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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
30 June 2005
LCD Soundsystem, Yr City's a Sucker (DFA) Rating: 8
Originally intended as a UK B-side to LCD Soundsystem's "Movement" single, "Yr City's a Sucker" is so good, that not only was it included on the outstanding, double-disc extravaganza that is the debut LCD Soundsystem album, but it's also been given a U.S.-only release on 12" vinyl. Deservedly so, as this laid-back, lackadaisical, nine minute jam serves as a cool respite from the disco-meets-acid euphoria of the masterful 2004 single "Yeah". Centering around a simple bass vamp that totally smacks of the Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth, LCD impresario James Murphy and his cadre of cohorts have fun, tossing in doses of atmospheric synths and lots and lots of cowbells, as Murphy enigmatically drawls the cryptic refrain of "Your city's a sucker/ My city's a creep." What the hell the man means by that hardly matters, as anyone listening is going to be too busy dancing to the minimalist, yet sumptuous track. It's that irresistible. Accompanied by an instrumental version of the same track, which allows listeners to focus on the subtle musicianship at work, this little single is further proof that Murphy is well past dance punk, and already inhabits a kooky world all his own.
Uber Cool Kung Fu, 3 (Omega Point) Rating: 3
Form an acronym using the first letters of Uber Cool Kung Fu's name, and you get UCKF. Really, there's little else you need to know about the mentality that this four-piece out of Minneapolis brings to its craft. Words like "electropunk" and "industrial" get bandied about in descriptions of the band, but a listen through their new album 3 finds them having about as much in common with those genres as, say, recent Good Charlotte singles do. UCKF writes angry songs about girls, the price of fame, and more girls. There are typically plenty of angst-filled vocals, guitars, and techno-ish synth noises to go around. Promising moments like the fast and furious "Feel Nothing" and the peppy Information Society stomp of "Tonite" are brought down by a mess of poor production and hackneyed songwriting -- the sneer of "Hollywood Kills" would really benefit from an instrumental explosion in the chorus rather than the simple punch-in-the-head repetition of the title, and closing track "Down" is the worst kind of power-ballad, strings and all, with cloned Trent Reznor vocals getting all sensitive on our asses. This is the kind of disc that makes its listeners wistful for the glory days of Stabbing Westward; any album that accomplishes that dubious feat is doing something seriously wrong.
"Groovy" Joe Poovey, The Late Great Me (Little Darlin'/Koch) Rating: 6
"Groovy" Joe Poovey is little more than a footnote to rock and roll history. First coming to prominence when he appeared on the Big "D" Jamboree as one of Elvis Presley's opening acts, he recorded a handful of records, mostly rockabilly, never achieving the level of success of contemporaries like Carl Perkins or Gene Vincent. That doesn't mean Poovey lacked talent; on the contrary, as The Late Great Me, a 2004 release from Little Darlin' Records (a Kock subsidiary) shows, Poovey could rock as hard as anyone at the time. The 20 songs on the disc, recorded sporadically over a 40-year period represent Poovey's complete output and vary in quality. The earliest are thick with energy but are poorly recorded; the later songs, apparently recorded in the early 1990s before the singer's death, have a clean sound but feel dated, like curio pieces. Nonetheless, it is a disc that rock-a-billy fans should check out.
Clara Venus, Greatest Hurts (Programmed to Fail) Rating: 6
Clara Venus sound like a cross between early efforts by The National and John Mellencamp. The melodic and roots-tinged "Know When It's Over" has enough whiskey-soaked vocals to make the different twists and turns more than manageable and enjoyable. Fans of rowdier roots rock will lap up "Liar" with its guitars and great bass line. Another pleaser is the unnoticeable "Doesn't Work Right" which doesn't work right until they veer into a moody, Crowes-like Southern psychedelic jam. Then there is the pretty Petty-meets-Henley vibe on "Bastard" which takes a few moments to get into. The gist of this album is a mix of roots rock with catchy garage rock elements, especially on the sneering "Rolling in the Wrong Direction". The group nails "Secret" perfectly with an Americana-cum-The Sights vibe. Not all go over that well though as the languid "Dry Razor's Hand" proves. But they make up for it with a better, darker, haunting ballad in "Trigger".
.: posted by Editor 7:59 AM
29 June 2005
The Twigs, You Say Ah (Whirl-I-Gig) Rating: 6
The Twigs are twin sisters from Chicago who travel the world on various academic and musical pursuits, then send each other the music they've individually created and mix it on their computers. Laura and Linda Good both sing and play a variety of instruments as well as produce, write, and record all the tunes on their latest five song EP. If this sounds like some cold, cerebral project, the results show nothing could be further from the truth. Their sound resembles that other smart, white, sister, girl group band, The Roches. Both groups put their soft, feminine voices in the forefront of the mix to emphasize vocal harmonies and blend the sounds with that of instruments in lush and clever arrangements. The five songs here concern love and lust and capture the listener's attention largely through layering the vocals and increasing the sonic volume, as on the title tune. The Twigs also do the inverse on "Quiet", which features a Ruby Tuesday-like tune (intentionally so with lyrics like "you come and go") about a lover who needs to be free. The hushed tone reinforces the furtive quality of the relationship. The five tracks range from two to five minutes, and the EP lasts for a mere 20 minutes.
The Factory Incident, Redtape (Postfact) Rating: 6
Featuring former Government Issue lead singer John Schroeder, this band's six-song EP is a bouncy yet somewhat quirky rock package. Beginning with "Rail" which is part Coldplay and part Interpol, The Factory Incident make the most of the tune. Having more sway is the rumbling "Said And Won" which breaks out into a classic alt-rock mode. The longer the EP goes though, the more it becomes slightly Interpol-ish, with the minimal, almost monotone style of Schroeder on the mid-tempo then up-tempo "Argument" that has Aimee Soubier and Karl Hill trading nice licks. The Factory Incident will grow on you if you give them the benefit of what might be some initial doubt, with the glowing "In the Vile" conjuring up images of Ian Curtis and his mates. Less inspired is the run-of-the-mill "4AM", which winds itself around a very tight melody with the guitars kept rigidly in check. Thankfully the rhythm section is up to the task, propelling whatever strengths are found. Another great tune is "This Is Not a Swansong". Let's hope not.
Scott Hamilton, Back in New York (Concord) Rating: 7
Scott Hamilton matches his relaxed tenor saxophone to the exceptionally elastic Bill Charlap Trio on this first-class passage through ten standards. Though Scott made his name as a young turk who embraced swing style playing, this session proves (again) that he can play post-war jazz too, and the highlights are a pair of faster tunes by Dizzy and Bud Powell that force the band to play beyond its obvious comfort zone. These guys can play this stuff in their sleep, and that's the problem on the ballads -- they're gorgeous, and it you don't have a dozen tenor-plus-rhythm records already, these will suit you right up, but they're not distinguished by any excitement, innovation or drama. The faster tunes elevate everything, particularly when Charlap is soloing. He will always be compared to Bill Evans, but it's apt -- his playing bristles with invention and a rhythmic nimbleness that forces his Maserati band mates (Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums) to up-shift. On "Blue 'n' Boogie" Charlap plays lines that dodge every cliché of jazz improvising (no easy blues runs or cheap quotes) and seem to be inventing a new language. It's a thrill and shows why this trio is considered one of the best in New York today. Hamilton, back in town after moving to London, seems to understand that the stakes are suddenly higher, and his burnished tone takes just a hint of Getz-ian urgency. It's a nice pairing, but there a few too many ballads that make you feel that you've heard it all before.
Chris Moore, Figurines (Waterbug) Rating: 7
I didn't know what to expect when I dropped Figurines by Chris Moore into my CD player. The cardboard dust jacket with the primitive drawing of a man on a tree-swing offered no clue, but as the opening strains of "Volunteer", with its punchy acoustic rhythm, filtered out, a smile crept onto my face. Figurines is a quiet, relentless disc that walks the tightrope between indie rock and alt.country, with echoes of Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and an edge of the blues stirred in. Lyrically, Moore shows a sharp eye and a broad touch, a sense of the larger universe that enlarges his music without allowing it to become pretentious. I still smile when I listen.
.: posted by Editor 7:08 AM
27 June 2005
Lux Courageous, Reasons That Keep the Ground Near (Triple Crown) Rating: 8
The piano touches bring Something Corporate to mind, but there is more at work here during the band's opener "Concrete (Broadway)" which builds melodically into something far grander. It isn't emo by any stretch, as the roots-y foundation would be almost forbidden in that realm. Bands like Hot Hot Heat come to mind during the pleasing "Wearing Dangerous" and the fine "Safe At Last" thanks to the chops of Adam LoPorto and PJ Tepe. And unlike so many contemporaries, nothing is overproduced into blandness, capturing the feel of each track as if they were on stage in front of you. Lighter spots include the dreamy "Ambulance" but the jewel has to be the up-tempo "Everything You Wanted" which is basically everything you'd want in a great tune. "Hey... It Just Feels Better" is also another sleeper pick. This album keeps you in a good mood with humming, humming and more humming, although the jerky "This Town" reeks of filler. But the contagious and bouncy "Barely Enough" is more than enough. Great, quality-teeming rock with the odd summer driving tune sprinkled around.
Roy Jones, Jr., Body Head Bangerz Volume One (Universal) Rating: 6
There's nothing like listening to a punch-drunk boxer, known for having a big mouth and the boxing skills to back it up, dish out some jabs of the lyrical variety. Especially when his name is Roy Jones Jr. and he's not bad enough that you'd slam your headphones down in disgust. Body Head Bangerz Volume One is a hype-filled crunk fest, littered with well-known durrty south emcees Juvenile, Petey Pablo, and Lil' Flip. But remarkably, Jones' gruff delivery holds his own as evident on album opener "Can't Be Touched". Courtesy of Timothy "Fingerz" Spencer, the production is all sinister synth lines and calculated drum beats. It has the texture of the trash-talking banter boxers engage in when they're on the ropes ("Don't Start It"). This album has more energy than 10 servings of Crunk Juice and no nasty aftertaste. A flurry of punchy singles is what Jones delivers and in the end, it's more than enough to knock your ass out.
The Explosion, Black Tape (Virgin) Rating: 4
Listening to anything "punk" nowadays can trigger one distasteful reaction after another. It starts with both eyes rolling into the back of ones skull, a tightening of the esophagus, and is followed by either excessive dry mouth, headache, or the unleashing of some repressed anger. You may develop some if not all of these symptoms when listening to The Explosion's Black Tape, a 13-song assault on the senses that included lots and lots of empty slogans and sub-par lyrics ("There's no revolution anymore!" Etc. etc.), and a musicality found on punk records I'm either too stupid to remember or smart enough to forget. Making their major label debut, this Boston-area band is quite capable of producing some catchy punk: "Deliver Us," "Here I Am," and "Atrocity" are testaments to that. "Mothers Cry" even seems ready-made to lodge these punksters somewhere on MTV2. But the rest just rings hollow, especially "Heavyweight," which actually sounds like Ugly Kid Joe! In short, The Explosion is another punk band lacking any distinct persona, more banality than personality.
.: posted by Editor 7:31 AM