PopMatters home | short takes home | archivesPopMatters Music Short Takes
The Rudds, Get the Femuline Hang On (self-released) Rating: 7
If you're easily frightened when rock 'n' roll gets drunk on feverish allusions and eats its own tail in flamboyant chomps of huzzah!, walk away now. Get the Femuline Hang On, the new full-length by the Rudds, is plain nuts -- a record of dizzying fun that manages to cram Cheap Trick, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Napoleon Murphy Brock, and Todd Rungren down the front of its spandex rock pants. So is it any good, you ask? Look, this band can evoke "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "I Saw the Light", "Jealous Guy", and "Surrender" all within the course of a song or two. How's about that, you rock charlatans? Not good enough? What about rock 'n' roll archetypes, stereotypes, legends, curses, and in-jokes? Not to mention the riffed-up odes to flakey guitarists ("Tony Savarino"), predictable sophomore albums ("Oh No! (They're Gonna Make Another One"), and studio perfectionism ("F# / C") that make Get the Femuline some kind of meta-rock high. It would all be a little too comical for its own good if the band -- a motley Boston supergroup of sorts -- didn't rock like the E Street Band in the Revolution's clothes. John Powhida, the Rudds' resident mastermind, has a set of honeyed pipes that sting like flame licking an ice sculpture. And though it loses some momentum in the home stretch, Get the Femuline maintains its infectious insanity long enough to make a wicked impression.
Xiu Xiu/Devendra Banhart, "The Body Breaks" b/w "Support Our Troops! OH!" [7" single] (5RC) Rating: 6
They each are weird and have funny voices, so working together was a perfect idea for Xiu Xiu and Devendra Banhart. On this 7", Xiu Xiu covers Banhart's "The Body Breaks," adding electronic beats and just enough noise to get the track out of the dusky fields and into Jamie Stewart's mental world of decay. Banhart takes on one of his colleague's finest and most memorable numbers, an anti-war rant that, in the original, is scary and pleasing all at once, which is even more pleasing and scary all at once. Banhart sings the words with his hippie joy that adds a further level of perversion to the lyrics. We expect our folkies to protest the war, but we don't expect them to tell a soldier, "Why should I care if you ever get killed?" The covers serve their function of pulling out extra threads of meaning, and the artists apparently are a good match, and not just because they're both weird.
Ghostface Killah, "Be Easy" [single] (Def Jam) Rating: 8
Do I even need to say that Ghost brings the heat? He's rapping like he swallowed a bag of bathtub speed, desperate to pour every ounce of soul possible into his strange, awkwardly loping syntax. Pete Rock (yes, that Pete Rock) provides the kind of head-bobbing, old-school soul-sampling funk jam they just don't make anymore -- except, obviously, they still do. Swirling strings bring the heat on the hook, while he brags "you at the bar already drinking my piss, son, / The yellow shit in the bottle ain't Crys, son, / You turned your motherfuckin' head nigga we switched 'em." He seems crazy enough that he just might do it, so maybe you should keep your hand on your drink.
Judd and Maggie, Subjects (RCA) Rating: 7
Judd and Maggie is a brother and sister tandem who has gone to the Wild Strawberries or Go Betweens School of Pop Harmonies. Witty, strong and highbrow, the music is almost too melodic for its own good during the electro-tinged roots of "Snow Song" and on the delightful "Perfectly" which is an apt description of how they go about their craft. Think of Buckingham and Nicks before the split and you would get a good idea of this dreamy sonic concoction. Maggie would give Sarah McLachlan a run for her money with "Story" and "One Year Past 20", the latter possessing a snowy sleigh ride feeling to it. Judd though isn't chop liver with his piano-fuelled ballad "Big Lights". Fans of Michael Penn and Aimee Mann would lap up the catchy pop oozing from "Sleep Interrupted (Because of You)". There are numbers that are a bit too rich, particularly the orchestral "Sponge". The tender and soothing "Late Hour" eases into a 4/4 pop tempo as gently as rocking a baby to sleep, making it the easy apex of the record. "Closer" isn't the closer but is a gear-changing gem that puts a bounce in one's step.