Sunday, July 31, 2005

Wilderness / The Wilderness / Rating 8.5

There is an older man who lives down the street from me in a halfway house. He wanders by my apartment almost daily and crows at mailboxes and parked cars alike as if he were a baseball umpire or train conductor with terrets. I am fairly certain he has no idea who PIL is but some might say his wild rants are eerily similar to Johnny Lydon. I also believe I have possibly found a vocal stunt double for James Johnson, the singer of Wilderness.

Pretzel vendors, Mark E. Smith, the “peanuts, popcorn, cold beeeah heeeah” guy, and circus ring leaders could all unite and form a support group for the overly pronounced and projected melody challenged.

PFM calling the Wilderness “certainly unique” and "considering the original sound they've created-- and at such an early stage of their career" falls a little short of the truth. First off the label site bio states "Wilderness's debut is the culmination of three years steady work by four dear friends."Ummm...I guess three years is early in some bands's career. Secondly, there are hundreds of bands within the post punk / art rock genre ( political leanings et al) to name as possible influences and Ryan Schreiber even goes on to mention several in his review: Echo and the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, and Eno-era Talking Heads. What is the definition of unique again?

To give a slightly more modern point of reference I might even say Wilderness remind me of Circus Lupus on quaaludes or Lungfish using Modern English’s ringing guitar tones ala “Swans on Glass”. All are equally hypnotizing, haunting and highly repetitive. Their music can also clear a room at a party while at the same time the few left listening will vow them to be the best band EVER. This loose band association (Did I forget to mention they are also both from Baltimore?) led me compare and contrast the PFM reviews for the new Lungfish release “ Feral Hymns” and the Wilderness “S/T”. Written by two different PFM writers, I found their clashing opinions on one similar core style (repetition and more repetition) quite interesting. Mind you the bands are not musical replicas by any stretch of the imagination but they could share two different sides of the same coin. Lungfish now considered by PFM "beginning to pale-- that same steadfast aesthetic feels more like a creative rut than a statement" received a rating of 5.8 while Wilderness earned an impressive 8.5. and this statement "this kind of substantive art-rock is ripe for exploration" *

Lungfish review here :

If I had been given a Wilderness 12” single of “Arkless” as an A-side and “End of Freedom” and Fly Further to See” on the B-side, (As PFM also gives a shout out of awesome to) I would truly believe this band was genius or on the path to something darn close. Unfortunately there are 7 other tracks rock-blocking these three moments of complete audio bliss.

Ultimately it’s Colin McCann’s singular soaring guitar notes that propel “The Wilderness” into something spectacular and he is THE saving grace to an otherwise frustratingly one dimensional band. A high PFM rating seems a little premature for this band in reference to the “S/T” release but if I were to project a rating for their next release, I would give them an 8.5.

* Let this be a warning to you Wilderness, if make the same record 9 more times as Lungfish did, your rating will drop too.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Nothing to do with Pitchforkmedia, at least not yet.

My what if game:

What if Sunny Day had written “Diary” closer to their thirties?
What if The Doves came from the Midwest?
What if Dave Grohl had an evil twin in the underground?
What if Shiner reached perfection in an afterlife?

I have found one possible answer to all of the questions above: The Life and Times “Suburban Hymns” on Desoto Records.

I have also found my favorite release of the year. I won’t even say favorite release of the year so far because this is it. Period. I have reached an official apex for 2005.

There is 41 minutes of skyscraper drones and volcanic kick/snare combinations that punch holes of light into vocals so bleak they sound buried alive.

The production by J.Robbins and Paul Malinowski should earn them a lap dance by Steve Albini.

Each song connects tightly to the next like floors in a 10 story building and not one deserves to be skipped.

Less talk more rock. The music will speak for itself here:

Band site :

I have no idea if PFM will ever review this but I wanted to pass along a new personal favorite while it was still fresh to my ears. In fact I am such a zealot for "Suburban Hymns" that I am typing this at 4 am after a long car ride back home.

Over and out.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Orange Juice / The Glasgow School / Rating 9.3

How much time does a typical music journalist spend listening to a cd before he or she writes about it? I am certain the pendulum swing of possible answers is wide but I would hazard to guess they would span from once to weeks and weeks of daily spins. I think how much time a person spends with a record among a million other variables should be considered with each review you read so let me preface this review by saying this: I have been collecting records for over 20 years and not once in all my discoveries of an Orange Juice record did I decide to purchase one.

I have heard their music via friends and radio during this long span of time and was never swayed to the point of purchase. It doesn’t mean I hate them or think they are not an important puzzle piece to the history of indie rock but I personally never liked them enough to add them to my collection of records. I was given an advance of this cd several months ago and I have played the cd at least once a week every since. Once Pitchfork reviewed it I started playing it three times a day. Friends, I still can’t say I am fan. I fear saying I don’t like Orange Juice is like saying I don’t like my Grandpa and there for I am bad bad person but it’s the truth Ruth. I am prepared to take kick to the shins and confused stares that look something like disgust. I know that face well, it’s the same one people make when I tell them I love King Kong (the band) or confess I don’t worship The Velvet Underground.

The press has been extremely supportive of “The Glasgow School” and again I understand why in theory. They were the anti-Pistols. They were pop romantics scrawling jangle and twee when the rest of world was trying very hard to be ROCK. The addition of Zimbabwe-born drummer Zeke Manyika led the band to explore a more Afro-funk path, yet another angle to distinguish them from the other U.K. trends in music. Seminal bands swear by them. (Belle and Sebastian, Franz, The Vaselines, The Pastels and The Smiths to name a few) Everything in the PFM review is pretty right on the money and the only thing the review neglects to mention is the incredibly detailed packaging. The cd case is basically a small hardbound book, which includes 7 pages of history and band images. This would all be awesome if I loved the music.

I suggest this Domino Record’s Orange Juice cd to anyone dying to connect the indie rock dots between decades or who are looking to add V.U. influenced stuff to their collection but if you ask me if they like them I will shoegaze and whisper no.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Röyksopp / The Understanding / Rating 8.1

Pitchfork gave it an impressive 8.1. Time Out NY mentions it having “ecstatic energy”. NME calls it “gorgeous”. Tour dates are already selling out, stores are selling it like hot cakes and yet I found this cd so frightfully dull that I feel bad for the Röyksopp fans who waited four years for this sedative to be available for purchase.

The warning that something has gone terribly askew with this band begins with their cover art. Nu-metal bands around the world must be pissed that some Norwegian electro two-piece beat them to the surreal punch. A pipe organ with ribbons, a girl in all white twisting her head in ecstasy or in a poltergeist fit, two shadowy figures in masks lurking in the foreground, and sand, lots of sand. The only thing about this record that doesn’t deeply disappoint me is their logo, the Röyksopp font is aces.

PFM offers “Röyksopp enjoy long, silky builds suitable late-night highway cruising, anyplace dim and wide and beautiful”. The opening track “Triumphant” builds like a scene from a made for TV movie, a moment where your mom would be reaching for the tissue box and you might be praying to be anywhere other than in the same room with something so predictable and artificially dramatic. This song is a strange way to start off the release with but if you weren’t scared by the art in first place than this beginning might not offend you either.

The rest of “The Understanding” does comical things to my mind. I imagine spinning classes releasing a musky sent as they sweat to “ Only This Moment” or “49 Percent”. “Sombre Detune” brings back flashbacks to that ancient dance floor hit by Robyn “Show Me Love” only its being played on the wrong speed, a boring instrumental slower speed. The 8 minutes and 11 seconds of “Alpha Male” made wish I owned an ELP record which surely has a comparable lengthy synth jam capable of not putting me sleep. New Age shops around the world will enjoy selling crystals and essential oils to “Dead to the World.”

PFM goes onto to say “Don't worry too much if the first headphone listen puts you to sleep: That's just your ears overloading and your brain drowning, happily and temporarily.” Actually PFM I dozed off listening to this for simply one reason. I WAS BORED. Sifting through 12 tracks to get to the more captivating moments (my favorites being “Someone Like Me ”and “Follow My Ruin”) was a struggle. If you feel dedicated to the artist and buy this cd make sure you get the limited edition. The bonus disc of 5 tracks is in many ways a more likable listen and is the main reason I will keep this cd at all.

“The Understanding” gets 50 grains of sand sifting through an hourglass filled with thousands. says:

"Pitchfork calls Diamond Nights' EP "pure frat party filth" ... as if there's something wrong with that? The review is the closest thing to elitist class warfare Pitchfork has ever printed. What's with the insults? Let me tell you something, self-aware hipsters. It's OK to like simple, testosterone-driven rawk 'n' roll. I know you won't admit to it (until you review the new Turbonegro album, that is.) You'd rather listen to "serious" music and contemplate the infinite bands that wouldn't exist if not for the band Can. That's fine. In some circles Can is the apex of all creation. To most people -- like people who readily admit to liking Thin Lizzy and Rick Springfield and mainstream rock bands that go best with lukewarm Miller High Life -- Can means nothing. But here's the thing: They don't look down upon those who do like Can. I remember an interview with Billy Corgan and he was talking about how snooty Sonic Youth was when they headlined Lollapalooza. Sonic Youth (one of my favorite bands by the way) didn't like playing to drunk Midwestern fratboys. Corgan didn't like their exclusive attitude. It's those Midwestern fratboys, Corgan insisted, who really needed Sonic Youth. So why shut them out? He talked of his admiration for Van Halen and their inclusive, "it's a party and everybody's invited" attitude. Pitchfork's party is closed -- and closeminded. "

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Concretes / Layourbattleaxedown / Rating 7.3

Chalky candy hearts.

Sugar gone bland but with words that I suppose to some sap out there means something (I am gagging here) special. If you can imagine it, the Concretes are as close as music can get to this... not unpleasant but not wholly delightful either.

Seriously, I don’t think any less energy could be put into the act of singing. Melody drools out and collects into stagnant pools. Pitch is a general idea but not well practiced. Even the music on “Layourbattleaxedown” lacks vitality and passion. As a whole it translates into a band that sounds bored with themselves. I could say the same about their older releases too but there were always at least a few songs that made the tortoise-paced approach to pop bearable. The problem with this rarities collection is it takes their biggest flaw, the dragging woozy carousel aspect of the band, and repeats it mercilessly. Darling female vocals, lazy twee, these are all things I loved bands like The Sundays for but The Concretes don’t earn a spot in the same candy store.

I blame the Target ad campaign featuring the Concretes music for brainwashing the world into thinking this collection of yawns needed to happen. PFM must be softening up because I wouldn’t dream of giving this cd more than 3 or 4 candy hearts out of a possible 10.

Ps: The Sundays’ version of Wild Horses is worth tracking down and I find a way more interesting tribute to the Rolling Stones.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Something waaaay cooler than a PFM review

Scanning lps into wav files, who knew ?

Suicidal Woman Kills 3

We hear or read titles like this in the news every day but rarely do you expect to know a person involved.

Last Thursday in a Northern suburb of Chicago a 23 year old woman wanting to "end it all" drove her speeding car directly into another vehicle stopped at a red light. Her suicide attempt failed but she did manage to kill all three people inside the other car.

The deceased are:

Michael Dahlquist, 39 ( drummer of Silkworm)
John Glick, 35 (guitarist and singer with The Returnables)
Douglas Meis, 29 (drumer in The Dials)

I am saddened to type any of this but it’s especially difficult when I have lost a friend among such a tragedy. Knowing Michael Dahlquist as a person was an honor and the music he has left behind is better than remarkable. Among many other things, I will forever remember him for being the one drummer who hit his kit so damn hard that I actually feared standing too close to him when he played. I recall genuine fear and awe as shards of wood splintered off from his sticks traveling like bullets into the crowd song after song.

God damn that man could decimate a kit and it’s an unbelievable shame to have to say good-bye.

I am having a hard time finding a more recent update but here is what I found on the Silkworm message board. ( )

“There will be an informal get together at Electrical Audio ( on Monday starting around 6:30. Everyone is welcome to bring drinks and/or food, and of course everyone is welcome, period.”

I will post more info as I get it.

An amazing memorial from Steve Albini on MD can be found here :

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Anybody know why two of these PFM news articles got an exclamation point?
Maybe this is a subtle way to let people know what they should read first or be most excited about?

I don't know, you got me.

Countdown to Intonation!
Sigur Rós reveal new album tracklist
Franz Ferdinand announce LP release date, tour
Decemberists to embark on extensive tour
New Broadcast album and tour!
Silver Jews album details revealed
Flaming Lips to cover Queen, release DVD

Is McSweeney's and Pitchfork the end of respectable rock journalism?

Jason Cherkis of the Washington City Paper has more than just a few opinions on the subject.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

M83/ Don't Save Us From the Flames + Teen Angst 12"/ Rating 6.5 / 6.0

A) "Don’t Save Us From the Flames": The dynamic swing between soaring melodic sirens and muffled cries was chilling to begin with but the lyrics might be what really pushes this song to a new level of intensity and insanity.

tina! tina! tina! tina!
out of the flames
a piece of brain in my hair
the wheels are melting
a ghost is screaming your name
tina! tina!
bleeding all around
liquid metal through my veins
the radio's burning
a ghost is screaming your name
tina! tina! tina! tina!

This would have been the perfect song for the scene in Wild At Heart when Sailor and Lulu stumble across Sherilyn Fenn wandering in a bloody haze after her carwreck.

B) "Until the Night is Over": sounds like Air at their most catatonic plus this is a perfectly timed choice as we approach the domestic reissue of M83’s first release via Mute which features a different version of this song.

C) Kompakt’s Superpitcher remix: Ever wonder how a song takes shape? In the mixing process one track is opened to tweak and fine tune carefully. A channel at a time is then slowly added one after another, layering what will ultimately become a finished song. The problem is I don’t feel like Superpitcher ever finished mixing this song. Naked parts overlapping with the subtlety of a ghost trapped on wax is in theory is interesting but fails to haunt . This entire remix moves at the pace of molasses which fits the morbid theme of this song nicely but never reaches an apex I found satisfying enough to return to for future spins.

D) Boom Bip – Delicate, with beats and chimes (or something closer to bells) Boom Bip has this habit of sounding like something amazing is about to happen next but it rarely does. I have been aching to hear something as striking as U R Here from the Lex comp but I’m afraid this isn’t it.

A) "Teen Angst": Running at top speed with helium balloons; if this song was a Rorschach test this is what I would respond with. Ethereal energy sounds like a new power drink but this is actually the general mood of what could easily replace the most brooding Smashing Pumpkin’s teen anthem. If I ever have the chance to score an indie music based workout video this would be my number one choice for the expert level calorie-burning climax.

B) The buzz can’t last forever. Cool down with “Addicted to Self Mutilation” Shake it out. That’s right breathe in deeply, hold it…now blow out. That’s right. This feels like less of a song and more like an exercise in fuzz and mid tempo. This is an acceptable release after the driving build of Teen Angst but on its own escapes me. Please note: The repetitive strobe-like vocals may trigger a seizure so consider yourself doubly warned.

C) Indietronica Gods Postal Service couldn’t have delivered a more charming pop mix of "Teen Angst". Montag keeps it short and to the point but packs enough punch to make this perhaps the strongest remix of the bunch. I wouldn’t call this quite dance floor material but well dressed 20 somethings with hair in their eyes can hold hands under the table and tap their feet in unison.

The A side singles are worthy of nearly a perfect 10 so if you are a singles collector what the heck are you waiting for? Each A side lead single is the true meat but if you are looking for a little extra spice I am going to disagree with the PFM review. Teen Angst will offer you a tastier indulgence.

Doris Henson / Give Me All Your Money / 6.7

Once upon a mid 90’s there was this astonishing band from Kansas called Giants Chair. The Get Up Kids, Boys Life, and Vitreous Humor were all damn fine but Giants Chair was my favorite, especially live. Their record art was always impeccable (Factory Records meets TeenBeat) and in a wave of bands inspired by the guitar mastery of Rick Froberg, John Reis, Fugazi, Karate and Failure; Giants Chair humbly lead the Midwest pack. What feels like a million later, GC bass player Byron Column has reemerged in a new band called Doris Henson.

It's not an insult to call a band commercially 100x more accessible and “Give Me All Your Money” is I suppose just that. Safe, interesting, mildly catchy…these are all okay qualities in a rock band but not enough great ones to recommend it highly to others. The PFM review is surprisingly kind to what I consider to be an incredibly average release.

They have one hell of an opening slot touring w/ Billy Corgan this summer so perhaps their live show captures a little more of their energy and vitality.

Tour dates are here :

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

SO HAPPY TOGETHER : I heart these records

Something old : Generation X, The Gories, The Moving Sidwalks, Drive Like Jehu, Betty Davis (1st lp), Garden Variety, Ike&Tina Turner “ Workin’ Together”, and Karp

Something new:

Mass Shivers “S/T”


Band Of Bees “Free the Bees”

Rahim “ Jungles”

Darkest Hour “Undoing Ruin”

The Most Serene Republic “ Underwater Cinematographer”

Witchcraft “Firewood”

Isis - live lp 9.23.03

Cage - “Hell’s Winter” 10”

Fear Before the March of Flames “Art Damage”

The End of the World “S/T” ( I can’t find a working link: HELP!!! )

Something borrowed: Zombies Box

Something blue: Bonny/Sweeney “ I gave you” EP

ATDI -v- GV : a minimash

Download MP3.

Thanks to a reader for sending this in.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

At The Drive-In / This Station is Non-Operational / Rating 8.3

Working with scraps of material gave birth to an American nineteenth century passion called quilting. This homespun art still produced today manipulates color, harmony, scale and texture to perfection; allowing personal style to expand outward one square at a time. The final finished product composed of many smaller parts offers an intimate look into the talent and life of its creator. In this case, creators. “This Station is Non-Operational” patchworks and culminates 7 years of At The Drive-In’s galvanic chemistry. Their motif of mercurial expression is stretched between 18 songs and in turn a part of the bands history is retold, flaws and all.

Jason Crock gives a lengthy and incredibly accurate overview of the cd but scarcely mentions the bonus disc / dvd. For those of you who own much of the music found on disc 1, your primary source of stimuli may be found on disc 2.

One Armed Scissor ( video)
Invalid Litter Dept. ( video)
Metronome Arthritis (video)
Operations Manual - Electronic Press Kit ( mini bio w/ band comments)
Discography Wallpaper & Buddy Icons ( for ye old computer)

ATDI’s earliest material wears several influences on its sleeve (next to their hearts) but I am wholly reminded of one band in particular after listening to “Lopsided”; Garden Variety. For many bands in the early / mid 90’s post hardcore scene bands like Rites of Spring, Pitchfork, Drive like Jehu, Slint, and Squirrel Bait were also primary points of inspiration and this torch has been translated and passed along to countless others over the past two decades. To my ears Garden Variety is one of the key threads spanning the distance between the emo forefathers and the now legendary At The Drive-In. Every quilt needs thread and “This Station is Non-Operational” is no exception. Every icon has its influences and more often than not those influences remain unsung heroes. GV is just one example.

Collections such as these end up serving two purposes: one covers a band’s career and the other reflects the period of time they were incubating within. I won’t be listening to this ATDI collection again anytime soon but I have re-pledged my allegiance to some of the bricks that helped shape their path.