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The Gunshy, Souls (Latest Flame) Rating: 8
The latest album from The Gunshy stays on the same course that the previous album did: deadly, darker tunes that see the bottle or glass not half full but shattered on the barroom floor. "I Am Not Who I Used to Be" has singer/jack-of-all-trades Matt Arbogast singing the title in a way that makes Tom Waits sound cheerful. If you're listening to it, you expect the skies to grow dark and perhaps a dense fog to settle in. But Arbogast brings it to a hymnal-like conclusion with fabulous results. Fans of Buck 65 and The National would also be wise to seek this album out, especially with "Last Songs" that brings to mind The National's "Mr. November" with a touch of horns. The Gunshy revisit this somewhat later on with the rowdy yet swaying "Stop Singing". "My Nicotine, My Whiskey" is a simpler folk tune that flows along nicely in a singer-songwriter format while "Call Me Home" is a militaristic romp that sounds a bit like The Pogues circa If I Should Fall From Grace With God. The Gunshy aren't shy about giving you a different outlook judging by the slower, train-rolling "Remember These Chords in the Morning" with a mournful dirge cello underneath the mix. After a punchy title track, Arbogast ends it all with "Let There Be No Mounrful Tears", a tune that sounds like Arbogast's last will and testament.
MP3: "Last Songs" - from Souls
The Negatones, The Negatones (www.negatones.com) Rating: 5
So who exactly are the Negatones? A few spins of eponymous debut LP (though they have a few EPs to their credit) brings listeners no real insight. Are they a frantic garage band (as "And So My Troubles Began" would suggest), or Beck-lite kitchen-sink bohemians ("The Confrontation Happened"), or Blaxploitation enthusiasts ("The Godfather") or Newgrass pranksters ("Banjo Etudes")? For sure, their genre hopping would play well live at a house party, but on disc it's all so much "jack of all trades, master of none" disorientation. Should the Negatones tighten their focus, here's hoping they build around their best incarnation: the slinky merchants of cool personae they adopt on "The Escalator Song". The tune, with funky vibraphones and out-there lyrics like "Off and on the generator / Dealing with the azimuth / And key attenuators / Beeping like a satellite", stands out on the disc. There's plenty of solid musicianship to go around on The Negatones, but it needs to be paired with focus.
Roma 79, The Great Dying (Ascetic) Rating: 4
According to my close friend Google, Roma 79 was a 1976 movie made by the celebrated Italian film director and football star Marco Zamboni that briefly featured Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls. Dressed entirely in white, Smalls plays a trained assassin who is gunned down by the film’s protagonist before the opening credits. True or false, this is absolutely the most interesting thing about The Great Dying and the California trio named (presumably) for the movie. That's not to say Roma 79 aren't proficient in their blending of many of yesterday and today's alt-rock clichés, it's just to say, so what? As his band mates once advised Smalls, Roma 79 are simply "missing something in terms of thrust" in the "power zone". Someone fetch this band some musical zucchini. Or maybe a courgette. [Amazon]
Roommate, Songs the Animals Taught Us (Roommate) Rating: 6
Kent Lambert is visual. He's very visual in fact looking at the number of videos that have appeared in various film festivals globally. But he's branching out into music with some assistance from a fine list of new musicians. However, the songs, despite sounding like Neil Young in his electronic, robotic phase, take a while to enjoy, especially the rather cold and aloof "Tuesday". However, Lambert has an adventurous streak on the synthesizer samples-meets-mountain music of "Fairgrounds". Think of the Soggy Mountain Boys inspired by the theme to Star Trek and you get the gist of the tune. But "Hot Commods" is a fine track that is melodic with a strange, surprising poppy twist. Fans of Baby Dayliner would also enjoy "Typhoon" and its minimal approach. For the most part though, after the first six songs, the album becomes monotonous and a tad dreary, especially the darker and rather morbid "Dinner With Ivan". The lone exception is "Fresh Boys" that resembles a '50s era high school prom ditty.