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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
08 February 2006
Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team, Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team, (Doublenaught) Rating: 7
Rockpile (Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, etc) never released a follow-up to their fantastic 1980 album Seconds of Pleasure, but you could be forgiven for thinking that Terry Anderson's fourth album, Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team was, in actuality, Rockpile's long-lost sophomore disc. Anderson, who served time in the mid-'90s with the similarly-rocking Yayhoos and who penned "Battleship Chains" (made semi-famous by the Georgia Satellites), knows his roots rock. Whether it's straightforward rockers like "Hi 'n' Dry" and "Can't Get The One You Want", goofy tunes about drinking ("Feel a Drunk Comin' On", "Thunderbird") or midtempo love songs that aren't schmaltzy ("Raindrops", "Inez"), Anderson proves he's earned his slot on the Ass-Kickin' team. And with help from friends like Walter Clevenger, Dan Baird, Caitlin Cary and NRBQ's Al Anderson (no relation), Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team is a who's-who of cult-level famous roots rockers (yes, that's a compliment) and power poppers. Bouncy, silly, rocking -- basically, just plain old fun -- Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team is an unadulterated roots rock gem. Edmunds and Lowe would be proud.
10 Ft. Ganja Plant, Bass Chalice (ROIR) Rating: 5
By golly, it's so very easy to make a bad roots record! Thankfully, the third release by 10 Ft. Ganja Plant is not bad at all, though it doesn't quite make the first rank of newer stuff released in the style. Comprised of members of John Brown's Body, this group's intent is simple enough: to faithfully reproduce the vibrations of classic sound-system dub in ways accessible to modern listeners. "Last Dance" is an excellent number about watching the final moments of a relationship that has all but ended already, taken at a languorous pace. The vocals trail off into the haze quite nicely; it is an effect that only legitimate roots singers can pull off right. "It was so easy / When we moved like one blood... Can I have this last dance?" "Suits and Ski Masks" is one of the few complete instrumentals on the album. The music is flavored with bits of hip-hop and European down-tempo, neither of which distract from the main line of attack, which is the brooding, meditative dub of Kingston. Another nice instrumental is the nearly noir-ish "Swedish Prison". The title track, which comes at the end of Bass Chalice, is not quite as effective, building from motifs established earlier on the album. "To Each" is another very effective ballad, while "Deliver Us Jah" would make the most interesting single for pop radio -- obviously not their ambition, but interesting nonetheless. There would be a certain perverse appeal in having teenyboppers asking Jah to "deliver us from Babylon", and troops in Iraq might like it, too. All told, Bass Chalice should appeal to fans of the New York roots music scene, but non-specialists might find the album a bit bland. There are enough flaws to make a general recommendation impossible, but more than enough goodness to merit catching their live show, as well as keeping an eye out for the next album.
F5, A Drug for All Seasons (Deadline) Rating: 4
There was a time when David Ellefson was defined as 50% of the Megadeth equation, the only band member that somehow consistently managed to get along with Dave Mustaine for nearly 20 years. In a flurry of bad blood and lawsuits, that partnership disappeared, and Mustaine is now serving his time as the only remaining original member of Megadeth, while Ellefson has now found a place as the bassist for a new band. F5 is the band, and A Drug for All Seasons is the debut album. It's a lot like Megadeth, actually, but less unique. This is hard rock, and it rips, sure, but there's nothing distinctive about any of it, save for Ellefson's mastery of the bass guitar -- one listen through "Forte Sonata", a solo bass track, finds Ellefson making violin and guitar sounds with his instrument, allowing a little insight as to where other atmospheric noises on the disc came from when there's not a single keyboard or string instrument listed in the credits. Fascinating as this is, however, it doesn't make up for Dale Steele's faux-Hetfield (by way of Fred Durst) growling, the hackneyed songwriting, or a truly dreadful cover of Edie Brickell's "What I Am". "Like Paris Hilton, you'll be on your knees," yells Steele in the ecstacy-laced cautionary tale "X'd Out", one of many lines that evoke laughs rather than the intended apprehension or hostility. Moments like that define the album, while decent but unnoteworthy tracks like "Dying on the Vine" and "Faded" are mere momentary distractions from the silliness. Ellefson's virtuosity aside, F5 will have you reaching for Esc.
The Winter Set, Smoke Break EP (Desolation) Rating: 3
Talk about a band wearing its influences on the sleeve: this quintet of Pavement-lovers from Indiana makes no apologies for a case of end-stage idol worship on its debut five-song EP. The disc begins pleasantly enough, with the dream-like verses and noisy theremin-fueled interludes of "Cowboys and Indians", but doesn't take long to head straight into Pavement B-side territory with "Home for Me and You". After that, the overuse of the theremin just gets annoying and one starts to wonder what might've happened if the two guys without last names (guitarist "Jeremy" and drummer "Peter") had stepped out from anonymity to write some songs. Pavement fans that need a fix between the next Preston School of Industry or solo Malkmus albums might be remotely interested in the Winter Set, but other than that this smoke break is about as memorable as any of the others taken during an average workday.
.: posted by Editor 5:56 AM