Monthly Archives: July 2010

Falty DL – Phreqaflex

January 01, 1970

(Planet Mu)

 

www.planet.mu

 

Even with all the baffling subgenre names available to tack onto his
records, Drew Lustman’s distinctive work as Falty DL isn’t easily boxed into
one-sentence blurbs. Jungle, hip hop, house, and ambient dubstep play a role in
his warm, off-kilter dance music, and he closed-up 2009 with no fewer than four
rhythmically and texturally complicated releases under his belt, each one
wordless outside of vocals he’d borrowed from other vinyl and manipulated with
effects.

 

A four-songer on the Dutch Rush Hour Recordings label in early 2010 put
Lustman’s affinity for subdued though typically unsteady house on display,
while the Phreqaflex EP marks a more charged outing, where the NYC
producer serves up the hardest 2-step drum patterns he’s offered yet. Jumpy
stop/starts and nicked Rhodes spring randomly into place for the title track,
while “Because You” cracks and sputters with the same energy that
Lustman’s recent remix does for UK
dubstep purveyor Ital Tek’s “Moment In Blue.” Fashioned with a sample
of Lauryn Hill dealing doo wop, Phreqaflaex closer “My Friends Will
Always Say…” is both lush and explosive. The husky vocal and long, deep
breaths flow nicely over the meatiest bassline in the pack, with Lustman
employing a melody somewhat similar to the one charted on his “To New
York,” from 2009’s Love Is A Liability. While this release’s first seven
minutes are strong enough, “My Friends…” really cooks; it’s a
serving of gorgeous and seductive garage that builds on the breakout records
the artist issued last year.

 

DOWNLOAD: Grab all three tracks. DOMINIC
UMILE

 

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinners Semester at America’s Holiest University

January 01, 1970

(Grand
Central Publishing)

 

www.hachettebookgroup.com

 

BY JOHN B. MOORE

 

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinners Semester at America’s Holiest University (Grand Central Publishing) could not possibly have been
written by anyone else.

 

Sure, the journalist/author Kevin Roose is a novice (he was still in college
when he researched and started writing this book), but that’s exactly what
makes this expose on college life at an evangelical university come off genuine:
Roose has none of the cynicism and practiced story-telling clichés of a
longtime reporter.

 

The premise is so obvious, it’s a wonder no one has
attempted before. Surprisingly, he manages to turn out a book that’s
refreshingly original. Roose, a sometime Quaker from a family of Liberals is your
average Left-wing kid at Brown
University. A journalism
student, he decides to spend a semester imbedded as a student at Rev. Jerry
Falwell’s Liberty
University – one of the
most conservative evangelical colleges in the country. Roose didn’t exactly lie
about who he was, but wasn’t exactly forthcoming either, saying little more
than he was a transfer student from Rhode
Island.

 

Some of the findings are predictable: Homophobia? Check.
Plenty of prayer circles? You bet. Irrational understanding of how the real
world works?  Is the Pope… never mind. But
he also found kids who are questioning the rules they are living under. Like
his hall mate from Jersey who thinks about sex
24/7, knows he will likely lose his virginity over the summer and feels immense
guilt over it. Liberty
even has a few Democrats (gasp).

 

Roose does a phenomenal job of taking a potentially
one-dimensional study and adding in all the details, highlighting not only the
expected, but the unforeseen as well. Roose even managed to get one of the last
interviews with Falwell before the one-time Conservative kingmaker died.

 

 

 

Miniature Tigers – FORTRESS

January 01, 1970

(Modern
Art)

 

www.modernartrecords.com

 

 

With
its random falsettos, Gypsy-esque melodies, old world rhythms and Brit pop
flare, Miniature Tigers’ latest effort, FORTRESS,
is the perfect headphone music. Released July 27 on Modern Art Records, the
Brooklyn indie quartet’s follow-up to their debut, Tell it to the Volcano, is easy to get lost into you jump from whimsical pogo pop (“Mansion
of Misery”), to Beatles-meets-Boo Radleys pop (“Rock N’ Roll Mountain Troll”);
find yourself in a magical daydream (“Dark Tower”) then on a digital 8-bit
dancefloor (“Gold Skull”); bobbing to ‘70s peppy AM radio (“Egyptian Robe”)
then living in group vocal oddity (“Japanese Woman Living in My Closet,”
“Bullfighter Jacket”); and accidentally meditating to peculiar Eastern chimes
(“Tropical Birds”). 

 

But FORTRESS is best précised by its feathery,
beguiling closer, “Coyote Enchantment”it’s
a peyote-induced desert dream, where your ’80s-era Prince spirit guide rips
apart the guitar, indigenous tribal chants caress your skin, Casio synths
trickle through your ears, and bonfire sparks dance around furiously while a sensual
female chanteuse repeats a single word over and over again. You can even say
it’s almost cosmic.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Bullfighter Jacket,” “Egyptian Robe,” “Japanese Woman Living In My Closet,”
“Coyote Enchantment” ANNAMARYA SCACCIA

 

Germs – Live at the Starwood: December 3, 1980

January 01, 1970

(Rhino
Handmade)

 

www.rhino.com

 

There
are two ways to look at the Germs, 30 years after their original lifespan. They
epitomized the original punk rock aesthetic, where anyone could get up onstage
and perform, no matter how tuneless or whacked out on goofballs they were. In
Penelope Spheeris’ 1980 film, The Decline
of Western Civilization
, vocalist Darby Crash stumbles around the stage,
oblivious to people drawing on his shirtless body, mumbling lyrics with little regard
for the music being played. While other bands in the film talk seriously about
their aesthetics, the Germs come off like half-witted spoiled brats, laughing
as they recall finding a dead house painter in their yard. They didn’t feel bad
for him “because I hate painters,” Crash’s friend Michelle admits. Why waste
energy hating the government when easier targets exist in the backyard?

 

But the
Germs also proved that they could be cohesive and a lot more articulate than
most punk bands. Their token studio album, (GI) presents a taut, fierce band that paved the way for hardcore without resorting
to the one-dimensional attack that sunk that style. Guitarist Pat Smear
combined Johnny Thunders-esque string bends with power chords. He could also
write riffs that varied in tempo and attack from song to song. And Crash’s
lyrics – when they weren’t sending listeners to the dictionary to look up words
like “inculcated” – were articulate and thoughtful, especially for a kid in his
early 20s, realizing there was something beyond anarchy and destruction than
mere buzzwords.

 

Four
days before his fatal overdose of heroin (allegedly intentional), the Germs
played their final show at Los Angeles’
Starwood. Two of the songs appeared on the 1981 EP What We Do Is Secret, along with some between-song banter, but this
marks the first complete release of the 25-song set. The band plays with the
same ferocity of the studio album. Drummer Don Bolles plays like a pile driver,
even at the rapid tempos. Smear (who went on to work with Nirvana and the Foo
Fighters) tears things up and Lorna Doom, who could barely play bass two years
earlier, is simple but solid.

 

The
only problem is… Darby. The performance brings back memories of the scene in The Decline where the band talks about
the problem of getting him to sing into the microphone. Half the time, his
voice is inaudible. The rest of the time, he enters in the wrong place, forgets
those brilliant lyrics or sounds like any screamo kid yelling for the sake of
yelling. This takes any sense of discovery in the rarely heard “Lion’s Share” (recorded
for use in the Al Pacino film Cruising)
since the tinny sound and lack of vocals don’t leave much to hold onto. In a
cover of “Public Image,” he sounds even more uninterested than John Lydon on a
bad night, although his pun of “Public scrimmage,” is amusing.

 

Rhino
Handmade has done a good job of making the disc more appealing through its
elaborate packaging. It evokes the Germs’ DIY aesthetic, with liner notes
printed and folded like a punk zine, with a copy of the band’s original setlist
and a flyer for the show. In his liner notes, Jonathan Gold describes it as one
of best shows the band ever played. That may be, but you need a DVD to fully
appreciate it.

 

Still Live at the Starwood might not be the
best primer for someone new to the Germs mystique, but fans who remember the
good and the bad of this band will probably devour this set. It makes an
appropriate bookend with the semi-legitimate releases of the band’s 1977 performance
debut, where Crash’s taunts with the audience were nearly more listenable than
the actual set. The singer, who sounds more like Welcome Back Kotter character Arnold Horshack than your typical
punk rocker, tells the audience, “You’re not going to see this again,” which
could mean he was already planning his demise. That offers more proof that the
man once known as Jan Paul Beahm had more going on upstairs than most people
would ever realize.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Strange
Notes,” “Let’s Pretend.” MIKE
SHANLEY

 

 

Martin Sexton – Sugarcoating

January 01, 1970

(Kitchen
Table)

www.martinsexton.com

 

Martin Sexton
may not be a household name – not yet, anyway – but in the intensely
competitive singer/songwriter realms of greater New England, he’s managed to
eke out an impressive reputation, one that encompasses more than half a dozen
albums and graduation from major label status to running his own record label.
So too, he glides easily between genres, from breezy folk ruminations to serious
contemplation, with the studied deliberation of a master musician.

 

Given a title
like Sugarcoating, one might expect that Sexton’s opting for frivolous intents and only
momentary distraction. Yet it’s a credit to his powers of persuasion that he
can produce such amiable melodies while instilling them with such deliberate
purpose. Take, for example, the piercing commentary imbued in the title track:

 

“I wonder why nobody wonders why
With all the sweet, sweet, sweet sugarcoating
The nightly news gone entertainment biz
And politicians out showboatin’
One day somebody tell it like it is.”

 

Still, the most indelible truths Sexton uncovers are those that are less
profound, but more connected with everyday existence. The sturdy, steadfast
“Found” examines the difficulty of communicating in an age of increasing
technology. “Always Got Away” is a heartfelt reflection on missed opportunities
and diminished possibilities. “Long Haul” purveys a down home delivery to
espouse the joys of a committed relationship. 
And if the plucky ragtime rhythms of “Easy on the Eyes” and the jaunty
“Friends Again” showcase lesser concerns, no matter. They provide added
enhancements to complement this exceptional set of songs.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Found,” “Easy on the
Eyes,” “Just to be Alive” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

January 01, 1970

(MVD Visual, 77 Minutes)

 

www.mvdb2b.com

 

BY RON HART


Although
technically I should count Modell’s Shopping Center or Times Square Stores as
such on a literal level, the first proper record store I ever went to was a converted burger joint called Titus Oaks on Old Country Road in
Westbury, Long Island.

 

I
originally started going there with my cousins to rent the old WWF Coliseum
home videos, but soon enough I began tagging along with my uncle on his routine
runs there to dig through their endless bins of vinyl, thus forever inflicting
me with an addiction that might be cheaper and safer than heroin or the crack
rock, but harboring an appetite of need that is just as voracious. And nearly
25 years after walking through the doors of my first mom-and-pop shop, my
insatiability for that routine run still flows through my veins like so much
hemoglobin; which is the exact reason why self-described “guerilla filmmaker”
Brendan Toller’s critically-lauded documentary I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent
Record Store
(MVD Visual) hit me with an emotional chord normally
designated for those abused animal commercials with the Sarah McLachlan bed
music.

 

Over the course of 77 minutes,
Toller explains the slow, torturous death of this great American establishment
by utilizing appropriately placed public domain stock footage, old newsclips
(particularly a great snippet of Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Lars Ulrich of
Metallica bickering about Napster on The Charlie Rose Show), killer
animation from Matt Newman, and an eye-popping guest list of pundits including
the likes of Thurston Moore, Ian Mackaye, Noam Chomsky, Mike Watt, Lenny Kaye,
Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz, Glenn Branca, Patterson Hood of the Drive-By
Truckers, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, Of Montreal guitarist BP Helium,
legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen and punk scribe Legs McNeil.

 

Much of the rhetoric here lays the
blame (and rightly so) at the obvious culprits and perpetrators responsible for
the demise of those shops: FCC deregulation under the 1996 Telecommunications
Act and the resulting (revolting?) rise of corporate FM world-eater Clear
Channel in the legislation’s wake; MTV; radio payola; CD price gouging and the
antagonistic relationship between record labels and consumers; the advent of
big box chain stores; and of course the dreaded specter of online file sharing
and illegal downloading. And each one of these sociopolitical afflictions most
certainly levied a heavy hand in the hobbling of record store culture in the USA, which has
seen the closing of over 3,000 indie stores across the nation in the past
decade.

 

However, all the finger pointing aside, the film
does quite poignantly encapsulate the emotions of shoppers like myself whenever
one of our hallowed havens of vinyl does fall prey to the symptoms of the modern
age. Particularly moving are the segments where Toller captures the mood of two
stores in the process of shuttering their doors – a pair of sorely missed
institutions of Connecticut crate digging, Middletown’s Record Express and Danbury’s Trash American Style – by
effectively documenting an equal balance of anger, sadness, nostalgia and
uncertainty amidst both the store owners and their longtime patrons. One of the
doc’s best scenes, in fact, features a defiant Malcolm Tent, who ran Trash
American Style out of a Danbury strip mall for 16 years before the landlord decided
to revoke their lease to make way for the expansion of the neighboring
Minuteman Press, peddling vinyl on a college campus and, in true punk fashion,
spitting a quote from G.G. Allin to the camera undoubtedly aimed at his
corporate detractors:

 

“I’m still here, and I’m not giving up!”

 

There is
a thin thread of optimism that does weave itself throughout the context of I Need That Record!, validating the
parenthetical statement in the flick’s subtitle by highlighting the opening of
a new punk-and-hardcore shop in CT as well as the prominent profiling of several
nationally renowned stores such as Boston’s Newbury Comics, Chicago’s Reckless
Records, Culture Clash in Toledo, OH, and Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, MN,
all of which seem to be doing fairly well despite the grim economic climate.

 

However, the
complete blind eye to the many shops in both New York
and New Jersey
will certainly prove to be quite disheartening to any Tri-Stater viewing this
DVD. I mean, come on, Toller has guys who literally define New York City music like
Moore, Branca, Kaye and Frantz talking about record shops, yet he doesn’t include
the likes of Other Music, Kim’s Video, Academy Records, Rebel Rebel, A-1 or
even the recently departed reggae mecca Jammyland in the film? And that’s not
even scratching the surface of the dearth of brick-and-mortar shops located
beyond the bridges and tunnels of money makin’ Manhattan, a veritable hunter’s
paradise that includes Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ, the world famous Princeton
Record Exchange in Princeton, Mr. Cheapo’s on Long Island, Sound Fix in
Brooklyn, Flipside Records and Tapes in Pompton Lakes, NJ, Rhino Records and
Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz, NY (a rarity in itself being two successful shops
that peacefully co-exist not even a thousand feet from one another), House of
Guitars in Rochester, NY… the list can go on and on and on and on. To
not have included at least one or two of these establishments here is complete
and total heresy in my opinion, and truly does leave the lingering scent of
incompletion. But then again, I’m sure there are folks in California, another state teeming with
quality record shops that seemed to have been overlooked by the filmmaker, are
feeling the same way.

 

Nevertheless,
I Need That Record! The Death (or
Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store
, in all of its
imperfections, is a sobering and worthwhile expose documenting the demise of a
genuine American institution that will definitely strike a chord with anyone
who spent a Saturday afternoon on his or her knees thumbing through a post office
bin of dusty old vinyl. Just make sure you stick around for the DVD’s
entertaining extras, which includes extended interviews with many of the
pundits and is well worth sitting through. You get to hear Lenny Kaye reminisce
about his first trip to the record shop (Vogel’s in Brooklyn, where he picked
up 45s of Bobby Darin’s “Queen of the Hop” and Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People
Eater”) and Thurston Moore talking about his first concert as a kid (a solo
show by Rick Wakeman of Yes, oddly enough) and discovering The Stooges, Can and
Amon Düül by way of the cut-out bin at his local Woolworth’s.

 

Jimmy Webb – Just Across the River

January 01, 1970

(E1
Music)

 

www.e1entertainment.com

 

 

It’s
odd that this album recorded in Nashville by Webb is being promoted as the
great, long-awaited comeback of the late-1960s/early-1970s wunderkind
songwriter of “Up, Up and Away,” “Wichita Lineman,” “MacArthur Park” and “All I
Know” fame. On Just Across the River, he performs selections from his catalog, often in duets with well-known Boomer
vocalists.

 

But
Webb – who had become frustrated in the 1970s when his own albums failed to
sell and basically retreated from public view – already made a notable comeback
with 1996’s Ten Easy Pieces,  featuring him playing piano, often solo, on a
selection of some of his finest older material.

 

His
appearance and solo performance at South by Southwest that year was a
revelation – one of the more notable legacy resurrections of that fest’s
history. He and his music have stayed in the public eye since – Michael
Feinstein’s 2003 Only One Life was an
album of Webb songs, and the two played concerts together in support.

 

Considering
that this and Ten Easy Pieces overlap
on five songs, this isn’t a radical new step in his career. One suspects Webb
hopes the guests – including Vince Gill, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Jackson
Browne and Linda Ronstadt – will finally help him sell some albums on his own
in meaningful numbers. Fred Mollin produced this with Webb and backing band
recording tracks in just two days; guest vocals were added.

 

It
might sell well, too, although this album loses some of the intimacy of Ten Easy Pieces and flirts with (and
even crosses over into) blanded-out MOR with a few of the choices, especially
Michael McDonald on the new “Where Words End” and a too-familiar, mildly shaky
take on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” with Glen Campbell. And Joel’s bright,
youthful voice on “Wichita Lineman” sounds like it’s had the aural equivalent
of a cosmetic makeover.

 

Webb
as a singer on his 1970s albums was almost painfully earnest and not very tuneful.
But he’s really learned how to nuance and caress a lyric without pushing too
hard. So the duets are true duets – he’s not just trying to hide behind “real”
singers.

 

He
sounds quite good sharing “I Was Too Busy Loving You” with J.D. Souther and “P.F.
Sloan” with Jackson Browne – you can hear how he must have really wanted to be
a sensitive “gentleman of the canyon” in the early 1970s, hanging out in the
rustic hills of L.A. and writing romantic hits for the Eagles. (Could someone
please cover Webb’s “P.F. Sloan” and the Replacements’ “Alex Chilton” as a
medley/mash-up?) The Oklahoma-born Webb lets his country-rock roots show on
“Oklahoma Nights” with Vince Gill and “Highwayman” with Mark Knopfler. (Gill
doesn’t add much to “Oklahoma Nights.” One wishes Webb had chosen Arlo Guthrie
– who once did a fine reading of the song – as his partner.)

 

“Galveston,”
a Vietnam-era protest song whose melancholy tone was obscured by Campbell’s
upbeat performance on the hit version, does finally get the an interpretation
it deserves courtesy of Lucinda Williams. Initially slowed down and bluesy,
with Williams’ ruggedly soulful, desperation-tinged voice pushing Webb to sing
it out like a confession, it’s like a less-ethereal cousin to “Sweet Old
World.”

 

But
good as it is, the best song here is Webb’s solo take on one of his earliest
songs, the folk-rock ballad “Do What You Gotta Do.” It’s one of his simplest
lyrically, yet also one of his finest.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Galveston,” 
“Do What You Gotta Do” STEVEN
ROSEN

 

Love Language – Libraries

January 01, 1970

(Merge)

 

www.mergerecords.com

 

There comes a time when some one needs to spout, “Enough is
enough!” — even if  some journals find
an artist good and/or buzz-worthy enough for high ratings, conversations about
his writing process, and glowing featurettes. Even if the artist seems wounded,
and humble, and puts his mother on his album cover. And even if his record
company gives him the red-carpet treatment. Still. There comes a time when a reviewer has endured a brain-freezing quantity of fluffy
new “pop,” which is often presented as more important or groundbreaking via any
or all of these adjectives: “dream,” “visual,’ “alternative,” “retro,” “indie.”

 

During Pop’s various glory days, some artists managed one or
two shining moments but weren’t expected to churn out one, let alone multiple,
full-lengths of comparable material. Examples include Mungo Jerry, Pilot, and
Thurston Harris, who shined when his “Little Bitty Pretty One” kicked the ass
of Bobby Day’s version in ’57. The Beatles and their talented contemporaries ushered
in the concept of pop musicians as artistes/full-length producers. Forty-some
years later, consumers are bringing the whole thing full circle; creating “hits,”
download by single download.

 

Full-lengths can be wonderful. Keeping the (new,
contemporary) Pop designation, several artists have made excellent records (at
least half the songs were very good, and some sort of thematic aura held) this
year, among them: Surfer Blood, Avi Buffalo, and Ash Reiter (the Morning
Benders put out half a great one). But much recent pop is as banal as Jan and
Dean or Doris Day, and as likely to be forgotten within five years. And with
that in mind, the reviewer is forced to conclude that Stuart McLamb of the Love
Language is wearing no clothes – or, more to the point, that he sounded better
without a wardrobe of Spectorish density leading to restlessness and head-banging
(not the fun kind) and instead indulging a lo-fi, found-art splendor as
exemplified by “Sparxxx” on last year’s The
Love Language.

 

Since McLamb sporadically emits a decent melody, but generally
lacks bridges and/or masterful choruses, it’s hard to get behind producer B.J.
Burton’s purpose – other than to be called The New Phil Spector – in thickening,
and often over-lengthening, McLamb’s resulting monotonous riffs. The few songs
that manage to survive this treatment are listed below. But something should
probably be pointed out: One of these, “Anthophobia,” sounds an awful lot like
Beach House’s “Walk in the Park.” It’s not like any plagiarism seems to have
been intended. It’s more like the current crop of over-lauded songsmiths is drinking
from a communal trough of energy drinks, perhaps licensed by Supertramp. And our
hypothetical reviewer needs to share that she is weary of thin, high-pitched
vocals, and that in this case she’s trying not to resent McLamb for reminding
her of Pee Wee Herman, who she adores.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Heart
to Tell,” “Horophones,” “This Blood Is Our Own,” “Anthophobia” MARY LEARY

 

 

Shawn David McMillen – Dead Friends

January 01, 1970

(Tompkins Square)

 

www.tompkinssquare.com

 

Shawn David McMillen comes
off as something of a “jack of all trades” on Dead Friends. He plays
acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, electronics, percussion, harmonica,
and he sings and composes his own material. But like many ambitious artists, he
stretches himself thin in too many directions. McMillen’s main bag seems to
come out of modern folk/blues guitar, and his tunes in this style are often
beautiful – but just as often uneven. His moments of clarity, usually spurred
by heartfelt acoustic guitar playing, are regularly undercut by serious lapses
in focus.

 

Ironically, this seeming
lack of focus is tapped to create some of the recording’s better tracks. The
flip side to McMillen’s folk/blues tendency are his avant/psychedelic/noise
leanings. “The Moth,” “Night Train,” and “Beladona Along The Brazos” are often
intentional, claustrophobic messes of clattering percussion, manipulated
electronics, and unintelligible buried murmurings. Arrhythmic barrages of sound
combine with Captain Beefheart style psychedelic blues in “The Moth.”
Particularly dissonant is “Night Train” with it’s grating, distorted, cranked
up electric guitar fighting against the one, simple melodic piano line coursing
through the entire tortured piece. This tune’s ending comes off like an
abruptly terminated existential argument.

 

These days “dark” seems to
be in vogue and it occasionally feels like some bands try to capitalize on it
as a trend. McMillen doesn’t seem to be posing. The recording’s title is
self-explanatory in its darkness, his more tune-like pieces have a strong
melancholic streak, and the CD’s artwork seems like an intentional downer. The
more ‘avant-garde’ tracks strain against self-imposed walls that can’t be
broken through and end up feeling like lost battles. Occasionally interesting
music but often very difficult and rather average.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Moth,”
“A Morning With Dead Friends” JOHN DWORKIN

 

 

Streets On Fire – This Is Fancy

January 01, 1970

(Self-Released)

 

www.thestreetsonfire.com

 

The Streets on Fire missed the dance-punk revival by some
five or six years, about the ideal span to forget how tired everyone had become
of the manic, pounding beats, the epileptic arm flailing, the hip-jutting, the
tortured yelping, the relentless onslaught of hi-hat and bass.  It’s good timing on the part of this Chicago four-piece,
because there was never anything wrong with this sound, not when it was done
with conviction. The Streets on Fire have that in spades. It sounds like their
hair really is on fire here on this debut, and that is always, always a good
thing.

 

There are two killer songs on This Is Fancy. The opener,
“No One’s Fucking to the Radio,” fuses new wave synths and scratchy guitars to
rapid, ragged drumming.  The distinctive
element, here and elsewhere, is singer Chadwick’s voice. There’s an electric
shock running through it, a desperate, nearly painful energy, as he urges us to
“just toss those records out” repeatedly, at ever higher, more hysterical tones.
It’s an impressive, physically discomforting performance, something like Davey
Henderson in the Fire Engines.  “Astronaut Love Triangle,” later on, is cut
from the same manic cloth, riding a buzzing, subliminal bassline and a mess of
clattery drums. The subject seems to be lust in space, a silly topic pursued
with gleaming-eyed obsessiveness with a bit of foot fetish. “I can see your
feet through your space boots/That means that all of you is mine” yelps
Chadwick, and if he sees the humor in the line, you can’t tell from his
delivery.

 

 Chadwick is the
flashiest, most entertaining factor in This Is Fancy, but he’s certainly
not working alone. “Chadwick Shut Up!” allows a long, pedal-altered guitar solo
to erupt out of its hard, rhythmic foundations, a bit of space rock wedged in a
post-punk carryall.  Things get even
trippier in the long, psychedelic closer “Color/Stereo” and heavy, sludgy
“Hello, From Eastern Europe.” There’s a blues influence, too, that brings to
mind the UK’s
Archie Bronson Outfit, and comes out best in the complicatedly clapped, 12/8
circling of “Fancy,” one of the disc’s few unambiguous ballads.

 

Yet for the most part, Streets on Fire succeeds best when
they rampage heedlessly over boxy, late-1970s beats, leaving just enough space
for Chadwick to preen and pout and shock. There are not too many frontmen who
can get away with lines like, “I told you once, I told you twice, I shake my
finger, tell you nice…If not, I don’t care, I’ll pull down your underwear”
(from “Chadwick Shut Up”) and when they come along, you have to make the most
of them.

 

DOWNLOAD: “No One’s Fucking to the Radio” “Astronaut
Love Triangle” JENNIFER KELLY