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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
11 August 2005
Bleach 03, Bleach 03 (Australian Cattle God) Rating: 7
Bleach 03 is an all grrl trio straight out of Okinawa, Japan, ready to rock the socks off of unsuspecting worldwide audiences, now that their name has been appropriately changed for copyright purposes (in Japan, they are simply known as "Bleach"). Their newest, self-titled disc is their first to hit American soil, though it's actually the fourth album in the Bleach 03 discography, and I'll admit, it rips far more than I expected it to. They tackle speed-metal on the furious "Kuropen Bigaku Tenshi-Chan To Kangaemashita" ("My Sweet Angel and I Considered the Aesthetics of the Black Pen"), punk and polka (minus the accordions) on "Canary Teikoku No Gyakushuu" ("Canary Empire Strikes Back"), and even attempt some balladry on "Chousen" ("Challenge"), though surely the last loses some of its impact in translation. The sheer variety might sound a bit cumbersome, but rest assured, it's all done with a fun rock 'n' roll candy shell -- I get the impression that Bleach 03 would rather put a smile on your face than make you think. As a special treat, this version of the album contains "Taiyou" ("Sun"), originally from the Canary Teikoku No Gyakushuu EP, which sounds a bit like the rockin' second cousin of the intersection between "Hollaback Girl" and Middle Eastern folk dance. As the last proper track (not counting a lo-fi demo-sounding bonus), it sums up everything Bleach 03 is about better than I ever could.
Aphasia, Fact & Fiction (DRT) Rating: 5
When a new young band cites the Foo Fighters, of all people, as a major influence, it can make a guy feel old, not to mention highly wary of listening to these kids' debut record. After all, deriving their sound from one of the most mediocre and ridiculously overrated American rock bands from the last decade is enough to make this writer cringe in horror (the fact that Dave Grohl's songwriting is influencing a new generation of bands, and not his legendary drumming, is rather depressing). Still, despite Aphasia's naivete, their disc deserves a fair shot. Although Fact & Fiction does get stuck in a similar alt-rock rut as the Foo Fighters often find themselves in, there are a few gems that show us there's plenty of potential here. "Away From You" is perfectly suited for modern rock radio, as the song is carried by Jeff Harder's soaring vocals, while "Flatline" skillfully balances abrasive chords with layered vocal melodies. The pleasant "Push For New" takes us back to the incessant hooks of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American, while "Then Again" adeptly pushes listeners' buttons, shifting from pensive verses to roaring choruses. The album tends to play things too safely, as the band resorts to the same emo clichés we've heard from a ton of bands before them, but Aphasia's knack for smart songwriting is apparent, and they have a solid-sounding frontman in the versatile Harder. It's only a matter of time before they'll be putting out albums that blow the Foo Fighters away.
Careen, Crash Couture (Careen) Rating: 5
Careen earns a few bonus points early on by straying from 4/4 time on their second song and shifting the rhythm on their first. The early tracks are not an indication of future adventurousness, however. The album is occasionally catchy, occasionally inventive. It would earn extra bonus points for including synth hooks if we weren't already smack dab in the middle of an '80s revival. That being said, Crash Couture is a decently solid album. Andrew Grow's lead vocals (listed as "leadvox" in the press release) can be grating occasionally, but many songs are pleasant enough. As a side note, the lyrics reprinted in the liner notes are infuriating because they are printed in a single block without a hard return to distinguish the different songs. Everyone should stop doing this. So download some of these tunes (legally, for the love of God) and reject the filler. That's how we get out of the '80s revival and begin an unpronounceable '00s revival.
Cats + Jammers, Propose Toast (Scotch Hell) Rating: 5
Can a relatively obscure indie band such as Chicago's Cats + Jammers truly have a "greatest hits" album? I'm not sure, but they've issued one, anyway. Propose Toast is a 17-track compilation of tunes from the band's three previous albums, and two new ones thrown in for good measure. But like a lot of indie power pop, Cats + Jammers are plagued with the same old, same old. Too cute at times ("Lollipop Lies"), too same-sounding ("Follower" and "Rejection"), and songs whose titles promise more than they can live up to lyrically ("People Are Stupid", "White People Can't Dance", "Zodiac Girl"). But of course at the same time these guys pull out enough hooks here and there to make this collection a halfway decent listen from time to time. Had this been whittled down to 10 songs, they may have had something, but the good old overkill has struck once again. One for the fans, but definitely not for everyone.
Fake Ray, The Fumes Are Deadly Star Maps (North and South Music) Rating: 5
This British act's two singles are very punchy, pop and arty, sort of like a reved-up Franz Ferdinand judging by the rapid-fire "The Fumes Are Deadly" that has lead singer John Ray giving it his all behind a tight rhythm section. Think of Gang of Four or a tamer version of The Futureheads and you should get the idea. This is a song that is meant to soar and it does. "I Was Already Dead" is a cross between The Stereophonics at their sneering best and Jet, a tune that has its share of guitars blasts. The third track on this single is "Fortune Smiles" which opens with Ray speaking the lyrics as if he was suddenly possessed by Bono or Lou Reed. And as the loop of "ringing like a bell" goes on, Ray sings against it to mixed results. The other single Star Maps begins, oddly enough, with the title track, a high-energy tune that is power pop, punk at times but filled with rock but goes into another stratosphere with the chorus, sliding into a greater, more infectious vibe. A perfect complement here is "Sister Rita" which is a garage-ish version of something Suede might have once attempted.
.: posted by Editor 7:57 AM