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Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., Born to be Wild in the U.S.A. 2000 (Wabana) Rating: 6
Some "official" live albums, the ones painstakingly recorded and mixed in order to best translate the live experience to record, work rather well, but diehard fans, no matter which band they're crazy about, will always claim to own several live bootleg performances that apparently trounce any kind of immaculately produced double live set can ever do. And for the most part, they're right; case in point, the legendary Velvet Underground "guitar amp" recording, which, while lacking in sound quality, more than makes up for it with one of the most searing performances ever recorded. When Japanese psychedelic rock greats Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. toured the States five years ago, several of the shows were recorded by fans, and one of the bootleg recordings that resulted was a five track vinyl LP, which quickly became a popular item among fans. For good reason, too. Now released on CD by the band, Born to be Wild in the U.S.A. 2000 is an absolutely blazing 40-minute disc, in which the band tears through several of their typically epic, spaced-out tracks. The recording is very crude, as the band's massive rhythm section often overwhelms the microphone, but instead of sounding distracting, it enhances the feel greatly, and shows just how loud these dudes really are. Rolling bass lines and frantic drum fills underscore fabulous, acid rock-laced guitar solos, before veering off into moments of krautrock experimentation. The more ambient songs, such as "Pink Lady Lemonade" tend to suffer from the poor sound quality, but when the band kicks into high gear, as on "La Novia", the effect can be thrilling. [Amazon]
The Drews, The Sins of Others (self-released) Rating: 5
Never judge a book by its cover. From the album art of the Drews' latest, The Sins of Others, and titles like "Necroditty", "Make Me Scream", and "Nasty Girls", I half-expected a record of baggy-pantsed suburban stoner aggro-rap rock. What I got was far better. The Drews (husband and wife duo Andrew and Jen DiMartino) play good-natured, eccentric folk. Their earnest sense of humor seeps into both their arrangements and lyrics, and reminds me more than a bit of early Crash Test Dummies. Andrew DiMartino's voice is a blend between the Dummies' Brad Roberts and Neil Diamond, a perfect fit for both the somber and goofy moments. Bassist Jen has a great spoken word piece on "God's Green Room", in addition to background chorus of "Money money money." The song's target of crooked television evangelists is an easy one, and more than overdone, but the Drews have a light touch and likeable charm. Those qualities more than anything make the disc worthy of repeated listening, and put them a cut above more staid and uninventive folk purveyors. [Amazon]
Satellite 66, Grasshopper (Smokey Lung) Rating: 4
Chicago-based Satellite 66 is lo-fi rock and roll in the most traditional sense. The eight songs on Grasshopper are defined by the same murky guitars, detached vocals, and half-assed recording that characterizes everything there is to love about slacker rock. That is, if you love slacker rock. There's nothing really to dislike about this album, but there's nothing to really love about it either. Grasshopper treads heavily in the predictable terrain of lo-fi previously explored, never really venturing too far off to explore the possibilities of what else may be out there. "Should've Said Something" owes a big nod to Sebadoh, while "J.P. Morgan" and "Ladder" skew towards the Beatles end of the spectrum. The strongest cut is the Elliott Smith-sounding "Going Home". Through the chorus, Josh Seib's voice cracks with a hint of the vulnerability that made Smith's voice so amazing. Although the album doesn't ache with originality, if you think that what the world needs is to revisit the Pavement and Sebadoh era of rock and roll, this is your album.
The Brunettes, Mars Loves Venus (Lil Chief) Rating: 6
The Brunettes are from close to Down Under but come off as if they've listened to the Ronnettes in their spare time. This lovely old-time fun yet highly crafted pop is exemplified on the quirky, sugary title tune. Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield play off each other quite well. And how can you not enjoy Oriental touches on songs entitled "Loopy Loopy Love" which is part kids tune and part Puffy Yumi Ami. Fans of Elephant 6 or especially The Minders will love songs such as "Polyester Meets Acetate" although "Too Big For Gidget" is an acquired, haunting, creeping kind of taste. The lighter material fares strongly also, especially the somber, Stars-ish "You Beautiful Militant". The highlight has to be the classic '50s doo wop type of sound oozing out of "The Record Store". When they pare this down further, the better it feels on the hand-clapping, jerky "Best Friend Envy". The synergy between the two is that of an elderly couple, particularly on the melodic and strong "Leonard Says". [Amazon]
The Old Soul, The Old Soul (self-released) Rating: 3
Just about two hours north of Buffalo there's a city we Canadians pronounce Toe-ron-toe. It's the home of indie scensters Broken Social Scene, DFA 1979, the Stars, K-Os, Apostles of Hustle, and Metric. Aside from Montreal, it's what the Canadian indie hubbub is about. The Old Soul, a group that hails from TO, include members of the old vanguard -- the scene before the scene. Their sound is expansive and full of energy, but The Old Soul are just that, old. Their sound would not have caught your ear then as it fails to do now. It lacks a certain something, a certain "je ne sais quoi". That said the repentant organs and Beach Boy choir chants make "American Whore" a worthwhile listen. But then the next song, despite an obvious, almost unnecessary sense of irony, is about the joy of vegetables as if this were a record parents might get their kids to listen to. Overall, the music is alright, but nothing to gush obsessively about.