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Made Out of Babies, Trophy (Neurot) Rating: 6
For a while there in the early '90s, women were starting to dominate indie rock. Liz Phair hadn't yet sold out, and The Breeders were the coolest thing since the Pixies, but it was the more aggressive, angry bands who made everyone wake up, as artists like Seven Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, Babes in Toyland, L7, and of course, Hole, led the charge, delivering stupendous variations on punk rock, laced with brilliantly vitriolic subject matter. Today, things are different: Courtney's burned out, Liz Phair sold her soul long ago, and there's a tragic lack of female voices on both the Warped tour and Ozzfest. New York's Made Out of Babies, however, want to bring us back to the glory days of more than a decade ago. Led by a wicked vocalist named Julie Christmas, the band channel the best '90s noise rock bands, from The Jesus Lizard to Unsane, churning and grinding away, creating an unsettling backdrop for Christmas's powerful screams, which greatly resemble those of former Babe in Toyland Kat Bjelland. It's nothing we haven't all heard before, as the band comes close to mimicking Kittie's nu-metal, and the CD does run a bit too long at a mere 38 minutes, but Made Out of Babies keep it together admirably, especially on such fiery tracks as "El Morgan", "Herculoid", "Ure Fire", and "Gut Shoveler". If this album came out in 1993, it would have been drooled over by critics and indie fans. Today, while it sounds solid, it struggles to shed the "retro" tag. [Amazon]
Dead Hearts, Dead Hearts (State of Mind) Rating: 4
The hardcore car crash that is Buffalo-based Dead Hearts is on display with their self-titled EP, collecting their complete recordings up to this point in a single package. Opening with the 40 second beat-down of "In Our Hands, Once Again" from their self-titled 7" EP, the band immediately lays all of their cards on the table: this is no-frills hardcore-meets-rock-n-roll. This song, along with the two that follow it benefit from decent enough production values and even a guitar solo thrown in for good measure. The remaining tracks reproduce the band's The Words You Betray demo in its entirety. Suffering from considerably lower-fi production, these five songs clock in at just over 10 minutes total and offer little variation on the same theme. Small doses seem to be the rule of thumb here, and when the product is scream-o hardcore, that is probably for the best.
The Clutters, T & C (Chicken Ranch) Rating: 6
When a farfisa is thrown into any song, you instantly should get a flashback into a garage-meets-psychedelic rock era. And The Clutters do nothing to change this idea as the boogie "Crack Your Heart" sounds like a cross between George Thorogood and The Mooney Suzuki. Lead singer Doug Lehmann resembles a tame Jon Spencer but the feel has the old-school Bo Diddley-like vibe throughout. There are some faster romps here, including the sneering "Clash City Girl" and the hip-shaker "You'll Never Be Famous" that brings the B-52's "Rock Lobster" to mind. Perhaps the highlight comes too early in the bombastic "Rock & Roll" but "Polaroid" and the Them-ish "Calling Her Name" are close seconds. It's high-octane rock that is short and very sweet at times in a chaotic, ragged manner as "Oh!" and "Leave It Behind" tends to be. And "When Worlds Divide" is hi-hat nirvana. [Amazon]
Triestearcana, IV (Osiris) Rating: 2
It's pretty obvious that Zeppelin's an influence here. Unfortunately, Triestearcana have the nerve to turn a Zeppelin influence into fourth-rate grunge. What we have here is a band that puts their sense of originality on display by naming their fourth album IV. The often out of tune vocals are highly treated to sound as much like Robert Plant in an empty cafeteria as possible, and the instruments are an utter mess. This may be a result of Triestearcana's primary two members having to take on multiple instruments, but guys, surely you have some friends who can play these instruments? The only redeeming quality of the album is the passable (and sometimes even quite good!) guitar work of Tony Colaizzi, whose solos indiscriminately recall the mid-'70s and mid-'90s while providing much-appreciated respite from Shervin Mostashfi's reedy vocal lines. Songs range from vaguely unimaginative ("The Silver City") to downright confusing ("The High Priestess"), with a lot of indiscriminate whatnot in between. I'm having images of a shitty bar that serves shitty beer with a shitty band playing (shittily) in the background. Some may find such an image endearing, but even they will be screaming in agony after 15 songs of this stuff. Run far, far away.
Idiot Pilot, Strange We Should Meet Here (Warner/Reprise)
Idiot Pilot want you to listen to this sonic painting, guiding you through "Losing Ground" that brings to mind Brian Wilson and Neil Young singing around a campfire with Tom Hanks and his volleyball pal, Wilson. Lush and atmospheric with a hint of eeriness, the band wallows too long in this format for the song to work. Think of all those Deftones' tracks with the buildup minus the payoff and you get this mildly interesting song. "A Day in The Life of a Poolshark" fares slightly better with a series of Alexisonfire-like yelps over the picturesque arrangement. Trying to balance these areas is a bad idea if you have "Open Register" as a precursor of what's to come. The danceable and bouncy "Les Lumieres" is something M83 or Air might be doing, but here Idiot Pilot is without direction. It's as if, yes, an idiot is piloting this album. Tracks like "The Violent Tango" ebb and flow between hard and soft moments without much lyrical substance despite some nice musicianship at times. "Spark Plug" is indeed the album's spark plug as everything seems to meld into a great tune. "Strange We Should Meet Here" is also special as the high airy notes complement the electro feeling. Not quite as high as Thom Yorke, but the pipes are very clear and engaging. The rap rock of "Militance Prom" makes one think of Linkin Park, but they are able to persevere. The last few are too melancholic, particularly "A Light at the End of the Tunnel" which should've been the closer. [Amazon]