Call the Cops, Call the Cops (Myspace Records)
The self-titled debut from an OC-based emo-electro boyband is destined to piss off the poor downtrodden Vans Warped Tour attendees who stupidly bring their girlfriends. Past that there may actually be something in this band’s future, although what more could you really ask for in life than ruining the day for a few beefy whiteys in avenged Sevenfold tee shirts? Generic but hooky in a Hoobastank/Bowling For Soup way, and sans the BFS joke-band-ness, these guys see Lady Gaga as competition, not alternative product, so there’s Autotune, which will obviously never die, forever. Some Killers in there, too, and some 80s, a dash of Depeche Mode flitting in and out, but the angle most heavily stressed on their info sheet is techno, from which leaps a Gaga-esque staccato feel, ie there’s more processing done in one of these songs than in a year at the Velveeta plant.
Grade: A+ [street date: 6/22/10]
Roberto Badoglio, Re-Evaluation-Time (Spice-Rack Records)
Italian-born Berklee-trained bassist Badoglio is as fascinated with 70s fusion as any other 20something wonk, but rather than taking one of two ill-advised paths — feather-and-mink funk-pimp posturing or trying too hard to get Return to Forever’s acid-weirdness down to a science — he puts down such easy-listening progressive breeze you don’t even know your brain is undergoing surgery. His playing is jaw-dropping, up there with, yes, Jaco, be it on the getting-situated intro-track “Scirocco’s Theory” (it’s as eggheaded as it looks), the only half-kidding video-game patter of “Bruce Wayne On the Run,” the space-scaping “Dojo” or the ethnic rollcoaster “Essaouira Marketv” — and mind you, even through several modal and world-music ideas, the album flows like you won’t believe. A quite but massively powerful study.
Grade: A+ [street date: 1/26/10]
Front Line Assembly, Improvised Electronic Device (Metropolis Records)
Canadian industrial pioneer Bill Leeb — who’s got trance club hits, collaborations with Sarah McLachlan and other notable things under his belt — still heads up Front Line Assembly, but the question here is where is Rhys Fulber, Leeb’s FLA cohort? Answer: who cares when it’s this heavy (Fulber is back hawking more Delerium-style dance stuff with Conjure One, which is nothing to sneeze at either). Not that it’s necessarily Fulber’s fault that 2006’s Artificial Soldier was a hookless phone-in aside from the four-barrel industrial trancer “The Storm,” but Leeb appears to be playing catch-up to the old Leeb, the one who helped found Skinny Puppy and who taught Rammstein the ins and outs of jackbooted snarling. While Artificial Soldier concentrated on — well, I don’t know, boring toothless industrial, IED is quite the worthy do-over, with renewed interest in badass breakbeats, old-time Puppy vitriol (some nice deep-seated hatred in several spots, such as the spotlight track “Shifting Through the Lens”) and apocalyptic drone. I don’t want to start anything, but, yeah, if previous fails are directly traceable to Fulber, well, arrivederch, and stuff.
Grade: A- [street date: 6/22/10]
Teenage Fanclub, Shadows (Merge Records)
Rest assured God will get Pitchfork Media for all the trouble they’ve caused. As you await their long-overdue reckoning, though, you’ve got to admit you got something out of your toe-dips into the great cosmic swamp of hipster swill — Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire, if you’re the least bit brave — and, should your stomach be ready for one more completely harmless slab of po-faced faux-60s-twee, this Teenage Fanclub thingamabob will be something else you’ll likely prize, or at least piss off your metal friends with. Essentially, if Nick Drake (you know, the guy your dad thinks is Gordon Lightfoot) sang for Belle and Sebastian, who in turn were in the mood to put America’s “Tin Man” and an old Chicago single together in a blender, the outcome would be “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything” (now that’s tortured disaffection we can believe in!). That work for ya, there, Lazy McStubborn? Okay, how about Versus channeling Ricky Nelson (“Baby Lee”)? REM teaming up with Band of Horses (“The Fall”)? You’re never going to get anywhere in life if you don’t get hip, you know.
Grade: A- [street date: 6/8/10]
Automatic Loveletter, Truth Or Dare (Sony Records)
Vans Tour tweenie-pop for kids tired of being ragged on for getting caught with their Avril Lavigne CDs. A Kelly Clarkson-like trombone of a voice helps Juliet Simms run country-pop rings around Avril (despite the band’s holding top position on the Myspace Music Emo chart for 6 months, they’re well aware they’re from the South) and the band apes Pink pretty well, particularly on the calculatedly unhinged corporate-punker “Heart Song” (essentially a dummy-fied “So What”) and the croon-yell-croon crazy-bitch ballad “Hush.” Apples never fall too far from trees, though, thus it doesn’t take long for Simms’s Pink crush to fade — Avril gets thoroughly robbed for several obligato emo phone-ins (“The Day That Saved Us,” “To Die For,” “Let It Ride”), leaving everything right in the world. If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Taylor Swift fronted Three Days Grace (and were masochistic enough to want to hear the result), there’s “Story of My Life.” Only actual punk moment: the album title.
Grade: B- [street date: 6/22/10]
Stealing Heather, Your Mistake (Audiolot Records)
Power-fivesome Stealing Heather are from LA and thus keenly aware of what the world will throw at them for doing riffy pop-rock in a post-emo world. They stubbornly eschew Autotune and all that baloney and go for a sound that costs just a few more quatloos per hour in the studio than what you’d hear from your local punk band, and for this you should be thankful — although they wield mighty hooks, it’s not the sugar-frosted Hoobastank you’d expect, especially from LA, which again comes from the more raw (but pro) sound. Matchbox 20 and Dashboard Confessional are related vibes, but Joshua Aaron’s voice is pop-powerful without leaning on gimmicky Killers hyperbole or emo nasality. The fast octave-jumping guitar bleating is familiar, a touchstone for emo kids who are growing up, which of course they must at some point. But back to the goosebumpy hooks, which are respectable toward a Gin Blossoms state of play, “Breathe Out” being the most hormonal — again, this ain’t Good Charlotte, think Pennywise after having worked out enough to pull off Goo Goo Dolls.
Grade: A- [street date: 4/6/10]
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Gurrumul (Dramatico Entertainment)
Indigenous Australian multi-instrumentalist Yunupingu was born blind, but at age 40 has thus far not learned Braille or gotten himself a guide dog or even a white cane. This becomes less puzzling when you know he’s an intensely shy person who paved his way singing in his native Yol?u Matha tongue as a founding member of Aboriginal folk unit Yothu Yindi (“child and mother”), winning Australian record industry awards along the way. This is all well and good, a Public Radio slam-dunk of course, but listening to Yunupingu’s smoky, quivering, much-lauded voice — like a sped-up Harry Belafonte — I honestly don’t hear a huge difference between it and the plaintive outcries of folk artists from anywhere else in the world, up to and including the States. Slow-strummed campfire guitar leads his voice through these tales, many of which ultimately sound as though they were cut for New Agers contemplating their navels at the ashram — I’ve been there, so don’t take that as a diss, but — and don’t take this as a diss, either, as your mileage may vary — the man’s lonely wailing, much of which dwells in minor keys, is a little too wounded-sounding for me to put it into heavy rotation. But don’t mind me — I got thrown out of the ashram when I cranked Ministry during the “Meditation for Grandparents Whose Dogs Recently Died” workshop.
Grade: A- [street date: 6/15/10]
Whitechapel, A New Era of Corruption (Metal Blade Records)
Maybe it’s some manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome that comes with having to review death metal albums for eclecticism’s sake, but I don’t totally hate this. Along with the usual suspects of today (Bathory singing part, Meshuggah part, oldschool Megadeth part, oldschool Mayyyden part, Cannibal Corpse part, and promenade), these songs are powered by 3 like-minded guitarists with a penchant for heaviness that transcends the (sadly required) speed, but more outstanding is the vocalizing of singer Phil Bozeman, whose main thrust is a naturally occurring backward-masking effect that makes his Cookie Monster sound legitimately possessed by, you know, Satan. And isn’t that what we’re all shooting for, in this rock n roll life, in the end?
Grade: B [street date: 6/8/10]
Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition) (Shout Factory Records)
Being that I’m a newcomer to things Concrete Blonde (aside from the ubiquitous “Joey” that sprang from this one in 1990) I was surprised that this remaster from the always daredeviling Shout Factory was so effective. I know I shouldn’t have been; the record is considered a classic in the goth circles with which I usually sympathize, but like many of you (I hope), I confused this bunch with 4 Non Blondes, whose vocal sound on the ever-annoying “What’s Up” is quite similar to Johnette Napolitano’s.
Bloodletting wouldn’t make it these days as a new record, not with the 2 opening tunes, which sound like Sisters of Mercy had let some older groupie chick flip off a few random vampire lyrics. But there was some Siouxsie to be found that gave hope, and all of a sudden there’s “Caroline” pulling at the most angsty of heartstrings — Napolitano (who was amazed this record ever got made, let alone went wide) had — or still has, what do I know — gifts. With the Sisters of Mercy stuff exhausted, a serious rock/pop tide comes in, culminating with, of course, “Joey” (which totally blows weepy doors in the context of its surroundings) and closing with “Tomorrow Wendy,” maybe the most striking tune on board. The post-punk bar scene is dead, sure, trampled by karaoke, but this was surely one of its finest hours.
Grade: A [street date: 7/13/10]
[DVD] Classic Albums: Black Sabbath, Paranoid (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The original VH-1 documentary on the making of Sabbath’s Paranoid in 1970 gets the expanded DVD treatment here. Included with Henry Rollins’s fanboy ravings and Ozzy’s usual fumbling of simple sentences are Iommi’s tips on how to play like God, some footage of the band’s first US tour, stuff about their day jobs, and Geezer Butler’s “Bassment” lair. Everyone talks here, revealing secrets about the record and life as a Sabbathian, including Bill Ward, whom I honestly thought was dead. Much more than a completist’s joint, this is essential to all fans of the band.
Grade: A [street date: 6/29/10]
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