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

Monday, February 28, 2005

As expected, the second night of the Teenbeat 20th Anniversary showcase was much better than the first night, and I missed all of opener Holland (I refuse to do that fruity spelling he uses, mostly because I cannot remember how it's done) and everything but the last song of Hot Pursuit. There has got to be a better way to handle entry into sold out shows.

The rundown:

Aden - Meh. I've never been a big fan.
Flin Flon - Much better than I expected. Makes me question why I don't have any of their albums. I should have picked one up that night. Oh well.
Versus - Another excellent show. Why aren't there more filipinos--or is that Illipinos?--in rock?
Butch Willis - This actually may have been before the Versus set; in any case, it was just a couple of a capella songs, and Butch Willis does even less for me than Johnny Cohen. I'm sure they're swell guys, though.
Tuscadero - Also excellent. They played a lot from their first album and the best tracks from their second album. They also played "Angel in a Centerfold" by the J. Geils Band and their own "Angel in a Half-Shirt" as the encore. I really should write about that first album one of these days. One of the great, overlooked indie pop albums from the era.

It was a great two nights of nostalgia and a bit of discovery. Oh, and some excellent boozing.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Last night was day one (of two) of the Teenbeat 20th Anniversary showcase. I wound up at this event solo, because there was some miscommunication between ES and the person she asked to buy tickets. The result: only one ticket per night, instead of two. And then the event sold out. So, ES graciously let me have the tickets. Anyway, it was a good time. The Fontaine Toups, +/-, and Eggs were good, while Unrest was great. I'm glad I had a chance to see them live. They even played my (and many others in the crowd, judging by the response) favorite song. Plus, I seriously got my drink on. (Thank you, Patrick!)

I will say, except for +/-, Eggs, and Unrest, a lot of the music last night sounded really anemic. Just plink-plink-plink pop, which is not entirely unpleasant, but it makes the music sound really static. I'm not sure I would be into the music as much as I was if I were just discovering it now. I wondered why they put Unrest, the flagship band of the label, on the first night, instead of headlining the whole thing. To tell you the truth, though, if they did that, I don't think anybody would have come out for the first night. As unfair as it probably is to the other artists, I think most of the people there last night were primarily there for Unrest.

Tonight should prove to be a bit more rockin' with Versus and Tuscadero on the bill.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Yes, this is nearly four years old, but that doesn't mean it's not ridiculous. Though, I'm guessing the ODB version of "Sussudio" is comedy gold. How am I now just hearing about this?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Teenbeat Records is celebrating its 20th Anniversary next week. With any luck, my tickets will be purchased tomorrow night. (Thanks, ES.) I'm aiming to go to both nights. This will be the third Teenbeat anniversary show I've attended, though, I haven't been to one in many moons. Should be a couple of great nights of classic indie pop, fuelled equally by good tunes and nostalgia, as indie big timers Unrest, along with Tuscadero, Versus, and Eggs, are all reuniting for the occasion. I never caught Unrest before they broke up, so I'm definitely most interested in seeing them, as I'm sure many in attendance will be.

I recently picked up the most recent Blonde Redhead LP, Misery is a Butterfly. Overall, I like it. They've moved away from the abstraction they were employing on their last couple of albums, which serves the songs well. Unfortunately, they've also dulled some of the music's power. There's almost too much restraint. The songs lack a sense of urgency that I've always found an enjoyable aspect of music, giving it a dark-hued, nearly paranoid quality. Tension! That's what's missing. Still, it's still a decent listen, though not where I'd start in their discography.

I also picked up Gorguts' Obscura, which I've only listened to once. It is...different. Avant metal. The music, ostensibly death metal, looms much larger than that genre tag would indicate. I'm going to need a few more listens before I can get my head around it. I think this album will need a more in-depth write-up once I've let the music sink in. Or, a defeated shrug if I can't penetrate the album further.

And finally, today's funny musician name: Bing Wang. (...no offense.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jazz pioneer Jimmy Smith dies.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Today's question: Can anybody tell me why I'm supposed to like the Arcade Fire?

Bonus question: WTF happened to Merge Records?

(Hipsters, I apologize if you take my questions as a personal attack on your superior tastes.)

First: Slint is coming to the 9:30 Club. This I won't miss. I missed Mission of Burma, I missed the Pixies, but I won't miss this. Though, I must say, I'm driven more by curiosity than I am nostalgia (I didn't discover Slint for myself until well after they had disbanded).

Now then...

The Great Destroyer
Sub Pop - 2005

Duluth. Mormon. "Slowcore." Quiet. Sad.

There, I got all of the popular words that creep up in the various Madlib-style Low reviews out of my system.

So what of the new album? Well, as I've said previously, it's different. Very different. Not sprouting legs overnight and crawling out of the primordial soup different, but enough to notice without really searching. There's guitar crunch, there's nearly sunny pop tunes, there's even an overproduced, unnatural to the point of sounding almost electronic song. But the bottom line is that, at the end of the day, these are good songs, something Low has always done as good as anybody else.

The album starts off somewhat awkwardly with "Monkey", which is the unnatural sounding song mentioned a few sentences back. The song rumbles and builds a good amount of tension, thanks largely to an ominous and surprisingly booming rhythm, but never really gets off the ground. But just as you're settling in for some musical thunder, Low clear the skies and throw things into pop gear with "California." A long way from chilly Minnesota indeed. What often gets lost when people talk of Low's music is their ability to write a hook. This isn't entirely unexpected, as their previous output often moves sleepily along, seeping into your mind more than it grabs you by the throat. Here, however, they have crafted a bouncy little pop tune that would represent the titular state well. The proceedings stumble once more with the next track, the thin, distorted "Everybody's Song" whose "aggression" seems a bit forced. But this is, in my mind, the album's last misstep, as the rest of the disc is populated by strong songs. You get classic Low songs like "Silver Rider" or the stirring "Cue the Strings", the gorgeous near-country ballad (that eventually becomes a fuzzy rocker) "When I Go Deaf", or the almost Spector-ian pop rock of the album closing "Walk Into the Sea."

It's a shame that some of Low's fans might take issue with this album because of the chances it takes. (Read: how much it doesn't sound like the Low they know and love.) They really shouldn't. Low has never steered them wrong before, and even though The Great Destroyer isn't a world-beater or reach the dizzying heights of some of Low's previous (I'm thinking Things We Lost in the Fire here) work, it's another confident step forward in their stellar career, one their fans should be willing to take with them. This album does anything but disappoint.`

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I picked up a couple of records on Monday: Low's The Great Destroyer and Grails' Redlight. I've listened to the Low album a few times already, and will probably put up a review tonight or tomorrow. I will say a couple of things, though. First, it is definitely a departure from their previous work, though not a complete 180 by any means. Nor is the progression entirely unexpected. Second, the album is good, people. Don't let people who are freaked out by the occasional loud guitar dissuade you. I mean, they didn't turn into Candlemass. But, it's still not Long Division, either.

As for the Grails' disc, it, too, is a winner. I've only listened to it a couple of times, but I'm really enjoying it. I think I need to give it the headphone treatment before I can get into a more detailed exploration of its merits. Still, on first impressions, I'd recommend it.