PopMatters home | short takes home | archives
PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
08 July 2005
Super Deluxe, Lolita EP (Control Group/TCG) Rating: 4
Is it time for the '90s alt-rock revival? I know, it seems like we haven't even scratched the surface of the '80s, but the modern rock airwaves now look a lot like they did back in 1995. One alternative chart I saw featured Green Day, Garbage, Beck, Weezer, and Nine Inch Nails. Super Deluxe, years and years after their 1997 breakthrough Via Satellite, has decided this is a perfect time to return to the music industry. The band's new EP Lolita shows that the band hasn't changed its approach in its near decade long absence. Super Deluxe plays in that alt-rock middle ground, trying to play both sides by including both crunchy grunge riffs and catchy power pop choruses. As much as I would like to sentimentalize the music of my teenage years, and try to lift it above the modern rock music of the last few years, Lolita actually reminds me of a few of the embarrassing aspects of the alternative rock boom. Lolita features pointless guitar solos, Cobain-channeling moments of faux-angst, and that uniquely '90s inability to fully reconcile the catchy moments ("Knockout") with the angry moments ("Give It Up"). "Enough is Enough" has a little bit of garage band bluster, but there's nothing on Lolita that couldn't
be found in any cut-out bin in North America. Heck, you could even find Super Deluxe's superior Warner Brothers albums in there! In any case, Lolita offers no proof that Super Deluxe needed to reunite.
Splendid, States of Awake EP (Popboomerang) Rating: 7
Splendid is an apt word for this group and its music. The deep accent of singer Angie Hart (formerly of Frente) makes it sound all the more alluring, but the retro sound and tempo yearns to be loved immediately. "Asleep" starts things off with a gorgeous rhythm section and tight percussion. Accompanied by band mate Jesse Tobias, the music and groove soars without any additional layering or arrangement. "I'm a little frail," she sings over a simple percussion before marginally opening up again. The deep breathing of "Disappointed" sets the tone for a simple acoustic-tinged whispery number. The real jewel though is the unnoticeable cover of the Pet Shop Boys' "Tomorrow We'll Wake" that rides on a basic bass line. It's a perfect adult contemporary nugget. "Sleeping" doesn't quite hit the mark in its minstrel-ish approach. The Smith-like title "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk" is another stunning bit of work -- dreamy and melding indie with ambient touches.
Gitogito Hustler, Gitogito Galore (Gearhead) Rating: 6
Have you ever heard an all female, Japanese Ramones cover band? Me neither, but I suspect this will be as close as you or I will ever come. Gitogito Hustler have already released three albums on their own Candy Poison label in their Native Japan. However, Gitogito Galore marks their US debut. This six-song EP should be welcomed with open arms by punk fans and hipsters coast to coast. The opening track, "Muscle Body Ecstasy" rips open the album, with "one, two, three, GO" before muscling guitars explode and blister through the next two minutes and 32 seconds. Throughout the album, the guitar player, Mitsuko, consistently anchors the songs with stellar guitar tone -- whether she's searching for the muscling rhythms of the Ramones or Keith Richards' four-bar blues leads. The EP is sung entirely in Japanese (with the exception of the count offs), so that could be a draw back, though I suspect the seductive pop-punk tunes are sufficient to keep you interested.
Gorch Fock, Lying And Manipulating (Australian Catte God) Rating: 7
When you see the band's name, you might think it's taken from one of the deleted scenes of Deliverance. But this album is a stoner rock fan's manna. The opening "Prologue: Mexia Creek Crossover" is thick with riffs and an early Floydian-meets-QOTSA vibe. Not a cookie cutter album by any means, guitars and other instruments fade in and out to create the perfect trippy trek in your head with a metal underbelly. It's a tweaked out Primal Scream before coming to a stop nearly six minutes later. And the Austin-based septet continues this with horns during the funkier, almost Sly-tinged "Scott Jernigan". "Bono" is more formulaic and garage-ish but "Tap Is Crack" is pure bombast. Think Fred Durst meeting Frank Zappa and you should get the idea. "Brazilian Whack Job" and also "Jefferson Davis Pinkus" are other odd little nuggets evoking thoughts of Ian Curtis singing to Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive". "Penance/Giant Mast" is completely insane however, going from chant to sonic nuttiness in just over a minute. Perhaps the mainstream effort is "Tampa Pentagram" which is still spacey but the most coherent of the lot. A cover of Neil Young's "Ohio" ends this incredibly impressive but insane, joyful yet disconcerting sound.
Dave Miller, Mitchells Raccolta (Background) Rating: 5
Agreeable, slightly jazzy Intelligent Dance Music is what you get with this debut from Perth, Australia's Dave Miller. Bits of trumpet, skeletal percussion and sub-bass bounce around the speakers in a free jazz kind of way, all covered in a warm layer of fuzz. If you're not into this kind of thing, you may think something's wrong with your stereo connections. However, if you can handle the idea of an entire album's worth of music that sounds like it could've been made entirely with cut-up ringtones, then songs like "Bump Then Feel" and "Broken Fun, Now Fixed" will get your headphones bumpin', not least because of their titles alone.
.: posted by Editor 8:28 AM
07 July 2005
Sinai Beach, Immersed (Victory) Rating: 2
Well, you've got to hand it to Southern California Christian band Sinai Beach for at least having the guts to buck trends; after all, it's not every day you get a young metalcore band who goes out of its way to thank America, the Republican Party, and the United States Armed Forces. While anti-Bush sentiment runs deep in the metal community (with Lamb of God's volatile Ashes of the Wake leading the way), there are still the odd right-wingers out there, such as Alice Cooper and Iced Earth leader Jon Schaffer, but to their credit, they back it up with their strong music. Sinai Beach's new album Immersed is the latest entry in what has become an unending parade of cookie cutter metalcore bands on the Victory label, and while the Pantera-meets-Hatebreed sound is as bland as every other kiddie band out there, the sermonizing in the songs always remains tasteful and not heavy-handed. However, it's vocalist CJ Alderson who ruins things completely with a very annoying Glenn Danzing impression during the melodic choruses. It's an awkward fit with this style of music, and his Misfits-style affectations are so blatant, it's hard to stifle laughter. Sinai Beach can sermonize and proselytize all they want, but until they decide to do something other than this insipid kiddiecore music, people will be too busy listening to more original metal acts to care what these guys are prattling on about.
Smoke and Smoke, Love Suffers Long (Frenchkiss) Rating: 4
Smoke and Smoke, as they triumphantly shout on "Into the Smoke and Smoke" don't give a fuck. This new band, featuring ex-members of bass-riffers godheadSilo and gutter punks Murder City Devils, is a minimalist affair. Smoke and Smoke, like godheadSilo, is also strictly a bass and drums affair, but unlike that band's prog-like structures, this time around they keep things short and sweet. The nine songs here get in and out in merely 20 minutes, but as the band insists on in their promo material, this is not an EP. The band doesn't waste any time in the studio either. There are no overdubbed synths or moody string sections to be found here. Cut live off the floor of their practice space, Love Suffers Long exudes a lot of sweat and filth but little else. The raw texture of these songs is almost palpable, but I'll be damned if I actually remember any of the tunes I heard. But what does one little critic like me really matter? After all, these boys don't give a fuck. They don't want to belong to any scene, don't care for fancy studio trickery, and really, they just want to rock. And it can't be denied that they do just that, but by time the last track finishes up, Love Suffers Long appears to be all smoke and no fire.
Sons of Armageddon, The Softest Touch (Colorado Music Association) Rating: 5
If The Softest Touch had come out 10 years ago, it might have been more interesting than it is. However, given that, it's hard not to see that the SoA's mixture of jazz, dub reggae and lot of samples is very familiar. Listening to "Ripe Watermelon" us liable to give you flashbacks to Kruder & Dorfmeister's epochal G-Stoned EP (which was released -- holy moley! -- almost 10 years ago). The one unique element they add ot the well-worn dub-hop template is Kirk Knuffke's trumpet, which adds a suitably melancholy note to the otherwise noodly proceedings. These guys have a nice ear for groove (as on the nine-minute-long "Dubya" and the Lee Perry homage "A Thousand Kisses Deep"), but they suffer from sounding overly similar to too many other groups I could mention, but wont.
Kelly Buchanan, Bastard Daughter (Velver Ear) Rating: 5
After an annoying and needless intro (give it a rest people!) Kelly Buchanan sounds like a woman with an axe to grind, but it's a good axe exemplified by her very good pipes on "Letter in Your Mailbox". Often these songs rely on well-worn melodies, although "No Vacancy" doesn't real go over that strongly despite the acerbic lyric "F-k you I'm fine". It's sort of like Sheryl Crow waking up to find Lance piddled in her corn flakes. "Piggyback Ann" is a punk tune that talks about a girl getting around with okay results. The quirky "Volcanic Lover" is stronger as Buchanan leads the tune down a very solid radio-friendly path. This momentum reaches fruition on the tension-filled "Cocaine" but then hits a wall with the vitriolic "Body Bag" as the Alanis-ish anger comes to the surface and yet far more graphic. The highlights by far are the acoustic "Favorite Jeans" and "Lullaby" as Buchanan relies on her stellar vocals to carry it along. "Gun Or a Ring" is another pleaser, but the uneven nature to the album is its biggest obstacle.
.: posted by Editor 7:37 AM
06 July 2005
Puerto Muerto, "Crimson Beauty" CD Single (Fire) Rating: 7
Tim Kelley and Christa Meyer, the husband and wife duo who comprise Puerto Muerto, have firmly established themselves as fine purveyors of traditional American music mixed with everything from Kurt Weill to Spanish folk music. "Crimson Beauty", the second single from their latest album, See You in Hell, offers a melody that is a cross between "This Land is Your Land" and "You Are My Sunshine", and blends the pair's voices with Buddy Holly knee-slap percussion and electric guitar to nice effect. Naturally, "Crimson Beauty" is a sea-shanty, the kind of song that Puerto Muerto have done so often that critics have dubbed their music "pirate-rock". It's kind of unfair to dumb down their style to an asinine catch-phrase, however, as Johnny Cash is as much an influence here as the sea, and it's not like the St. Louis-based duo are some sort of maritime novelty act. It's refreshing to hear a band keep a traditional art-form alive and kicking, and I don't think it's really supposed to be hip -- just good. The traditional "Walking Boss" is also included here, as is the bonus acoustic version of Puerto Muerto live staple "Jean LaFitte". Overall, this is a good taster if you're new to Puerto Muerto's music. For those of us who are already fans, it doesn't offer anything that isn't on See You in Hell, other than a rather redundant version of "Jean LaFittte", which isn't drastically different than the original version on 2002's Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore. For a little extra money, you can have the full See You in Hell album, which I highly recommend.
The Beautiful Girls, Learn Yourself (San Dumo) Rating: 6
Originally released in their native Australia two years ago, this roots rock trio's second album (first in the States) will make a nice soundtrack to any lazy summer night. A confluence of influences, Learn Yourself is a little pre-war blues, a little bit of Sublime's reggae-tinged melodies; Ben Harper, Jack Johnson both come to mind. "Black Bird", in particular, is quite wonderful, and Mason Jennings makes a guest appearance on "Freedom (Part 2)", making it another standout. Learn Yourself is not pushing boundaries or breaking new ground, and it may be a little stillborn in places, but it's still inviting like a tall glass of lemonade melting in the summer sun.
Jessica Jones, Every Barren Branch (Stop and Rewind) Rating: 8
Jessica Jones has her own label and has made a very credible, home demo-ish recording. Fans of Cat Power and especially Julie Doiron would love this record as 12 songs are churned out in less than 30 minutes. Basically from the folksy acoustic strumming on "These Are My Hands", Jones gives the listener one strong and impressive tune after another. "What We'll Admit" is slightly slower and lighter with Jones giving a very precious, stunning performance. Ditto for "Off and On" with the distant but important backing vocals fleshing things out! The sparseness of the album is what draws you into nuggets such as the folksy lullaby "The Bird", the gorgeous "Alabama" the sweet indie rock flair of "Too Long" and the Celtic feel behind the circular melody of "The Gulf". Nary a bad tune to be found, this record is proof that a good songwriter is a good songwriter! Please stop and rewind this album again and again.... I'll shut up now, I'm gushing...
Apogee Unconscious Ruckus (Kanpai) Rating: 4
The problem with Apogee, AKA Jay Skinner, is that he just doesn't seem to know what he wants to be when he grows up. The music on Unconscious Ruckus betrays a rootlessness that could stem from Skinner's background as a soundtrack musician, or just a general lack of focus -- but either way the album adds up to less than the sum of its parts. There are bits and pieces of more prominent acts tossed seemingly at random throughout the course of the disc, from Nine Inch Nails (on the brooding "Creeper"), to the Postal Service ("I'm Yours") to Squarepusher and µ-ziq ("KDDR MOV. 3"). As you may expect from someone who cut his teeth on soundtrack work (for movies like The Mothman Prophecies and The Rules of Attraction), everything is impeccably recorded and tastefully mixed. But the whole thing slides in one ear and out the other, barely registering before it passes. Promising, but only just.
.: posted by Editor 5:54 AM