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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
11 November 2005
The Witnesses, Hard Up (Howler) Rating: 7
Listening to New York sleazesters the Witnesses is a similar experience to a bout of heavy drinking. At the time, it's a lot of fun, being overwhelmed with sights and sounds your brain can't really process properly, relishing in the feeling that you're doing something counter-productive and socially irresponsible. After the whole experience is through, you're left with only vague memories and a creeping sense of embarrassment and reproach. To the Witnesses' credit, they have incorporated the hangover experience into their stopgap EP Hard Up. Opening with a series of trashcan rock numbers, the band intoxicates the listeners with its gutter punk meets glam-metal sound, not to mention the thrilling interplay between frontman Oakley Munson and serious wailer Bonnie Bloomgarden (the band's hidden weapon). However, after the messy fun comes the crashing comedown, "Trouble", successfully transplanted from their debut Tunnel Vision. As in a hangover, every little sound on "Trouble" seems to be amplified, from the twangy guitar strums to the kitchen-sink percussion, and Bloomgarden admonishes the listener, after the woozy escapism of the rest of Hard Up, that they "can't keep running from (their) troubles". If the first part of the album brands the band as a guilty pleasure, "Trouble" shows their emotional core, recalling the wasted sing-a-long ballads from Exile on Main Street. The Witnesses' ability to conjure up both sides of the party atmosphere, the joy and the hidden despair, makes them a bit deeper than they seem on their un-bathed surfaces.
The Rogers Sisters, Emotion Control (Too Pure) Rating: 7
A seven-inch vinyl single, this is the Rogers Sisters' debut US release on the British-based Too Pure label that released the trio's 2004 mini-album Three Fingers in Europe earlier this year. There will be a new album early in 2006 and, on this evidence, it will be well worth looking out for. I was first introduced to the Rogers Sisters two or three years ago by a Texan chica from a band called Kino-Eye (Hi Rebecca!) who had exceptional taste in early '80s post-punk feminist pop. Clearly, the Rogers Sisters have similar listening habits. It's not hard to detect the legacy of the Au Pairs, Girls At Our Best, Kleenex and Delta 5 (to name but the most obvious suspects) in their sound, especially if you throw in the B52s for good measure, and yet the Rogers Sisters have managed to grow these obvious influences into something a little more than an '80s chick tribute band. "Emotion Control" plays Jennifer Rogers' likeable pop singing off against Miyuki Furtado's more intense and rhythmically declamatory style to good effect, while the more interesting b-side "The Conversation" plays like the bastard offspring of the Delta 5' "Mind Your Own Business" and the B52's Wild Planet album while Miyuki comes over like Fred Schneider with a political agenda. I look forward to the new album.
Fingers Cut Megamachine, Pipe Dreams (Thick) Rating: 6
Devon Williams is Fingers Cut Megamachine. Apart from having the most ridiculous band name this side of the '70s funk movement (I have the undeniable urge to add "Experience" to the end of it and "The" to the beginning), FCM's recent EP features six solid songs of acoustic guitar Americana with lyrics referencing tambourines, sunny days, and this refrain: "Will you open up your arms for our love". It's a little cheesy, but it sounds earnest. The songs rarely venture past guitar and vocals, sometimes adding a simple drum part or quiet backing vocals. Nothing is invigorating to the form, but it's very pleasant and dreamy. Wilco and a number of other roots bands started with a similar formula, so can we expect Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in a few years? Maybe not, but this will do for a rainy day.
The Exit, Home For an Island (Wind-Up) Rating: 6
The Exit sound like they're from the past, but there's enough smarts that resonate today to make it just get above the bar. The percussion driven "Don't Push" is adequate yet lacks any punch during the chorus. The same can be said for the lackadaisical, reggae-tinted "Back To The Rebels" that comes off like a hardcore Maroon 5 song if such a thing exists. There are some fine moments including the winding and weaving guitars dominating "Home For an Island" and the arty rock of "Pressure Cooker" that could be mistaken for Futureheads or Gang of Four or those Franz fellows. Meanwhile "The Sun Will Rise in Queens" is an eclectic tune that shifts from a late '60s guitar romp to a reggae-pop feeling throughout. The record's pleasant surprise is an acoustic jaunt entitled "Soldier" that could have come from the Verve on their last legs or Richard Ashcroft's solo work. As it goes along, a couple of songs come off as filler, particularly the moody, mid-tempo effort titled "Darlin" and "Already Gone". If you are tired of The Police, this album at times should be a refreshing bit of pop. That is until you need to hear Synchronicity again.
.: posted by Editor 8:02 AM