He Keeps Silent And Sacrifices Himself
There is music that wants to be "heavy" - then there is heavy music. Not 24-tracks mixed in stereo, pushed to the limits so you think you are hearing a "band" - I'm talking 3 guys plugged into the same amps scaring your little sister.
If you still think those 9 masked clowns from Iowa are considered heavy - you may not understand the sound Mezzanine~C14 are creating. I'm not trying to go all out and say Mezz are the "heaviest" band you are likely to ever hear (stated - I will accept a challenge), but the angst & aggression these guys are pushing through my speakers gives me the impression they have what it takes to snap a neck or two. Really - who woke this band up and told them it was time to record? Will Walker sounds pissed - be glad you didn't cross his path when He Keeps Silent.. was being tracked. These guys rip through this timebomb like a kid hits gifts on Christmas morning.
I first heard the nervy sound of 'Bound & Gagged' on a Copper Press comp. (#19 I believe), and it's snarl alone had every other track by the throat - each at the mercy of it's givings. 'Knife Wielder' alone sounds like a machine being wound before it is released to impose damage. By the final listed track, 'You have the freedom to do as I say', the snaredrum sounds like it has had about all it can take, the pressure to perform at the same intensity as the band unbearable.
Fuck "sounds like them" comparisons - but I haven't been this impressed by a band since the days of Newborn or my first encounter with 3 Stages of Pain. The mixing is fantastic - songs streaking into another without notice (the way 'knife wielder' does to 'hard boiled'). How this recording came out of hipster hotspot Williamsburg (NYC) is another story.
Hear it before you die - it may even serve as your survival guide.
+ kaleb :: (06.25.04)
( SPUNK! ) 2002
Happy is one of those albums that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Where did it come from? Where does it go? Has it always been here?
Out of Australia, home-recordist J. Walker brings an album that is anything but consistant, and that's not a bad thing. "Like water to a ghost, you don't really need it the most."
Songs like "Found" follow the all-to-typical POP tradition of having a sound inverse to their message. Perhaps the happiest sounding song on the album, "Found" seems to be a song about the distance of addiction, whether substance or otherwise. However, when beautifully simple lyrics such as, "Missing you is just the one way I don't want to die" come to pass, it somehow all seems okay. Another song that would seemingly address the subject of addiction would be, "The Monkey's Back". However, it's sometimes hard to see through J. Walker's oft clever lyrics when he reveals lines like, "Roll out the plastic cheese and flatten the earth." Later songs, such as "NOHIP" seem to tell a story of life building up and falling a part all in a matter of just over five minutes. Why this may seem to be in typical "Emo" fashion, the production value on this song pulls it through. Lyrics like "I'm very busy, thanks for your call" sum up how in life we tend to forget others when things are going well and we tend to push others away when things are not going well. Walker's technical ability is in full force on songs like "NOHIP" and "A Most Peculiar Place", where sounds are beautifully layered and can leave you in a dream-like state. Throughout the album, you get the idea that J. Walker has formed a poor opinion of relationships and addictions (once again substance or otherwise), likely using his music to vent his frustrations.
release may not be comparable to anything but other Machine Translations
releases, which prove to be difficult to track down. In fact, I've had
more luck finding information on MT while writing this review than in
any attempts in the past.
Marvin the Robot
Information Storage and Transfer
( MarvinMade ) 2001
Storage and Transfer is a compilation of songs from the Something
About Marathons era of Marvin the Robot. I don't
know exactly what that means - but it says that in the description to
this album and sounds good to me. This is a double disc anthology of
twenty-three songs picked from previous ep's and live tracks and stuff.
A Certain Trigger
( WARP ) 2005
"And so it saddens me to say, I'm only happy when I move away."
Thankfully, I was born into this sinful planet lacking the "late seventies / early eighties retro glam freak revival" gene. I'm also the type of lad who will only wear a suit to a funeral, and even then, the deceased needs to understand I despise wearing the necktie. Many writers / crackheads will attempt to tag Maxïmo Park with some form of 'rock revival' quick fix (see: New York City), but this listener isn't going to take it. You'd have to move closer to the Stranglers at their best (say, La Folie.. ) to even begin the proper categorization of Newcastle's hottest batch of grandness.
The album (and a limited number of 7"'s / EP's) artwork alone [thanks to YES., a damn fine UK design firm] deserves immediate attention, and it reflects the stark truth that is buried in Maximo Park's sound. C'mon - have you actually heard "Apply Some Pressure", the lead single that arrived late last year as a teaser EP? You're missing a huge anthem - complete with the catchiest hook and delivery of the year - if you're relying on words to describe it. Then once you do get a listen - this song's gonna be buzzing in your head for days.
It's not from Canada, and certainly not from Amerikka - we should thank the import team at WARP (yes, that WARP - from Vincent Gallo to Aphex Twin.. .) for pointing all navigation towards us. The weak crop of scenester-combing shit our states has been producing over the past 4 years (The this band, The that band, The shit band and the like) pales so very in comparison to any single track Maximo Park delivers on A Certain Trigger. Frontman and gifted poet Paul Smith (who, surprisingly, joined the Park last) chimes like a young chap who designs his relationships to dissipate, only to take the shame out in champion song (see: "Postcard of a painting" - "you are just another thing I've yet to fathom".. . ). The result is evident all throughout A Certain Trigger - an album of broken hearts, foiled plans and pleas for forgiveness cleverly bound by the catchiest rhythms of the year by far. Place the Park into whichever senseless single-file section of redundancies you care too - but do laugh long & hard, for Maximo Park have come to sweep an entire sub-genre clean of mod leather jackets and spooky eyeliner with actual talent.
We are so glad you could visit, stay as long as you'd like (or until the others get the point)- the coast is always changing. Brilliant - I can't imagine leaving.
- Julian Casablahblahblah 05.31.05!
We're Already There
( I & Ear Records ) 2005
"I can recall, but somehow it never sounds the same to me".
The first thing I wondered was "why is the bass player from Icarus Line on a Mazarin album?*" (Notable Mazarin bassist Mickey Walker is clearly listed) . I can see why Kurt Heasley would be, he just fits. Then "The New American Apathy" began and my thoughts were null, my mind instantly focused on the bizarre twinkles and staggered drumbeat this opener carried that nothing on paper actually mattered.
Mazarin & her Quentin Stoltzfus have been on the low for nearly 3 years, and most of We're Already There has been prepared, nestled, awaiting a proper label to release it. Thankfully New York-based I and Ear Records made the call, and we now have the 11 official tracks that follow 2 stellar full-lengths (do hear 2001's A Tall-Tale Storyline). Penciling in uncommon voids left between The Zombies and Lilys, Mazarin deserve to be as tongue-tipped as today's keepers of joyous "pop" of Montreal and the like. Driving guitar compositions like "For Energy Infinite" prime for your memory, while follower "Another One Goes By" sounds as if channeled directly through an amp labeled "Odessey And Oracle". Sean Byrne, of Twin Atlas and audible note, again holds the percussion set down with precision, and truly stands out on "fuzzier", beat driven tracks like "Schroed(er) / Inger" and "I'm with you and the constellations". The remarkable resemblance in the harmony & foundation on "At 12 to 6" to a past classic "That's Not Me" (yeah, Beach Boys) is unmistakable - but Mazarin (p)redefine a class of 'sound' that crosses nearly 4 decades of genres.
Truly one of an elite (single hand) number of groups who display brilliant music as if those 1980's never took place, Mazarin have crafted a timeless album with We're Already There.. .and that they are.
* Dom Devore will factualy appear on a European b-side single from We're Already There. Case solved, bet that track'll sting like a sweatbee too. Stellar album.
( Saddle Creek ) 2005
"Because the passion leaked out of your ass, residual ambitions from your bankrupt past"
Playing out like a well traveled songbook from the Eisenhower administration - penned from the fractured mind of John Waters - Ted Stevens' third outing as Mayday begs, borrows and slips into a few disguises before tucking itself into a messy bed. Themes of age & death are among us (track titles reflect the pattern: "Standing In Line at the Gates of Hell", Father Time", "I'm Not Afraid to Die".. ), and Stevens cleverly croons these trials over jangly pianos ("Pelf Help") and dreamy guitars ("Burned My Hands") - the later in the tune of kin Neva Dinova.
When reworked cover versions of INXS ("Old World New World") and Gillian Welch ("I'm Not Afraid to Die") tracks make it on the same alt-Saddle-Creek collection - there is indeed a desire and need to stop and listen. The two minute briefer that is "Hidden Leaves" dismisses any doubt as to whether Stevens retained any of his Lullaby For The Working Class wonder, as it tells the story of a lone Samurai and breathes another life into the albums title (see that sword above the mantle, this is for real).
Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy
Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy
( Light in the Attic )
Wayne McGhie is a West Indian / Canadian singer / guitarist / songwriter who in 1970, when the 5 o'clock shadow of Nixon was cast upon America and most folks thought "reggae² was one of Archie and Jughead's pals, released an album on a small label that found its way into The Collector's Zone.
Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy is, dare I say, a joy, a collector's item that one need not be an ultra-specialized genre fanatic to appreciate, a rough-hewn (but not sloppy) mixture of rocksteady reggae, sweet soul, and lean, sharp old-school funk (think Sly Stone, James Brown, Isley Bros.). Vocally, McGhie is something of a cross betwixt Southern soul kings like Al Green and Solomon Burke and reggae / rocksteady crooner Alton Ellis (who in fact plays guitar and tambourine here) - mellow, suave but sincere, full of that gospel-descended preaching / testifying fervor. His sounds have absorbed the urban(e) mojo of King James' JBs: terse, chunky, HOT guitar licks (you might get singed if yez get too close), rich-as-fudge Hammond B-3 organ and chugging horns. WM & SoJ tastefully tackle & remake in their own image the familiar-yet-durable oldies "Going In Circles" (Friends of Distinction) and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" (Glen Campbell/Jim Webb), to go along with their sturdy, soulful originals. If you, Dear Reader, have EVER dug what we oldsters call "Rhythm & Blues"circa 1968-1973 and / or as well as smooth, melodic reggae (Alton Ellis, Bob Andy, Jimmy Cliff), this gem is for You.
Mark Keresman ::(08.06.04)
My Hotel Year
"your dying lung could hold a shipwrecked mouth"
the composition of ending and phrasing, My Hotel Year's 2001 release on Beyond Music, is an album that has stood the test of time. To that, time would be the past 2 or 3 years of shit radio takeover. Anthems from their 2001 debut such as 'walking and dreaming' and the wailing, Cursive-like guitars on 'once more' can kick the ass of anything Vagrant has released as of late (The Anniversary don't count here, as they are no longer). We have heard - and do hear you - MHY.
On to 2004's Doghouse debut, The Curse. Upon first look, the (excellent) packaging is a tad (way) spookier than 'the composition...', and the band's sound has been adjusted accordingly. Those looking for if 'I only spoke Russian' part 2 may be in for a surprise, as MHY have traded many of the rounded curves for full-on takeover rock. While the aptly titled 'Heaven' and 'Breathing Patterns' show the "softer" side many were exposed to on the earlier album, an amped-up track like 'Everyday' prove that MHY have come to rescue the "bad radio" that we all know plays behind our cd players.
Sure, one listen and any clueless kid could attempt to pass My Hotel Year off as the same breed of faceless rock as the Ataris or "whats-their-name", but to these kids I say this: MHY don't need to rehash a Top 40 hit from the 1980's to make a point (yeah, that was a direct Atari hit) - they're doing just fine with the original material they continue to write. This is the kind of infectious rock that gets stuck in your head for days (hear: 'Everyday') and you can actually enjoy it. Float on.
+ kaleb :: (06.18.04)
(Reality Entertainment; 2004)
"Yeah, and maybe you should cry, until you feel brand new"
Under normal circumstances, Marcy Playground's John Wonziak should have some serious issues with Mother Nature and the beast known as the Major Label. For starters, in 1999 John and the Playground released the highly anticipated follow-up Shapeshifter to their huge debut album Marcy Playground (that included that one song.. .). Sounds like a win-win situation, all except the beast known as Capitol decided to put Shapeshifter at the bottom of the "things to do" list - right after the "everything else to do". So John resolved to sever all ties between his band and the beast, and searched for a new label love. Then the second bastard all but destroyed John's will. In early 2003, nearly his entire collection of musical belongings (not only tapes & journals - we're talking electrical equipment) were consumed in a basement / studio flood of his home.
"I think it's safe to say I was in shock", said John from the bio that now supports the third and charming Marcy Playground release, MP3 (Reality Entertainment). Like I said - under normal situations, you may expect John to take to the streets in an episode of rage a la Michael Douglas in "Falling Down", but the guy has released an album of wit & irony that make these mentioned events seem, well. . 'optimistic'.
If there is one common theme on MP3, it seems to be the that Woz(niak) has no intentions of letting the little boy in his heart go any time soon. This is the same guy who penned 'A Cloak of Elvenkind' (from Marcy Playground) and 'Our Generation' (Shapeshifter) - two fantastic examples of a guy in sync with his inner youth. On MP3, tracks like 'Paper Dolls' ( "Yeah, life was easier at five / blah, blah, blah / Feels so good to be alive" ) and the Edward Gorey-like 'Blood in Alphabet Soup' continue this childhood hold.
On the optimistic front, for a song as hopeful as 'Brand New Day' to come from the same man who nearly lost his entire collection of songwriting ( ".. .oh, maybe 20 years" ) is every bit of incredible. Kids, don't let that old man in your head turn you away from the joy that is Marcy Playground - they're just getting started.. . again.
-kaleb :: (05.28.04)
The Magnetic Fields
"But here is a tear for your eye: having forgotten how to cry - I die"
In a recent interview with Stephin Merritt, he was asked if 'i' could be the beginning of a full alphabetical series of albums. He shunned the idea, stating that the letter x could "get a little stale". I have a feeling a man who penned well into 100 songs for what eventually was trimmed to be the opus that is 69 Love Songs could come up with something - beginning with 'xerostomia'. He does have well into 200 words to choose from - just a thought. Prolific does not even begin to describe a gentleman who has won over journalists and critics over the entire globe, earning such grand a title as "The greatest songwriter of his generation". What is left to be said / written?
It's been 5 years since The Magnetic Fields revealed 69 Love Songs, a wait that has come with plentiful rewards. Merritt has since been active, releasing his soundtrack to Pieces of April ( Nonesuch) and working on musical productions for opera - one being for the late 17th century kunjo opera / theatre presentation of Peach Blossom Fan. Also delivered was a new Future Bible Heroes album in 2002, Eternal Youth, which found a strongly divided line between Field fans due to the lack of Merritt vocals (when compared to 1997's glorious Memories of Love). He may have even found time to sleep - but by the looks of things, the man has been active. Quite active.
Returning with an elite list of 69's cast (under ten people are credited - aboard are the Harvard trio of Claudia Gonson, John Woo and Sam Davol) - i simply will not disappoint. I challenge you to find a more pop-coated tale of soured love than 'I Don't really Love You Anymore', where Stephin reveals his true gentleman qualities ("And, true, for you I'd move to Ecuador") all while describing how the passion has faded ("And now I've given up all hope"). The particular tune comes off as the alter-ego of the Association's 60's hit Never My Love. 'I Don't Believe You', originally recorded "synth-style" as an the A-side 7" from 1998, gets a fresh coat for i, and the results are handsome. With the line "So you're brilliant, gorgeous and / ampersand after ampersand", this is poetry set to song at it's most timeless.
The word love appears on "i" (minus song titles) over twenty times - so numbering these 14 new compositions Love Songs 70 - 84 may be somewhat relevant. There is clearly still a larger audience for The Magnetic Fields to grasp - who exactly that audience can & could be is limitless. Stephin Merritt is holding the torch for wit & cleverness, and by the sounds contained in this release - they have no intention of fading anytime soon.
+ k :: (04.28.04)
Yellow Main Sequecne
(Tiny Dog; 2003)
"Wakin' up in Vegas & feelin' outrageus, with a bottle of bourbon &
Mates of State
( Polyvinyl ) 2003
" This couldn't be more ghetto. You and your daughters and their eyes."
What's in a name? Mates of State - well, that one's kinda self-explanatory.
But Team Boo - what is that one all about? In one form, I would
bet decent money that the number of times this duo of 6 years has been jeered
off stage are few and far between, if any & ever. In the other sense, Mates
of State are not scary at all - they actually make some of the most creative &
joyful music you have likely heard in some time (or for faithfuls, since 2002's
Constant Concern). The dozen compositions that make up Team Boo
are nothing short of carefree, ear-to-ear smiles - just the type of music you
may expect to emerge from 20-something lovers. That said, not every statement
& song on Team Boo in sunny. Fluke and it's line of "We say
that we'd take to down to the water's edge and watch you drown" or the somber-titled
Parachutes (Funeral Song), the latter of which makes up for one of the
albums most prominent tracks, take a brief but welcome turn from most of the duo's
lively spirit. One peek at the booklet that accompanies this creative layout (the
slick design even includes a "fortune foldable creation" with pictures
of the couple and various lyrics around it) reveals Jason & Kori have found
a few friends from their travles across the states to join in on their mix of
well-balanced percussion & keys. Jim Eno (of Spoon, John Vanderslice) &
Josh Croslin (Beulah, For Stars) are credited with Production & Engineering,
and John Vanderslice leant some of his gifted vocals to the celebratory parade.
Here's to proving the person wrong that said "happy couples never last"
- don't change a thing.
Mates of State
All Day EP
( Polyvinyl ) 2004
Since their debut album My Solo Project, Mates of State have exercised the same aesthetic, with Kori Gardner's organ fills and melodies backed by Jason Hammel's propulsive yet tasteful drumming, singing in perfect husband-and-wife harmony. With this emphasis on style, it's easy to ignore the strength of the Mates' songwriting prowess, expertly showcased on both 2003's Team Boo, and the duo's new All Day EP.
Leading the way with the excellent "Goods", the Mates write three great new songs, including "Drop and Anchor", an Elton John-style piano ballad. The last track, the Mates' take of David Bowie's "Starman", is charming and highly entertaining, but lacks the substance of the rest of the EP, showing that although the Mates have style in spades, their songwriting chops keep you listening.
Mates of State
Two of Us :: DVD
( Polyvinyl ) 2004
"Sorry there weren't more people here".
The goddamned major press, why do you choose to pick on the clean-cut kids (joke #1)? Are you overwhelmed that something's going too well - some 'thing' that isn't the "norm". Is all of rock'n'roll about that tarnished image, that asshole persona? Is it!? Having recently read 2 very lame print reviews for Two of Us, the first in a series (joke #2) of documentaries on the pleasure-pop couple Mates of State, I feel it is my hip indie purpose to save this DVD's charm and intentions. Truth told, I am more in love with Mrs. Gardner-Hammel by the end of this DVD than I thought was possible.. . this couple is so un-Quasi (semi-joke #3).
Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner (a school teacher and cancer troubleshooter, respectively) are captured throughout this 100+ minute, many chapter DVD talking candidly about the future, many possible names for the next (post-All Day EP) LP ("Popcorn" and "Moustache Surprise" surface, as does "There is no 'I' in Mates" - ha!) and playing the songs we - the fans - have grown to appreciate. Also included, bonus-style, is the epileptic-inducing video for "Ha Ha" that I somehow managed to catch mid-way on TRIO one drunken eve that deserves some viewing.
You wanna hear about a favorite chapter? I cue up chapter 14 - the ass-shakin', sex-on-the-bus chattin', near NC-17 (last joke) ratin' section! Lighten up, fall under the Mates spell and give thanks that purity comes in pairs. Sure, there is the occasional on-the-road (trees passing windshield) footage (some bands do still travel by auto, some even drive themselves - who'dathunk?), but for the most part we - the fans - get what we wanted: an infectious, obviously in love duo doing what they.. .well, love - make a living playing music. Thadd Day, great job of gnawing a reported 60+ hours of footage into what we see here. Elaine Fong, honors to you as well for the packaging.
Roadside hero Patrick Reno (fwd to chapter 5) for President. "I'll bend over backwards to help somebody, cuz' that's how I feel about people". Here's to Patty Reno - you get it!
Take one part Rickie Lee Jones (dry-ice-cool delivery), one part Tom Waits (view of life on the dirty side of the curb, slightly off-kilter song structure), one part Patsy Cline if she'd cut records in NYC (w/ George Russell or Lee Konitz doing the arrangements) instead of Nashville, liberally add pinches of Laura Nyro and the great jazz singer Helen Merrill (get her latest, Lilac Wine!), and a dash of Merle Haggard, you'd have at least an idea of the artistry of Ms. Eleni Mandell. She's not easy to categorize (a good thing existentially, but bad for marketing purposes), although I've heard "alt-country" used to describe her (maybe 'cause her guitarist doubles on pedal steel). Country music - its straightforwardness, its working-class fatalism and resignation more than the twang factor - is but a part of what she's about; the neo-Beat-ifics of R.L. Jones and Waits, the harrowing poetry of C. Bukowski, and the innate cool of the best jazz ballad singers (with a wee touch of their masochism) are all part of the package.
Yet Afternoon is no hodge-podge of spot-the-influences - Ms. EM has a natural, unaffected way of channeling all the aforementioned iconic sounds into her very own style. She doesn't "sound like," she IS like, if you catch the drift. Her voice (which, alas, goes a little flat here 'n' there) has a captivating smoky quality while it has a lilt and yet possessed of a dissipated crackle - clearly, she is one of the people our moms told us to steer clear of. Mandell's band keeps it simple and sharp: acoustic, electric & steel guitars, piano, organ, bass & drums, w/ a naturalistic ambiance and NO guest stars. What's more, EM's songs have staying power - while not zing-catchy on first listen, the hooks and the song's mood / attitude are THERE, baby, sounding better with successive listens. Bury Liz Phair and Courtney Love, give Mary Lou Lord and P.J. Harvey a rest, and listen to The Greatest American Woman In (alternative/indie) Show Business.
(Truth be told, Co- Best American Woman - Eleni Mandell must share that distinction with Amy Rigby.)
-Mark Keresman :: (06.29.04)
( Loud+Clear ) 2005
Does Scott Mercado rest, eat or for that matter function outside of recording studios? From what is put to paper - I'd say naps are short and lunch is on the run. To think manuok is just a "side project" is not so easy to let just pass on by, for the contents of this self-titled release are solid as hobbies come. Among others, Mercado is also a member of the San Diego trio Via Satellite, who have just put the final touches on an LP (Cities are Temples, [Loud+Clear]) to be released later this year.
Via Satellite and manuok share a common foundation in their use of synth / keyboards - such as opener "torrance" and the eerie breakbeat anthem "randb". The dividing transition would be Mercado's lean towards poppy guitar compositions like "titleless" - whereas the drone of keyboards are swapped for a solid percussion kit and an acoustic that wouldn't be out of place on a Brenden Benson LP. The majority of manuok is weighted in the electronic realm of things, and this works quite well for Mercado especially when his experimental side comes to surface. "aheadwithnobody" begins slowly with a simple guitar loop and vocals that surprisingly segues into a spastic drumbeat, somewhat reminiscent of one you may find on a 65daysofstatic single. Shortly thereafter, Mercado swaps beats for a delicate piano outro and this-&-there delays of static. At just over a minute and a half, "aheadwithnobody" jars as many great ideas as it possibly can into one impressionable track, you will surely want more out of it. "Maria oden", another choice track that utilizes classical piano and steady drumbeat, adds to the Manuok formula in that Mercado mixes a distraught gentleman's spoken word sample to the song ("what's the matter, why are you so upset?" speaks the man) that should surely find it's way into fans of early Her Space Holiday's radar.
At roughly 25 minutes (though it seems longer) and ten tracks in all, manuok intelligently jumps in and gets right back out before you really know what happened - begging for another play and then some.
k 01.14.05 [the end is over]
Apply Some Pressure
( WARP ) 2005
Maximo Park's Apply Some Pressure is a sneak-attack record: every song on the EP manages to hit you with an indelible hook halfway through every song. On the title track, the hook comes in at about the minute-and-a-half mark. Like the Futureheads, Newcastle's Maximo Park manages to pack every minute of their XTC-fueled new wave with addicting hooks. Released on Warp Records, who brought Pulp into the limelight in the mid-90's, Maximo Park recalls their famous labelmates: walking a thin line between melodrama and and earnest emotion, songs like "Fear of Falling" feature the same storytelling perfected by Jarvis Cocker.
album's conciseness makes every song stand out, as all filler is
cut from the playlist. Bouncing from single to single, Apply
Some Pressure is almost too much to absorb at once, the sheer
volume of energetic hooks almost disorienting the listener. Each
track seems to try and surpass the infectiousness of the one prior,
with "Coast Is Always Changing" the only track that succeeds -and
every second bounds with pogo-ing energy. This EP hopefully is a
good indication for Maximo Park's full-length- let's just hope they
have enough time to catch their breath before A Certain Trigger
hits in May!
( monitor ) 2005
"De profundis: how I love to live this loose!"
You ever heard an album that just wouldn't go to sleep? The band / artist thought it neat to let some really annoying noise like an animal, conversation or instrument go on and on for the filler of the albums total minutes.. . have you? Cass McCombs' latest keeper PREfection does just that - ends with some random street noise of a car alarm, motorcycles and very faint ramblings from pedestrians. Honestly I wish the album had never come to an end - it's a mesmerizing display of an artist capable of genre-hopping and keeping the listener in complete grasp, but since it must come to a close - how better to let me down than a few minutes of "other noise".
Cass McCombs is good, you are going to fall in love like never before (unless you saw Led Zeppelin live in the mid-70's) - he's just the genuine article. First reaction to his vocals (see opener "Equinox") at times captured like he was either in a large room or yards down in a well, may bring to mind Jim James of MMJ, circa-At Dawn. This is a style both admired by myself and rarely heard - so Cass keep it coming. Cass' crew of musicians keep the MMJ-vibe rollin', as the percussion, strings and electric keys also get a "distant room" treatment to successfully accompany Mr. McCombs' vocals (now is where I ask you to hear a track entitled "Subtraction").
Bear in mind this McCombs' fella I speak of is labelmates with artists such as Oxxxxxes & (via limited releases) Les Savy Fav - so the shit has to have a little trap door somewhere, and it sure as holy hell does. Let's use "Tourist Woman" for this example - with her more in-yr-crotch electric elasticity that begins the second-half of PREfection. Cuddled in this mix is a sparkling little gem by the name of "Cuckoo", led by a set of keys & sparse percussion that tells the mind this track may be the spark for some real romance - Procol Harem-style. Then we get right back into this band of "electric elasticity" I spoke of a verse of two before with "Bury Mary" that I still swear is a cover of a Kinks original but the liner notes prove me wrong. This album is going to eat your heart out and rebuild your pride out of magic summer dust.
Remember those few times before I wouldn't shut up about how Cass and Jim James share a vocal similarity? I'm sorry - I love this guy.
Album of the Century.
kaleb mccombs 02.03.05
So Good It Hurts
( Quarterstick ) 2005
Quarterstick is in the process of "restoring" the US catalog of the Mekons, whose mid-80s releases were released by (the presumably defunct) Twin/Tone label. The Mekons are, of course, likely the GREATEST English-singing band in the world, and So Good..., from 1988, is their "international" album, mixing their gloriously ragtag folky rock & roll with Cajun, reggae and Caribbean influences.
Sally Timms, especially, shines here, out-Nico-ing Nico on the surreally political "Ghosts of American Astronauts" and her coolly soulful take on the Stones' "Heart of Stone." Susie Honeyman's fiddle provides plenty of fiber, Steve Goulding plenty of hefty fatback drums, Tom Green brings his spice rack and chef Langford chunky guitar provides some tightly contained sizzle.
While not as fiercely rockin' or immediate as some of their other platters, it IS packed with lilting melodies, prickly wit, and neat-0 subtle grooves that'll get under your skin (to stay) given time.
Mark Keresman 06.14.05
Heaven and Hell
( Cooking Vinyl ) 2004
WHAT CAN BE SAID of the Mekons that hasn't already been said by gushing, rabid and/or over-intellectualizing critics? Yet, all rock & roll fans are not created equal -- some are younger than yesterday, or me, even.
These Brits known as the Mekons have been around in one form or another since 1977, when they issued one of THE BEST singles of the 1977-81 "punk rock" epoch, one that defines the era -- from the UK side, anyway -- far more than anything the Sex Pistols did: "Where Were You." This song has a guitar sound that makes you feel like you're INSIDE the amp & you can smell some of the circuits smoldering. And like the Clash, Wire and the Talking Heads, they didn't stay the same -- they got dark, abrasive, gloomy & a tad noisy-arty while maintaining their lean, mean approach. And in the mid-80's, long before the phrases "roots-rock" and "multikulti" were even conceived, the Mekons began to explore American country music and the proto-rootsy, then-hardly-hip, used to back Dylan ensemble The Band (they even covered at least two of the Band's songs, "The Shape I'm In" & "Makes No Difference"). Like the Band, the Stones, X, and select others, they didn't just "play" country music (well, they DID, but they didn't stop there), they adapted it to their style and vice versa. (The 'kons cover of country singer John Anderson's "Wild & Blue" is still a concert favorite.) There were forays into reggae, dub, folk, but the Mekons NEVER got far away from ROCK AND ROLL: tuneful, brash, immediate, ALWAYS showing their audiences a good time. And these blushing bastards are STILL at it, not leaving "well enough" alone. On their last album, Punk Rock, they re-arrange some old favorites, reinterpreting some of their back catalog (just like Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington did throughout their careers, seeing if they could improve or put a new spin on old faves) -- the working class-style rant "Work All Week" becomes a lilting Caribbean/West African groove-thang. Heaven and Hell is a tremendously comprehensive retrospective, up to and including Punk Rock -- I, a fanboy, who have nearly all their discs from 1984 on, can't stop playing this collection! As dandy as most of their original albums are, THIS is the set you should invest in if you are a) a casual fan (you won't stay "casual" for long, I'll wager) or b) have experienced other fanboys/girls and critics go on about this band and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Even if you're a hardcore fan, H&H is worth having 'cause it's like experiencing a Mekons concert in your own living space, minus the cancer-causing smoke, drunken jerks and expensive alcoholic beverages. Sometimes life IS worth all the boo-shit: H&H is the Proof. To quote a critic in a very old CREEM magazine: Get it? Get it.
Mark Keresman 10.30.04
( Atlantic ) 1993
The best thing Atlantic Records has ever had anything to do
with. Houdini - the album - is so great. The Melvins
at their best. The last couple songs on the album may put people off
a bit but they are still good. The cream of the crop though is every
single song before the last two ("Pearl Bomb", "Spread
Eagle Beagle"). The Melvins are considered by some to be "intelligent
metal", but it's probably not difficult to get that tag considering
the state of metal. It is nice to know that there is at least one band
out of the thousands of crap metal bands that is void of a dumb schtick
and idiotic macho-ness. You don't really need to be into metal to love
the Melvins, they are just great musicians and I don't really even consider
them to be /metal\ anyways.
birdy tree 08.20.05
I am the fun blame monster
( FILMguerrero ) 2004
I would normaly avoid an album such as I am the fun blame monster. Certainly not because it's ugly, SCARY! (monsters! arrghh!!!) or not a joy to listen too - mostly I would avoid it because I really have no idea how to describe it without having you actually hearing it.. . and SEE the 900-page flip book (margin for error on actual page count +/- 850 pages) surrounding the party!
Is it beautiful? - certainly! The ever-so elegant and piano-led anthem that is sufficiently titled "The Late Great Libido" carries out the duty with a saxophone, bass & drums (in order of importance) as well as the appearance of xylophone & a lightnin' bolt of an electric guitar at the height of the Libido's season. The fun, all encased by vocalist-MENO-monster, all comes to an audible-encased delight of seriousness for the finale. So if you're asking is it quirky(?) - I ask you "did Columbo have one lazy-ass eye?"
Follower "E. is Stable" is one of the best things you will hear ALL YEAR, unless of course you are deaf, then it would be the visual equivalent of seeing bottle rockets fired from your ignorant bosses ass. Then of course you may be deaf AND unemployed (which, for that, I feel for you) but just close your eyes and imagine something you like.. . ALOT. Now smile, smack yourself with a wet q-tip and yell "I AM THE FUN BLAME MONSTER!!". See, you're getting it. If you begin to see lil' visions of Snuffalufagus (hell, Sully would do) from Sesame Crew you get major imagination bonus points - cause these kids (I hear.. .) got the Menomena name from that there Street of colorful beasts ('Mahna Mahna', a song I was birthed to - originally sung by the Snouths of '76)! Having 2 young daughters, I still get to see Grover & Zoe twirl to that song EVERY DAY on N-o-g-g-i-n!!!
Jesus to Albatross Squidlips - I did start this text by admitting "I would normaly avoid an album such as I am the fun blame monster", now don't you get all hairy on me and miss the point.
So is it the underdog for the top 5 album's of the 2004 record releasing season? I ask "Can you hear me now"?
+ k a l e b 11.26.04
( Fractured Transmitter Records ) 2004
Okay so Meshuggah is basically the heaviest band in the entire world. I is 21 minutes and is one track. Basically the album starts with a badass intro and then goes into this fuckin' rad "punk beat" sorta thing with the most awesome riff over it ever. Okay so Meshuggah use 8 string guitars on this record.. . just like they did on "Nothing". Meshuggah don't use many different notes (minus the solos) on this album, BUT BUT BUT.. . that is NOT NOT NOT a bad thing AT ALL!!!!!
probably one of the heaviest records I own. The patterns alone are enough
to make ANY music lover orgasm. Oh yeah.. . the last 5 minutes of the
song - .FORGET ABOUT IT DUDE!!! Heaviest riff EVER!!! Doesn't even make
sense! If you're in a heavy band and you even TRY to write a riff heavier
than that last riff - then kill yourself, it can't be done! So I guess
all we can do now is wait for Meshuggah's next release entitled "Catch
33". I'll be sure to buy that and review it that faster than you
even knew it was released!
(Bubble Core; 2003)
Adam Pierce has been releasing albums at a rather blazing speed for the past several
years under the name of Mice Parade. Influenced by everything from South American
music to Chicago-styled post rock to electronic, each one of his full-length releases
has gotten progressively better and more interesting. Obrigado Saudade is the
5th full-length from the group and despite being much more of a musical hodge-podge
than anything else he's released to date, it again pushes forward into new territory
for some truly amazing moments.
Robert Miles & Trilok Gurtu
(Shakati / EMI; 2004)
Jack Bruce and Linda Rondstadt, Merle Haggard and Jewel, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang, Loretta Lynn and Jack White, Alice Cooper and Vincent Price ok, maybe the last one isn't such an anomalous pairing, but the others are eyebrow-raisers to most folk. Here's another: an Italian keyboardist/DJ/producer/mixer of dance music and an eclectic Indian world-fusion percussionist, Robert Miles (appearing in the disc credits under his birthname Roberto Concina) and Trilok Gurtu.
Gentle Readers, this is one of the most difficult to describe platters This Jaded Writer has heard in a while. Whereas most albums can be stylistically summed-up in two to four words, this cannot. There are breakbeats, cracking and upfront, but not to the monolithic 'thud' levels of Techno/House. There are keyboards that generate ambiance (as in "ambient"), and then there are elements of jazz in the instrumental soloing (nice Miles Davis-ian trumpet from Toshinori Kondo). Samples are used, but NOT from other peoples' songs, and Barry White-smooth-and sly soul strings come into the mix to provide relief from all the subtly seething activity. There are far too many human-sounding rhythms and melodies (abstract, but there) for this to be "filed under" Ambient, yet it's great "chill" music; there are elements of ethnic musics within, but integrated so deftly it's difficult to say, "a-ha! Javanese influence," or the influences of any particular "ethnicity." Drum 'n' bass/jungle is heard/felt, but not in large enough doses for hardcore fans of such. The closet critical quip I can come up with is: imagine Sweetnighter/Mysterious Traveller-era Weather Report clashing with Spring Heel Jack and Mickey Hart. Or: this is Don DeLillo's book Libra translated into musical shapes, in several languages. All I can say for sure is: this disc confounds me, and that's one of the reasons it appeals so. Miles_Gurtu doesn't stay in one place for very long, but there's a feeling of progression, of continuity, as opposed to hither-and-yon, smug genre-hopping for its own sake.
To take in a most agreeable, absorbing mystery - an album that's more like a novel than a collection of short stories - hear this, and soon.
-Mark Keresman :: (05.12.04)
Hooray For Tuesday
( Future Farmer ) 2004
Hooray for The Minders! Hooray for Tuesday! It's back! This 1998 album by the Minders, that is! With four additional songs!
It sounds just like you'd expect it to sound: 1960s pre-concept album British Invasion psych-/power-pop (i.e., Kinks, Small Faces, Zombies, the Paul-leaning Beatles material) filtered through the cheerily lo-fi Elephant 6 Collective prism! Of course Robert Schneider (Apples In Stereo) produced it! The songs and vocals are consistently winsome and catchy! But that's not always great: there's no stand-out songs, and a lot of the tempos are too similar -- taken in one sitting it all blurs together! But you don't have to! Take it in one sitting, I mean! It's still good! Better than Yo La Tengo! Still, I wish this set of pop-tones had just a wee bit more "snap" and "crackle"!
Mark Keresman 12.25.04
The Future Is Always Perfect
(Future Farmer; 2003)
The future is ALWAYS perfect. Unless God is a myth - then legions of wrong-worshipers are screwed. Anyhow - some bands just weren't meant for these harsh states. Some not even for these times. The Minders fall under both of these descriptions in my eyes. When I listen to "The Future Is Always Perfect", their latest ep and first album on Future Farmer, I envision a perfect place / perfect time being Newcastle circa the late rebelious 1960's. Oh, you knew I was going to say that didn't you? The Minders do often and not too surprisingly get categorized in the "Pop Psychedelia" scheme of things - but they do it so much better than their "similars" [need we call names]. It's So Hard gets the future off to a poppy start, a motivational little number complete with a few "la-la-la's" tossed in for good measure and plenty of Minders joy. The couple of gems that really caught my liking were the simpler tones of '28X' and the kettle-whistle beauty of 'Jealous Baby' - both guided by Rebecca Cole's "hush little baby" lullaby vocals. All combined into one perfect mini-album - it's hard to think this would dissapoint any fans of Golden Street-era Minders, or fans of smart, heartfelt music in general. In actuallity - this little nugget of kindly mindly music should be plenty to keep you looking forward to next Minders outing.
+ k :: (12/12/03)
M I N M A E
I'd Be Scared, Are You Still Burning
( Greyday Productions )
Portland-based indie rock veterans Minmae have kept a surprisingly low profile since their quiet emergence in the late 1990's, resigned to scratching out their musical mark with numerous releases of all imaginable formats (remember cassette only releases?) and spreading the joy one ear at a time as touring yeoman. While Minmae may not be scenester touchstones, I'd Be Scared, Were You Still Burning, their latest release, offers plenty of evidence that they're every bit the peer of better-known West Coast skewed pop bands like Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu. Minmae's great paradox is that they're both darkly dense and surprisingly conventional, as their songs are both elusive and well-informed by the ancient yarns of bands like SMOG, Archers of Loaf and the Silver Jews. They come off as enigmatic (see their often puzzling website) and their varied, oddly prolific output set them off as half-cultish, half-savant. Is Minmae a difficult band? Not at all, just get to know them and you'll come to appreciate their clear arrangements, ambitious lyrics and occasional perfection (see "Signed to a Check" buried somewhere in their cryptic discography and leader Sean Brook's solo "Cut-Off Read Sophomore"). If you're new to Minmae, I'd Be Scared, Were You Still Burning is a fine introduction.
Opener "German Girl, She Was American" is the dire, complicated sister of Pavement's seminal "Here," both swaying romantic and middle-of-the-night urgent. "Let Him Out" begins somber and ominous, then opens the roof with an airy, almost groovy coda. "Smiling With Teeth" is both dramatic and droney, while the suspiciously-titled "Experimental Pop Song" builds off a clean guitar figure lifted right off of Wowee Zowee before the vocals kick it into a Iggy Pop-esque mid-tempo burner. The brief, tender "My Parts Will Not Rust" lays pedal steal and electric piano below Sean Brook's poetic musings while the humble mini epic "American Spear" provides the artistic high point of the album, marrying driving drone with a poppy, hook-laden lyrical release which is bogged down in a swampy guitar figure for an extended middle section before re-emerging as simple acoustic pop. "Wayward Scout" is a pretty near-ballad, arguably the most accessible track on I'd Be Scared, and a perfect ending song. "Ecstatic Bourgeois Tendency", however, closes the disc with nervous, yet subdued disco punk, an interesting yet unrepresentative musical statement that once again demonstrates Minmae's refusal to take the easy way out.
The Captain is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance
'steal my pride it fits you to a t'
So, finally, this is what "wall of crap" sounds like - it's actually quite lovely. Not brown at all, as I had always pictured the great "wall of crap".
Opener "won't be fooled again" sounds very big band-ish, only after that said band has been run through quite a many marshmallow filters to hide all the high end technology. The end result matches the album's cover art quite well: see that tuba trying not to submerge in a sea of art? Couple of numbers later, "Gravity pulls", surely matches any track face-to-face off of 'TESTS' by the microphones, complete with an almost unbearable undergroove, best not listened too through a high-quality headset, nor at high volumes.
"Open your eyes" is simply stunning - unlike any that I have heard prior. a piano is cast into the spotlight, backed by shifting drums, electric keys & random ticks. The combination is a dream of a tune you can find a saviour too - seriously. Jordan Geiger's off-kilter vocals fall damn near in the center of a Johnathan Donahue / Wayne Coyne mix, and that there is a compliment.
"Joyless, Joyless" opens up as pop-brite as any radio hit on the earlier side of 1962, but soon finds it's edge to pave a way to the darker side, eventually making friends with an angrier beast where the chant of "joyless, joyless" becomes more of a force that will win any battle ahead of it. Tambourines, hugs and electric guitars drive the fatal blows to bring one of eight grand tracks "the captain is dead.. " has in store to a sputtering close.
If you weren't paying close attention, you may just mistake the final track "the children's army (bite the tyrant's tongue)" for a long lost Polyphonic Spree track (another compliment), minus 36 members of course. The final minute finds a small choir of patrons reciting "fill your heart with love" as the fade-out begins on a remarkably strange album. Of course, my opinon may change today - so take the love it offers for face value.
stealing this last line: "you don't know this band yet, but you will soon."
The Minus Tide
(Action Driver; 2004)
First impressions: My first listen to the Minus Tide was"fist, stick, knife, gun..." from their debut on factory R records (which is now in print as Action Driver 109). A mere minute and a half session that comes across like JR Ewing and Converge in a crippling headlock - the Tide have not ceased to amaze me with their furious fits of instrumentation and Dallas Campbell's throaty vocals.
Anakuklosis, Greek for "we're better than your band", is the Minus Tide's proper follow up to 2001's 'The Rock Autopsy Has Begun', and the bands first full-length. What you get are 30 minutes of furious stories dedicated to misguided chef's (the 5 minute "there's a fly in my centauri stew), creatures of the dark past ("dinner with the minotaur") and other grizzly mythological matters ("fire giant on tympani"). These epic tellings are not, however, simply retold around a circle of dead air - rather they are delivered in classic Minus Tide fashion through an angst of crashing rage.
Lyrics are included, as are all the past releases text on the official Tide site- and your will need them if you wanna keep up. By far - the best overall design for an album this year, drummer / co-engineer Dave Klug has reinterpreted Fractals that did much deeper than your average KPT filter. Along with a band that must be heard to be believed - the artwork keeps that promise with the visuals.
- kaleb :: (07.09.04)
(Nuclear Blast, 2003)
Allow me to begin this review with a question: if you could change one thing about Dying Fetus, what would that one thing be? Exactly the sporadic 'burping' of John Gallagher. You see? We do have something in common. His Chris Barnes impression is unparalleled to say the least, but it grows tiresome after a track or two. What keeps me interested is the massive talent ascribed to the musicianship in that band. Every aspect positions itself flawlessly until it becomes this tight-as-fuck portrait of true death metal. But, "this isn't a Fetus review", you may say. All right then... what if I made mention of a release that encompasses everything holy about Dying Fetus, yet leaves the burping to those who have had the intestinal fortitude to sample my homemade 5-alarm chili?
Behold... Misery Index. It's a flashback in most ways and a flashforward in others. I can detect smoky overtones of 'Pierced from Within'-era Suffocation with a subtle aroma of furious, chugging riffs and wailing whammy-bar ridden solo work circa 1994-5. It helps, too, that the names of three-fourths of this lineup at one time or another graced the liner notes accompanying a Dying Fetus disc. The beauty that is Retaliate lies in the fact that they pay graceful homage to their influences. This quartet trudges through 11 tracks of blistering death-grind and never once fails to capture my strict attention... right up to, during, and after "Birth of Ignorance" (which, consequently enough, is one of my favorite Brutal Truth tracks). In any event, consider this recipe for destruction (and I mean that in the most complimentary way): if you combine the energetic approach of Terrorizer, the complete audio assassination that is Suffocation, pre-'Heartwork' Carcass, and a page from the 'Explosions in Ward 6' Pig Destroyer book on riffology, well, suffice it to say, it would give my chili a run for its money.
simply: this disc slays and proceeds to leave no listener standing in its wake!