PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Centro-matic: Candidate Waltz

Centro-matic puts experience to good use, and Will Johnson seems determined to play until you listen.


Centro-matic

Candidate Waltz

Label: Undertow Music Collective
US Release Date: 2011-06-21
UK Release Date: 2011-06-21
Amazon
iTunes

Will Johnson, the main force behind Centro-matic, seems to be perpetually releasing something. A solo album, a record with one of his bands, or a supergroup recording seems to always be coming out. Throw in EPs, cassingles, and the like, and it's hard to imagine where this all comes from. That there have been five years between proper Centro-matic albums (aside from a split with Johnson's South San Gabriel) seems either unlikely or inevitable depending on how you look at it, but at any rate Candidate Waltz marks the latest work in Johnson's career and it's worth slowing down for.

Centro-matic has generally had an element of the alt-country to them, and while it's not unimaginable to picture this band coming out of, say, Chapel Hill, the Denton, TX roots make sense (even if they're not a death metal riot). While Johnson's whiskey-and-cigarettes voice provides the group with some of its uniqueness, they're not likely to be confused with the Strokes no matter indie-rock they get (or Archers of Loaf, to keep our geographical dichotomy intact).

On Candidate Waltz, though, the group fills out its sound more in that direction. Just a few seconds into the album, “Against the Line” sets itself up as a hooky, guitar-driven album, and that holds reasonably true, especially on tracks like “All The Talkers”, “Iso-Residue”, and “If They Talk You Down”. “Iso-Residue” particularly sounds at home in an NYC indie club (I knew the Strokes would come up again). If the album leans heavily on Johnson's indie side, though, it doesn't stay stuck there. “Solid States” provides a notable departure, riding on an almost New Wave groove, sounding as familiar as an '80s song you've heard on the radio for two decades, yet unique enough to remain distinct from any of those songs.

Lyrically, Johnson keeps his songs vague enough that he draws the listener into an atmosphere and a context without providing any clear explanation. At its best, it's a net that holds you comfortably, but at times it's easy to get lost in the imprecision. The lyrics could use some claws (which, to be fair, few nets have). “Iso-Residue” suffers from being too vague, but its catchy enough that it doesn't matter. On “Estimate x 3” Johnson sings, “Gimme what you want / But don't tell me”, and by the end of the song, the lines make perfect sense even if they're nearly inexplicable. You can take a Keatsian view and leave it unparaphrased, but you can feel how it fits into the challenge (but not defeat) of a relationship described in the preceding moments.

One of the standout tracks, “All the Talkers” is much more straightforward. The song tells the story of a band that “were not like the ones before”. Johnson recounts an evening in a club, or maybe a bar – Centro-matic still seems more suited for a bar, but the setting seems more clublike – where a band shows up and plays over the rude talkers and indifferent audience over “cubicle jobbers”, “girlfriend steals”, and “cocaine winks”. It's not easy for even a very good band to win over a crowd like this, but the band in the song succeeds with a triumphant immediacy.

Candidate Waltz is unlikely to have that sort of clear-cut victory, not because it isn't a quality record, but because it requires a certain immersion in the lyrics, and it doesn't reward that immersion every time. It is worthy of canceling your conversation and your partner pilfering for its short run-time, though, because there are plenty of rewards here. If Centro-matic is no longer as raw as the band in “All the Talkers”, they've turned experience to good use, and Johnson seems determined to play until you listen.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.