PopMatters home | short takes home | archives
PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
21 April 2006
The Doers, Whatcha Doin'? (Red Cat) Rating: 7
The Doers are a band that is quirky, quite quirky. Whether you're trying to figure out what the slow jazz, bilingual spoken word "Hello Horsey" is all about or the poppy follow-up "We're Open" that sounds like an acoustic-laced Arcade Fire or Diableros, you won't be bored. At 19 songs, it's ambitious with tasty tracks such as "No Right Now", with the male/female harmonies which resemble the New Pornographers on speed. Meanwhile "Everyman" could be mistaken for Sweden's Quit Your Dayjob. Most of the tunes fall around two minutes, with no steam lost in that short time. Highlights include the early Elvis Costello-like "Step to the Left, Step to the Right" and the lovable Cure-ish instrumental kicking off "Moment Noticed". Sparse and rather barren most of the time, The Doers do a lot of minimal pop rock, particularly with the play-by-numbers of "Don't Know Bros" (not the flash in the pan British pop duo, at least I don't think so). No real lowlights, although "Sports Cars For Everyone" can be a tad grating. All is forgiving with a grin-inducing cover of Daniel Johnston's "Wicked World".
"We're Open": [MP3]
"Don't Know Bros": [MP3]
"Just Sayin'": [MP3]
"Sports Cars For Everyone": [MP3]
more tracks from earlier records: [MP3]
Fightstar, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead (Deep Elm) Rating: 4
The good news here is that Charlie Simpson (a.k.a. Charlie Busted a.k.a. "that guy in Busted") has a new band that's not Busted, and it sounds like a real band rather than a frustrated popper's lame stab at critical credibility. The bad news is that it sounds like Stain'd crossed with Cold mixed with a bit of Chevelle and a healthy dollop of early '90s Seattle. That is to say, Fightstar is trying too hard. They Liked You Better When You Were Dead is actually a re-release of the band's UK debut EP with a few tracks from the Paint Your Target EP thrown in to fill things out to album length. There are good moments -- Simpson doesn't have a bad voice, particularly when he's singing rather than growling, and the slower tunes (particularly the lovely "Amethyst", which closed the original EP) shine brighter than the quicker, harder ones. The rest of the band is pretty tight and appropriately crunchy as well. The main problem, however, is that there's no joy whatsoever to be found here. Not that a nü-band need be happy, per se, but it all sounds like a shell of music with no substance beneath, no catharsis, no raison d'être. There's the basic equivalent of a Nirvana tune that eventually turns into a power ballad ("Until Then"), and plenty of hard rock by the numbers ("Paint Your Target", "Lost Like Tears in Rain", etc.), and all of it is just enough to make you sigh "whatever". They Liked You... sounds like Simpson's way of proving a point, and if nothing else, I guess he does that. But really, so what?
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]
Erin Boheme, What Love Is (Concord) Rating: 4
Am I a grumpy old man if I'm immediately put off by a 19-year-old making an album called What Love Is? Maybe. Am I a grumpy old man if I think it unlikely that this 19-year-old's optimal mode of musical expression is a rhythm section and string orchestra circa 1955? Maybe less so. Look: Erin Boheme can sing, and she's got all the moves down here. Her voice is less old school than her musical setting -- she's got a variety of come-hither inflections and pouty tones than sound more Christina Aguilera than Peggy Lee. She's at her best when she's accompanied by young label-mates Taylor Eigsti (keyboards) and Christian Scott (trumpet) in a more contemporary mode, like on "Give Me One Reason". But when she's singing about wanting "One Night with Frank" (Sinatra), it's a little child-molester creepy, even though she's the one making the moves. You can't help but cheer on a gorgeous, ambitious young singer who wants to work in the jazz tradition, and I hope this album is success for everyone involved. But, despite some talent for writing original songs that suggests that Ms. Boheme may yet have a real future as an original artist, it's not easy to understand why listeners would prefer this disc to either the old stuff it's aping (actual Sinatra, say, or Nancy Wilson) or the genuinely new stuff it can't touch coming from jazz singers like Cassandra Wilson or Carmen Lundy.
multiple songs: [player]
Da Muzicianz, "Camera Phone" (TVT) Rating: 4
Look, asking for tact from a group like Ying Yang Twins is like asking for paradiddles from Rick Allen: it's just unreasonable. So, when Da Muzicianz (D-Roc, one half of the Twins, and his two brothers Birthday Boy and Mr. Ball) cut loose you can't expect anything beside that stoopid, dumb ig'nance. "Shake something for the camera, ho," goes the original edit, responded somewhat more artfully by the radio edit, "Take a picture for the camera phone." In theory, "Camera Phone" should be a timely and salacious slice of popular club culture. Unfortunately, Mr. Collipark selects an unusually dated sound (didn't Nelly ride these pops and squeals to death six years ago?) and sound effects (were these flashing bulb sounds taken from a '50s-era effects record?), dulling much of the potential humor.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:31 AM