Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Music, 2007-2008 - Part 3

Yes! The third of three parts. Onward:
  • Burnt Fur - Unfurl (2008). I listened to their tunes on their myspace page, and was duly impressed. So I figured it was worth the plunge to get the album. Describing themselves as Electro/New Wave/Experimental (and who am I to argue?), this Boston band's release is a tale of two albums: there's the half that sounds good, and there's the half that doesn't. When they are good: great mix of guitar, keyboard, and vocals that blend together. When they are not: the music and vocals don't jibe, and/or the music nudges over the fine line between "not complicated" and "simplistic." Overall, it's a nice listen, but you're clearly slumming. It's terrible in the car; it's good on my office boombox. Tracks 1, 3, 6, and 8 are, respectively, pedestrian; not bad but not good, and therefore not good; ripping off a band who was, in turn, already ripping off Nine Inch Nails; and awful. Tracks 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9 are, respectively, reminiscent of very early Ministry and therefore decent; pretty solid both lyrically and musically; ripping off Pearl Jam’s opening to “Corduroy,” with a solid (and original) remainder; good; and why I bought the album. There's something here, just not enough of it, or enough variation.
    Verdict: It's close. Recommended for the five tracks that are good. CD Rack.
  • The Cribs - Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever (2008). These guys are the real deal -- excellent musicians, smart lyricists, and thoughtful arrangers. Three is the magic number here. Three brothers from England, this is there third album and it boasts three great (and I mean great) tracks: the angular "Men's Needs"; the cacophonous "Ancient History" (chorus: "I drag up ancient history/Hope that they'll forgive me"); and the spoken word missive "Be Safe" (which features Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth). And the rest of the songs are either good or very good. The production is excellent -- they get a dynamic mix of sounds out of all of their songs, despite the standard rock instrumental setups. Quite impressive. They seem to be approaching alternative rock at its logical extension, and I think they've got a serious future ahead of them.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. You're damn right this is a Car CD Changer album.
  • Crooked Fingers - Forfeit/Fortune (2008). Eric Bachmann, the frontman and sole songwriter for this outfit, is pretty prolific to be flying under the radar: between Archers of Loaf, Barry Black, his solo work, and Crooked Fingers, he has now released sixteen albums and EP's since 1993. Not bad for a guy still living out of his car. Of those sixteen, I'd only call two pedestrian: his soundtrack Short Careers in 2001, and this effort. Neko Case injects some life into the last song on the album, but by then it's too late. Not bad, just not great. I'd characterize it as "pretty bland."
    Verdict: Not recommended. I'll keep it in my CD Rack out of respect to the man, but expect it to be gone by the next culling. The Archers of Loaf albums Icky Mettle and White Trash Heroes, Barry Black albums Barry Black and Tragic Animal Stories, and Crooked Fingers s/t debut are better places to start than this.
  • Millencolin - Machine 15 (2008). The eighth album by everyone's favorite Scandanavian skatepunks. Usually their albums consist of one or two mind-blowing tunes and the rest not hitting the mark, but here they are a little less aggressive and a little more consistent, which makes the album a nice listen front-to-back and surprisingly solid as a whole.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • The Roots - Rising Down (2008). The veteran Philadelphia jazz-rap outfit is back, following up on 2006's brilliant Game Theory. Evan tried to get me to listen to these guys for years, and I can see why. This is very solid, although it's a little more mellow and a little less aggressive musically, and thus I prefer Game Theory.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD Rack.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Magic (2007). I heard "Radio Nowhere" and loved the song -- Bruce is back! So I bought the album... and not so much, unfortunately. Great song, though.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.
  • Tapes 'N Tapes - Walk It Off (2008). Following up on their impressive 2005 debut The Loon, the boys clean up their sound with an overly produced effort. Sometimes production makes an album (like The Cribs, above); sometimes it completely takes the edge of the music and sanitizes it in a horrible, horrible way, wringing the life out of the music until the sponge is dry. You may have guessed -- this is the latter. It's just too clean; there are a few excellent songs here, but they rest have been polished to death. Did I mention I loved their debut?
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.
  • Weezer - Red Album (2008). Now the first thing with this album is to listen to it in the correct order -- start with track 3 ("Pork and Beans"), play it straight through to the end, then play the first two tracks; "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is a final track if I've ever heard one, but an odd choice for the second track of the album. Their track ordering choices are not good, but otherwise this is their best album since Pinkerton. "Pork and Beans" is absolutely fantastic, which always helps; the rest of the songs seem really autobiographical, which in this case works. It's really remarkably good, especially since (IMHO) they launched three bombs in a row before this one. It's an impressive return to form -- classic Weezer, which inevitably is good sounding, guilty pleasure rock. They do what they do, and they do it well.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Wire - Object 47 (2008). Wire's story follows a bit like the Buzzcocks: Wire released three seminal albums in the late 70's, went on hiatus, then released some tired-sounding albums from the mid-80's and early 90's before re-forming at the beginning of this decade. (Granted, in the Buzzcocks case they had a longer layoff to the early 90's, and a shorter time to reforming early this decade, but you get the idea.) Here's the difference between the two: the Buzzcocks have not been able to recapture the magic, but Wire has. At a Buzzcocks show, you feel the electricity through the old songs, and the lack thereof in the new ones; at a Wire show, it's a blur of electricity, front to back, no matter what era is being played. And this album is great. Anchored by the three great tracks ("One of Us," "Perspex Icon," and "All Fours", the latter starring Page Hamilton from Helmet), this album is a good listen. They're art rock at its finest, and have proven they still have their game after all these years, despite guitarist Bruce Gilbert leaving the band. Close your eyes -- you'll think it's a lost classic.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Car CD Changer.
- Snilch

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