Band: The Rifles Release: 9/2011 Label: ATC Comments: There comes a time in a music reviewer’s life when it’s clear as day that a band has softened up. I like to call this trend ‘going softie’. Now, I heard a couple cuts off this record before it was officially released and held off posting them on here. I thought, well, The Rifles can’t be going softie! The rest of the new record won’t sound like this, right? Well, admittedly, The Rifles aren’t the brashest of rock and roll bands in the world. I don’t think they ever claimed to be. They are well-rooted in The Jam and maybe some of Weller’s other projects, including solo. So, yes, we aren’t talking classic punk rock here. Freedom Run is boring. The Rifles take some of their past tricks, which have been terrific, and dumb them down for a more mainstream audience. Shame! It’s hard to listen to them descend into some kind of Coldplay schtick. I won’t give them all the blame, though. As a fan of music, maybe it’s me after all. Maybe I’ve grown tired of the bright and twinkly stuff that I loved two years ago. Maybe this album is better than I’m making it out to be. Or maybe I just miss the heavy-hitting, rock N roll of “She’s Got Standards” and “Repeated Offender.”
Band: Mikal Cronin Release: 9/2011 Label: Trouble In Mind
1. “Is It Alright?” – A-
2. “Apathy” – A 3. “Green and Blue” – A- 4. “Get Along” – A+ 5. “Slow Down” – A- 6. “Gone” – A 7. “Situation” – A
8. “Again and Again” – A- 9. “Hold On Me” – B 10. “The Way Things Go” – A+
Comments: Mikal Cronin. Get used to that name. For those of you particularly in-the-know, you might not have to put that much effort into getting to know Mikal. In his own right, he is quite prolific. Perhaps not to the degree of friend Ty Segall, but still prolific at that. Now Ty and Mikal, I’m sure they both listen to the same kind of music. I don’t think picking a song to jam to on a crisp California night has been at all difficult. Hell, when you live in the same state as Oh Sees John Dwyer, it’s tough to imagine anything less than a spectacular event of music making. Of course, we have Dwyer’s flute on the first song and a — oh snap is it that a saxophone? — on “Apathy”. So yes, Cronin has been fed a healthy diet of mixed greens and fuzz rock by farmers near and wide. The bent, so to speak, that Cronin has is a bit more melodic than what we’ve historically seen from Ty. The core of the apple we call pop is ever present on Mikal Cronin. Even in such a heavy assault as “Green and Blue,” we get a drained out sort of Radiohead at their heaviest kind of thing going on. “Get Along” deserves a place right next to the “My Sunshine” and “Melted” of the world. It’s the heavy strumming, brah. Brah-Naymith. “Slow Down” is like “Get Along” slowed down seventy-five percent. Like that time Justin Beiber was slowed down to sound like Animal Collective. Gangsta slowcore shizz. Sounds like an organ/reed to me. A droning one at that. Notes are held. Chord progressions change like seasons. The Beach Boys revival ode “Situation” features Ty Segall on drums. “The Way Things” is particularly odd, but really great bait for the experimental at heart. If you like slow, heavy, weird, funny, etc, this is a particular nice one. There’s like six song ideas all combined into one closer. Good way to go out, I’d say.
Band: Jacuzzi Boys Release: 9/2011 Label: Hardly Art
1. “Vizcaya” – B 2. “Automatic Jail” – B- 3. “Glazin” – B+ 4. “Cool Vapors” – C+ 5. “Libras and Zebras” – C 6. “Crush” – C+ 7. “Silver Sphere (Death Dream)” – C 8. “Zeppelin” – C-
9. “Los Angeles” – B
10. “Koo Koo With You” – C-
Comments: Upfront disclosure: I did not expect a softie album from the Jacuzzi Boys. Now, softie to one may be hardcore punk to another. This is a lite album, though, a diet rock ‘n roll. Traditional pop hooks are everywhere on Glazin’…make no mistake. It’s just that No Seasons, the band’s debut from 2009, possessed these hooks and then some. We live in times where bands with even the most marginal independent label support can spend longer time in a studio setting and complete a nicer sounding record. Sometimes, though, nicer sounding comes across as forced. The late great Jay Reatard didn’t find any remote worth in arranging a block of time for recording. He recorded whenever he felt like it. True, many bands don’t have 24/7 access to sophisticated home recording equipment, but Jay’s point holds. I feel like the experimentation that Jacuzzi Boys endeavor in is a result of them having that extra studio time available. In the end, they stick with internal familiarity. Mid-album songs like “Libras and Zebras” and “Crush” don’t sound like anything the Jacuzzi Boys have done, but by that point in the album it’s as if “oh yeah, I’ve heard something like that a few tracks ago, but it was better.” With “Silver Sphere,” we have an excessive song on our hands folks. It drags and stuff. I sense a bit of cheesiness with Glazin’. It’s fun to be fun and the Jacuzzi’s seemed to have carried that kind of spirit in the making of this record, but where’s the “Smells Dead” and “Island Avenue” circa 2011?
Band: Dum Dum Girls Release: 9/2011 Label: Sub Pop
1. “Always Looking” – A+
2. “Bedroom Eyes” – A 3. “Just A Creep” – A- 4. “In My Head” – A-
5. “Heartbeat” – B+ 6. “Caught in One” – A- 7. “Coming Down” – A+ 8. “Wasted Away” – A- 9. “Teardrops On My Pillow” – B+
10. “Hold Your Hand” – B
Comments: Quick thing that I’ve noticed right off: Dee Dee’s voice goes full-circle in the sexiness/appealing category. “Always Looking” is an Austin Powers 4 sound-track candidate with swampy guitar and even a happy-go-lucky clapping part. FELT! HEART! Haven’t heard that kind of stuff since The Go Team! In terms of stuffiness of hooks and all that stuff (pun intended), this album gets high marks. I’ve always thought Dum Dum Girls had some serious development potential when I saw them open twice for KK+BBQ. It was a relatively new band at the time so things live weren’t as “hitting” as on record. But this record is much fuller than I Will Be. We get better harmonies, better vocal focus. As various press releases indicate, Only in Dreams is about relationship emptiness and life emptiness. Despite this subject matter, it never really gets in the way of fun rock ‘n’ roll. It gives Dee Dee a much better platform as a song-writer. Make no mistaking Dum Dum Girls with their girl group contemporaries. The middle chunk of songs are fine pieces, but it’s not until “Coming Down” that things pick up. This song is powerful (as I’ve mentioned in a previous review) and will knock you on your ass if your susceptible to this kind of excellence. Upon showing it to someone, they quipped… is this a live recording? Not so much the case, though the distorted/washed guitars make one wonder. I am fan of this. Puts more focus on the beautiful songwriting. Bridge is perfect: “I THINK I’M COMING DOWN. HERE I GO…HERE I GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” It does indeed have the same chord progression/vocal stylings as Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” but builds on it in a very modern fashion. As a rule, I Will Be packs more immediate punches, more in your face(ness) than Only in Dreams. Only in Dreams takes its time and this just goes to show to you how far this band has come. Going from Sub Pop rookies, to King Khan and BBQ Show openers, to Girls openers, they’ve spent quite a bit of time covering a lot of ground while getting their music out there. And great for them. They are headlining The Paradise in October. Check this out, check that out.
Band: Handsome Furs Release: 6/2011 Label: Sub Pop
1. “When I Get Back” – A-
2. “Damage” – B+ 3. “Bury Me Standing” – B+ 4. “Memories of the Future” – A- 5. “Serve the People” – B+ 6. “What About Us? – B+ 7. “Repatriated” – A-
8. “Cheap Music” – B+
9. “No Feelings” – B
Comments: If you’ve been listening to the Handsome Furs for the past couple of years (longer, even), you’ll notice that this record swims comfortably in a known sea. Sure, there is no known guitar recorded on this LP. I’d argue that some of the synths create a fuzz reminiscent of a Dan Boeckner guitar (“Cheap Music”), but let us not get caught up in this. “When I Get Back” is getting back to Face Control. Not that they ever departed from it. It’s luscious pop, dance-y, layered, and anthemic. It’s hard for the Furs to mess up their music. Their sound is habitually one of slickness and compactness. That’s why I love ’em. Sometimes they do border on recycled songwriting, principally in structure, but I’d be hard pressed not to say this isn’t common for a lot of bands. Repetitive song endings are Boeckner’s go-to-guys and as ubiquitous as they are (on Sound Kapital and in the past), they remain exciting. Case in point would be “Damage,” which doesn’t really get GOOD ’til the end. A tune like “Memories of the Future” is for sure one of their most electro-dominant. There are a bunch of subtle sounds, some very wobbly and bass heavy, others as delicate as the touch of a toy piano. There a couple of tracks that either overstay their welcome, or simply aren’t as memorable or deserving of multiple listens as others. I do give the band a lot of credit for cutting things off after nine songs. Smart decision. The dance party of Sound Kapital is one that people will remember for being consistently joyous. It’s not an earth shattering dance party nor is it one to elicit boredom.
Grade: B+ (88)
——————————————————————— Handsome Furs play @ Brighton Music Hall on August 17.
Band: Arctic Monkeys Release: 6/2011 Label: Domino Records
1. “She’s Thunderstorms” – A 2. “Black Treacle” – A 3. “Brick By Brick” – B+ 4. “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala” – A- 5. “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” – B+ 6. “Library Pictures” – A-
7. “All My Own Stunts” – B
8. “Reckless Serenade” – A+ 9. “Piledriver Waltz” – A-
10. “Love Is A Laserquest” – A-
11. “Suck It and See” – A-
12. “That’s Where You’re Wrong” – A
Comments: The Arctic Monkeys emerged out of nowhere in 2006 with the release of their debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Shortly thereafter the band became international sensations of sorts. This isn’t to say that they didn’t have to cover a shit load of ground in their native UK before attaining such a status. Somewhere along the line, they got recognized and quite deservingly so. It’s not so often a group of 20 year olds can so finely construct rock n roll gems. I remember checking them out for the first time on YouTube, a relatively new website at the time. I wasn’t blown away, but I liked what I heard. Five years and three records later, the band, led by principal songwriter Alex Turner, still has ‘it’. Turner’s voice is distinctive and aside from his signature vocals, the band ain’t all that different stacked next to their pop sensible “post”-punk revival contemporaries. The Arctics flirt with many a styling on Suck It and See: the soft verse/extremely catchy chorus Humbug-esque “She’s Thunderstorms,” the slow and thoughtful on “Piledriver” and “Love Is,” top notch power pop on “Black Treacle,”the guitar-driven psychedelic “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down,” and so on and so forth. “The Hellcat” is reverb drenched with a fitting bass line included. We’ve heard about dancing shoes and the like before from these folks and we hear about ’em again on “All My Own Stunts.” That’s a good song, perhaps one of the only to not stick out too much. That’s all right, because what follows — “Reckless Serenade” — is Arctic Monkeys at their best. The bass, rhythm, and lead are all outstanding. Sometimes Alex is quite fancy with his lyrical content, but this one is fairly easy to comprehend. Humorous from the start, “Topless models…” There might be some Side A people, some Side B people. Side A people want to rock and roll. Side B just want to sit down and have some light music playing. Or maybe after rocking and rolling to Side A you’ll get tired and just toss on B as a way to rest. Either way, this is a truly enjoyable record, with a load of memorable songs. Great summer record player listening.
Band: Thee Oh Sees Release: 5/2011 Label: In The Red
1. “I Need Seed” – A 2. “Corprophagist” – A-
3. “Stinking Cloud” – B
4. “Corrupted Coffin” – A
5. “Pleasure Blimp” – B+ 6. “A Wall, A Century” – B+ 7. “Spider Cider” – B 8. “Whipping Continues” – B+ 9. “Blood on the Deck” – A-
10. “Castlemania” – B- 11. “AA Warm Breeze” – B 12. “Idea for Rubber Dog” – B- 13. “The Horse Was Lost” – B+
14. “I Won’t Hurt You” – B15. “If I Stay Too Long” – A+ 16. “What Are We Craving?”- B-
Comments: For Castlemania, Thee Oh Sees seem to have rekindled (an understatement considering the band’s output) their interest in noisy experimentalism, all in the name of the pop hook. John Dwyer and Brigid Dawson deserve a great deal of credit for crafting ‘thee song’, but I feel obligated to mention how crucial the other members, Petey Dammit and Mike Shoun, were to this album. I mean, I don’t know this for a fact, but the reason why a lot of the tunes — the tunes that aren’t obvious pop gems — simply stick is due to sturdy rhythm. I’m talking about a thing like “Corprophagist,” which is all experimental and weird, but still maintains this unprecedented sense of pop realism. The speaking guitar noises as I like to call them because on their own… they blend in so well with the parts that Dwyer sings. Instrumentally speaking, “The Horse Is Lost” has a very dreary, yet optimistic feel to it. The obvious pop gems are tunes like “I Need Seed” (a psychedelic trip in itself, if you have a strong imagination of it), the dream/space rocker “Corrupted Coffin”, and the top of the Pops-esque, Brit invasion “If I Stay Too Long.” Now, the chorus in that song (and the ending) is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s big. Now, now, my experience listening to Thee Oh Sees up to this point never included anything like this. It’s albums like these that might not get the end grade they deserve, but merit many listens after listens. I’ll give this one more chances and more time, but I’ve expressed my admiration for what I really dig above.
Comments: If you like ’em old punk/power-pop tunes short, you like The Hussy. This Wisconsin duo exist by creating bursts of energy that truly makes you want to click that replay button over (or pick up the needle on the record player, if that is your thing). I’ve been loving “Sexi Ladi”…replaying the crap out of it! It brings me back to the days last year when I heard Cum Stain’s self-titled. The music is recorded brash and loud and for me that is something I really love in an album. “Alright…peace…bro!” Really digging the dual vocals on “Pavement” and the sweet end jamming on “Have A Say”. Contemporary[ish] bands that have a similar aesthetic would be Ty Segall mayne, pre-Jay Reatard Jay Reatard (sup, “Lymes”), ’02/’03 Black Lips (“Pushin My Luck), Dirtbombs in the 9tees. All excellent frames of reference.
Band: High Tension Wires Release: 3/2011 Label: Dirtnap Records
1. “Get Weird” – A 2. “Incorporeal – B+ 3. “Backbone” – A 4. “Temporary Gods” – A- 5. “Subprime Love” – B+ 6. “Lose Your Grip” – A- 7. “Lose Face” – A 8. “The Universal People’s Church” – A- 9. “Handicapped Hearts” – A 10. “Dirt, Fist, Feet” – B+ 11. “I’m Too Square You’re Too Round” – A- 12. “The Secret of the Hydrogen Bomb” – B+
Comments: From the opening bass line and drum beat of “Get Weird”, you might mistake High Tension Wires for a major dance-punk band. The song is noisy, but quite groovy at that. Same goes for “Backbone,” which basks in power-pop greatness. The verses got that damn infectious drum beat and the chorus and break, of course, are the two-tier icing on the cake. High Tension Wires are definitely one of the more catchy garage/punkers out there and I think part of this stems from the short length/no bullshit tunes. Guitar solos don’t overstay their welcome and uncomplicated instrumentation dominates. Recommended!