Welcome to A&A. There are 12 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #281 reviews
The American Plague
God Bless the American Plague
(Long Live Crime)
Some boys from Knoxville who process much the same material as Urge Overkill did nearly 20 years ago...music chock full of riffs, attitude and, most importantly, loudness.
Unlike UO, though, these guys really don't let up off the pedal. And the production has a nice cheesy sheen to it. Fits the material, so I like it.
This is music for action, not thinking. Blood pumping, fist shaking, penetration kinda music. No missteps here. Just rock hard riff 'n' roll laid over a blistering rhythm section.
Uncomplicated, in other words. Sometimes it's good to just sit back and let the music take control. The American Plague will seep into your veins in no time.
Attack of the Firebots
(Fish the Cat)
It's all math. Sometimes it's more electronic, sometimes more navel-gazing. Sometimes it's just out there. It's always (I guess) Argo.
I like the more electronic songs. They're a lot more fun, and they point out a connection between new wave and indie rock that isn't always obvious. Plus, y'know, I'm a sucker for keyboards done well. Meaning used as an instrument and not a means to obfuscation.
In addition, the songs with stronger keyboard parts simply sound better. They lend an edge to the sound that's missing on the more standard "rock" songs. They also infuse these often wayward pieces with a bit of personality.
Fun and interesting. Argo likes to travel in many directions, and most of them are well worth the trip.
Your New Attraction
It's been a while since I've gotten some first-class melodic emo. The sound that was played to death a few years back still yields the occasional sprightly disc.
And actually, this disc is a lot more anthemic than light on its feet. But the hooks are sweet and the power chords are like butter. The Hanks aren't reinventing the wheel, but they've found one slick prototype.
The production is shiny, but not metallic. There's an indie feel here, even though its more than apparent these boys want to move so much farther down the road. The sound is a nice frame for this picture of a band on the move.
Of course, this isn't exactly the most commercial sound these days. Okay by me. I just call good music when I hear it and let the industrialists fight over profits. Don't ask for the moon and this one will surprise nicely.
The usual polygenre effort from the Wide Hive crew. JRK plays happily in the fields of blues, rock, jazz, acid jazz, hip hop, bossa nova and whatever else happens to slither down the street. With Greg(ory) Howe's hands on the knobs, you know the result is going to sound exceptional.
Indeed. This is very much a studio-created project (five of the six "band" members are credited as vocalists only, and the sixth apparently plays trumpet), and so there's no need to speculate on live performances. In fact, the spectacular nature of music rules out any such worries. Who cares if this could ever be replicated live as long as it's on this disc?
The mix is busy, as ideas flow freely from one to the other just about every second. Beats comes and go, sly sample cuts bounce around like popcorn and every other element simply spins in time.
The one striking thing about this album is how immediately engaging it is. Most Wide Hive releases are a step or two away from the mainstream. There's no reason the average music lover wouldn't pick this one up and shriek with instant pleasure. Drop the needle anywhere--this vein is a monster!
Calvin Keys plays guitar, and he invites an astonishingly long list of friends to stop by and help out. Gregory Howe produces (this is a Wide Hive release, of course), and the resulting sound is as vibrant as any jazz guitar album I've ever heard.
And as might be expected with such a wide variety of guests, the songs themselves don't stick to any one sound. There are plenty of echoes of early fusion (Phil Ranelin's trombone sounds some welcome notes), but these pieces are a lot busier than yer average fusion. I can hear plenty of nods to the likes of Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock and the gamut of 60s jazz, but again, this is more modern (that's cemented by Headnodic's contributions).
No, in the end this is simply a good jazz album, one that defies further categorization. The sound is warm and inviting, and Keys's expressive and generous playing always leaves a good vibe. Not happy jazz by any means, though. There are serious (and seriously good) ideas at work here.
One of those albums I enjoyed from start to finish. Now I know what it feels like to lounge in a smoking jacket.