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The Vanished, Favorite Scar (Kirtland) Rating: 5
It's so easy to immediately dismiss the debut album by Dallas, Texas's The Vanished as nothing more than empty-headed emo caterwauling, but over time, a funny feeling starts to creep in, as your defenses go down enough to actually get some mild enjoyment out of the disc. Make no mistake, this is the same old radio-friendly, saccharine rock that the likes of Vertical Horizon and Hoobastank have helped make popular, and the weepy portraits of downtrodden kids and flitty declarations of self-empowerment come close to sounding as grating as anything by Good Charlotte, but the band stays on a surprisingly even keel, throwing in the odd pop hook every once in a while, managing to hold listeners' attention. For what they are, both "Wake Up" and "Favorite Scar" are two surprisingly good songs that sound tailor-made for mainstream rock radio, while "Latchkey Princess" and "Anna's Leech" blend melodrama and melody decently enough. Things do get more maudlin as the album goes on, especially on the plodding "Anesthesia Winter" and on the overwrought "Soap", and "Gospel Machine Gun" is a very awkward attempt at funk rock, but as far as catchy emo goes, Favorite Scar is less offensive than many might give it credit for. [Amazon]
Various Artists, Meet Me in the Time Tunnel: Obscure Powerpop from the Land of the Lost 1978-1985 (Wizzard in Vinyl) Rating: 3
This Japanese import compilation of 15 unknown bands existing on the outskirts of the late '70s/early '80s new wave scene has a misleading title: most of its inclusions have more in common with the Ramones than "power pop" mastheads like Big Star or Cheap Trick. It's like a new wave version of the Nuggets collection (with a predominance of "The" bands: the Zips, the Reactors, the Silencers, the Shamrock); unlike Nuggets, however, Meet Me in the Time Tunnel doesn't offer a wealth of revelatory obscurities. Instead, the selections -- by bands hailing from Connecticut to Glasgow to Japan -- play like fifth generation copies of other (better) bands in varying degrees of audio fidelity and musicianship. A few songs are noteworthy: the Reducers' "Small Talk" is a jagged shot of Graham Parker-induced electricity; Australia's the Spliffs sound like Robyn Hitchcock leading a late '70s NYC band in "You'll Know What They'll Say"; and the Foreign Objects' "You Go Home" grinds dirt in its teeth like some '60s garage redux. Still, for every good tune there's a plethora of those that would best be left uncovered, of which the Dunderheads' dreadful "Tribute to Bela Legosi" wins the blue ribbon. The compilation's liner notes are spotty at best; some bands get the full bio treatment (often written by an original member of the band) while others aren't mentioned at all. There may be some tracks of interest here for the era's obsessive collectors, but the majority of Meet Me in the Time Tunnel will remain, deservedly, in that titular land of the lost.
Lost City Angels, Broken World (Universal) Rating: 7
The Lost City Angels spent some time earlier this year touring with Tiger Army, but their own version of punk rock tends to have some edge to it. It's nothing that you haven't heard before, although the party-flavored "Liberation" is still quite good while "Final Wish" is mainstream, Warped Tour-like, radio-friendly punk as is the stronger, crunchier "Buried Dreams". They really hit their stride on the impressive "Faithless on the Floor", sounding like a cross between The Living End and Billy Talent. Meanwhile, the Rancid-ish "Broken World" is perhaps the album's highlight. It takes a while to get into the record but by track seven, "I'm Trying", you're hooked. The Metallica-like "Clutching at Shadows" is okay but not memorable yet they again atone for it with the faux Clash feel of "Lips". The real gem here is "Tonight's the Night", and no, not the schmaltzy Rod Stewart tune! But a close second is the Social Distortion groove on "Today's the Day". [Amazon]
All Hours, In Flagrante Delicto (Hybrid Recordings) Rating: 4
Think, for a moment, of this image: An oversexed teenage hydra monster spawned from the foreheads Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Weber. Now let it form a rock band in Los Angeles. All Hours is that. And its full length debut, In Flagrante Delicto stumbles awkwardly as it tries to settle into a comfortable groove between ballad and rock opera. Occasionally, such as during "Make Up" the band works itself into that groove successfully. However, most of the album buckles under melodramatic chorus melodies and uninteresting lyrics. "Never Trust a Woman" and "Chelsea Whistle" never get off the ground, while most of the rest of the album circles in a holding pattern between Max's Kansas City circa 1973 and Styx circa 1978. [Amazon]
Taylor Hollingsworth, Shoot Me, Shoot Me, Heaven (Brash Music) Rating: 5
This six-song EP featuring a "guitar slinging kid" is basically your standard power pop efforts with the various attempts at getting that perfect riff. However, songs like "You Just Wanna" don't really make the grade despite the catchy tone to the tune and the occasional hi-hat overdose thrown in. But "How Could You Be So Cold" is just really really not good, unfortunately. Hollingsworth sounds like a kid trying to do a song that sounds out of his league. When he keeps it simple and ragged he is at his best, especially during the Big Star-ish "When I Get Around". The great tune has to be the lighter, acoustic-oriented "Come Along" with its toe-tapping little groove. "You're Lost" also has its moments, but it's nothing to write or e-mail home about.