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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
16 February 2006
Young People, Five Sunsets in Four Days EP (Too Pure) Rating: 7
Young People aren't all that young. Today the members of the LA-based trio are five years and three albums older than when they started, and even then guitarist Jeff Rosenberg and drummer Jarrett Silberman were balding. But that doesn't stop Young People from churning out incredibly vibrant underground rock. They blaze a chaotic, beautiful trail amongst the indie rock underbrush with what must be a very magical Zippo. Young People's minimalist compositions forge enough space between guitars and vocals that emptiness becomes a third force. Percussion, sometimes entirely absent, ranks only as accent. Often a second guitar track will fulfill that role with rhythmic picking rather than strumming, while the first guitar, soiled in dirt, arpeggiates and strums and rips. In "The Mountain," an amp buzzes for almost ten seconds while a papery reed rats out half-notes on a snare. Yet Young People have no time for low-tempo sadness. They're an experimental garage rock band that doesn't want to wake the neighbors. On "Hot Horse," Young People are bolder, opening with brash drums, guitar, and vocals. Lead singer Katie Eastburn shows the least resistance, growling and screaming when the mood strikes. Throughout the song, Rosenberg's noise rock roots are alternatingly revealed and obscured as waves lap at the edge of melody. The listener is left begging for fast, loud power chords. But to no avail. The word tension was created for this band. Fans of Cat Power and the Velvet Underground must investigate.
With Honor, This is Our Revenge (Victory) Rating: 5
Harder! Faster! Louder! And more, uh, optimistic! This is the formula for success as far as With Honor is concerned, and it makes for an intriguing mix on the band's newest Victory Records release This is Our Revenge. With Honor plays a loud mix of punk and hardcore, combining the former's sheer speed and reckless abandon with the latter's intensity. This is Our Revenge would be an easy album to put in the CD player and thrash around and break stuff to, but the lyrical subject matter implies a desire on the part of the band for their fans to stop flailing and look at the lyric sheet for a second. The album's final track, "In a Bottle", asks the question "Will we die to darker days and break ties with the hells we've walked through?," before ultimately assuring us that "It's not too late." The album's strongest track musically ends on a coda of "I still believe that faith can move the mountains." Obviously, This is Our Revenge is far removed from the familiar nihilistic refrains of less inspired entries in the genre. Unfortunately, not even a dual-guitar attack can elevate the band's music to the level of its lyrical nonconformity -- everything is well-played and loud, but this type of music has been done faster, louder, and better, and vocalist Todd Mackey's efforts to push everything to eleven only result in a decidedly monotone effort. A little bit of musical maturity would do With Honor wonders, because lyrically, they're already a cut above the rest.
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, "Road to Zion" f/ Nas b/w "The Master Has Come Back" [12-inch single] (Universal) Rating: 6
Asking Damian Marley to follow-up one of the year's biggest tracks, "Welcome to Jamrock", seems an unreasonable task, but he fares well with the cool-dreaded "Road to Zion." Built around a gaunt Ella Fitzgerald loop, Marley's raspy voice, a guest verse from Nas and textbook boom bap, the cut simmers the bombast down into a rasta hip hop vision resembling more closely what headz would imagine the reunited Fugees to sound like. Thematically, the cut's somber yet power-through message feels like an appropriate coda to the cutting commentary of "Jamrock." However, the B-side wins again as "The Master Has Come Back" reaches back with a stronger kick and rhythmic nod to dancehall. Sticking to lyric-slangin', Marley sounds at ease playing a toaster to listen to, as opposed to a crooner to feel for. Unfortunately, both tracks represent the more conventional sonic amalgamations of his eclectic Welcome to Jamrock record, thought they appropriately follow-up his career-defining tune by simmering the hoopla.
Resident Genius & Howard Zinn, You Can't Blow Up a Social Relationship (Thick) Rating: 4
Okay, I love Howard Zinn's writings and I generally agree with all his political viewpoints. So the second half of this CD, where it's just Zinn talking to an audience -- and answering questions like "Why do you live in America?" is pretty good if you're a leftist, or a curious moderate, or a disillusioned conservative. But the first half, consisting of six ghastly indie-rock tracks by the misnomered band Resident Genius, proves that Zinn either has rubbish taste in music or that he really has no clue how to get his points across to that old scarecrow, "the common man".
.: posted by Editor 6:37 AM