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Rainer Maria - Long Knives Drawn
As you may recall I recently fawned over their A Better Version of Me album. This one is not nearly as impressive. The music is not as interesting as are the melodies and the production is flatter sounding all-around. There is a nice little gem, three songs deep called "Ears Ring" which, actually kinda rocks, in as much as Rainer Maria can rock.
Braid - Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5
After getting over my shame for actually liking their Frame and Canvas album I decided to check out more of their music. This album is their first record and, well, it shows. It ranges from trying too hard to just plain absurd with only a handful of tracks yielding any positive results. Compared to the maturity of their later, this album seems to almost be half-baked ideas, with a lot of songs clocking in under three minutes in length. Not that there's anything wrong with a short song, but it just seems that way with the hindsight of their more recent work. One of the most interesting songs that they fleshed out on this album is "Hugs From Boys". The music is varied and skillfully woven together. It was a harbinger of things to come. This won't be the last we here of Braid. I also have another album of theirs which I haven't gotten to yet.
The Fucking Champs - "Thor (Is Like Immortal)" b/w "Lee Tom" 7"
Like Prong and Helmet before them, The Fucking Champs are a San Francisco based metal outfit whose fan base is largely in indie/alternative circles. They are a power trio who records mostly instrumental music reminiscent of the band Karma to Burn. Their style ranges from Judas Preist guitar wailing to the crunch of early Metallica. While the A side obviously has the more inventive song title, the flip side is more fun to listen to. Check out "Lee Tom".
The Strokes - Room On Fire
I will admit it took me a long time to warm up to The Strokes. I think it initially had a lot to do with the hype surrounding their first record as being the greatest thing since sliced bread. I gave it a cursory listen but dutifully held on to it for a more proper evlaution later. I ended up loving it. Loving it. You may notice it can be found in my top 100 list of albums I posted a while back. So, I was really looking forward to this record release. You know it's got to be tough to release a record after your first record is as brilliant as Is This It was. Given those circumstances, The Strokes didn't do so bad. As a whole, it's not as solid as it's predecessor but there are occasions where it is better than anything on it. The album is arranged better, too. One of my faults with the first record was that it started out too slow. The meat of the record wasn't until a good halfway in. This one hits you immediately with a 1-2 punch: the very catchy "Whatever Happened" followed immediately by the absolutely astounding "Reptilia". The only sore point I have with this album, and the Strokes in general, is that the vocal tracks sound like they're recorded on a phone asnwering machine. Perhaps this is to help mask his limited range or be a foil for the otherwise rich production values, but whatever it is, it's annoying. Other than that, it's a fine, fine record and well worth a listen in its entirety.
Stellastarr - Stellastarr
Distill the best elements of all the good guitar-driven pop bands from the 1980's (The Call, A Flock of Seagulls, U2, Talking Heads, Billy Idol, Big Country) and take a swig. This is what you get from Stellastarr, but with a definite post-punk aftertaste. Man this is such a fun album. And it's not kitschy, tongue-in-cheek, or ironic in anyway. And make no mistake: unlike their influences there is no flirting with synthesizers, these guys are serious about thier guitars. Step back, they have effects pedals and are prepared to use them, jack. Guitars come at you in bright, ringing tones and dark somber ones. They come at you distorted, flanged, phased, reverebed, and awash in feedback. But it's not techincal bravado and incessant soloing, it's used as the means-to-an-end of providing one of the richest sounds you've likely heard in a while. With all that wonderful guitar, it might miss be easy to miss the exceptional rhythm section. For a good general sample of what Stellastar is all about, check out "In the Walls". Once you've digested that and want some real guitar ear-candy, check out the seductive and stunningly beautiful "Moongirl". I swear, when I get me a girl in my life again, I'm fucking to "Moongirl", yes ineed. If you beat me to it, tell me how it goes ;-).
Raveonettes - Whip It On
It seems all the really good rock and roll is coming out of Europe these days. Of the handfull of bands I've really gotten into the past few years a good deal of them come from places like Sweden (International Noise Conspiracy, the Hives), Germany (Gluecifer) and, now, Denmark's Raveonettes have been added to the list. I'll say one thing, these kids listened to a LOT of Jesus and Mary Chain records growing up. If you liked JMaC, you'll love these guys. While not nearly as guitar-nerdy as the Reid brothers were, their approach is very similar and simple: 1) make it loud and fuzzy, 2) with thundering drums, 3) half-whispered vocals, 4) filled with unforgettable lyrics, and oh yeah, 5) be cool as hell. Some lyrical examples: "Here in my brain/Where the strippers go insane" from "Attack of the Ghost Riders" or my personal favorite from "Beat City", "Wanna hang with girls and shoot my gun/Wanna catch the rays of the sun/Wanna drink and drive and have some fun". Actually, "Beat City" is one of the best all-around songs I've heard in a long while. Sure it's huge and obvious with little in the way of subtlety; it practically beats you over the head with it's hooks and style - but it is oh so good.
Mates Of State - Team Boo
I already spoke rather vehemtnyl about my distaste for this record and band a couple of weeks ago, so I really don't have anything to add. This is their new album, which is more of the same annoying tripe you can find on their first two albums, if that's your thing. Out of fairness, one song caught my ear: "Ha Ha" is a neat melody about a minute and a half intot he song, however considered the swill it's swimming in, it's little consolation.
The Sugargliders - Top 40 Sculpture EP
The Sugargliders were an Australian "alternative" band back in the early 90's who enjoyed 15 nanoseconds of notriety in the land down under upon releasing just one record before disappearing back into complete obscurity. I really don't no much of anything else about them. Their sound is derivative of all the other alternative soft-pop rock bands of the era (Sundays, Blake Babies, 10,000 Maniacs, Oasis) with jangly guitars, solid melodies, and keen production values. Not really my cup of tea, but this is no better or worse than any of the rest of it. Try "90 Days Of Moths And Rust".
Tuff Darts - Tuff Darts!
The Tuff Darts are one of those New York City bands who were active in the late 1970's you never hear about, despite playing regular gigs at CBGB sharing the bill with the likes of the Talking Heads, Ramones, and Blondie. Why is this? Because, quite frankly they suck, really really hard. Thank God this was the only album they ever recorded. They have more in common with power pop bands like Cheap Trick, Red Kross, Sweet, and the Knack more than the afore mentioned blank-generation all stars. The songs are standard verse/chorus/guitar solo rock format with kooky themes like "Phone Booth Man", "She's Dead", and offered for your perusal, the ghastly "(Your Love Is Like) Nuclear Waste". (Which in the chorus is rhymed with "Your body is a danger to the human race"). Of course, the Tuff Darts didn't expect anyone to take this seriosuly and you shouldn't. I mean, how serious can you be about a band with the lyric "I'd rather give head to King Kong". The problem is, it's not really novelty music because it's largely unfunny. It's just bad, bad power pop, pure and simple. Should you decide to hear just how bad it is, you can't say I didn't warn you.
Murs - F'Real
My friend ughh suggested I listen to Murs. After checking out this album and commenting to him that it sounded like a bad Kool Keith without the sex rhymes, he promptly suggested that I listen to a different album of his. So, I guess I'll be listening to some more Murs in the near future and see if he's right. To hear him tell it, Murs is the salvation and future of hip hop (well, not in so many words). But you get my meaning, glowing praise and adoration. I didn't quite get that from this album. The music, largely sampled/turntabled (apparently old-school is synonymous with "undergournd") is commendable but takes few risks and certainly doesn't do anything ground breaking or that would serve to further the genre. The rhyme-meter is reminiscent of Kool Keith but it also reminds me a bit of Gang Starr with concern to content, which is a definite positive. This keeps me hoping my friend is right, I hope I'm just not further disappointed. The album's lead track wasn't half bad, though. Check out "2 Reasons".
The Makers - Howl
The Makers blaze no new trails or aren't likely to influence anyone, instead they're content to make some of the finest garage-rock in the tradition of the Sonics and the Kinks. They tear through 16 tracks in 36 minutes and leave you wanting more. It's derivative and formulaic, but so what? It's a good formula. It's rock and roll, baby. Get ya kicks with "I Just Might Crack" or groove with the creepy/surfy "Death Of Mr. Monster"
Radar Bros. - The Singing Hatchet
A friend of mine fell in love with Radar Bros. (it is not Brothers, it's Bros.) after seeing them open for someone else at a show. He and I are part of a loose knit group who constantly push things onto one another when we discover something new because we're all cynical bastards who've heard everything and rock and roll is dead, so when we do get excited about a band we have to expose everyone else to it. Of course when he admitted that his other new found love was Portastatic I had to chastise him harshly for just now discovering an 8 year old "side-project" and snobbishly wondered if I should bother checking out Radar Bros. To make a long story short I got hold of their second album released in 1999. They apparently owe a large debt to Roger Waters and Neil Young. Their music is moody with elements of paino and chamber strings mixed in with their simple, shuffling acoustic arrangments and lilting melodies. To make a more recent comparison, they're Grant Lee Buffalo with the amplifiers turned off. Not something I would listen to on a regular basis, but very pretty and a satisfying listen none-the-less. Try these on for size: "Shifty Lies" and "Shoveling Sons".
The Undertones - The Very Best Of The Undertones
If the Tuff Darts were a late 70's band that is best left forgotten, Ireland's the Undertones are one which more people should hear. While their music is certainly informed by the punk revolution, their thematic legacy lies more in the tradition of Eddie Cochran more so than, say, the Sex Pistols. Sonically, they sound like what Johnny Thunders may have achieved had he been sober more often. To put it more simply, imagine the Heartbreakers writing their own update of "Summertime Blues" and you'd get the Undertones "Teenage Kicks" with it's buzzsaw riffs and smokin' guitar licks. This 25 track retrospective is a fine addition to any collection containing Clash, Sex Pistols, and Ramones and will probably earn you some extra punker points in music conversations when you add that memebers of this band went on to form That Petrol Emotion in the 80's. Also rock out with: "Let's Talk About Girls" and "Get Over You"
The Eyeliners - Sealed With A Kiss
Slightly better than average verse/chorus pop-punk featuring a female lineup which is a novelty in intself among the sea of boy bands. The female vocals give their trite relationship songs an air of naivete that their male counterparts can't produce and they don't stoop to cultivating the slightly-damaged-goods/jailbait image that their most obvious comparison, The Donnas utilize. They are not anything like the Donnas also in the respect that they aren't stuck in remedial Ramones 101 but place-tested straight into Mid-80's Punk Theory taught by Professor Ben Weasel (add a fourth chord, some lead licks, and backing vocals on the chorus). Aside from Screeching Weasel, they also reminded me quite a bit of the Muffs, but without all the screaming. All in all a decent album, but not one that will stand any close scrutiny, let a lone the test of time. I'll say one thing, they got their pop-chops down pat: upon one listen, I was singing along with "I'd Do It All Over Again" by the second chorus in spite of myself.
Refused - Live In Umea
Since I ain't no hardcore hipster, I came to Refused late, in fact after they broke up and their lead singer started the garage-revival group (International) Noise Conspiracy. Apparently there are legions of hardcore kids who loved this band, and for good reason; they were brutal, relentless, and uncompromising. I should probably mention at this point that they were from Sweden. Their sound is very heavy, calling to mind 80's thrash more than the tinny tone of Minor Threat and just as socially/politically charged as either of those genres as you expect any good hardcore to be. For me, the thrill is Denni Lyxzen's amazing voice, which is even better appreciatedwith the visual accompaniment of his pseudo-James Brown moves on stage. If you're thinking of broadening your musical horizons with Refused I'd recommend one of the studio albums (perhaps The Shape Of Punk To Come). While this live recording is rather good, it's more for the fan than the newcomer. Included for your listening pleasure though are two tracks from this recording to give you a taste: First is "New Noise" which was their "hit" (you can still see the video every now and then on the video stations) and "Coup D'etat" which happens to be my favorite Refused song (it has the coolest riff!). Incidentally, these tracks appear back to back on this record, so the live stage chatter will flow together nicely if you listen to them together in that order.