PopMatters home | short takes home | archives
PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
17 February 2006
New Rhodes, New Rhodes EP (So Sweet) Rating: 7
In sharp contrast to the deliberately shambolic sounds emanating from London circa 2003 to the present, The New Rhodes craft immaculately finished pop-the sound of the bucolic, refined British countryside, far removed from the crack-addled denizens of the big city. And the band's crystalline guitar lines are offset by lyrics morbidly romantic enough to satisfy the most ardent Smiths or Suede devotee. This limited edition EP, a much-needed introduction for US audiences, provides a nice snapshot of the band's body of work thus far. "You've Given Me Something That I Can't Give Back" and "Someone's Got It In For Me" back up their epic titles with the kind of soaring pop that most of today's tie-wearing cool-mongers would sooner hang themselves than even attempt. The more modest tracks hardly offend, but when you're capable of scaling such improbable heights, why settle for safe? As they say on Wall Street: no risk, no reward.
Mon Frere, Real Vampires EP (Cake) Rating: 5
Mon Frere's debut EP Real Vampires is only around fourteen minutes long, and doesn't feature a single memorable song beyond the vaguely catchy "Up Circle", and fails to offer any deviation from a basic, riff-based, bare-boned rock and roll approach. Instead Real Vampires relies entirely upon keyboardist Nouela O. Johnston's mighty wailing which takes this often mediocre material and turns it into powerful slabs of fury that demand the listener take notice. It's a rare wailer who can project and scream this loudly while still maintaining a certain sense of melodic beauty. Johnston shows she is more than capable of both in her sultry performance in the opening of the improbably titled sludgy opus "Orcs Don't Know It". It helps that Mon Frere's musical approach, which consists of metallic guitar riffs courtesy of Kyle B. Swisher that are softened by Johnston's subtle keyboard work, a sweet and sour combination that effectively mirrors and reinforces Johnston's remarkable vocals. Still, raw talent without suitable material doesn't go far in the beyond crowded world of indie garage rock, and Mon Frere needs to find itself a memorable hook or two before it really deserves the world's attention. Johnston deserves more than what Real Vampires has to offer her.
Bobby Birdman, Victory at Sea (Fryk Beat) Rating: 7
Twenty-first century crooner Bobby Birdman aims strongly at dancefloor dreamers with this 12" record for the new Portland-based progressive electronic label Fryk Beat. He sings carefully, with grace and determination, like he's a song interpreter tackling the great American songbooks of yesteryear. Yet he does so over a frantic mix of electronics that makes the term "freak beat" seem fitting. The musical foundations which his voice soars over have only grown in electricity and invention since the lush albums he released on Hush Records a few years back. That's especially true on this release, where three of the four tracks are remixes from some of today's talented bohemian beatmasters. Lucky Dragons conducts a lightning dub attack on "I'm Not You", E*Rock takes the title track's balladry back to the hip-hop schoolyard (and out to space in the process), and Yacht gives the Heart Caves EP's "I Will Come Again" an extra boost of jittery speed. Victory at Sea is another exciting, far-from-the-spotlight release from a musician who is quietly restyling the pop ballad for our new, wild future.
Numbers / Adult., "Numbers + Adult. = This Seven Inch" [7-inch single] (Kill Rock Stars) Rating: 4
On the most aptly named 45 ever, Numbers takes the a-side with "Me Me", working the staccato guitar and a post-punk feel somewhat devoid of wave. Female vocals rip out the inward lyrics through a couple verses and choruses until their joined my a male who helps echo the title word. After the bridge, the guitar gets a little more active and melodic, but it maintains focus on the fuzz and irritation (in a perfectly fine way). Adult. do their electro thing for the b-side "Monologue", not to overwhelming effect. Like Numbers, the group relies on jerky rhythms and aggravated vocals, but they settle more on irritating than on pleasurably abrasive. The song attacks a boring long-talker, but it turns out Adult. doesn't have much more to say. The combination of these two tracks work well for when you want to grit your teeth, but their means of getting you to that point rely on different sorts of success.
.: posted by Editor 8:16 AM