RANDOM STABBINGS & ARTLESS CRITIQUE, MARCH 2009

dscn_1451_simcoe_sword_1020_phixr.jpgGreen River Ordinance, Out of My Hands (Virgin Records)

Adult-emo lambs to the slaughter, GRO’s sole differentiating characteristic from all the Last Goodnights and myriad other one-hitters is that they’re from Fort Worth.   Of the trio of major-label standby producers summoned like Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction to clean up this songwriting mess, 3 Doors Down guy Paul Ebersold had the most obvious hand in this, although that may be overly charitable on my part because GRO is simply a 3DD clone who’ll run out of enthusiasm once they’re at last able to excrete something that’s close enough to “Kryptonite” for their liking.   There’s always that third thing, of course — mayhaps these guys are indeed merely using recycled high-voltage rock to find their legs until they meet up with their inner Iggys or Jack Whites; working in their favor is a twangy Lynyrd Skynyrd aftertaste that would otherwise have left “Come On” as a good example of a Bowling For Soup B-side. Most over-30 Joe Sixpacks will stick with their trusty Goo Goo Dolls or whatever, and so the clock ticks away for these hayseeds, loudly. [street date: 2/24/09]

The Japanese Popstars, We Just Are (Gung Ho Records)

When the culture hatched the term “nu-rave,” this is more what I (and every old-school raver, if I may venture a pretty good guess) expected, not the Klaxons and their designs on welding tuneless Brooklyn indie to a bunch of random (annoying, stale) rave noises.   Though sometimes compared to Chemical Brothers by punting reviewers, this Dublin trio doesn’t have anywhere near that sense of humor; they’re more a stab at Orbital version 2.0 for the millennium, committing much bolder turns of the volume knob than their forefathers, all in a thin chowder of blocky wide-screen samples that are more ravey than the Chemicals.   “Sample Whore” is a good touchstone for their style, with its heavily reverbed acid-house slut moans, relentlessly bashing bass drum and a dainty piano line that’s so loud it’s like a xylophone.   Hoover blasts and Euro-house color “Face Melter,” which behaves as advertised when it’s not trying Bodyrox-like electro-house on for size… mind you, all of this is louder than hell, able to shake the lug nuts off your car with the volume set to 2. [street date 2/24/09]

Ferry Corsten, Twice in a Blue Moon (Ultra Records)

With the economy taking on more and more water, the end of the superstar DJ era increasingly seems to be over — even before the Wall Street oligarchy that got us in this mess literally stopped the gears of international finance, the Digweeds and Oakenfolds of the world were beginning to come out from behind their self-sewn drapes of secrecy, granting interviews beyond the realm of DJ Mag as they recognized that their craft, like cigarettes, was becoming more saleable in remote emerging markets of the world and less so in non-giant-metropolises like Baltimore and Green Bay. Dutch DJ Corsten is another open book, musically cut from the same cloth as Armin van Buuren and Tiesto, offering trance and Euro-house on a symphonic, galactic scale.   This third “artist” album (meaning all-original material) is reliant on the more docile approach offered by nu-trance gods Above & Beyond — there is some subtlety to it, I swear.   It’s gorgeous and triumphant, yes, but Corsten doesn’t try to drown you in the power of big loud techno the way van Buuren does, preferring instead to flirt sneakily with IDM (“Shelter Me” features squeaky noise playing quite well with hauntingly pretty synth), Eiffel 65 vocoder (“We Belong”) and Sade-style singers (the inappropriately titled “Made of Love”).   An irresistibly great one, yes, even if it is — though let’s hope not — part of the musical entity fiddling dutifully away on the deck of our Titanic. [street date 1/27/09]

Bodychoke, Cold River Songs (Relapse Records)

The Relapse reissue of Bodychoke’s final album, originally vomited messily forth in 1997, throws the English band’s raincoat wide open, reprinting the lyrics in all their it-puts-the-lotion-in-the-basket ignominy — all sorts of psycho-circus consciousness streams pertaining to chicks tied up in closets, happy stuff like that.   The musical engine is similarly end-of-days, the voice a fusion of Frank Black (the yells) and Figurine (the google-eyed mumbling between the yells), the stubbornly headbanging guitars and splashy drums paying homage to Big Black, old-time Alice Cooper and Ministry. As it were, this is at last revealed as a loosely conceptual undertaking: boy meets girl, boy kidnaps and tortures girl, boy stands trial and exclaims, like George Burns facing 100 years of age, that oh, yeah, I’d like to do it again.   Funny that this was released prior to the birth of the torture-porn industry of our, you know, enlightened age — a prescient musical vision of the curious verist fascinations that eventually made Hostel as American as Donald Duck.   But may I say “fricking yuck already”? [street date 1/25/09]

Darla Farmer, Rewiring Electric Forest (Paper Garden Records)

The fact that “hipsters can’t pigeonhole” them could just as well prove this 7-piece outfit’s downfall as the source of pride for which they profess to take it at present; eclecticism can be a good sell, but the word “aimless” can spring equally to mind.   A bit more po-faced gravitas, Nick Cave influence (and there’s plenty here to go around) and some blasts of giant organ might get them in with the steampunk crowd, but there’s marching band vibe here, a patina of ska, some Los Campesinos, some Tom Waits (not in the vocal department, though; Clint Wilson is more Axl Rose-like in his method for self-mutilating his throat).   The angle PR’s playing on this is a Tim Burton sort of run-around-crazy-who-cares-what-it’s-called thing, which again would appeal more to fringe types, but above all it seems to be a self-serving workout for the pieces, which are more pursuant to jazz ensemble than carnival-punk novelty.   A good wetting of the feet on their part — and there are props from Bright Eyes to egg them on — but they won’t survive a second album spent similarly firing at everything that moves. [street date 2/17/09]

Revolting Cocks, Sex-O Olympic-O (Megaforce Records)

Since Rammstein decided to abandon the slam-down industrial-rock-metal space in favor of, what do you call it, crappy music, Al Jourgensen of Ministry stands as the only real go-to guy still standing.   One of his “fun side projects” — more like “supergroup without bragging about it” as of its last incarnation — is Revolting Cocks, which released Cocked and Loaded in 2006; despite cameos by Gibby Haynes, Jello Biafra and Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, it was a little too jokey, disjointed and disinterested with itself. Cut to now, a year or so after Jourgensen announced his retirement, something the Stones have done every year since they had their first experience with incontinence.   As everyone expected, that fleeting fancy has melted away and Uncle Buck Satan is a hungry dude again, revitalized by a group of young guns who know what this juggernaut should have evolved into by now.   And from opener “HookerBot3000” (picture Rob Zombie re-writing “Radar Love”) to that song’s closing remix, it’s as menacing, street and streamlined as Ministry — not just Revolting Cocks — could hope to be without George Bush’s being around anymore to provide grist for Al’s anger mill.   “Keys to the City (Vegas Mix)” resurrects Marilyn Manson’s best days; “I’m Not Gay” offers goth-electro in the vein of Front Line Assembly and Front 242. [street date: 3/3/09]

Beth McDonald, Home (self-released)

In this generous 17-song collection, DC-based jazz chanteuse McDonald would seem out to flatter Peggy Lee, and not just through the liner notes. Predominantly comprised of classic jazz standards, a picture eventually forms of her actual sound — there’s more than a little Anne Murray (particularly in the title track, one of four original tunes here) and Joan Osborn (“Sway”) in her throat’s DNA, if you can dig it, and thus her steps between notes are more precise and less heavy-lidded than your garden variety Peggy Lee Mini-Me.   She’s thankfully not another case of art-geek overeducation, in fact she majored in psych, but I sense a need for a Jack-Nicholson-with-the-cello epiphany in her life.   Too much cleanliness goes on here, which is great for the wedding receptions of rich jerks, but, you know, big whoop. Like Amy Winehouse, Peggy Lee sounded as though she’d spent a lot of time playing God’s punchbag and that was why she sang, and you can bet anything that she’d barely even include the done-to-death “Why Don’t You Do Right” — this album’s kickoff track — in a medley.   Furthermore, demo tapes are a lot less expensive than putting out vanity albums, let’s say. [street date: 10/26/08]

Alif Tree, Clockwork (Compost Records)

Between this latest album and 2006’s French Cuisine, DJ Alif Tree has proven he isn’t just another unbathed, nostril-mining acid-jazz fixture phoning Ableton-scribbles into a world that doesn’t care about the genre; there’s a pattern to what he’s doing.     “Au Revoir” opens the album in a stream of downtempo, cello-haunted jazz dotted with wiggling-diving-board glitches, this leading into “Way Down South,” a ham-handedly obvious nod to Alabama 3’s “Woke Up” (the opening theme from Sopranos), up to and including the groggy vocal line.   Although everything here is rooted in downtempo, nu-jazz and trip-hop, the odd bedfellow list of vocalists lends a chameleon-like quality to the album, which brings us to the lonesome but unworried “Never Be the Same,” sung by a Sting clone recovering from dub love.   “Mai” offers barbecue nu-jazz with a nice nick of Zero 7’s Sia tabled by Emilie Satt; “Timestretched” ties elevator-music-ready trumpets to an insistent flow of open guitar chords. As stated, all this is in line with the previous album, a running of the emotional gamut — an album-album, and thus it’s probably more conducive to headphones or mix burns than something you want to have pattering away on the drive to the court date. [street date: 3/3/09]

Oh No Not Stereo, 003 (self-released)

We could fix the economy double-quick if someone would just follow one of these not-really-emo-but-definitely-emo bands around and find the tree that grows all the hundred-dollar-bills they use to release albums and hire semi-big producers, but where’d be the fun in that.   DIY-ers to the core, ONNS even took time to sign my copy of their promo CD, so they’re quite aware of the personal touch it takes to get out of first gear in the oversaturated world of nu-rock; a good sign.   So I’ll backpedal a little and admit that they’re about as much an emo band as All American Rejects are — where AAR dabble in Postal Service electro-fluff, ONNS has a po-faced, System of a Down side that sometimes wants to go totally Tool.   That’s not to say that this duo doesn’t have a little joke-band DNA in there; there’s a clause in the Borderline-Emo constitution about how bratty nasal voices are obligated to do stupid human tricks at least once per album (even Dashboard Confessional has their poopy-pants side if you look). Again, ONNS aren’t quite emo; instead of spending all their time bawling into their Slurpees over some friend’s crummy pining over some unattainable doctor’s daughter (though there is plenty of that, never fear), they offer a little youth-gone-wild fist-pumping (“Shot Down by the Man,” whose riff owes its existence to “Purple Haze”) and simple-stupid party enthusiasm (“This Friday Night”).   Ingredients include the aforementioned SOAD, as well as Weezer and Hoobastank, ie not quite emo, but, like, definitely emo. [street date: 3/10/09]

The Black Lips, 200 Million Thousand (Vice records)

Everybody who wants to pretend they’re cool has to pretend they like Iggy, but the Black Lips have sort of shoved him into the old-guy section of the bar, haven’t they?   Riding around the stage on Power Wheels after man-kissing each other and taking whizzes and throwing up on the audience was never so desperately needed by the culture, so these particular Lips are the thing to lamprey yourself onto if you’re a rock writer seeking an excuse to put the words “quasi-nihilist-counterrevolutionary” and “potty” in the same sentence — this is important stuff! The straights won’t get it, of course, which is even more important.   The only time regular shmoes hear similar sounds — The Animals, The Zombies, Raveonettes — is when they’re in cabs or at parties they don’t want to be at.   What’s even better, though, is Black Lips’ attention to garage detail — yes, it’s like The Animals, The Zombies, and Raveonettes, but as played by the first teenage garage band you ever heard, which spotlighted the singer who was much better at yelling at bad bands than singing for them, even if this is all just an act. Regardless, it wouldn’t hurt if we did get fooled again. [street date: 2/27/09]

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome.  

Email: esaeger@cyberontix.com

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