CD Review: Sound Kapital [2011]


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)

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Handsome Furs play @ Brighton Music Hall on August 17. 

EP Review: He Gets Me High [2011]


Band:
Dum Dum Girls
Release: 3/2011
Label: Sub Pop

1. “Wrong Feels Right” – B+
2. “He Gets Me High” –A
3. “Take Care Of My Baby” – A-
4. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – A

Comments: This one begins where I Will Be left off. Like its longer predecessor, He Gets Me High personifies the tag noise/pop that has been applied abundantly to Dum Dum Girls music. The first two tunes are of the variety of rock ‘n’ roll that we’ve gotten a taste of before from the Girls while “Take Care of My Baby” is a blissful rockabilly number — light instrumentation, beautiful vocals, a little tambourine. The production on The Smiths cover “There Is A Light” is absolutely stellar. The studio sound captured on here is something that probably couldn’t really be replicated as well live, but it is what it is and that’s really brilliant.

Grade: A- (91)

Classic Album Review: Superfuzz Bigmuff


Artist: Mudhoney
Full Title: Superfuzz Bigmuff plus Early Singles
Year: 1988 (recorded), 1990 (released)
Label: Sub Pop
Tracks:
1) Touch Me I’m Sick– 10
2) Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More)– 9
3) Hate the Police (The Dicks)- 8
4) Burn It Clean- 8
5) You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)– 9
6) Halloween (Sonic Youth)- 8
7) No One Has- 8/9
8) If I Think- 8
9) In “N” Out of Grace– 9
10) Need- 8
11) Chain That Door- 7/8
12) Mudride- 7/8

NOTE: “The album contains the entire Superfuzz Bigmuff EP, the A-sides and B-sides of 2 singles, and 2 covers from split singles with Sonic Youth and The Dicks.”- Wikipedia.

Comments:
For those of you youngsters out there that are strugglin’ with the ladies, here’s a new pick up line for y’all to try out. Tell em’ “Touch Me I’m Sick!” So, after you get clocked in the face, grab a case of beer and get rowdy with this sucker. Here we have the legendary Mudhoney at their muddiest. Loud, fuzzy, muzzy guitars, pouding drums and the distinctive, apathetic drone of singer, Mark Arm. These songs have that filthy feel to them, but at the same time the riffs are memorable/catchy and Arm’s vocals are pretty damn clear, especially for this kind of music. As we all know this became the template for the Seattle Scene and what would become known to the rest of the world as “Grunge” (yes, I hate the term too, but it’s useful as a point of reference). This record and this band are without a doubt influential, but a tad bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, most of the songs on here are good, it’s a very good record, but there are only a few great, stand out tracks, and yes they are exquisite. “Touch Me I’m Sick,” is fucking great for headbanging and I can imagine moshing; as a whole Mudhoney is great for an intoxicated state, particularly “Touch.” It’s a classic for a reason, well many reasons. Of course sonically it showscases the garagey Seattle sound better than any other tune in their catalog, but for me, the lyrics and presentation of those lyrics are also extremely vital. It’s a song I can relate to, a different kinda love ballad, if you will. You see it’s the honest male emotion that’s key here- “I’m a creep and I’m a jerk”- Arm’s nastiness and brutal delivery turns girls off, while spineless blokes like John Mayer sing about your daughter and tell the females exactly what they want to hear, so they can love him, at least they used to. But enough of that ranting and raving, “Touch” is complemented by its B-Side, “Sweet Young Thing,” which is the second track on this compilation, making it one of the greatest singles of all time. “In ‘N’ Out of Grace” is certainly one of my favorite tracks and exemplifies the group’s excellent guitar playing; one of the best riffs I have ever heard. All in all, this is a really good record, but not exceptional. I feel like Mudhoney is more of a “sound” band, like they have a great sound to almost all of these songs, but for me to love this thang, I need more fabulous tracks. It’s definitely worth a few listens and if you like “grunge” music, then well, you suck if you haven’t heard this and shouldn’t call yourself a fan of said style, but I’ll give you a break and let you listen to this and impress your average mainstream listening friends.

Grade: B+

Classic Album Review: You Turn Me On


Artist: Beat Happening
Full Title: You Turn Me On
Label: K/Sub Pop
Year: 1992
Track List:
1) Tiger Trap– 9
2) Noise– 9/10
3) Pinebox Derby– 10
4) Teenage Caveman– 10
5) Sleepy Head– 9/10
6) You Turn Me On– 9
7) Godsend- 8
8) Hey Day– 8/9
9) Bury the Hammer– 9

Comments:
Right off the bat, this is definitely my favorite Beat Happening album and one of my all time favorite albums altogether. From the first chords of “Tiger Trap,” you know you are in for something special. The song is nearly seven minutes long, much longer than previous BH tunes and yet the simple, endearing, and always fascinating quality to their music is reatained. Most of the tracks here are longer than their previous LPs, but they don’t drag and you never feel bored. I take that back, “Godsend,” is wayyyy longer than necessary. It’s a great song…. for the first few minutes. 9:28 is too long! Besides that, I have nothing bad to see about this record. It is fantastic and proves that Beat Happening can utilize cleaner production to their advantage. Overall, the music sounds better than ever (though this was not the first cleaner sounding album), but specifically the vocals are phenomenal. Heather’s singing is the best, better than Calvin’s; “Noise” and “Sleepy Head” showcase her talent. Calvin’s classic baritone is prominent in catchy numbers like “Pinebox Derby,” “Teenage Caveman,” and “You Turn Me On.” On Teenage’ when he holds the “oneeeeeeee” in alone, it is easily one of the greatest musical moments ever recorded. For me, this album simply conists of amazing pop songs, what would be hits in another universe where earnest and quality music is appreciated on a grand scale. On first listens, that’s all I heard. I really had to pay attention, to notice the lo-fi, primitive nature of the music that was more obvious in other BH records. They did not feel like simple, Daniel Johnston esque, musically limited creations (not to say there is anything wrong with that stuff). My point being: the power of this album is in its presentation. I just hear a fabulous pop record with songs that hit you as complete ideas. I have to make a real dedicated effort to key in on that lack of musicality, which is clearly there, no doubt, but these songs are so damn excellent that it becomes of little concern. Though You Turn Me On may not be as seminal as their earlier work, it certainly continues that very same spirit and demonstrates the consistent awesomeness in their catalog.

Grade: A/A+

Classic Album Review: Dreamy

Artist: Beat Happening
Full Title: Dreamy
Label: K/Sub Pop
Year: 1991

Track List:
1) Me Untamed- 8
2) Left Behind- 8
3) Hot Chocolate Boy– 10!
4) I’ve Lost You- 8
5) Cry For a Shadow– 9
6) Collide- 6
7) Nancy Sin- 8
8) Fortune Cookie Prize- 8
9) Revolution Come and Gone- 8
10) Red Head Walking– 9

Comments:
Beat Happening strikes again with their fourth album, Dreamy, their most polished sounding record yet. But, don’t worry it’s still the same minimalist, amatuer sounding Beat Happening you know and love. With this release, it seems like BH matured a bit in their subject matter, especially with tunes like “Me Untamed,” (a far cry from Johnson’s usual coy, lovey dovey lyrics) “Cry For a Shadow,” and “Revolution Come and Gone” (as Michael Azzerad cites, a clear reference to the sudden, apparent, demise of the underground movement). With that being said, there’s plenty of fun, adventerous (at least lyrically), creative, and ultimately joyful numbers. Chiefly, “Hot Chocolate Boy” fits this category; it is by far my favorite in their catalog and one of my all time beloved songs! Just, simple, but enthusiastic playing. If I had to choose one BH number to show to newbies, it would absolutely be HCB; it has nearly everything that made BH excellent. I really dig the line “He’s a sensation, Hot Chocolate Nation.” Overall, I like this album, but I do not favor every track. “Collide” is too repetitive and I often like repetitive songs, even for BH, but this time it’s just annoying. This album is filled with good songs, but only a few great ones. The higher quality production ameliorates the recording, but clearly isn’t the most important ingrediant in audio magic. As I said before, this is a good album, it just lacks an album feel to it, but all in all it is certainly KLYAM Recommended.

Grade B/ B+

P.S. if you go bonkers for Calvin Johnson’s deep, baritone voice, then you will most likely love his vocals here, as they are baritone as fuck…. or you will think he has a stomach ache like my mother says.

CD Review: That’s How We Burn [2010]

Band: Jaill
Release: 7/2010
Label: Sub Pop

1. “The Stroller” – A-
2. “Everyone’s Hip” – A-
3. “On the Beat” – A-
4. “Thank Us Later” – A-
5. “Summer Mess” – B+
6. “She’s My Baby” – A-
7. “Snake Shakes” – B+
8. “Demon” – B+
9. “Baby I” – B+
10. “How’s the Grave” – B+
11. “That’s How We Burn” – A-

Comments: Bringing to mind the likes of The B-52s and other pop, yet weird mainstream acts of yesteryear, Jaill’s all right. “The Stroller” is a post-punk revival jam with strong streaks of catchiness. Despite it being a fairly unoriginal jam, it still’s great on the ears. “Everyone’s Hip” reeks of ‘alternative’ genius. No complaints on the powerpop/post-punk flavored “On the Beat,” either. The Shins comparisons are justifiable on the vocal-centric “Thank Us Later,” surely one of the better songs on here. Some songs that I’d normally think are great just don’t have the memorable kind of chops I wish they had. What I thought may have been a near-the-top album for me turns out to be lost in the midst of above-average obscurity.

Grade: B+ (89)