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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
07 February 2006
The Grates, The Ouch. The Touch. EP (Dew Process/Cherrytree) Rating: 9
Here's a prediction for 2006: the Grates will beat Be Your Own Pet for girl-led spaz-punk debut of the year. On stage in Sydney, Ben Lee (!) dubbed 2006 'the year of the Grates' -- but then, Ben Lee wrote "Awake is the New Sleep" -- so don't trust him, trust me. The Ouch. The Touch., the band's debut release, is a tantalizing promise of things to come: defiantly raucous freak-out "Message"; dragged-through-molasses guitar-strummed "Sukkafish"; robot-stomp sex-call "Trampoline". The whole time, drummer Alana Skyring pounds the living daylights out of her drum set, so you can't help but nod your head. Live, the Grates shine, too: singer Patience Hodgson bounces up and down the stage singing "wash me!", and she's so adorable you're coerced into having fun. I for one don't need any convincing: the Grates are definitely one of the bands to watch for in 2006.
Stephen Clair, Under the Bed (Valley Entertainment) Rating: 6
Stephen Clair is a smart singer-songwriter who has opened for Vic Chesnutt, Richard Buckner and The Gourds among others. And for good reason since the songs generally gel from the onset of "Gone Ten Years", a weary track that, as Clair sings, proves he's in no hurry. "It's a Riddle" is a funky, Sheryl Crow-like pedestrian pop track that is a tad forced, not utilizing Clair's strong points. After a few listens it should grow on you. He finds the best of both worlds on "My Heart's Not Broken" that Lucinda Williams would consider covering. Clair comes undone in a few places unfortunately, making "Stupid Game" sound more like "Stupid Song", a clichéd backbeat and rather routine melody. "The Moon" fares slightly better as he eases himself into the sparse, earthy, campfire ditty and the jerky but jaunty "Following Orders" that sounds like it was done in one take. "You can't catch a raindrop in a moth-eaten hat" he sings during the latter tune. When Clair is front and centre, stripped of any mediocre production, he stars with "A Woman Like You" that comes from the Kevin Welch school of songwriting. Happy go lucky during the swaying, catchy "Tomorrow's Another Day", Clair hits his stride perfectly here.
Menomena, "Posh Isolation / Tung Track" [7-inch single] (Polyvinyl) Rating: 6
Menomena's new 7-inch and first offering on Polyvinyl contains two tracks that were recorded during the sessions for their debut album, 2004's I Am the Fun Blame Monster. That album was a bizarre amalgamation of activity that resulted in one of the year's most fun releases. Given that background, it's no wonder that these songs were chopped. Both are moody electronic numbers that fit neither the emotion nor the playfulness of their compiled counterparts. Even so, neither one's a bust. B-side "Tung Track" actually wins out, with its snipped percussion and desolate vocals. "Posh Isolation" has the same gloom and loneliness, this time driven by a couple guitar strings and a bass and interrupted by the group's direct electronic mind before suffering slight fragmentation. Menomena maintains an aura of nerdy weirdness about them, and this release lacks that enough oddity to compensate for its missing joy. Even so, the pair of songs should keep anticipation up for this year's full-length, given that even the group's outtakes can entertain.
Dave's True Story, Simple Twist of Fate (Bepop) Rating: 4
This album of Bob Dylan covers is hardly an album at all. Yes, it is a collection of Dylan covers, but it's packaged in the guise of an album when anyone can clearly see that it is merely an EP. Only seven Dylan songs are here. Bloating the disc to album length are three "radio edit" versions and one "alternative mix." Plus, DTS add a song written by their lead singer. These extras might work well if the CD were already album length, but instead they reek of padding. After all, the radio edits simply fade out a minute early. The songs here are classy Dylan interpretations, though rarely inventive or essential. Dylan completists will likely enjoy this collection, but it will appeal to very few others, especially with a list price of $11.
.: posted by Editor 7:59 AM