Music

New CDs This Week: Rancid, Elvis Costello, Ryan Bingham...

Sarah Zupko

Rancid - Let the Dominoes Fall

Rancid have been gone for a regrettably long time, having not put out new studio material since 2003's Indestructible. Their raw and poppy brand of smart punk rooted heavily in Clash influences has been sorely missed, especially as these tough financial times and torture scandal tinged days imploringly cry out for angry, literate and passionate voices like Tim Armstrong and co. Let the Dominoes Fall is another fine entry to the band's catalog with its tunes of disillusionment. They pay tribute to soldiers on "The Bravest Kids" and they try their hand at country this go-around with "Civilian Ways". Yes, everyone seems to be reaching for the dobros these days.

Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane and Sugarcane

Elvis Costello has long harbored a passion for country music and he's created twang-filled albums before, with 1981's Almost Blue, recorded in Nashville, being one of the highlights of his distinguished discography. It's only fitting that a songwriter of Costello's literary talent would embrace the quite visceral and adult medium of country music. He's returned in 2009 with another platter full of rootsy tunes, here. The elder Costello inhabits these climes like an old native.

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Roadhouse Sun

Speaking of roots music, this young Texan has unleashed the best Americana album of the year so far with Roadhouse Sun. Bingham has the serious songwriting chops of his Lonestar forbearers like Joe Ely, Guy Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and mixes ‘em with some of the finest whiskey-soaked, shredded vocals to emerge from a honky tonk this decade. The album really sounds as though it was born in a rough roadhouse along some forgotten road in a hardscrabble part of the Texas Panhandle, and that rawness combined with finely honed musicianship makes the record a non-stop stomper.

Iggy Pop - Préliminaires

Punk godfather Iggy Pop is trying something different this time around and not always successfully. The album kicks off with the bare-chested one putting a suit on in a smoky club and crooning the French jazz standard "Les feuilles mortes" au francais. Continuing in this vein, Iggy Pop tries for a jazz-influenced soft pop approach that somehow sounds vaguely Leonard Cohen-esque. Or is he actually trying to morph into Serge Gainsbourg? Iggy Pop does debauchery well, no doubt about it, but he lacks the subtlety to really pull this sort of thing off. On "King of the Dogs" he trots out New Orleans horns. Yes, you heard that right. Still, trying something new is admirable, but others do this sort of thing much better.

Eels - Hombre Lobo

E (Mark Oliver Everett) and the Eels return with their first new music in four years and have made this one a concept record about desire in all its extremes, flying straight in the face of the singles dominant playlight culture of the iPod generation. E boils his intentions, saying the songs are about "that dreadful, intense want that gets you into all sorts of situations that can change your life in big ways."

Other notable releases this week:

AZ - Legendary

Jeff Buckley - Grace: Around the World

Franz Ferdinand - Blood

Little Boots - Hands

Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King

The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon

311 - Uplifter

Patrick Wolf - The Bachelor

Neil Young - Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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