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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
17 March 2006
The Mother Hips, Red Tandy EP (Camera) Rating: 7
It seems like California's meeting of rock and soul has made a come back of late. Bands like The Orange Peels, Court & Spark, and Beechwood Sparks to name a few have been channeling the harmonic meeting of voice and electric guitar that the Beach Boys, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash, made so ubiquitous. The Mother Hips have always worn their classic rock influences on their sleeves, which may explain why they've been more readily embraced by baby boomers than the end of the alphabet generations. On the Red Tandy EP the band doesn't stray far from the formula laid out on 2001's Green Hills of Earth and 1996's Shootout. The band has an uncanny knack for harmony and the ability to find a groove and lock it down. Sounding like an excellent Crazy Horse copycat tempered by the more meandering jam rock of The Grateful Dead the Red Tandy EP leaves little doubt that The Mother Hips, despite a four-year hiatus, are still very much able to channel the sound of another era through tight vocal harmonies and close knit arrangements. The EP is only four songs with the lead number "Red Tandy" repeating at the end in alternate take form. It's just a small reminder of what The Mother Hips do so well, but upon hearing the first chords of "Red Tandy" slide effortlessly into the band's four part harmonies it's easy to remember why the band has such a devoted following.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Oosterdok, Twilights of the Weary Soul (Brown House) Rating: 5
The synths that introduce "Elysium" flutter in like a moth finding a particularly bright light, and a journey through beautiful darkness begins. Oosterdok is the duo of Jay Line, who handles the synths and songwriting, and Becky Naylor, who provides the vocals, and Twilights of the Weary Soul is their second EP, released only seven months after their first. In those seven short months, however, Line has learned to add depth to his songs, giving them an emotional gravity that makes them fascinating, even in their relative simplicity. Naylor's classically trained, admittedly pitch-accurate vocals are less successful, as she enunciates her words as if she's still singing arias (though without the overpowering vibrato that might imply), leading to a sort of disconnect with the music around her. It's the Martin Gore / Enya collaboration that never happened, and it's honestly a little bit uncomfortable. The exception would be the saucy "I Am Not a Nice Girl", a profanity-laced bit of sultry menace that actually allows Naylor to loosen up a bit and get into one of her characters. If she could do that more often, allowing herself a bit of personality to go with her lovely tone, Oosterdok could well be a force to watch in the coming years.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Jukebox Zeros, Four On the Floor (Steel Cage) Rating: 6
To these ears, garage bands succeed when they remember to temper the thrash with tuneful melodies. Philadelphia's Jukebox Zeros (love the name, guys) rock out plenty on their full-length debut Four On the Floor, but they never let their love of squalling guitars overtake and drown out their catchy songs. The Zeros effortlessly channel '70s-era punky-power poppers like Iggy Pop ("Blue screen burn my TV eye," yowls frontman Peter Santa Maria on "Ch. 48") and Stiv Bators (opener "Flophouse" echoes Bators' snarl, and the band does right by a cover of the Dead Boys' "High Tension Wire"), but they've got their own fun identity. "Film Noir Love", appropriately dark and stormy as it sounds, seems to have been created so the band can have a laugh over the double entendre "private dick". And "Don't Tell Me (More Than I Wanna Know)", aided by a B3 organ which really should appear more on the album, celebrates avoiding dreaded TMI (Too Much Information). And when they're not being silly, the Zeros have attitude and guitar solos to burn: "Why doncha just go away?" snaps Santa Maria on "Fun Suck"; elsewhere, he kicks at the dirt on "Cigarettes and Sorrow". Like their heroes the Dead Boys, the Jukebox Zeros are young, loud and snotty and they've got the chops and sense of humor to back it up.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Meredith Bragg and The Terminals, The Departures EP (The Kora) Rating: 4
Not sure the world needs another sensitive boy pop singer but here he is just the same. The carefully groomed angst begins with titles like "Talk Me Down" and "Empty Beds". Sonically it's the Cure's Disintegration given an acoustic chamber music makeover. The slow builds and sudden swells fit Bragg's yearning pipes, which are a somber yet still overwrought cousin to Tyson Ritter (All-American Rejects). The hushed combination of Wurlitzer, subtle percussion, vibes and cello compliment Bragg's simple guitar but the band rarely catches fire. Instead they opt to be a more indie answer to O.A.R. or a moodier Jack Johnson. The lyrics are mainly greeting card pap like "Slow down/We can make this right/We still have some time". When Bragg laments "What will I do for Christmas?/What will I do?" it comes off as whining instead of some existential cry. Like a great many young artists working this soft vein (Jason Collett, James Blunt) the feeling is right but there's not much beyond a nice mood to savor.
"Empty Beds ": [MP3]
"Talk Me Down ": [MP3]
.: posted by Editor 8:24 AM