Monthly Archives: March 2011

J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)


For a dude who spent the better part of 25 years redefining
the role of the electric guitar with Dinosaur Jr, it’s hard to believe that J
Mascis had to unplug to deliver his finest hour. Crafted with a bevy of
prolific pals, including Kurt Vile, A Silver Mount Zion violinist Sophie
Trudeau, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses,
fans of the guitarist’s stripped down 1996 live album Martin + Me will greatly appreciate the all-acoustic nature here.


It finds him in top playing form as he weaves pastoral
English folk into the comely title track, West Coast canyon harmonies on
“Not Enough” and hazy campfire rurality of “Can I.” Sure, the fuzz
creeps in here and there thanks to a little pickup abuse, but after listening
to the unfettered beauty of Several
Shades of Why
you will witness a side of this modern rock maven that stands
in stark contrast to the feedback-drenched fury of his prehistoric past.


To Me,” “Not Enough” RON HART

The Sounds – Something To Die For

January 01, 1970



The Swedish quintet is back with their fourth album, Something To Die For, and the question
is: is it as good as their previous efforts, not to mention, worth dying for?
That’s a tough call.  The great thing about
The Sounds is their slow and steady evolution – which for them, works. They
never put something out that pulls the rug from under your feet and alienates
fans by doing something entirely new and unrecognizable. But another question
is, how long will that formula work?


Each album always added a little extra spicy ingredient, but
the heart and souls has always been pop-rock with catchy hooks. This time, it
appears The Sounds are in the mood to dance. Sure, their stuff has always been
dancey, but this time there’s a more beat-driven, clubby, progressive-pop type
of dance going on. It’s a nice new change, but aside from a few excellent
tracks that take advantage of the new sound, the album as a whole doesn’t
really offer anything terribly exciting and most of the tracks are playing it
safe and treading the waters of familiar territory. It’s not necessarily a bad
thing, but after 4 albums under their belt now, maybe it is time to move on, pull that rug from under our feet and do
something entirely new that will blow us away.


“It’s So Easy” opens things up with its slowly accelerating,
throbbing beat. It’s clubby, it’s catchy, and it sets the tone – but it’s
merely only an interlude to the powerhouse dance anthem that follows. “Dance
With The Devil” has a energetic mid-80s club feel and really pumps you up to
run out to the nearest dance floor. It’s fresh, groovy, insanely catchy and
sure to be a crowd pleaser at live shows. But when the ride is over, we get to
“The No No Song.” A decent track but it goes back to the classic pop-rock sound
we’re familiar with. With “Better Off Dead,” we’re back to the dance routine
again – and it’s oh-so-good. This is the first part of the album where you can
feel that the band didn’t know if they wanted to make a dance record or a pop
record. It’s a bit jarring to toggle between two different sounds that evoke
completely different moods for the listener.


Another highlight of the album, which feels like it should
be a single, is the funky ‘80s sounding “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” It sounds like
something Blondie would have recorded in 1985 and has a sort of 80’s freestyle
vibe to it. “Diana,” “Something To Die For,” “Won’t Let Them Tear Us Apart,”
and “The Best Of Me” are all satisfactory tracks that sound like something off
of their second album Dying To Say This
To You
, but don’t have as strong of a  replay value as any song off that album. They’re
nowhere near as memorable as some of their earlier works and almost come off as


Things end with “Wish You Were Here,” a gorgeous acoustic
ballad with just Maja and a guitar. It’s a sweet number that is an interesting
bookend to the powerhouse dance numbers that open the album. So what we have
here is an album with some sort of musical identity crisis. Half the tracks are
progressive-dance-rock, the others are traditional pop-rock songs you would
expect from The Sounds along with an awesome acoustic bonus track. It’s a good
record, not great, with a few really good standout tracks. It’s the first album
by The Sounds that doesn’t sound like a whole. It’s almost as if the band
decided to get experimental, reinvent themselves and go with something new,
then backed down and started a whole new recording session that was more
traditional.  If you’re going to shoot
for something new, go all the way. Overall, fans might dig it, but Living In America and Crossing The Rubicon still remain to be
their best albums. The album would’ve been amazing had they stuck to their guns
and did more numbers along the lines of “Dance With The Devil,” “Better Off
Dead” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”


So Easy” “Dance With The Devil,” “Better Off Dead”  “Yeah Yeah Yeah” “Wish You Were Here” GIL



Ivan Julian – The Naked Flame

January 01, 1970



might view Ivan Julian as merely supporting cast member of Richard Hell &
the Voidoids, but The Naked Flame indicates that Robert Quine wasn’t the only one churning out those yowling


in his first album as a leader in a career after several years of work in the
studio, produces string squalls that take us back to the days of Blank Generation, when they don’t
incorporate Hendrix power chords (the title track), or build on a tight soul
grooves (“That Look,” “The Funky Beat in Siamese”). Several of the songs
channel Hell, either in terms of delivery (the “Oh no” in “A Young Man’s Money”
sounds like it was lifted from “Love Comes In Spurts”) or lyrical perspective
(“Gonna be my day/ just to piss it away”).


by the Argentinian trio Capsula, Julian’s work is less about reliving the past
and more about adding another chapter to it. A subdued cover of Lucinda
Williams’ “Broken Butterfly” proves there’s depth beneath the frenzy as well.


DOWNLOAD: “The Naked Flame,”
“Hardwired” MIKE SHANLEY


Erland & the Carnival – Nightingale

January 01, 1970

Roc/Full Time Hobby)


tuneful, caught between stark simplicity and over-the-top electronic excess, Nightingale is to folk music what the
movie Edward Scissorhands was to
fairytales. That is to say, it is fey and pale and full of shadowy
uncertainties, yet also, when it wishes to be, sublimely, tunefully pop.


makes sense since equal helpings of folk simplicity and Brit Pop romanticism
went into Erland and the Carnival’s pedigree. The band started as a
collaboration between Orkney-born songwriter Erland Cooper and Verve guitarist
Simon Tong (Tong is also in the Good the Bad and the Queen and has done stints
with Blur). The two met at a London
folk night that Tong curates and bonded over a shared love of Jackson C. Frank
(whose “My Name Is Carnival” appeared on their first album).    With Orb drummer and sometime Paul
McCartney sideman David Nock, they released a UK-only debut in 2010. The highlights
from that album — though not the album itself — later made it to the U.S.
in the form of the Trouble in Mind EP.
The title track, with its bittersweet-yet-bouncy keyboard line, its pensive but
hummable chorus (“I didn’t mean to disappoint you/I’m just sorry that I
had to”), was one of the year’s best songs.


Nightingale lacks such an obvious
focal point, but it is far from disappointing. Its textures seem both gauzier
and more complicated, as layers of pop and folk sounds co-exist uneasily in
songs that are never as simple as they seem. “Map of an Englishman,”
the first single, pits the spectral hum of keyboards against straight-up
Nuggets-psyche guitars, in a mix that unsettles even as it bubbles up with
euphoria. That unstable mix of sing-along pop and freaky electronic effects
gets even more pronounced in the first instrumental bridge, where indefinite
auras of distortion ooze over perky flourishes of keyboard. It’s followed by
“Emmeline,” one of the prettiest, and spookiest of these tracks, all
white-gauzed visitations by unquiet, undead keyboards.


is just a starting point for most of these songs, which either blossom quietly
(“Springtime”) or burst more wildly into hedonistic excess
(“Nightingale”). A delicate, folk-influenced melody may lurk
somewhere in all of the cuts, usually most obviously at the beginning, but
these fragile foundations are soon swamped by masses of obscure keyboard
sounds, odd, insistent percussion and rock-psychedelic guitars.


Nightingale seems like a step
sideways for Erland and the Carnival, perhaps an early, not-quite-final attempt
at going beyond Trouble in Mind‘s
simpler, immediately gripping aesthetic. A bit overdone in spots, arrestingly
conflicted in others, it may be a work in progress, but the progress itself is
worth listening to.


DOWNLOAD: “Map of an Englishman,”

Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust

January 01, 1970

(Yep Roc)

When the self-titled “Jesus of Cool” hit upon 1979’s Labour of Lust, Nick Lowe was riding the tidal wave of production
perfection (Elvis Costello’s best) and pop song craft. Still, this? The acoustic
strum and smarm of “Cruel to Be Kind” (his only real hit). His pinched nasal
vocals on “Cracking Up” and his processed growl through the click of “Big Kick,
Plain Scrap.” The swish of “American Squirm” and the crackle of Lowe’s Rockpile
(guitarists Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner, plus drummer Terry Williams)


Perfection. Best, though, was the utter simplicity of the
echoing “You Make Me” where you can hear every lick of Lowe’s wet lips slapping
against his teardrops. Ahhh.


Unlike Yep Roc’s vastly expanded 2008 reissue of Jesus of Cool, this skimps on bonus
material, but luckily the cuts not on earlier CD reissues – B-side “Basing
Street” and Lowe classic “American Squirm” – are gems.


Make Me,” “Skin Deep” A.D. AMOROSI

Vanity Theft – Get What You Came For

January 01, 1970

(Vigilante Music)


Neil Sedaka may have spawned
the most obvious statement ever when he recorded “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in
1962, yet some 50 years later the ladies of Vanity Theft can’t seem to let it
go. Where Sedaka crooned innocently about love lost before moving on to the
next fling (“Next Door to an Angel” was released shortly thereafter), Vanity
Theft repeats the heartburn ad nauseum on Get
What You Came For
with 10 gutless tracks that compare a sorry ex to a
“Trainwreck” and threatens to dismantle him “Limb from Limb.”


Sure, revenge songs have
their place (how many times did you hear the name Cee-Lo last year?), but the
main issue with Get What You Came For is that for every unstable relationship in Vanity Theft’s queue, there’s an
equally unbalanced perspective of the punk rock angst the twenty-somethings try
to use as a medium to express themselves.


Joan Jett had her moment with
“I Hate Myself for Loving You,” but try as Vanity Theft might, the attempt at
emulating the singer only puts more focus on the nouns comprising their band
name. Where Jett had bar brawl bravery, Vanity Theft sheepishly opens their
lock-and-key diary. Where Jett had a pulsing backbeat, Vanity Theft has
starry-eyed synths. The best moments of Get
What You Came For
(“Trainwreck”) bring to mind a solid primer of the
Donnas, but the lasting finish is a muddled top coat of quick skips that peel
away at the flaws of a Paramore or Morningwood – strong vocals but stalling in
instrumentation and track-to-track originality. The one change up is the
Auto-Tuned final track “Missing Teeth,” which just creates a further gap for
listeners who have stuck with the album to the end.


Vanity Theft has a reputation
for offering a strong live set (they won a local-band slot on 2009’s Warped
Tour), but if this album is supposed to support their stage presence, fans may
not find they got what they came for.





Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)


Ever since a now-mythologized
bootleg surfaced from their very first show together at Cake Shop in New York City in January
2008, fans have rejoiced in the long-overdue return of former Drive Like Jehu/Hot
Snakes singer/guitarist Rick Froberg as the frontman for veteran garage punk
hopefuls Obits. And for its second Sub Pop classic, the New York-based quartet
delivers a dozen short, sharp blasts of sonic exhaust that fully coalesces their
signature propulsive streetcore.


Recorded by Girls Against
Boys guitarist Eli Janney, the band further enhances its fire by punching up
the Dead Boys bomp on “No Fly List,” Link Wray’s drag strip twang on
“New August” and some sinewy Ventures-cum-Dead Kennedys proto-surf via
killer pair instrumentals “Spot the Pikey” and “I Blame Myself.”
Moody, Standard and Poo# is the sound
of a grizzled great from rock’s true underground reclaiming his rightful place
on the college radio charts once and for all.


Fly List,” “New August” RON HART

Hickoids – Kicking It With the Twits

January 01, 1970

 (Saustex Media)



The Hickoids have been knockin’ around Austin and San
Antonio for over 25 years, cranking out red-hot cow-punk music, and while they
may be all hat and no cattle, they more than make up for that with their
naughty, snotty punkitude. Like Keith Richards, one has to marvel that they’ve
lived to tell the tale. In fact, one original member is deceased and another
has been a guest at the Graybar Hotel for two decades. They dropped their first
album Corntaminated in 1985, a feat
that would have killed most mere mortals, considering the drug and alcohol haze
it was thrown together under. Even though it wasn’t exactly a shining first
album, the band was voted Best Country Band at the Austin Music Awards that
year. Their second album, Waltz-A-Cross-Dress
, produced with the able assistance of Spot, from SST and Black Flag,
created the proverbial silk purse out of what started out as a not so silky hog


Trail boss Jeff Smith and trusty, long-time sidekick Davy
Jones, with a ranch house full of mostly new hands, plus a couple of friends,
have hit the dusty trail again, this time rustling a few classic tunes from the
Brits. Fond of tossing a few covers into their sets to keep their besotted
audience even further off balance, they dusted off eight of their favorites for
this odds and sods collection. The tunes range from the swinging Mod-era
London, through the short Glam era, on to safety pin-clipped punk rock, which
was actually only about a dozen years down the road from the foppish Mod-era
rock. Even though Kicking It may be
off-handedly dismissed by some blighters as just a cover’s record, it’s the
inspired playing on it that gives it serious pedigree. I’ve always said, ‘never
do a cover unless you can improve upon the original,’ or maybe I just heard it
somewhere, but they really polish up these golden oldies to a blinding new


The fun kicks off with “Pictures of Lily,” which could have
been rendered by Charlie Pickett & the Eggs. A plush velvet Edwardian
jacketed Who tune transformed into beer joint roadhouse rock.  Then they whip it up into a real lather on
“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In the Shadows?” with the inclusion
of a soaring pedal steel guitar. Interestingly, Jeff’s vocals aren’t too far
off from Mick’s.  On The Move’s
“Brontosaurus,” they clip a nose-ring on it and drive its ass around the block
in high gear. Sax accompaniment helps pump up the energy. Never being much of
an Elton John fan, I was very skeptical about a cover of “Bennie and the Jets,”
but it turned out to be one of the better tunes in the group. They also met the
challenge of attempting Eno’s “Needle In the Camel’s Eye,” quite the stretch,
considering the band, but come away with a nice treatment. The album finishes
with “Neat Neat Neat,” which is handled in damned fine fashion. Mott the Hoople
and Slade are represented as well in the lineup.


 DOWNLOAD: “Have You
Seen Your Mother Baby…”, “Brontosaurus.”  BARRY ST. VITUS


Hunx and His Punx – Too Young to Be In Love

January 01, 1970



and His Punx answer the music question, What would’ve happened if the
Shangri-Las brought in a gay male friend to front the band? If it seems to be an unlikely premise, the opening bars of “Lovers Lane” set the record straight.
It’s all there – the “Be My Baby” drumbeat; the “Duke of Earl” chord
progression; girl group harmonies; even the death of the romantic boy interest;
along with slightly nasal Hunx (aka Seth Bogart) singing about this young man.
For the next 30 or so minutes, the band plows through 10 songs that keep the
party mood going, even as hearts get broken and won again.


things get a little repetitive. “Lover’s Lane” could have used a middle eight;
“That’s the Curse of Being Young” repeats the title a few too many times in the
coda.  But if the songwriting errs
slightly on the side of primitive, the execution does not. The three female
Punx have the vocal harmonies nailed, which give the songs an appropriate amount
of drama. They don’t play with a whole lot of instrumental flash, which should
appeal both to fans of raw punk and ’60s pop. Finally, Bogart’s choice to sing
about the boys, much like predecessors Ronnie Spector and Mary Weiss, should
only bring us closer to understanding that gays and straights have more in
common that we realize. We all want that handsome boy and know what it means when
the boyfriend’s back in town.


DOWNLOAD: “Too Young to Be In
Love,” “If You’re Not Here.” MIKE SHANLEY



Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen

January 01, 1970



No, you are not forgiven if you never heard of Lift to Experience. Niggling details such as the
Denton, TX, power (term used demonstrably) trio’s painfully brief, one-EP/one-double-LP
tenure a decade ago won’t let you off the hook; 2001’s The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads was not only one of that year’s most
stridently stirring releases, but also of the entire decade.


Your chance to pay penance for your ignorance, however,
arrives with erstwhile frontman Josh T. Pearson’s long overdue solo debut.
Comprising mostly country-folk acoustic balladeering, it’s not as sonically
apocalyptic as that ’01 album, but it’s no less devastating, emotionally
speaking – almost like he is the one
doing the genuflecting, particularly on such tracks as the minimalist, Tim
Buckley-meets-John Fahey “Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ” and the violin-strewn
antebellum folk of “Country Dumb.”


Pearson recently stormed his old Texas stomping grounds (or
thereabouts, in Austin) during a series of riveting performances at SXSW,
including one at Central Presbyterian Church in which, after verbally
genuflecting before the venue (“It feels good to be in the house of the Lord,”
he whispered), he spotlighted much of the new album in equal measures drama and
humility. Where the hell did Pearson disappear to after LtE’s dissolution? Sporadic
solo performance sightings aside, he eventually relocated to Paris and – now this. Reacquaint yourselves.


DOWNLOAD: “Country
Dumb,” “Thou Art Loosed” FRED MILLS