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Xbxrx, Sixth in Sixes (Polyvinyl) Rating: 7
Xbxrx is going to be big, at least as far as balls-to-the-wall math-core bands get big. I know this because much of their debut album is a solid, straight-up math-core album, all tempo changes and humongous guitar noises and willfully amelodic basslines and screechy, screamy vocals. As such, it is good. What Sixth in Sixes has that most albums of this nature don't, however, is the ability to reveal new layers upon repeat listening. The ten seconds or so of Halloween synths that bridge the first two vocal sections of "Fabricated Progression" are fantastic, and "Hope Until We Can't" sounds a bit like Kurt Cobain on spin cycle. Still, nothing can compete with "Beat Rolls On", one of only two songs (of 18) to break the two-minute mark, which allows a bit of Devo influence in its uncharacteristic rigidity -- that is, until it explodes into a crushing minute of guitar noise, Faith No More synth work and harmonica. Sixth in Sixes is that rare ball of fire that offers a touch of respite from the constant heat in the form of variety. And really, any album in this genre that can inspire an excited second listen deserves a good, close look.
Elliott Brood, Ambassador (Six Shooter) Rating: 7
Nothing fancy about Elliott Brood, folks. The trio of Mark Sasso, Casey LaForet and Stephen Pitkin pluck and stomp the hell out of traditional "mountain" instruments like guitar, banjo and anything else to create a fantastic album, beginning to end. Even if you hated the album, the artwork and presentation is excellent, consisting of a train ticket on the inner fold. Easing themselves into the opener "Twill", the band sounds like a long lost Appalachian rocker performed by the great uncle of Neil Young. "President (35)" is an infectious romp that has you toe-tapping if not testing the floor beams with a hard, repetitive thud. The same can be said for "Second Son" and also "Wolfgang". Some might argue this is rather repetitive, and they could be right. But when it's done this good, dang it, you can't do anything but love it. Perhaps the odd song out is the Celtic-tinged, whispery "Jackson", that sounds eerily like Rod Stewart. That and The Wall-like feel to "Johnny Rooke". The cheery mood picks up with the galloping "The Bridge". Fans of Ramsay Midwood rejoice, you've found another like-minded ensemble.
Moistboyz, IV (Sanctuary) Rating: 5
Those who will love Moistboyz' IV already know who they are; so zealous is their devotion to the brown sound that they would probably offer up a blood sacrifice to the Boognish if ordered. If you have no idea what that means, it's likely that Moistboyz (Mickey Melchiondo of Ween and Guy Heller of False Front) is patently not for you. The Boyz' so-ironic-it's-not-ironic brand of metal is in full effect, but there's a definite push to politicize their message as evidenced by "I Don't Give a Fuck Where the Eagle Flies" and "Uncle Sam and Me". Later on, it's back to normal: "White Trash", "Fuck You", and "Everybody's Fucked Her" give an accurate taste of their overboard comic tastelessness. The Boognish may be satisfied by the hellish riffs and rampant, often uncreative profanity, but you've got to be willing to stomach assaults of every kind to really connect with this one.
Morning Star, The Opposite is True (Microbe/Disco-Ordination) Rating: 4
Morning Star are a British collective helmed by Jesse Vernon. Vernon's eclectic choice of songs and arrangements is akin to Tom Waits, as if he's creating a new batch of timeless folk tunes. Even with the variety, the songs are often timid and boring. Look no further than the first two tracks. Both struggle to be memorable. "Sunbeam", however, strikes a good balance between wacky and catchy, and "Great Day" is an exuberant joy that sounds like it's from a Disney musical. But "Going Home", the closer, is an embarrassing country ditty. The most consistent problem is flimsy production that leaves mediocre songs flailing in the wind and good songs never rising to the level of greatness. And that's the "opposite" of expert music making.