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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
06 April 2006
Dir En Grey, Withering to Death (Warcon) Rating: 7
One of the most popular bands in Japan, Dir En Grey bring their unique hybrid of metal, punk, industrial, and pop to North American shores with Withering to Death, and judging by the strong reception to their first, brief US tour, Stateside interest in the veteran band appears to be growing. Long associated with the "Visual Kei" style, in which Japanese bands emphasize garish, androgynous visual styles, Dir En Grey has toned the flamboyance down a couple notches today, but with the fey, grills-wearing lead singer Kyo at the helm, they still remain a very visually arresting band. As much as people discuss this band's fashion sense, it's still all about the music, and the quintet show they are no slouches, displaying a similar versatility as American metalcore standouts Between the Buried and Me, unwilling to settle for one simple sound. "Saku" is an enthralling amalgam of Swedish metal (think Dark Tranquillity) and the theatrics of Marilyn Manson, "The Final" is the kind of glossy, goth-tinged guitar rock that many young American bands are incapable of pulling off, "Kodoku Ni Shisu, Yueni Koduku" is stirring, highly intricate progressive hardcore, and "Itoshisa Ha Fuhai Nitsuki" is astounding '80s pop, Kyo carrying each track with his impressive vocal range. The one thing going against Dir En Grey is the fact that they sing primarily in Japanese, which J-rock fans in large urban canters will have no problem with, but which mainstream-oriented listeners in much smaller markets will largely see as just a mere curiosity. However, Rammstein's surprising North American success in 1998 is enough proof that anything can happen, and as is the case with Withering to Death, the stronger the music is, the smaller the language barrier gets.
multiple songs: [Purevolume]
The Elevator Drops, Epidose 1 (Archenemy) Rating: 7
This Boston band made a few minor ripples in the national waters before quietly sinking away in the 1990s, and while it's doubtful this collection of their early material (recorded between 1992 and 1994) appears in response to any overwhelming demand, it's nonetheless well worth pursuing. Buried beneath freakish new-wave make-up and an often snarky attitude was a talented, versatile band that excelled in several modes, from swirling, distorted shoegazing to affecting lo-fi navel-gazing -- like some sort of unexpectedly effective synthesis of My Bloody Valentine and early Sebadoh. "Everything" explodes from a mumbled verse into a forceful, melodic chorus, while the guitar snarl of "Lennon is Dead" matches the song's Beatles-baiting lyric of "Lennon is dead, and I like it." I'm not sure whether "Silent Stupidity" is a Queensryche parody, but the band shows its playful side by dropping an uncredited verse from Duran Duran's "The Reflex" into "Floordrop Opera." In short, anyone still pining for the glory days of semi-indie masters like the Dambuilders, Tripmaster Monkey, or the still-rocking Poster Children will be well-served by this scrappy, energetic collection.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Cassidy, "Cassidy (Anthem)" [12-inch single] (Full Surface) Rating: 6
Fresh out the box from an involuntary manslaughter charge (early release, no less), 22-year old Barry "Cassidy" Reese has been given an extraordinary second lease on his life and career. So, what he dew? Jump right back in the booth with his first hit-making producer and get to work. The Swizz Beatz crafted "Cassidy (Anthem)" clicks and blares, sounding the return of the New B-Boy Stance. "Rhymin' and grindin'" are still his calling cards -- little surprise considering that he hasn't been gone that long. However, the total package is a tad overblown. Cassidy frequently overcompensates for his nasal pitch, spitting and pushing out every "P" and hard consonant. The effect is passable for the bulk of the track, but stumbles noticeably through My So Called Life lines like, "I was wild as a child, but got worser at ten." Let's see where he makes his next move.
multiple songs: [player]
.: posted by Editor 8:31 AM