Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Monday, September 29, 2003

Still no review ready. But I did get more CDs (six for $21!) at Kemp Mill, who is liquidating their stock. Everything left is now 80% off, as opposed to the last time I hit the store, when it was just 50% off.

Today's acquisitions:

Triple Threat - Many Styles
The Atomic Bitchwax - II
Orange Goblin - The Big Black
Motion Man - Clearing the Field
The Coup - Steal This Double Album
Zion I - Deep Water Slang V2.0

That's a goldmine. God bless liquidation!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Pitchfork does a funny. Good for them. As usual, a lot of precious posturing, but for the most part, a good laugh. A lot of these albums really are shit-tay. For the record, I have ever owned (and still own, actually) the following:

43. Ride - Carnival of Light
42. Melvins - Stag
37. Jesus Jones - Doubt
36. Luna - Pup Tent
29. Jesus and Mary Chain - Honey's Dead
28. Primus - Pork Soda
26. Thurston Moore - Psychic Hearts
21. Ministry - Psalm 69
15. Mercury Rev - Boces
8. Radiohead - Pablo Honey
5. Breeders - Last Splash

I find it hilarious that they ripped Pablo Honey. Not that it's an awesome disc, but the way they knobshine Thom Yorke and co., you'd think this would be regarded move favorably. It's not as bad as they say, but very little is on that website. Ah well...not really in the mood to get all ranty on that site. Besides, outside of the blog community (and probably within it somewhere), I've seen a number of sites already slag them, so I'm not about to be jump on that bandwagon.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Well, it's starting to happen. I really want to keep this thing updated on a regular basis, if not every day, then every other day. Unfortunately, that's not the way things work out. Between work and play and fatigue and all sorts of other nonsense, I'm falling behind. I'd like to promise things will pick up soon, but it's not likely.

Anyway, to the music (though no review): I picked up four more CDs today. I finally picked up the Black Dahlia Murder's Unhallowed. I also grabbed Superjoint Ritual's A Lethal Dose of American Hatred, Viktor Vaughn's (aka MF Doom) Vaudeville Villain, and C-Rayz Walz Ravipops. Hopefully, I'll have reviews of one ore more of these (and any of the other recent acquisitions) soon.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Picked up the new Styles of Beyond album, Megadef and Sleep's Dopesmoker. Solid. Also have listened to the new Spiritualized album a lot since the last post, and I have a better handle on the album, which I will now give to you in review form. (Sorry that it's taken more than a week to get a review up here.)

Amazing Grace
Sanctuary - 2003

I have to admit, I didn't have very high hopes for this album. Not because the last album was bad; quite the contrary. Let It Come Down is one of my favorite records of all time, and possibly Jason Pierce's finest moment on record, even beyond his Spacemen 3 material. A lot of critics (way too many, really) referred to that record as Pierce "coming back" to Earth, as the record had jettisoned much of the delay, reverb and other "spacey" effects that had been a significant part of Spiritualized (and Spacemen 3's) sound. Instead, he incorporated a large orchestra and choir for most of the tracks. And while the music was certainly more organic sounding, it was anything but earthbound. It was way up in the clouds, musical heaven of the highest order--epic, enthralling, and gorgeous. So expectations were high for the next record, whenever it was slated to come out..

Then something happened. I went to see them live (for the nth time a few months back) and was disappointed. A Spiritualized show is usually a cross between a 60s styled psychedelic freakout and a religious revival. This performance was a bit more subdued (Pierce sat on a stool the whole time), strange since the music from the new album (which was a large chunk of the show) had a decidedly harder edge to it. Overall, the performance fell flat and left me with lower expectations for the new album. Still, when the album came out this past Tuesday, I was in the store buying it.

When I first listened to it, my prejudice from that concert was still with me, and I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I set it aside for a bit, then went back to it, popping in Let It Come Down with it so I could listen to the albums in sequence. And while it's still not nearly on the same level as its predecessor, Amazing Grace is much stronger than I initially considered it.

It's true that there is more straight up rock'n'roll on this disc than any Spiritualized album prior, but it does not dominate the disc as I initially thought it did. It just stands out more. It kicks off with two such numbers, "This Little Life of Mine" (also the opening song from the concert last spring) and the album's first single, "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)," which is a play on the Phil Spector produced song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" made popular by The Crystals. These songs are bloozy raveups that rock with a Stones-like swagger. "This Little Life of Mine" starts off with a little feedback squeal before a slithering, overdriven bassline kicks in, joined by some Dr. John like piano (who joined Spiritualized on their great Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space), and some great fuzzy guitar. Pierce's voice here is (intentionally) distorted, as he sings defiantly on the song's chorus "ain't gonna take good care of it, baby/it's mine." Here, Pierce (again) acknowledges the effects of his substance use, but while he has been generally apathetic--but not ignorant--of its effects in the past, he seems to not only acknowledge the path he may be headed on, but seems to almost revel in it. The recklessness of the songs lyrics fits perfectly with the wild abandon of the music; the same goes for "She Kissed Me." Then, on the third track, Pierce changes his demeanor: "Hold On" starts off with brief full band overture before settling into piano and a barely strummed acoustic guitar. Layers of sound are slowly added, but remain fairly threadbare, at least compared to the gigantic walls of sound of previous records. Meanwhile, the simple lyrics admonish the listener to "hold on to those you hold dear." Lines like "death cannot part us if life already has" and "death cannot take what you've already lost" shows a more pensive side of Pierce, as if his dying days are imminent and he's trying to make sure that he's surrounded by the people he loves. And it is here where the album's theme is crystallized: Pierce is ready for his own demise. This is not surprising at all, considering that one of Pierce's chief musical influences is gospel music. In religious terms (I know, banned topic, but I'm not really going there, so piss off, eh? ), those who believe in the rewards of an afterlife have nothing to fear in death. And this sentiment can be found throughout the album, from the record's centerpiece, "Lord Let It Rain On Me" to the gentle closer "Lay It Down Slow." Though he is not unequivocal in his acceptance of this belief (he sings "they say that hell's below us and heaven can be mine/I don't believe your promises I don't believe in lies" at on point), it does not deter him from expediting his journey into the next life (lyrically speaking).

As far as the music is concerned, this isn't the giant step forward that usually occurs from one Spiritualized record to the next, but it is definitely solid throughout. Whether it's full-on rock 'n' roll or gospeldelic soul, Pierce and company deliver. But after the heavenly Let It Come Down, Amazing Grace feels all too mortal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

As expected, I didn't go the Mogwai show, but I did pick up the new Spiritualized and Dimmu Borgir albums. Some thoughts:

I was prepared for the new Spiritualized album when I saw them earlier this year. The set they played consisted almost entirely of material from this album. When I heard it live, I have to admit it, it sounded good, but I wasn't sure if it would fly as an album. So far, my misgivings are unfounded. Yet, the album disappoints (slightly) on another level, and that's it doesn't really take a step forward. Spiritualized, from one album to the next, has always pushed the music forward, with the leap from Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space to Let It Come Down being the largest, as Jason Pierce jettisoned (for the most part) the space rock trappings--not to mention most of his bandmates--of his earlier work. On that album, he went for a grand artistic statement of unprecedented majesty and scale without relying on all of the sonic effects that were a large part of the Spiritualized sound. As a result, the songs on the album are lush and orchestral, but not to the point where the songs are overwhelmed by their own ornateness. It was a bold move, but it worked. While some criticized the record for being over-indulgent, there was no denying the album's beauty.

On the new album, Pierce has done a 180, this time going for shorter, full-on rock songs, with little gospedelic nuggets interspersed throughout. While that may seem like another bold step forward, what it really amounts to is a reversal of Let It Come Down's formula. Where that album was mostly long songs with a short rocker ("The Twelve Steps") thrown into the middle of the album to keep it from becoming monotonous, Amazing Grace does exactly the opposite. Moreover, the rockers on here don't veer too far from the bluesy raveups that have shown up on the last two albums (but go back as far as "These Blues" from Pure Phase), especially the two standouts from Ladies and Gentlemen..., "Electricity" and "Come Together." Consequently, while the album's overall composition is much different than anything they've released before, the songs aren't all that different.

As for the Dimmu Borgir, it's f'n great. Now, I must say that this is not only my first album by them that I've heard, but the first death metal album in my collection. So I really don't have much in the way of a measuring stick for how it holds up in its genre, but as a music fan listening to music, this album rocks. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

So, I'm not going to the Mogwai show tonight. I'm sure I'll regret it, but I'm a) too tired and b) in desperate need of getting some laundry done, or else it's a sandwich board and bell tomorrow for work. That can't be too comfortable.

However, I may pick up two albums that are supposed to see release today: Spiritualized's Amazing Grace and Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon.

More later...

Thursday, September 04, 2003

So, I'm reading the City Paper's review of the new Constantines album, and not so surprisingly, they did not once invoke the F word, which I have seen turn up in many reviews of the Constantines music. The F word, of course, is Fugazi, D.C. institution and one of the most vital bands in the world (and have been for quite some time now). I've gotta believe that the omission was intentional, as whoever wrote the review (can't...reach....paper) probably did not a) want to give people unrealistic expectations of the band or b) want someone from Fugazi to read the article and become appalled by another writer's reviewing shortcomings. Kinda like the time I read (I forget where...I think it was Alternative Press many moons ago, though, I want to say that it was actually Rolling Stone...eek!) where David Yow of the Jesus Lizard said that someone gave him a tape, telling him they sounded like the Lizard. Naturally, the band sucked and Yow was offended. I wonder how many times that's happened to people in bands.

Anyway, the review, instead, used Spoon as major point of reference for the Constantines. Honestly, I've not heard the new album myself, so I couldn't tell you if either one is accurate or not. Still, thought it was funny that the local rag is the one that doesn't invoke Fugazi in a review of the band/record.

Also: Mogwai coming next week. This might be a must see show.

Bagatellen - An interesting site via Phil Freeman's website. Haven't had a chance to peruse it in any depth, but it seems cool, so that's good enough to warrant an entry.

It's been a helluva week. This time, I actually have a legit excuse for not posting sooner.

For those that do not know (and I'm guessing that's anybody who doesn't know me and just happened to stumble across this blog), I'm an accounting wonk for one of the larger hotels in Washington, D.C. and we are working on the 2004 Budget. It's ass, but by this time next week, I will be in the clear. Consequently, I'm so wiped out by the time I get home that blogging has no appeal to me.

Anyway...can't talk now, reviewing.

High Rise
1999 - Squealer Music

Rock and fucking roll. (How's that for a cliched critic-type opening?) Seriously, in a just world, High Rise would be huge. Enormous. Sadly, in a world overrun by overproduction and hip-hop production (and I'm not putting down the latter, but it is--ironically--sucking the soul out of popular music), there is no place for High Rise on the popular music landscape.

Which is sad, because you don't find this much exhiliration in rock music these days. Between the gelid introspection of Radiohead, the Neanderthal utterings of nu-metal, and the utter pointlessness of cutesy-poo mall punk, balls to the wall rock and roll is as out of place in "rock music" as Kate Moss in a smorgasbord. High Rise play it like the power trios of yore, with guitar heroics married to a tight as hell and raging rhythm section. The players are so in sync with one another that you'd think ProTools was somehow involved.

Want a more detailed description? Okay, first, High Rise are Munehiro Narita on guitar, Asahito Nanjo on bass and vocals, and in this case, Pill on drums. The star on this album is Narita, whose lightning fuzz and wah driven solos are the perfect fuel for the world's air guitarists. Nanjo's bass is nearly as in your face (especially on the album's best track, the mind blowing "Whirl"), creating the perfect low-end thud for Narita's madness, but never getting left behind. Pill is the perfect drummer for this band, who fills the gaps perfectly, while playing with the same rock and roll abandon that his bandmates exhibit. And yet, for all the ruckus the individual members create, they are still tighter than Strom Thurmond's sphincter. It never flies out of control (as some Japanese psych rock--I'm looking at you Acid Mothers--has a tendency to do. Instead, the songs (5 total, though, the fifth is an improvised, fractured, avant-styled piece that doesn't fit with the other songs, even as it keeps with the groups improv-derived nature) rely on fat, ass-shaking grooves. The third track, "Sadame," starts off with a riff that wouldn't be out of place on an Allman Bros. disc, before blazing into Hendrix-style guitar heroics. With the exception of the final track, this is as close to classic psychedelic rock you're going to get with any modern band, but without the shitty laser light show and tacky fashion sense. And most importantly, without a wink or an iota of irony in the mix. This is rock for rock's fucking sake, played by some honest to god great musicians, and your ass should be paying attention.