PopMatters home | short takes home | archivesPopMatters Music Short Takes
The Clarks, Between Now and Then (High Wire Music) Rating: 6
The Clarks claim that the new compilation Between Now and Then, a fan-selected collection of 20 songs from the 20 some years of this Pittsburgh rock institution, was designed for new fans who come to their shows and then want to know which album to get first. That makes sense, as by the evidence on Between Now and Then, the Clarks are more of a band that has live shows that inspire people to buy their albums, and less of a band that releases albums that inspire people to see their live shows. While their talent and professionalism is apparent, and every one of the 20 tracks is a catchy sing-a-long, the Clarks just don't have enough spark or originality that would make them really breakout beyond the Pittsburgh area. The studio songs are fine enough, but are essentially faceless pop tunes, sounding vaguely like a variety of top 40 rock acts (Counting Crows, Barenaked Ladies, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, even, on the song "On Saturday", Sugar Ray). The best tracks are, inevitably, the two live songs "Apartment Song" and an epic seven minute version of fan favorite "Cigarette", showing the Clarks as rock and roll animals commanding the stage so powerfully that the studio tracks seem even more anemic in comparison. That said, there are a lot of acts on the radio who are more faceless, and far less talented than the Clarks, and the songs themselves, although performed without much inspiration, are all pretty good pop numbers. I would play it safe and go see them in concert if they are in town, and, if they impress you, you know what album to buy first. [Amazon]
Eau Claire, Eau Claire (Clairecords) Rating: 6
Haven't heard of Eau Claire? Well, you have in a way-either for Jessica Bailiff's work on Kranky Records and with Flying Saucer Attack, or for Rachel Staggs in Experimental Aircraft. Or maybe, just maybe, you've heard of say... a band called Low? Thought you might've. Because Low's Alan Sparhawk produced this debut EP of Bailiff's and Stagg's under the name Eau Claire. And as much as it pains to have that fact potentially overshadow the band itself, Low's influence is pretty inescapable. "Freefall" is the fuzzed-out missing link between the sub-sub-sub-genres of slow-core and shoegaze that would not be out of place on Loveless or The Curtain Hits the Cast. "Soaring" fairly does what its title implies, droning and swirling through mists and hazes for nine minutes, vocals hovering gauzily in the mix. Not a groundbreaker, but not a bad opening salvo either: in every way the musical equivalent of Icy/Hot.
Tribeca, Incident at the Metropolis (Granada Music) Rating: 6
The clear influence for Tribeca is Steely Dan. The comparisons litter Tribeca's debut album Incident at the Metropolis like so many breadcrumbs to a gingerbread house. Like Steely Dan Tribeca plays complex adult oriented ultra smooth rock. And like Steely Dan the players involved with Tribeca are uniformly excellent. Incident at the Metropolis is full of ornate sophistication. You won't be hearing any of Incident at the Metropolis blasting out of convertibles driven by nubile mid-riff baring youths, but you may hear "North American Laundromat" slinking out of the open windows of a new BMW 7 series. Incident at the Metropolis is directed at the age group that's already been through the anger of punk and the dissonance of post punk and now hungers for something a bit more soothing and upscale. Incident at the Metropolis isn't in the business of shouting down any walls. They're in the business of providing a comforting setting for a glass of Chablis while watching the walls get shouted down. It's silky smooth music, intelligent and well executed. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it as just about every one of the nine songs on Incident at the Metropolis is meticulously played and produced. If you like your music functioning more as a down pillow and less as a bed of nails than you've found a friend in Tribeca.
The French Broads, Better Wings, Better Happiness (Disgraceland) Rating: 5
The French Broads' latest album tries to bring back to life the melodic pop of bands like Fountains Of Wayne and a rowdier Soul Asylum, with mixed results at times. "Driver" is okay for an opener and has just enough bite to make is passable. "Slip" however reverts to the vein that Tom Petty has perfected years ago, a strolling folksy pop that is catchy and melodic but not something you'll remember days from now. "Siren" is okay but again nothing special, despite the fact you're rooting for it. The group hit pay dirt on "Broken Enough" and also the downplayed but very precious "Trip", a song well worth its six minutes that starts nicely and just gets better. "America Police" brings to mind classic Neil Finn with its pop smarts and swaying tone. The finale "Sonic Pillow" is a spacey, ambient closer which is okay but not as strong as other numbers here
The Graves Brothers Deluxe, Light (Good Forks) Rating: 3
You instantly think of Green Day or The Living End if influenced by Less Than Jake on track numero uno by The Graves Brothers Deluxe -- a light but very hook-tinged bass line that gives way to some great guitar from Willy The Mailman, who also plays the sax. As a result "About the Future" is a quirky but solid effort. "We'll fight and fornicate all night," the lyric goes as a guitar hits a stellar high note. "I Hear Light Coming Down" is another slow song that goes into another gear, a grunge-y, garage-like mid-tempo pop tune. Fortunately there are one or two early memorable numbers, particularly the seedy guitar all over "Legs Rub Together" which recalls Singapore Sling. "The White Devil's Death Song" could be mistaken for a Reservoir Dogs contribution. But the record tends to get a bit old too quickly, hitting a wall with the bland "Big Chain Store" and not faring much better with the almost equally insipid "Seen It All". The band seems just to go off the rails and don't care about finding the way back, especially on the average "Nerves".