Monthly Archives: March 2018

KLAUS SCHULZE – La Vie Electronique 1.0 (2LP)

Album: La Vie Electronique 1.0 (2LP)

Artist: Klaus Schulze

Label: One Way Static/Light In The Attic

Release Date: February 09, 2018

www.onewaystatic.com

The Upshot: Electronica maven and godfather’s trawl through his early-‘70s archives now gets a vinyl rollout.

Synth pioneer Klaus Schulze, one of the godfathers of modern electronic music and a major influence on the ambient artists who emerged during the ‘90s, first came to the public’s attention as the drummer for early Tangerine Dream. He only lasted for one year and one album before moving on to form Ash Ra Tempel with Manuel Gottsching, but that, too, would be short-lived, as the restless compower/multiinstrumentalist soon embarked upon a long, fruitful solo career that also included scoring a number of thriller and horror films. His 1972 debut Irrlicht remains a Krautrock touchstone, and he’s been consistently intriguing over the years, although his music can admittedly come across at times as a bit too new age-y for some tastes. (Fun fact: Schulze also was part of the early ‘70s ad hoc Krautrock “supergroup” the Cosmic Jokers. Look ‘em up.)

La Vie Electronique compiles extremely rare and unreleased early material, some of which he and coproducer/archivist Klaus Mueller came across in musty old tape boxes that were so haphazardly labeled that they typically had to come up with songtitles after the fact. In 2009 the duo began releasing the material on CD, and since then they’ve delivered no less than 16 volumes (the 16th one, from 2015, was a whopping 5CD set). T

The series is now being rolled out on vinyl, and part one of the original 3CD La Vie Electronique, here titled, 1.0 is both mesmerizing and meditative. The lengthy, three-part “I Was Dreaming I Was Awake And Then I Woke Up And Found Myself Asleep”—which is broken up into “I Was Dreaming I Was Awake,” “And Then I Woke Up,” and “And Found Myself Asleep”—in particular is rewarding, with waves of synths initially ebbing and flowing like ocean currents gently rocking the boat, then gradually growing more forceful and direct, ultimately culminating in a pulsing, throbbing, unsettling crescendo. The 14-minute “Dynamo” is also fascinating to absorb, an electronic approximation of piloting across the galaxy and being sucked slowly into a black hole. The album ends in a brief (24-seconds) Schulze interview which, since it’s in German, serves as a fittingly inscrutable coda. A must-own for Schulze fanatics.

This set, then, is the first in the Schulze vinyl series that One Way Static/Light In The Attic has initiated; the second installment of the first volume, La Vie Electronique 1.1, arrived on March 23, and it will be interesting to see if they get to the 16th volume, particularly if you consider that a 5CD set would probably require between 10 and 15 LPs to cover all of the music. Each title is a pressing of 1000, with 700 on standard black vinyl and 300 on white. And as with most LITA productions, always a trademark of quality, you get a healthy dose of detailed liner notes along with an Obi strip wrapped around the album jacket—the latter a nice touch for folks browsing in a record store who want to know more about the release. Whenever a label goes the extra mile for collectors, it should be applauded.

DOWNLOAD: “Dynamo”

BOB BRADSHAW – American Echoes

Album: American Echoes

Artist: Bob Bradshaw

Label: Fluke

Release Date: October 20, 2017

https://www.bobbradshaw.net/

The Upshot: Attempting to categorize Bob Bradshaw and his 7th release would prove a complete disservice, as he’s one of those rare artists who’s bound to represent something different to anybody who happens to hear him. Folk? Americana? Blues? Roots-rock? Country? All of that. And none of that.

BY ERIC THOM

In the “not what you expected” department, Bob Bradshaw delivers an eyebrow-raiser on American Echoes – 12 tasty originals defying traditional categorization. While the disc’s peculiar cover art might suggest a New Age outing as the inside sleeve conjures the Old West, you’d be hard-pressed to connect either image to the music found inside. American Echoes is, instead, a fully realized collection of masterful songs and fully fleshed-out arrangements that feature an impressive cast of like-minded musicians. Admittedly, it may take some time for these songs to glue themselves to your brain because there’s so much going on, both musically and lyrically – but they will, eventually proving irresistible. Like wet puppies in a rainstorm.

It’s Bradshaw’s vocals that hit you first. His is not an immediately likeable voice – but herein lies its charm and appeal as you come to know him. A mongrel of sorts – you swear you’ve heard this voice before. Darden Smith? Richard Shindell? Think more of a non-alcoholic Robert Earl Keen – a warm, laidback tone with all its rough edges worn off. A disparate collection of songs, each sounds unlike the one before it. The hooks are subtle, but they’re there – the type which sink their roots deeper and deeper with continued listening. So Bradshaw is hard to peg. Why do you need to? An honest singer-songwriter of poetic proportions, he seems both blessed and cursed with a world-weary outlook and a voice to match.

His music is more beautiful than it is cool, a throwback to the ‘60s in some ways. Born in Cork, Ireland, Bradshaw’s time spent in America (Boston) has paid off in his ability to chronicle the good, the bad and the ugly – many of the characters in these songs read like entries from a diary. Mix in the lessons he’s learned from Berklee and it’s quite understandable why Bradshaw dances to a different drummer. He’s a skilled storyteller, painting elaborate pictures as an observer more than he is the subject of each song, arousing our interest as he chronicles each vignette. He’s been there – as have we all.

Kicking off with “Exotic Dancers Wanted”, you’re instantly engulfed by warm, acoustic bass and gentle piano as a full tapestry of acoustic and electric guitar joins Britt Connors and Annie Lynch’s lush backup vocals. Bradshaw mirrors an intersection of Keen to John Prine, possessed of all the confidence in the world, owning the end result. Likewise, “Meet Me” presents a beguiling invitation which leans on Connors’ background vocal as Andrew Stern turns in a tasty, country-dipped solo on electric guitar, all set against the burbling keys of James Rohr’s electric piano. You might pay special attention to the drums and percussion work of Mike Connors, who repeatedly brings much more to the party than a mere beat. A comparably darker “Call It What You Will” is buoyed by Rohr’s delicate touch on piano, lifted further by keyboardist/ co-writer Scoop McGuire. Britt Connors’ mournful vocal support helps darken the clouds behind this stormy relationship despite McGuire’s odd choice of synth. Cue the more upbeat, ”The Assumptions We Make”, driven by the strumming of Bradshaw’s acoustic guitar, challenged by the electric guitar and resonator work of co-writer, Andy Santospago and abetted by Stern. Rohr’s B3 provides real body to the mix over the rhythm section of Ed Lucie and Mike Connors.

Next, audition the downright peculiar, almost angular, “Workin’ On My Protest Song”, which features the dynamic, exploratory, spidery guitar of Andrew Stern and the soft, combined hush of backup singers Connors and Lynch. As Mike Connors provides a powerful foundation of soothing percussion in African proportions, the chorus breaks to reveal one of this disc’s true highlights. The addition of Chad Manning’s fiddle to “A Bird Never Flew on Just One Wing” provides a country feel as Bradshaw’s vocal preens, Keen-like, over Stern’s tough guitar sound and Connors’ fat backbeat. Suddenly, Bradshaw rocks out with a guitar-driven “Weight of the World” which, more Beatles than Petty, more Mellencamp than Seger, commands a charm of its own for the trucker in all of us. Co-writer/lead guitarist Andrew Stern is clearly off his leash and this pounding power ballad offers a distinctive wake-up call – right down to its cowbell – marking the album’s halfway point. Alternately, “Stella” proves an intoxicating love song in the form of a waltz, bathed in Rohr’s B3, Stern’s soothing electric guitar with Rohr doubling up on accordion. “My Double And I” features the sparring, double guitars of Stern and Santospago, offering up wah-wah and lead accompaniment, built around an odd, jazz-fueled swing beat. The more melancholy “Material For The Blues” celebrates the invisible bruises of the heart, reinforced by Manning’s country fiddle and Annie Lynch’s ghosted vocal support. (Take special note of Andy Santospago’s seductive baritone guitar break.) “O Brother” incorporates a slide guitar technique (Stern) that could’ve fallen from George Harrison’s trickbag, yet this device, together with Bradshaw’s bent lyrics, succeeds in conjuring a doomed, too-casual relationship between two strangers championing distinctly opposite needs. The Celtic-edged “Old Soldiers” erupts like American bedrock – all fiddle, banjo and military snare, adding meat to the old adage that, for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, will live forever.
Bob Bradshaw is clearly a different breed of singer-songwriter who has spent a lifetime honing his craft – invested as he is in each and every song. Lovers. Losers. Dreamers and derelicts collide with the hopeful and the helpless. They’re all lovingly depicted here in their stark beauty, wrapped in a readily-identifiable reality – as observed in exacting detail by a writer with the power to see in from the outside, while experiencing life from both sides to be able to tell their tales so convincingly.

DOWNLOAD: “The Assumptions We Make,” “Weight of the World,” “Stella”

FRIGS – Basic Behaviour

Album: Basic Behaviour

Artist: Frigs

Label: Arts & Crafts

Release Date: February 23, 2018

www.arts-crafts.ca

The Upshot: An intense yet catchy album full of noisy rock and gritty vocals.

BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

Toronto post-punk quartet Frigs—formerly Dirty Frigs—created a charged debut LP that is unapologetically jagged and intensely electrifying. Only on a first name basis through press releases, following their 2016 EP Slush, Frigs—Bria (vocals and guitar), Duncan (guitar), Kris (drums) and Lucas (bass)—return and hit hard on Basic Behaviour. The loud quartet combines noise rock with punk as Bria’s gritty vocals ranges from growls and shouts to sultry calm amping up the already raw music of gnarling guitar, bass and Kris’ primal drums.

Inspiration of post-punks bands of the past is indeed felt but Frigs are simultaneously creating a sound all their own thanks to Bria’s unique melodies and the riotous music. Anxiety, depression, feeling of hopelessness are all themes within the lyrics on Basic Behaviour. Singles “Talking Pictures” and “II” are indeed standout tracks that easily catch your ears for their jangly guitar and haunting melodies. Holding back from no difficult issues Bria takes on rape and assault with “Chest”: angered by the Brock Turner case that made US headlines, the case inspired her lyrics such as: “titles neck, yeah, they watch me/stay asleep as you spoil me.”

“Solid State,” a tongue-in-cheek title for a song that touches on mental instability, is another memorable track as the rolling guitars and interjections of guitar wails and Bria’s soft vocals, for the first time, hide beneath the wall of sound. “Gemini” is unique as the only track that does not scream of ferocity as the quiet song in addition to Bria only includes a quiet keyboard.

All of Basic Behaviour illustrates Frigs’ artistic, avant-punk abilities, but third song “Waste” is a fun epicenter of their possibilities. The 5 minute track undergoes 4 tempo changes as it starts out with a slow, growling bass, flat guitar plucks, a simple slap on the snare and Bria’s dragging, slurring vocals. Then after 2.5 minutes it transitions to a slightly faster tempo as Bria repeats “do you want to talk about it, it’s a waste;” the song picks up and moves even faster with the same lyrics. One last shift occurs as the music ends and Bria screams into the mic and closes the track with “I am a fortune teller, baby” before fading into a rambling.

A raw and solid debut, Basic Behaviour translates anguish into an intense yet catchy album.

DOWNLOAD: “Talking Pictures,” “II,” “Waste”

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – How To Solve Our Human Problems Pts. 1-3

Album: How To Solve Our Human Problems (Parts 1-3)

Artist: Belle and Sebastian

Label: Matador

Release Date: February 16, 2018

www.matadorrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

If nothing else, Belle and Sebastian deserve credit for perseverance. Over the course of dozens of albums, EPs, collections and chronicles, they’ve kept their consistency by purveying a sound so unfailingly effusive, it’s placed them at the forefront of today’s quintessential British pop masters.

It’s something of a crime then that Belle and Sebastian have yet to gain the wider recognition their efforts deserve. After all, any band that writes songs with such craft and care warrants attention, especially in this era of prefab pop. At one point, Belle and Sebastian would surely have found permanent placement in the Top Ten. Today, however, those that dare to write intelligent and well-crafted melodies sadly aren’t given the love and admiration they so well deserve. Indeed, it’s all but impossible to hear songs like “Sweet Dew Love,” “The Same Star,” “We Were Beautiful,” “The Girl Doesn’t Get It” or literally anything else they have to offer and not come away awed by the artistry and execution.

We can only hope then that How To Solve Our Human Problems, originally released as a series of three 12” EPs, helps reap the recognition this ensemble’s earned, because if it doesn’t, then nothing else will. These beautiful, beguiling melodies make for an album that’s so rich and regal in both style and shimmer, it’s simply stunning to say the least. Prepare to be enticed.

DOWNLOAD: “Sweet Dew Love,” “The Same Star,” “We Were Beautiful”

MONKS OF DOOM – The Brontë Pin

Album: The Brontë Pin

Artist: Monks of Doom

Label: Pitch-A-Tent

Release Date: March 23, 2018

http://www.monksofdoom.com

The Upshot: Welcome return – and a return to form, as well – from the Camper Van B. offshoot.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

It’s been thirteen years since Monks of Doom released an album, and twenty-five since it was a LP of original songs. Simply put, The Brontë Pin was worth the wait. Camper Van Beethoven members Victor Krummenacher (bass, guitar, vox), Greg Lisher (guitar) and Chris Pedersen (drums) join once again with multi-instrumentalist David Immerglück for a new odyssey into the realms of Middle Eastern psychedelia, atmospheric prog rock and dystopian paranoia.

On the Pink Floydian epic “The Last Leviathan,” the bitter folk punker “The Bastards Never Show Themselves” and the shimmering cover of Sandy Denny’s “John the Gun,” Krummenacher mutters and intones lyrics that seem emitted from his constantly shifting eyes, rather than his throat, but the music makes up for his discomfort. Which is as it should be – the Monks have always been more about the sounds they make than the words they sing. Thus the instrumentals are where Pin’s heart really lies. The versatile ensemble jumps from the disjointed funk of “The Honorable Death of the 100 Millions” and the proggy postpunk of “The Brontë Pin pt. 2” to the mando/synth psychedelia of “Duat! Duat!” and the American primitive folk of “Boar’s Head.”

For some bands, this kind of eclecticism would be a detriment, indicating an ADHD-addled lack of focus. For Monks of Doom, however, it’s a strength, as the group’s identity never wavers, no matter what path the band takes.

DOWNLOAD: “Boar’s Head,” “Duat! Duat!,” “John the Gun”

THE DAMNATION OF ADAM BLESSING – The Damnation of Adam Blessing (LP) / The Second Damnation

Album: The Damnation of Adam Blessing (LP) / The Second Damnation (LP)

Artist: The Damnation of Adam Blessing

Label: Exit Stencil

Release Date: March 30, 2018

www.exitstencil.org

The Upshot: Remarkably engaging underground hippie rock from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s by a now-obscure Cleveland band that actually came close to grabbing the brass ring.

BY FRED MILLS

“You take your Technicolor daydream/ Aww, let your mind and soul unwind/ You walk a mile into a mirror/ Yeah, travel sideways into time…” (—”Cookbook,” The Damnation of Adam Blessing

Thus begins 1969-spawned The Damnation of Adam Blessing, the eponymous debut from a Cleveland-based underground quintet whose fortunes would ebb and flow across a quartet of albums, their steadily diminishing returns, commercially speaking, ultimately dooming the group; by ’73 they had thrown in the towel. It wasn’t for lack of talent or trying, however, and on multiple fronts (particularly since the band was signed to United Artists, at the time a moderately significant label with an eclectic roster). But despite some promising flirtation with the national charts, TDOAB failed to get much traction beyond the Midwest touring circuit of the day.

Instrumentally, the band had the chops to deliver sonic tableaux that, while in retrospect were clearly of the era, should’ve powered any number of their songs onto the playlists of freeform radio stations of the day across the country.  These were dark, dramatic numbers of metaphysical intent and wah-wah-fueled delivery, and they also boasted the potentially starmaking vocal charisma of frontman Bill Constable (aka the titular Adam), whose pipes were supple enough to make him a potential understudy to Ian Gillan or even Rod Stewart — check his performance in the group’s notable version of the Jeff Beck Group’s version of “Morning Dew.”

Yours truly was fortunate enough to be turned on back in the day to The Damnation of Adam Blessing by an older mentor, and several years later, after the group was no longer, I came across the first two LPs in a used bin. I never was able to locate their third or fourth albums, 1971’s Which Is the Justice, Which Is the Thief?, and 1972’s Glory, although most accounts suggest that neither record was exactly mind-blowing. But LP Numbers One (the aforementioned self-titler) and Two (The Second Damnation, from 1970) remain crucial artifacts, and the ever-diligent archivists at the Exit Stencil label have just rescued both platters from relative obscurity as fully-licensed reissues. Neither are nostalgia trips; period pieces, perhaps, but still churning with hirsute, hippie bravado ‘n’ passion.

The Damnation of Adam Blessing is perhaps the stronger of the two releases, should you have to choose between them. From the aforementioned “Cookbook,” which wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Free album, and moody, meditative ballad “Lonely,” a showcase for Constable’s estimable croon; to the baroque pop of “Strings and Things,” a lengthy (5:45) excursion that deliberately ventures into Jefferson Airplane psychedelia, what with its overtones of the Volunteers album, and a surprisingly rousing take of the Monkees (!) “Last Train to Clarksville”—this is a diverse, layered album that repays multiple spins with fresh sonic revelations each time around. And The Second Damnation doesn’t exactly fare poorly either, what with tuneful garage workouts like “Death of a Virgin,” full-on hard rocker “Driver” (somewhere there’s an unreconstructed Grand Funk fan who heard this once and to this day swears it was from a GFR bootleg), the lust-fueled, six-minute 12-bar blooze of “New York City Woman,” and the group’s unabashed pop anthem “Back to the River,” sensual and sinewy, and one of those “coulda-shoulda” radio hits that never was. (In fact, it almost made it to the Billboard Top 100 when United Artists release an edited version as a single, but for some reason it stalled at #102, taking with it any momentum the album itself might have been building.)

(As an aside: Anyone interested in a quick sampling of TDOAB’s oeuvre is encouraged to pop over to Spotify, where there’s a digital album called The Best of The Damnation of Adam Blessing. With 13 tracks, it has selections from all four original LPs, heavily weighted towards the first two.)

Pressed up on heavyweight vinyl and boasting sharp reproductions of the original sleeve artwork plus bonus inserts depicting photos of the original master tape reel boxes on one side and detailed liner notes by Ugly Things writer Doug Sheppard on the other, both LPs are essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in probing the less-explored corners of the era. I can feel my mind and soul expanding just writing about ‘em—somebody pass me my mirror, I’m ready to travel sideways…

DOWNLOAD: “Back to the River,” “Morning Dew,” “Cookbook,” “Strings and Things,” “New York City Woman”

REFRIGERATOR – High Desert Lows

Album: High Desert Lows

Artist: Refrigerator

Label: Shrimper/Revolver

Release Date: February 09, 2018

https://midheaven.com/label/shrimper

The Upshot: Produced here by Simon Joyner, the Callaci brothers’ signature laid-back rusticity remains intact as the linking DNA between its noisier lo-fi beginnings and the stripped-back models of recent years.

By John Schacht

With its irresistible songwriting draw to times good and bad, the past is a honey trap. The danger lies in getting fossilized back there.

That’s clearly on the minds of the Callaci brothers (Allen and Dennis, the latter founder of indie stalwart Shrimper Records) and their band mates in Refrigerator. Throughout the 11 tracks on their 11th LP,  the group’s signature laid-back rusticity remains intact as the linking DNA between its noisier lo-fi beginnings and the stripped-back models of recent years.

But with decades of tenure come plenty of reasons to look back. “Break Up the Band,” a mordant take on intra-band dynamics, reads like a litany of reasons ‘90s indie bands split up. Over a nervous beat accompanied by synth blips and the occasional crunchy  guitar chord, the lyrics chronicle shitty bassists, cramped vans  and horrific living conditions, but look back witheringly at the outsized importance any of them had:  “A self-referential past that was barely lived/how could we expect anyone to care about it?/Caught in amber/sleeved in plasticene/reanimated by kids spinning it to death.”

Even if it’s part piss-take, it’s still pretty grim fare and the anger bleeds through. The LP’s better when it’s less self-referential in its reminiscences and more open to timeless (read: twangy) tropes. Opener “High Desert Lows,”  with its tinkling piano fills and pedal steel, is a gorgeous glass-raiser to sorrow; “Twice as Less” is a pretty Neil Young-like ballad mourning what’s lost when relationships die; “World of Warcraft” is an ode to self-destructive relationships that waltzes its way into your heart with strings, guitars and a go-for-broken (people) chorus, “take me with you, I don’t care where we go, I don’t care what we do.”

Unfortunately, High Desert Lows is frontloaded with its more compelling tunes. Allen Callaci’s vocals also have a limited range on the best of days, much like fellow traveler Simon Joyner, who produces and plays here as well. But the Callacis and company lack Joyner’s poetic knack, and through Refrigerator has always prized simple song structures as a vehicle for what they have to say, by the time you reach the twin dirges “The Maid” — a hook-less guitar and strings narrative about poverty — and skeletal piano piece “Bonnie Pointer,” the LP has run low on dynamism and charm, and feels frozen and lifeless in willful obscurity.

DOWNLOAD: “High Desert Lows,” “Twice as Less” “World of Warcraft”

DIRTY SIDEWALKS – Bring Down the House Lights LP

Album: Bring Down the House Lights

Artist: Dirty Sidewalks

Label: No-Count

Release Date: January 12, 2018

www.facebook.com/nocountrecords/

The Upshot: Classic, anthemic shoegaze with a contemporary twist, and more vocal hooks per capita than a box set of Beach Boys ‘n’ Beatles.

BY FRED MILLS

Swervedriver. Ride. Chapterhouse. Jesus & Mary Chain. If none of those classic outfits twang your heartstrings, move along citizen, nothing to see here. But for all the smart people in the room, here, folks, is your new favorite band: Seattle’s Dirty Sidewalks, brothers Erik and Evan Foster on guitars and drum programming, plus “the other Evan” (O’Neil) on bass, debuting with a 12-song smorgasbord of fuzz ‘n’ drones, classic ‘80s anthemism and ‘60s Brit Invasion vocal harmonies, and no shortage of just plain kickass.

If Erick and Evan’s names sound familiar, that’s because you know their surf/garage combo, the Boss Martians. (Evan is also a contemporary member of NW garage legends the Sonics, just in case you need an additional CV reference.) But this is a whole ‘nuther thang, a veritable gobsmack of a record (on CD and vinyl) that does indeed pay homage to the aforementioned UK shoegazers but also updates the file to stake out turf that is utterly and undeniably theirs. It kicks off with some telltale backward-tape squiggles then launches into the manifesto-like “Rock & Roll (Saved My Life),” a thrumming, shimmering slice of JAMC pop revisionism that’ll have you swiveling your tailfeather in perfect synch with the shaker percussion. And the thrills subsequently pile up: the brief (2-min.), anthemic “Never Wanted to Be Love”; druggy, echo-drenched stomper “Euphoria”; experimental, samples-punctuated Black Holes, essentially an instrumental but with soaring Beach Boys-like wordless vocal harmonies. Oh, and for all the Oasis fans in the house, don’t miss “2nd Song,” which is more Noel Gallagher grand guitar symphony than Liam Gallagher vocal yowl/sneer, a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

That the Dirty Sidewalks use a James Dean-on-motorcycle as their band logo also speaks volumes. Get yer motor runnin’, punk.

Consumer note: In addition to Bring Down the House Lights being available on heavy vinyl, download card included, the band’s debut 45, “It’s Getting Better,” is apparently available on wax as well, in both super-limited white and very-limited black iterations. Act now before the word gets out on this gifted band.

DOWNLOAD: “Rock & Roll (Saved My Life),” “Euphoria,” “2nd Song”

Breeders – All Nerve (LP)

Album: All Nerve

Artist: Breeders

Label: 4AD

Release Date: March 16, 2018

www.4ad.com

The Upshot: What is “alternative rock” anyway? Amid all the joy and pain, loud and silent, on this reunion record, you will hear masters of a genre they helped give birth to—yes, The Breeders are back.

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

I’ve been waiting for this record, waiting a long time. All Nerve, the latest from the 1990s alternative rock giants—and Kim Deal side project from The Pixies—gets my preemptive vote for Record of the Year.  I’ll just get that out of the way.

 Where have the guitars gone from the music supposedly alternative these days? What is alternative? If you don’t know for sure, put on All Nerve (mine being on orange vinyl) and listen to the quiet, the empty spaces between the songs, and the explosion of guitar, drums and bass that fill the grooves and you will hear it, all the joy and pain, loud and silent, you will hear masters of a genre they helped give birth to; The Breeders are back. God loves us.

 “Nervous Mary” starts like a Lou Reed fever dream lullaby, climbing to the nervous breakdown. This is what The Breeders do best; sneak up on you with cotton soft feet, going for throat and winning every fucking time. “Wait in the Car” shows that, though years have passed, the 90s are always with them; Nirvana riffs, Patti Smith snarl and strut.  Beauty and sadness are there in “All Nerve” slightly open, imperfectly glorious.

 “Walking with a Killer,” a song that began life as a Kim Deal solo single, is fully formed here. Josephine Wiggs’ subtle heartbeat, always there, thumping away at the line, magically off kilter, Jim Macpherson drum work never flashy but always perfect for the song he’s playing; a truly underrated drummer that desires praise.

 “Archangel’s Thunderbird” is where it all comes together, the track that proves The Breeders are one of the best bands to come out of the ‘90s.  Rock steady drums, garage rock flashes from Kelley Deal’s guitar (she shines throughout All Nerve: sloppy, ramshackle, a mess, perfect.)

 “Dawn, Making an Effort” plays like a slow burn sequel to Last Splash’s “Driving on 9,” atmospheric with an ear to the grand, the beautiful strangeness that sometimes lives and breathes in a Breeders song.

 All Nerve isn’t perfect, but sweet Lord, it’s close.

 Kim and crew have done it again; stripped to the bone, showing the world who they are: a band that remembers what it was like for a band to rock.  Thank you for not putting away the amplifiers.

 DOWNLOAD: “Archangel’s Thunderbird,” “Nervous Mary,” “Dawn, Making An Effort”

 

CALEXICO – The Thread That Keeps Us

Album: The Thread That Keeps Us

Artist: Calexico

Label: Anti-

Release Date: January 26, 2018

www.anti.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Calexico’s ties to the aura of the great Southwest have made them one of the more indelible and inventive outfits of the past 20 years. With their smouldering brand of ambient experimentation and meandering, melancholic melodies, the Tucson group has created a sound that resides at the juncture between psychedelia and arched drama, appropriately stirred in the shimmering sands of the sun-baked desert and its otherworldly environs.

The tellingly titled The Thread That Keeps Us finds the band, on its ninth official studio album (not counting a litany of live and tour-only releases), integrating verve with variety, tossing in South of the Border canciones (“Flores y Tamales”), an essential urgency (“End of the World with You”), preening pop (“The Town & Miss Lorraine”), percolating percussion (“Under the Wheels”) and epic brass-infused instrumentals that convey their weary resilience (“Unconditional Waltz”). In short, it’s a credit to the band’s sonic stockpile that they’re able to mine such endless cascades of tone and texture and not allow themselves to be confined to any particular template.

The two men who remain at the helm—founding members (and formerly of Giant Sand) singer/guitar/keyboardist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino—summon ample reserves of talent and technique, and it’s that sonic suggestion which finds them consistently broadening their palette with such riveting results. “When the world goes dark I’ll always be close by,” the haunting final song “Music Box” promises. Indeed, a defining blend of assurance and intrigue makes Calexico’s music come across as both so sumptuous and so surreal.

Consumer Note: Calexico offered the album to early adopters via a PledgeMusic campaign (autographed items, handwritten lyric sheets, and sundry memorabilia as premiums), and consumers who joined up could obtain a signed, deluxe vinyl version that boasted a bonus 7-song LP. As the band also included a digital download with the record, Calexico’s dedication to going the extra mile for fans should be lauded.

DOWNLOAD: “End of the World with You,” “Unconditional Waltz,” “The Town & Miss Lorraine”