Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sleater-Kinney / The Woods / 9.0

The bad news is Sleater-Kinney’s music has had a total HEAVY ROCK make-over but the vocals remain pretty damn close to they way they always have been. To many of us Corin’s voice is a blood curdling version of nails on a chalkboard and that probably will never change. The good news is their song writing has matured gracefully and tastefully. With the aid of Dave Fridmann, they have grown from sounding like angry girls to enraged and empowered women. Every song travels down a different dynamic path carved out of a mountain of pure rock. Without sounding too feminist friendly I think what makes this kind of heavy record so special and rare is it is undeniably feminine both lyrically and in its attack on expression.

“Entertain” is absolutely the strongest track on “The Woods” and if anything combines the most memorable and volatile moments of “Dig Me Out” and then channels it through a 3 piece more in control of their instruments than ever. This control doesn’t weaken their energy or the spirit of the song, it actually makes them a more terrifying sonic powerhouse. This is Sleater-Kinney at their best. There are however 9 other songs which all vary from okay to great but few come close to this genuine monster of a hit.

The opening track “The Fox” is damn good but the juxtaposition of children’s book like lyrics makes for a curious and one of a kind rock anthem. (For those of you who like really ducks and foxes well, this is so gonna be your jam.) “What’s Mine is Yours” has a whole Hendrix guitar solo that will blow away any classic rock fan and hopefully this will raise the bar for other lady-rockers who will remain unnamed but who keep cranking out the same shit with each new record. (I can’t even believe I get to use Hendrix and Sleater-Kinney in the same sentence…now that’s HOT ROCK!)

“ I spent the afternoon in cars / I sit in traffic jams for hours” is the opening line for “Jumpers” and its genius to hear the guitars mimic the sound of a car repetitively beeping. I have listened to this song in traffic and I will tell you it becomes less endearing when you really are trapped in a car with it and thousands of others along side of you.

Sleater-Kinney has hiked boldly into “The Woods” and bravely decided to take a musical route they have never taken before. The final product is an electric map littered with songs tailored to their journey. The key to all of this will be the listeners ability to embrace the voices that will carry them from beginning to end. Their music deserves to earn them new fans but I fear their piercing howls will continue to be a “Keep Out” sign to the rest of us.

This record deserves a 9.0 and I am glad Pitchfork honored it accordingly. Musically I know Sleater-Kinney has earned it but the vocals will forever be a sticking point with me. Some days I can listen to them and love them, others I cannot bare to be in the same room with them. The non-music critic / headache prone listener in me would give this 4 little red riding hoods out of a possible 5, temple throbs and all.

Monday, May 23, 2005

re: What's with all the Pitchfork metal reviews ?

Yes i have noticed many metal/doom reviews. So let me take stock of who i am:
1. I live in the suburbs of a major metropolis.
2. my parents listened to John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary.
3. I enjoy white bread, corned beef hash and Orange Julius.
4. I wear glasses not out of a need to be hip, but out of a need to see objects.
5. I am afraid of razor blades and Spider.

now any of these factors taken independent of one another dont matter. But combine them and it makes me fear Doom. What will it do to me? how will i feel? Will i be the same person? If anyone can tell me in 20 words or less why i should listen to Doom, i will pull Sunn out of my promo pile and see where the sludge takes me.

What's with all the Pitchfork metal reviews ?

Hmmm. Earth, Sunno))), and Dungen all in a weeks time. Maybe this is considered hipster crossover metal like the Locust and Converge so therefore they are deemed worthy of a review.

I can't wait to see how they like all the silver edition Manowar reissues !

My new metal favorite is the new Belef CD, a black metal band from France with a cover art drawing of a woman being branded on the ass by a pentagram held by a zombie. Sweet. Its hard to decide what would be more icky, staring at that or one of those suicide girls porn site ads. If we are lucky maybe we will get a gander of both at the same time.

I like the metal but not the banner ads.

I'm into having heavier stuff on Pitchfork but I suspect they will mostly stick to bands like Mastodon who appeal to those who don't still wear denim vests.(unless its a cool kid trying to be fashion ironic)

Sorry this is a non real topic ramble. Carry on.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Maximo Park / A Certain Trigger / 8.4

I am going to go out on a limb here and say at least in a recording studio Maximo Park reminds me of post punk’s answer to Rites Of Spring.

That's right I said Rites of Spring.

“ A Certain Trigger” shares the same kind of messy imperfect brutal honesty that made me worship R.O.S. over a decade ago yet it also carries the endearing sappy Brit-bite of the Smiths.( w/ the addition of a keyboard) This does not make Maximo Park an absurd synth pop band nor do they play knock-off new wave drivel. After some 50 listens I can't say Maximo Park sounds just like any other band. There are hints of influences, there is an unbridled energy spit between clench teeth, but the refreshing thing is their music sounds like they mean it. Pop can sound dangerous and exciting when a band dares to play it sincerely. I believe every note, every drum hit, every line of lyric and I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about a band I have never even seen play live.

You don’t have to love this band but at least give them credit for playing something real and true to themselves. That alone should earn them a little respect and at the very least, a listen.

An 8.4 from Pitchfork is pretty darn decent and these days I am amazed when I actually agree with them on anything. Sam Ubl, you did good. Think of our two reviews together like a Siskel and Ebert two thumbs up.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The winner of the ultimate metal makeover : Greg Anderson !!!!!! I give you the before ( guy with Kramer hair and guitar) : Posted by Hello

The after: Posted by Hello

Sunno))) / The GimmRobe Demos / 8.0

Boring! Name dropping key metal bands the members of Sunno))) have been a part of doesn’t offer any of the awe and mind blowing mystery this band actually deserves. Sure Greg Anderson runs Southern Lord and has played in Thorr’s Hammer and Burning Witch but that’s not shocking. Knowing they began as an Earth tribute band is totally believable. I am much more interested in these musicians prior to the guys who make music that sounds like doom vacuuming.

Who would ever believe Anderson is also the same man who basically brought Straight Edge to Seattle in a band called Brotherhood? This prince of darkness has an XXX True Till Death tattoo on his arm still damn it…now that rules. The second reincarnation of Greg blossomed from a brief stint in the emo hardcore band Galleons Lap that also featured one Nate Mendel who some might remember from Sunny Day but most know as one of long-term members the Foo Fighters. While I love the metal Greg my dedication to his song writing talents remains with Engine Kid. Who cares if they sounded like Slint and Bitch Magnet? Recording never did this band justice but live their sonic eruptions clearly offered hints of the guitar playing we know Greg for today. So blah blah blah Julian Cope, Dylan Carlson and Joe Preston; give me “Angel Wings” or give me death.

Stephen O’Malley’s musical history is a bit more straight forwards but there are two other artistic sides to him that leave an impression just as striking as his work on the GrimmRobe Demos. Much like Aaron Turner’s (Isis ,OMG…) ability to both make stunning music and art, O’Malley is one hell of an artist / graphic designer. Instead of creating a grocery list of his talents just check out his work here: On a historical level his music and art still only covers half of why this man should be worshipped. I have two words for you Descent Magazine. Before books like “Lords of Chaos” and feature stories in Spin introduced the rest of the world to the bizarre workings of Black Metal, Stephen published and wrote for Descent. This magazine might be one of the first and most thorough guides to all that was extreme metal, death metal, noise, Scandinavian, avante- ambient, grind and so on. Do yourself a favor and try to track down the few publications that not only do this genre some justice but also were always well written and littered with his art. This guy was metal and meant it before anyone knew Norway’s youth were killing each other and burning churches in the name of all that was unholy.

Writer Brandon Stosuy asks how “these dudes can top what they have done thus far” but I would say knowing they added Rex Ritter into their fold a few years back is one hell of a way to start and only makes this bands history that much more intriguing. Yet another link to the Northwest, Rex was the master behind the space rock band Jessamine and Fontanelle. Again on record this band never sounded as brutal and as Spacemen 3 influenced as they were but in retrospect hearing Rex play live completely connects him to his present day position in Sunno))). Moving away from Silver Apples inspired guitar Ritter manages to bring sounds of the dead and dying via keyboards and other electronic toys which for many bands would be the kiss of suck ass death. Rex isn’t on this particular release but for those curious about the rest of the bands growing catalog, it is all worth it and even more heavy and horrific live.

If the sound of pure evil doesn’t interest you I would still say check them out live. They wear custom robes and because after all:
1) It seems borderline comical and not that scary to see grown men wear hooded robes.2) This form of atonal dronery digested in a group setting is similar to a room of people swaying along to the sound of the world as we know it ending. That experience is both disturbing and brilliant and totally worth the tinnitus you will suffer for weeks after.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spoon / "Gimme Fiction" / 7.9

People will like “Gimme Fiction” and I can’t blame them. It is a very nice 4/4 rock record but I hear the voice of a devils advocate screaming to get out. Reviewer Eric Carr likes the record and before I really get into it, I do too. Would I call it “wildly diverse”? Umm, no. Will I agree with the 7.9 rating? Yes but barely.

The first track sets the tempo for what basically the entire record will follow. Neither fast nor slow one can bob their head along to it comfortably. This middle ground is retread song after song making for a very non-edge of your seat kind of listening experience overall. (There are brief exceptions but not many.) “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” begins with maybe one of the coolest opening lyrics ever (the title of the song) but it also features the most haunting modern day rendition of a John Lennon song around. The piano and production value help to drive this point home but Britt Daniel sounds so much like J.L. to me that its almost spooky. Gratefully what snaps me out of this ghostly visit is the noisy deconstructed guitar solo which skronks and farts like a Gibson with gas. I love the idea of the anti-solo but it reappears on so many other tracks that it loses it clever appeal by song 6 or side B for you LP owners.

Moving onto the third track “ I Turn my Camera On” I can see how Pitchfork likens the falsetto vocals to Prince or later Stoned but I also hear one hell of an ode to the Bee Gees. The beat remains predictable, the guitar farts return but at least the vocals dare to try something different. With back up vocals by Archers of Loaf / Crooked Fingers front man Eric Bachman I wonder if this surprise hit will spawn a rebirth of rock bands going disco. God help us all if this is the case.

“My Mathematical Mind”, “ The Delicate Place” and “Sister Jack” manage to separate themselves from each other in small ways musically but the real diversity comes with the nicely spaced dynamic erosion of their instrumentation. These moments offer a naked listen to confident pop melodies that stand proudly on their own. These audio skeletons allow you to practically peer through a song and makes for some captivating music in turn.

The second half of “Gimme Fiction” stars a fantastic fuzzy organ; features a kalimba, a xylophone and the return of the piano / strings but perhaps the most daring track is “Was it You?”. Imagine lo-fi Looper (whatever happened to that band?) mashed into a lowrider hip hop beat and there you have what would have been called the weirdest song on the record if they hadn’t dabbled in dance just a few tracks earlier.( A remix mp3 file can’t be far behind and I wouldn’t be shocked if its been done crazy kids with the computers and song writing software.)

I loved “ They Never Got You” but only until I realized there is an uncanny chord progression that mirrors Led Zep’s Kashmir. (Heck yeah I love Kashmir so in turn why wouldn't I fancy this tiny tribute?!?) I never made the Zep connection with Spoon before but by the last track I can’t seem to shake this idea. The placement of strings, the vocal timing… its Lennon getting the Led out and that’s not such a bad combo. In fact it makes for a pretty good new Spoon record. Not a GREAT one but certainly a good one.

PS: Welcome back Merge Records. If Sub Pop won comeback label of year in 2004 I vote Merge for 2005.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sometimes Pitchfork gets it right.

Weezer - Make Believe 9.9/10.0

The new Weezer is worse than hanging out at Wal-Mart. swear da ga!
I am a Weezer fan - so much so that when I am singing their earlier songs I have been known to start foaming at the mouth. I also do not buy shit just because a favorite artist recorded it. We are all capable of crap and so is Weezer. It almost seems deliberate as I cannot imaging Rivers writing these songs unless he was just so fed up with the conglomerate lifestyle that he just decided to make kids sing stupid shit so he could laugh. I don't know - it's shit, just utter shit. However the new Spoon is hot, esp that disco track. And if you have an excess of street whistles and lotion than the new fannypack is right up your alley.

-jaywalker is dancing because he just can't stop.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Datarock / Datarock Datarock / 7.8

"Hey, if the mere thought of one man's penis entering another man's rectum weirds you out, just skip to today's American Music Club review or whatever lap-pop record we just placed in Best New Music. Bergen's Datarock are about as dick-in-ass as it gets-- gayer than Guided By Voices, maybe even gayer than the Boo Radleys."

The sound of tires screeching in my head hit about 10 seconds into this piece of failed drollery. Nick Sylvester, what the hell were you thinking ? Not only is a grade school level discussion of man on man action in your opening line dimwitted you go on to offer readers to skip to an American Music Club review if all your dirty talk makes them feel icky. Hello jackass, let me clue you in….Mark Eitzel the singer of American Music Club is gay, not fake gay, real gay. OOPS.

Secondly I can’t even begin to wrap my head around your Guided By Voices stab. Instead of gay perhaps Nick was trying to imply that they too have bad hair or as one friend put it, drink too much like GBV ? I don't know, maybe one of them is also an English teacher ? I can even pretend to get what he was reaching for there.

Lastly, the Boo Radleys broke up in 1998 so if Nick wanted to go for something truly sarcastic and why not dare to mock a recent band like Franz Ferdinand. They even have a song about dancing with a dude but maybe that isn’t obscure enough to make Nick feel witty and delightfully offensive.

I am guessing Mr. Sylvester went straight to the cock talk because this Norwegian band ( Bergen by the way is the next Montreal ) does it but if Datarock castrated themselves next week would you still do the same ?

I give this sad attempt at XXX one blue ball out of a possible two.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stereolab / Oscillons From the Anti-Sun / 8.0

After fifteen years of making music why not offer the fans a hefty 3 disc collection of mostly previously unreleased material in the U.S., a bonus DVD and all at an affordable price. Thank you Stereolab. Thank you Duophonic / Too Pure. Thank you Nitsuh Abebe for writing a reasonable and right on review of the box set.

I give Nitsuh Abebe's review a 10 out of a possible 10 oscilloscopes.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ariel Pink / "Worn Copy" / 5.9

1) Worn Copy was written in 2002 and 2003
2) It originally came out in 2003 on the Rhystop label.
3) This version is different because it has a bonus video
4) There is over an hours worth of music that to my ears sounds like Gary Wilson singing along to a car radio stuck on scan, static…commercials and all. I thought this would equal my worst audio nightmare but there is something strangely endearing about this damn thing. Those who came in weird before him have just that in common and I don’t think comparing him (Pink) to Ween, Redd Kross, Zappa, or Gary Wilson gives this artist enough room to stand on his own.
5) The guilty pleasure I once felt when having a Wesley Willis song stuck in my head can now be replaced with any track from this very “special” collection of music.
6) If WFMU could be a musician I am certain it would Ariel Pink.
7) I don’t want to see this man tour with Animal Collective I want to see him play with Harvey Sid Fisher and or Neil Hamburger.
8) Ideal listening for hotel lounges and the bedroom.
9) 8 track recording has never sounded so 4track.
10) The voices in your head will finally have a friend to call its own.

I would have guessed this kind of outsider art mastery would have been on par with all that Pitchfork applauds so the 5.9 rating comes as a bit of a shock to me. The Ponys relatively dull approach to rock gets 7.8 and a Guided By Voices offshoot all covers cd gets a 7.1 all in the same day. In the greater scheme of what I will listen to again and share with friends tomorrow (or in 5 years from now) Ariel Pink is the clear winner.

I give “Worn Copy” 8 out of 10 possible autistic rocks back and forth.