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Sadaharu, The Politics of Dancing (CI)
Sadaharu had me by the title of its latest album, The Politics of Dancing, which borrows the title of one hit wonder Re-Flex's quasi-political dance anthem and actually takes it as the album's guiding principle. At least I think that's what the band is doing, it's hard to tell what exactly lead singer Jeff Breil is screaming about without a lyrics book of some sort. Still, I get the point, the righteous indignation that seethes from songs titles like "Did You Know That You're Living in the Town Where Dreams Go to Die?" or "A Clear Discrepancy Between What is and What Should Be". Briel's anger is offset by the angular, post-hardcore riffing provided by the rest of the band. If it isn't exactly the dance music sarcastically promised by the title, the off-kilter drumming and obliquely melodic quitar riffs actually do get one's head bopping at times. "In the Dark, All Cats are Grey" is perhaps a representative song on the album. In it, a vitriolic punk song suddenly evolves into a burst of Don Cabellero-esque post-punk surf music before Briel's voice screams his anger over this strange new piece of music until he almost wills a return to the catchy punk rock opener. The song seems to span an entire decade of musical evolution in three and a half minutes. More adventurous than your average hardcore band and angrier than your average post-hardcore outfit, Sadaharu is a cut above most of its brethren. [Amazon]
The Chemistry, The Chemistry (Razor & Tie) Rating: 5
The Chemistry is a new quintet who could be Jimmy Eat World's long lost cousins from Boise. From the opening of "From Within", the band manages to sound polished without being too glossy and packaged. The song twists and turns for an interesting listen as lead singer Danny Mitchell sings about listlessness ending. Ditto for the melancholic but non-whiny teen angst found on "About You". They cross the line though with the Simple Plan-ish play-by-numbers of "Deja Vous" while "The Same" is more of the same. The low point comes during "Hopeless" which, is, well, I'll let you figure it out. A cross between Hoobastank and Incubus, the track tries to soar but hits the ground right off the bat. The Chemistry hits back with the better than average and quite radio-friendly "She Takes You". The galactic start to "Jones" ends up being a soppy, string-laced affair. The only asset is a rather strong chorus. The truly strangely inviting number is "Still Alive" which has the melody of The Police and the intensity of Taking Back Sunday, but Mitchell's rap makes you envision the comic book store owner on The Simpsons. And the line "these songs will never die" could be up for questioning. "Last Impression" is another sad piano-fueled ballad. I was wrong. Jimmy Eat World has nothing to fear. [Amazon]
Bermuda Triangle Service, High Swan Dive (self-released) Rating: 3
Alt-country's biggest sin is that the thin line between poignancy and sheer aural torture is a messily blur one. After all, alt-country's perchance of amplifying country's own lazy strumming, deliberate drawls and the inherent darkness of its Americana roots can either lead to absorption or agony, depending on the proficiency of the band. Unfortunately, Bermuda Triangle Service resides on the wrong end of the divide. The "Dive" part of High Swan Dive is the most accurate part of the album title, the eight tracks but a descent into drudgery, evoking an ennui that is birthed from unwitting boredom rather than genius expression. Wilco or Wovenhand this ain't. Recommendation to avoid.
Bellafea, Family Tree (Pidgeon English) Rating: 7
Bellefea are a twosome. But the comparisons to The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979 should be nipped in the bud. Think more along the lines of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch on "Be Still & Know" and you have a good inkling. Helped by Liza Kate, lead singer Heather McEntire simply claps, sings and stomps her way through this a cappella track. It's a totally different animal on "Tara" however as they sound like a cross between Tegan And Sara and The White Stripes, changing the gears of the tune before brilliantly ripping the song apart. Fans of PJ Harvey would lap this up and then some! "While We Are Still Young" is mid-tempo and less intense in an alt. rock or indie rock manner. The song opens again for a rollicking head-bobbing rocker. Unfortunately the hi-hat work on "Seasons" doesn't quite measure up to this rather ordinary lithe ditty. It's here where the penmanship shows with some great lyrics and images. The hushed and almost claustrophobic title track rounds things out but not before McEntire marks an excellent mark on the listener. Her style is a double-edged sword, but one where both sides would slay contemporaries easily. [Amazon]
Mystechs, Mystechs (Omega Point) Rating: 5
The Korean lettering on this album gave me a horrid flashback of ESL teaching outside Seoul. Okay, that's over.... now the album. This Chi-town duo offer a freaky, electro-pop music which sounds like Primus if Claypool was as nutty for the keyboard as he was for the bass on the opener "The Gutter". This bizarreness though is a hit-and-miss affair, although the groovy "Rock And Roll Killed The Eskimos" might lure several people in with its new wave roots. From there it veers into a falsetto-tinted version of "O Canada". At least they don't screw up the words. The first true pleaser though is "Hockey Night" which comes off like a rap act honing its skills while listening to Gary Numan. The low points though are just as abundant, especially the garish "Lingfush" and "Evil Bob", the latter sounding as if Yoda decided to duet with Peaches. Yet they nail the mid-tempo pop rocker "I Wanna Be Your Car" splendidly. The Spaghetti Western-ish "Beast" raises the bar but on the whole this album is an acquired taste even after a few listens, although the light, dreamy cover of Iggy Pop and David Bowie's "Tonight" does have its moments.
Plank63, Symmetry (Superdups) Rating: 3
"Yeah you think you're something but you're really not / Coming at me with the moves that you ain't got." And so goes "Face Off", from the northeast's Plank63. Since the target of the song's (or album's, for that matter) aggression is never once even remotely hinted at, I'm left to guess what it's about. "I'll rip your face off / So you want to go another round." Hmmm… pro wrestling? That's about the only match that seems justified for the melodrama of Symmetry. Beefy, hulking, early-90's metal riffs are the elbows from the top ropes, the violent lyrics are the pile-drivers, curiously aimed at nothing in particular. The sensitive soul baritone and wounded animal sentiment is the "depth" and storyline that drives fans to memorize moves and make cardboard signs. Sigh. Self-obsessed, self-deprecating, self-aggrandizing... they should do just fine for the times.