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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
13 April 2004
The Pale, Gravity Gets Things Done (Sidecho)
At first blush, the Pale are the sonic equivalent of a pixie stick: Sweet, insubstantial, and, ultimately, a dime a dozen. They couch fleeting nods to British pop-rock and the Beach Boys in upbeat, sun-kissed emo of the most cloying sort to yield an ideal soundtrack for cuddling on grassy dunes with comely Friendster hook-ups and writing lengthy stream-of-conscious emails in lower-case type. Nevertheless, the Pale’s odes to chicks, while predictably unexceptional, are not nearly as puzzling as their Christian-tinged material. Of course, it isn’t so horribly unsubtle, and, clearly, Christian rockers are entitled to do their thing any way they see fit; I’m just off the belief that, if a band is compelled to chronicle teenybopper crushes with such inelegant lines as “you’re always up and you’re always down/but you make it so much fun”, then they’re probably better off not touching on God at all. Just as Mel Gibson, the slow-mo king who brought us a coarse, unconvincing big-screen Passion play fit for the multiplex and intellects unfettered by complexity, shouldn’t be entrusted to accurately or artfully depict such a powerful narrative capable of influencing the opinions of so many, then perhaps, on obviously a much smaller scale, faith-inspired emo bands might do well to realize that their breathless testimonials don’t necessarily enrich the spiritual dialogue to which they are devoted.
Andy Summers, Earth + Sky (Golden Wire/City Hall)
Sting isn't the only former Police-man to have made good on the promise of his early career. Ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers has had an impressive, albeit low-key career in the 20 years since the Police split up. After two albums exploring the boundaries of jazz as defined by Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, Summers hands us a stellar collection of atmospheric songs that show off not only his stellar playing, but also his innate musicality. A natural melodist, Summers made a name for himself in the Police with his complex, compelling guitar lines -- and he hasn't lost any of that flair. Whether playing on "noir"-ish number, like "I Chose You", or a haunting ballad such as "Roseville", Summers never fails to delight with his soulful playing and ear for a great melody. And you have to admire his versatility: from flamenco stylings to touches of reggae, Summers still has a great groove going.
Little Miss Messy, Boring Stories For Naughty Children (Dalloway)
A lot of bands try to separate themselves from the pack by trying to make all genres they like and folding it into one. It's kind of like an old suitcase and you're packing for a couple of week, you have everything but can't fit everything in. This album is a bit like it judging by the opening "Wrong", which doesn't sound like anything in particular, much to its own demise. "No More" is a tad grittier as lead singer Carlotta Valdez has a punkish sneer to his vocals as the rudimentary arrangement moves along. The slower material such as "Twinkie" soars nicely between a dreamy pop and an old school, love-handles holding slow dance. Few of the songs have much bite to them, especially the alt-rock, Sleater-Kinney tone to "Where Is My Mind?" Little Miss Messy has its moments on the roots jangle of "Sweet Stacy" which takes R.E.M.'s riff from "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" and puts it to good use. A ska and new wave "Former Occupant" is the sleeper, recalling No Doubt and Blondie in spots. Valdez is the star of the album on "Faking It", "Mayfly" and "Stop". The supporting cast are fearful of messing things up, opting for a simple and minimal format quite a bit. An average album which needs some touching up from start to finish.
.: posted by Editor 7:28 PM