “You Just Don’t Understand,” while fans of People in Planes and that sort of thing will appreciate the way this band handles the necessary evil of rock ballads (“Love Will Rule Your Heart Again”). “Shine” speaks more to their core purview, a sunburst of meta-emo as cobbled together by Gang of Four, Lords of the New Church and U2. Amazon ID for the MP3 album is B001HAP6RY.
[street date 1/27/09]
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