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A&A #239 reviews (March 2003)
Something Good Is Going to Happen to You
The most common question I get from readers is "Do you keep all the albums you receive?" I don't. I do shelve everything I review. My shelves only hold about 5,000 discs, and they've been full for a couple years now. So each month I have to cull out some old discs to make room for the new. Just in case you were looking for an ethical lapse, I don't sell the old discs. Everything goes to the Salvation Army. I'm sure Glen Benton is turning over in his grave knowing that Deicide is doing the Lord's work.
Anyway, some six years ago I reviewed a Baboon album that came out on Wind-Up (better-known as Creed's label). I thought the stuff was good, but that someone decided to process the sound a bit too much. And so I culled it about a month ago. It was still waiting for its trip to a better place when I heard this album. And after hearing this disc, I immediately pulled that old disc out of limbo and put it back on the shelf.
It's not that the old album is actually better now. But this album is great. Baboon still makes wonderfully noisy pop music, and while there's plenty of processing, the additions here are made for artistic, not commercial, reasons. At least, this processing job is perfectly in character with the writing and playing. I'll call that artistic.
The songs here are buoyant and blissful, bright power pop decorated with deliciously wicked sense of sound. Kinda like what the Flaming Lips were doing 10 years ago, though a bit more in the three-chord joy mode than that. The kinda album that will never leave my shelf.
Guilt Beats Hate
Now this is what I call old school. There was a time when emo was loud and scratchy, not loud and tuneful. Benton Falls has lots of great musical lines banging into each other at odd angles and some cogent thinking in the lyrics as well.
The choruses are pretty basic. The guitars start wailing (as much as tightly-controlled strident lead guitar can wail, anyway) and the words are sung just that much louder. I'm not complaining. I've liked this style for years. I wish more bands would take it on.
I feel that way because this is the sound that put the emotion in emo. These are heartfelt songs of real passion--even if the passion is generally more existential than temporal. See, these boys do like to think. Another big plus in my book.
Solid work that is inspiring when taken as a whole. There's real anger and pain and desire and hope burned into every second of this disc. If this album doesn't wake you up, then you're already dead.
Revenge Is Slow
(In Music We Trust)
These guys are Australian, but they sound so Kiwi it's frightening. Chilly pop music that's fraught with every sort of possible allusion. Each line seems to have three meanings (I'm speaking of the music as well as the lyrics). While these songs are positively gorgeous, there's this terrifying undercurrent flowing beneath.
Perhaps the perfect companion to the new Go-Betweens album (also reviewed in this issue), Bluebottle Kiss relies more on studio tricks (some extra reverb in the guitars or a little distortion here and there), but the songwriting style and quality are quite similar. I get a real Straitjacket Fits feel here, though the guitars don't blister quite so much.
Oh. Sorry. I forget that most of you didn't grow up worshipping Flying Nun. A bit before your time, probably. I had a friend in college who hitchhiked to New Zealand (I'm not kidding about that, either) and then bummed around until she found the record label's office. She then spent two weeks in the generous care of some highly amused (and probably a bit frightened) label "execs." I can only hope to do something as cool within my lifetime.
So you know where I'm coming from. And maybe you understand--just a little bit--what Bluebottle Kiss does. The music is gorgeous. The lyrics are haunting. The album is spectacular. Enough?
The Statue in the Stone
(The Bus Stop Label)
I think the theme of this issue is dreamy power pop. Bronze plays wonderfully-crafted stuff with plenty Byrds-y ringing guitar and slightly ragged harmonies. The songs are little gems, finely cut and exquisite at every facet.
The Bus Stop Label is an expert at finding this kind of stuff, but Bronze at the top of that impressive heap. I loved the CD single that I reviewed back in November, and this full-length fills in all the space between the three relatively-disparate songs on that disc.
Two of the three songs from that single are here, and they fall into place perfectly. If I had to characterize the overall sound, I'd say this stuff is decidedly modern with more than a hint of 60s soul (no matter if the muse in question is Gram Parsons or Pete Townsend).
In truth, the only proper label for Bronze's music is "great." These are eminently hummable songs with real depth. There's always another layer to uncover, and repeat listens will reward time and time again. Some folks hit the nail on the head; Bronze obliterates the target completely.
The Cinch EP
So you've been jonesing for some Cub-like pop, bubbly stuff that moves and moves and moves and moves? The Cinch is, well, you know.
Expert direction from a tight rhythm section combined with loosely-kinetic lead work and drolly understated vocals is the only way to create such a fun sound. It takes a lot of work to make stuff sound this simple, and none of it is apparent in the finished product.
Which is how it should be. We don't need to know how hard it is to create blissfully simple-sounding stuff. We just want it to drip into our ears like chocolate fondue. Quite the confection, this is.
DC to Daylight
Xmas Murder '74 EP
Talk about riding the bottom end. DC to Daylight rocks out a series of fine r&b riffs and then turns the whole sound pyramid upside-down. All the fuzz is in the bass, which makes the uptempo attack that pervades this disc even more astonishing.
Think the last Laughing Hyenas album, or maybe something from the Delta 72. And then add a bizarre sense of humor (the pseudo-ska beat and Jimmy Buffett-style organ in "My Way to Hell" ought to clash blindingly with the rest of the album, but the song becomes something of a touchstone nonetheless) and then simply let these boys roll.
In all honesty, this short piece of mutant music speaks for itself. I can try to describe what I hear, but in no way can I capture the strange appeal of these songs. One note (seriously!) and I was hooked. Even more impressively, the disc tightened its grip as it played. Compelling doesn't even begin to tell the story.
The Hemophiliac Dream
Two parts to this album. The first is the title track, which runs a mere 24 minutes in length. The second is a decidedly nasty remix, though I'm not entirely sure of the source material.
"The Hemophiliac Dream" is something of a spacey trip into the ambient. Lots of slow moving ideas and strange noises slung together into a languid electronic soup. Just the sort of thing to help a person zone out and get into deep contemplation.
The second piece (titled Part II) is a remix. Of what, it's hard to say, but the piece is really loud and distorted. Perhaps this is the "Dream" recast as a nightmare. I do pick up bits here and there from the main piece. This isn't as conducive to pure meditation, but it's exactly the sort of stuff I like to listen to when I write. Challenges the intellect and creativity, you see.
Two sides of the same coin? Two wildly disparate visions of the name idea? I dunno. If the musical version of abstract expressionism is you bag, though, this puppy ought to do you nicely. Plenty of ideas to ponder here.
The little press kit with this puppy claims that this short effort by the forms rivals debuts by the likes of June of 44 and Sunny Day Real Estate. Well, aren't we presumptuous?
A little, but damned if the Forms don't almost pull it off. The sound is somewhere between the rock fusion of June of 44 and the noodly emo of bands like Mineral (remember them?). This is about as good a distillation of that sound as I've heard.
But I think the Forms can do more than reference their influences. This is a band with the talent and vision to create something truly epochal. This EP isn't it, but it's still awfully good. If you're interested in the future of music, the Forms aren't a bad place to start.
Bright Yellow Bright Orange
The record stores are littered with new albums from great old bands. Most of them don't completely suck, but they also don't have the spark of the "original" sound. Often this is because bands are as much a product of the times as they are creators of music, and when removed from that time the music often is revealed to be surprisingly ordinary.
But the Go-Betweens make timeless pop music. And often that kind of songwriter doesn't hit full stride until much later. There's no denying the greatness of "old" Go-Betweens songs, but Robert Forster and G.W. McClennan's later solo work was generally at least as good, and now this second "comeback" album proves that, indeed, these guys have gotten better with age.
These songs are so beautiful they make my mouth water. No one else has the phrasing that McClennan uses into his songs, and Forster's balance of grace and exuberance is breathtaking. Their writing styles are different but eminently compatible.
I loved The Friends of Rachel Worth, but this album beats that in a heartbeat. I doubt anyone will craft a better pop album this year. I wonder if anyone will best it in the next decade.
Short album or long EP, I can't say. Godboxer blasts its way through seven pop gems and doesn't look back. And that's all I need to know.
Clever? Yeah, both musically and lyrically. Godboxer whips some serious shine onto these songs, and then it dirties things up. A guitar effect here, some distortion there, a little tweaking on the harmonies on down the line.
Immaculately crafted and yet still blisteringly infectious. These songs sound fresh, not canned. That's a tribute to both the band and a certain Ducky Carlisle who did the knob work.
Three chords and a dream rarely sounds so good. Singer Aaron Lippert has a good handle on songwriting, and the band has more than enough energy and attitude to carry off the sound. Better than well-done; this disc is loads of fun.
Herman Sonny Blount
(Should I Be Concerned About This?-Edgetone)
The Edgetone distribution ought to be a hint. The KLiP trio of Elliot Kallen, John Lauffenburger and Garth Powell doesn't do anything conventionally. Oh, sure, at first glance you notice that there are piano, bass and percussion players. But each member also brings a wealth of other noisemaking activities to the table.
Noisemaking as a good thing, mind you. I'm not sure how you play a cicada (the generally green critters commonly known as locusts that shed their skins before boffing as many other cicadas until they die), but Elliot Kallen does it. It is possible, of course, that Kallen doesn't play an insect but rather some implement inspired by the creature. I really have no idea.
Perhaps this stuff might be best described as music for a truly spooky (rather than viciously scary) movie. There's a sense of otherworldliness, a general unease that permeates the pieces. The noise I referred to isn't clutter. It is truly integral to the completion of the overall sound.
Boy, I dove into this puppy headfirst and didn't emerge until the needle pulled up on side two (yep, the sweet things sent me vinyl). The sound is amazing. There's so much space, and yet I was completely swallowed up. I can't think of a better complement than that.