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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
10 April 2006
The Smittens, A Little Revolution (North of January/Dangerfive) Rating: 7
With Belle & Sebastian blowing up bigger than could have ever been expected, the time is nigh to decide whether we abandon elitism and embrace the alligator-logo and Abercrombie crowd swarming the shows and spilling beer all over our thrift store sweaters or leave behind a band we once held dear. Fortunately for those who take that later path, there's a twee resurgence underway opening up plenty of other objects for the unyieldingly earnest affection of our impossibly innocent hearts. Saturday Looks Good to Me is an increasingly visible alternative and The Boy Least Likely To is also on the rise. Another considerably less obvious option is The Smittens. Over A Little Revolution,The Smittens endear via invocations of various indie stalwarts. "Jeans and Mittens" jangles along with Go-Betweens' chime while a Beat Happening reference in "The Garden" proves gratuitous given the warbling baritone. Shades of Stephin Merrit are never very far away either and the whole thing resonates with the defiantly uplifting sincerity of Jonathan Richman. The ready palpability of all these influences compromises any defined sense of identity or originality and lyrically The Smittens can get every bit as saccharine as their name. Still the affable familiarity and infectious joy inherent in every bouncing clap and chorus makes A Little Revolution an enjoyably amateur reminder of how potently pleasurable overtly-precious pop can get.
"Good Migrations": [MP3]
"Gin and Platonic": [MP3]
Richard Cheese, The Sunny Side of the Moon: The Best of Richard Cheese (Surfdog) Rating: 5
For those of us with developmentally stunted senses of humor, the hilarity of this lounge-act lothario and his one joke-formula rarely wanes: cover rap and alternative rock hits in sleazy nightclub renditions; add plenty of swearing and tasteless jokes; and, presto, that old Dick Cheese magic. Why, then, the relatively low rating? Well, the very idea of a greatest hits album by a group (backing band Lounge Against the Machine no longer wins titular credit) who has released a measly four all-cover albums is crassly cynical enough to fit the Cheese aesthetic, but the fact that Ministry deployed more clever Pink Floyd wordplay on its Dark Side of the Spoon is a big demerit. What's more, the sheer genius of Cheese's take on Bell Biv DeVoe's "Do Me" from last year's Aperitif for Destruction is nowhere to be found, while this album slogs through plodding versions of tired chestnuts like "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Nookie." That being said, Cheese's deranged singing on the Ying Yang Twins' "Badd" earns a snort or two, and on "Baby Got Back" the band really swings. A few more bonus points for stopping the band in the middle of Young MC's "Bust a Move" to let us know that, "seriously, we do weddings," but not enough to validate the album. Richard Cheese might be a better wedding bargain the Dan Band, but the biggest joke on Sunny Side of the Moon is that his greatest hits don't measure up to any of his albums.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rhymefest, "Dynomite (Going Postal)" b/w "Chicago Rillas" (Interscope) Rating: 7
Leave Lupe for the hipsters and 'Ye for the paparazzi: rhymers confess their respect for an emcee named 'Fest. The long-time battle champ stands on the cusp of the release of his full-length debut Blue Collar and finally has the material to leave his star battles and Grammy shares behind. His debut, the Kanye-produced "Brand New", reintroduced himself to the tune of a familiar roll-bounce, but "Dynomite (Going Postal)" is the proper single to set him apart. Just Blaze laces crashing drums and a classic scratch chorus for Rhymefest to get heated over. This 12" is exceptional because the b-side comes in neck-to-neck: No I.D. shakes out his bag of percussive tricks while the ladies go la-la-la-la, an easy head-nod platter for the three-emcee monty of Rhymefest, Bump J and Mikkey. Can't wait for the full-length...
.: posted by Editor 8:25 AM