Welcome to A&A. There are 15 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 #286 reviews
Bottom of the Hudson
This reminded me enough of the Wrens (who have been nicely ensconced at AK for some time now) that I wanted to make sure it wasn't, in fact, some sort of side project or something. In short: No. But these guys do make stellar, wide-ranging pop music as well.
As well as? Well, now, that would be close to blasphemy. Bottom of the Hudson is, in fact, somewhat more subdued than the Wrens (there's an R.E.M. influence here that the boys from New Jersey don't have), but the commitment to whatever means necessary is still in full effect.
It's tricky throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. You always run the risk of extraneous parts. But not here. This stuff is tightly-crafted, but played with such verve that you wouldn't know.
Don't try to guess where the next song is coming from. Just listen and stand entranced. It's the safest thing to do.
Past Lies and Former Lives
If there were such a thing as rock-steady pop, this would be it. Cat-A-Tac rips off one tuneful, rhythmic midtempo popster after another. They're all different. And they're all pretty good.
Reminds me a bit of that Canadian band Pluto, who put out a great album on Mint in 1995 and a so-so major label effort a year later. Some friends compared those folks to Everclear. I didn't hear it then, and I don't hear that comparison here. But I put that in there just for full disclosure.
There's a nice buzz to the guitars and some fine work in the hooks. Vaguely atonal, but that hint of drone just makes these song that much more hypnotic. My head was bobbing from the first beat.
And, yeah, that made all the difference. The sound isn't the most sophisticated in the world, but these folks have a knack for making the ordinary extraordinarily catchy. Pretty isn't the right word. Addictive might be.
How Can There Be Another Day?: Demos and B-Sides
(In Music We Trust)
This stuff was recorded about ten years ago, around the time when Collier was recording his album for Revolution. Self-titled, that album still ranks as one of my all-time favorites. The wry and bitter lyrics are some of the most searing ever put to tape. Which is probably one reason why very few people picked up on it.
Nonetheless, a cult of Collier (so to speak) has sprung up around his sporadic recordings (and even more sporadic distribution). With good reason. The man has a gift for expressing the darkest sides of the human condition. You can't hear his songs without getting a bit of a lift. After all, your life doesn't suck as much as his (or, at least, those of his characters).
These songs are looser (in every way) than what appeared on Gerald Collier. Even the demos of songs that made the album are much more laid back. There's a bit more of his natural country (or, really, alt.country) bent here, and it works well. There's a bit more "fuckit" and a bit less gloom and doom. But the writing and singing is just as fierce.
I'm a full-fledged member of the cult, so I'm the first to admit my words are somewhat tainted. But Jesus, if music this good can't sell, then humanity is truly doomed.
Driver of the Year
Driver of the Year Will Destroy You
Eight tracks here...I'll call it a short album. Feels like an album, like a complete thought. But maybe I'm thinking too much and not enjoying the tremendous visceral appeal of this album.
Operating in hazy sneer throughout most of the album, these boys snarl their way to some vaguely-defined (but acutely-felt) pleasure center of my brain. There's plenty of noise, but what really works here is the sly bits of rhythm that kick each song down the road. Not exactly slinky, but really, really dirty.
And plenty of attitude to back that up. This is some solid rock and roll, old school style. Well, early 90s rock and roll, anyway. That sort of post-modern, distortion-laden hipster groove kinda school, anyway. If that makes sense to you.
So, yes, Girls Against Boys, Love and Rockets (80s, I know...sue me), that kinda thing. Updated for the oughts, of course, but still that sort of grind. And it's a lovely grind at that. Slides down oh so easy.
The Great Depression
Preaching to the Fire
Lush. Almost subversively apocalyptic. Each song here sounds like it ought to be the last one sung before the Earth is consumed by a nova or Vogons or whatever. You kinda wish they were around a hundred years ago so these songs could have been sung on the Titanic.
Which puts these folks in the fine company of other Brit bands like Black Box Recorder. Though I'd say the Great Depression has taken quite a bit of instruction at the feet of such post-rock masters as Tortoise and Calexico. The cool grooves are jazzy more than funky, though not in any sort of cloying way.
Indeed, this entire album could have been an exercise in drivel. I've heard countless folks ply this vein and end up sounding merely bored. These folks keep up the intensity even as they spin their gauzy lines.
Mood music, but not for relaxing. Rather, these songs should almost immediately put your brain into an attentive alpha state. From there you can solve all the problems of the world...or simply get lost. You make the call.