Acid King/The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight
Pack your bong for this album. Some of the best “stoner-rock” around is on this split CD. Acid King brings the bass, and brings it heavy on their four tracks. Comparisons to Black Sabbath aside, this band has its own brand of sludge-rock for the world to enjoy. Super heavy slow grooves and the ethereal singing of guitarist Lori S. take you away to that great field of hash in the sky.
The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight formed in 1996 as an instrumental blues and rock band with emphasis on improvisation. Guitarist Jimmy Bower, who also started the legendary EyeHateGod and recorded with Crowbar and Down, helped evolve Clearlight into the heavy riff-laden groove band on this CD. Their sound is almost like a southern “stoner-rock” rock band with their excellent use of organs and their Sabbath-meets-Skynyrd styled riffs. Clearlight still keeps the improv edge in the track “Veiled” where they extend the song to 11 minutes and 20 seconds with a trippy jam in the middle.
So kick back in your recliner, put the headphones on, and lose yourself in this album. Mind-altering substances not included.
100 Broken Windows
Even though Idlewild is a rock group from Scotland, don’t expect any Britpop from them; in fact if you didn’t know they were British, you’d swear they were American. Those who enjoy groups like Husker Du, Green Day, or the other deceptively American-sounding British band, the Stereophonics, Idlewild is likely up your alley.
100 Broken Windows, the band’s third album, is filled with well-executed, guitar-driven power pop that is difficult to dislike. Unlike other bands in the genre such as the Fastbacks or the Donnas who are a tad bit monotonous, Idlewild changes rhythms and styles (even if the style change is subtle) enough to keep you interested.
With great songs like “Little Discourage,” “Quiet Crown,” and “Mistake Pageant,” 100 Broken Windows is a pleasant surprise and a non-stop post-punk hullabaloo.
On The Edge of Forever
Practically every goth-rock band can trace their sound back to 80s forerunners Sisters of Mercy, and Ikon is no exception. The third full-length from this Australian quartet teems with lush guitar lines, ghostly strings, and dark synths propelled by drum-machine loops. “The Shallow Sea,” with its chorused guitar arpeggio and signature vocal vibrato, is pure Sisters, and sounds as fresh now as it did in 1988.
Lyrically, it dishes out typical goth fare: songs about broken promises and bitterness, solitude and despair. Nothing exceptionally engaging. But for Ikon, it’s the music itself that truly grabs you.
Some moments delve into slow ballad-land, others incorporate harsh palm-muted riffs, but Ikon remains true to form throughout. “Wheels In Motion” and “Blue Snow Red Rain” both boast bouncy synth lines akin to early Cure, and the single-destined “Fine Line” is simply a triumph of bright synths, danceable beats, and lightly distorted guitar that breathes new life into the genre.
Austin, TX’s Kiss Offs deliver their second album of Casio-flavored punk pop on the 8-song album, Rock Bottom. “Let Me find the Good in You,” with its urgent boy/girl vocals, showcases the band’s cool-as-fuck sound, while “We Can Work it Out” wouldn’t be out of place on a Bis album, even if it is more sinister than cartoonish. The band places its best foot forward on the synth-bubblegum of “Mmm Mmm Mmm” and “Love You Hardcore,” which takes the best parts of Pulp and The Yummy Fur and mixes it up to create a sound that the five-piece could trademark. The only cause for concern is the 7-minute, four part song “Pleather Pantz” which drags on and on and shows that while the Kiss Offs breathe the energy of rock music, they are also subject to it’s ill effects (such as wankiness and stupid imagery).
Nevertheless, the Kiss Offs have their leather pants on tight. Try not to drool.
The hardest working band on earth has released yet another album. After putting out three full lengths last year, The Melvins returned to the studio to record three covers by The Wipers, The Cows, and even Pink Floyd (“Interstellar Overdrive,” originally released as a 7″). They also re-recorded four older songs and one new song (“Shit Storm”).
The standouts are certainly the covers. An extended version of “Youth of America” by Portland’s Wipers is fantastic, and the closer is an exact rendition of “Interstellar Overdrive.” The band even had the original playing in the studio while they recorded it to get it just right.
In typical Melvins fashion, the old songs are redone in almost unrecognizable ways. Some of them almost have a bizzaro-techno feel while the brand-new “Shit Storm” sounds like 5 songs all being played at once and backwards at the same time.
Even stranger is the album’s artwork. Cartoons of a bunny dressed as a Nazi, and little kids decapitating blindfolded lambs might be too much for those not familiar with the Melvins’ “nothing is sacred” approach to humor. This album is definitely for fans only, in more ways than one.
Mentallo and The Fixer
Return To Grimpen Ward: A Remix Retrospective of Revamped Material
With Return To Grimpen Ward, the groundbreaking 1990’s industrial act Mentallo and The Fixer look back on their 10 year career and present a best-of disc…entirely composed of new remixes. The logic of this seems a tad skewed, but the disc is nevertheless engaging.
The new versions seem to be paying homage to the forerunners that shaped Mentallo’s sound. “Murderers Among Us” adopts a fierce Front 242-esque synth groove, and “Scum Of The Earth” cranks that up to a scathing blast-drum grind a la Numb. Most obvious is the influence of Rabies-era Skinny Puppy, as “Sacrilege” and “Legion of Lepers” are synth and sample driven.
The band’s studio work tends to bury vocal tracks under layers of effects, so its odd to hear songs like “Tachyon” with a growling voice brought to the forefront.
But even with the vocals, the instrumental splendor is not forgotten. “Resonant Echo” mixes gentle beats with an acoustic guitar line enveloped in phaser, and “Stellar Cascade,” with its softly distorted spoken vocals, is at once menacing and tranquil.
BBC Radio/Live in Concert
New Order rose from the ashes of Joy Division, a late 70s Manchester band that changed lives and ended one — that of lead singer Ian Curtis (d.1980). At first New Order seemed trapped in the shadow of their former band, but soon enough they were making perfect pop records that melded the beat of the dance clubs with timeless pop songwriting. New Order became their own band. This CD documents the group’s performance at the 1987 Glastonbury Festival. Though it is interesting to see how the songs translated live (usually pretty good), these songs are more superior on their original releases, making BBC Radio a fans-only release. Perhaps most interesting is the pure punk of the show closer, a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” which has more in common with Joy Division than any of New Order’s own material. If you like New Order and you like live discs, check this out. If you don’t then you are weird.
Novasonic Down Hyperspace
Sometimes you wake up listen to a poppy tune to start your day off on a high note. Other times you’re too lazy to move and no song will help get you out of bed. Times like that are perfect for listening to Novasonic Down Hyperspace’s new album Mathing Moonlight. Listening to the Chicago band’s 14-track 70 minute LP is comparable to hearing a movie soundtrack to the laziest day of your life: dreamy yet uneventful. But what more do you want? After all, they are a space-rock band. They rarely stray from the old formula of slow songs with bluesy bass lines, sparse guitars and lazy vocals pioneered by bands like Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. The occasional electric piano solo may grab your attention for a moment but the songs are hardly interesting enough to warrant listening to one of them all the way through, let alone all 14. So unless you’re a die-hard space rock fan or a person who likes to lie in bed all day instead of getting up in the morning, I would recommend steering clear of this album.
Yet another example of how minimalism can go too far, Pan Sonic’s Aaltopiiri is at best a disc of intriguing background sounds, at worst a dreadfully mind-numbing experience. A light beat pitter-patters away in “Vaihtovirta,” augmented by a softly crying synth. It’s reminiscent of the opening of Massive Attack’s “Angel,” so one comes to expect something to grow out of it. A few tracks later, absolutely nothing has. “Arvio” even has the audacity to punish the listener with 1 minute and 25 seconds of practically sub-audible, high-pitched screeches akin to the infamous test of the emergency broadcast system. Some soundscapes presented prove to be slightly engaging; the creepy “Reuna-Alue” sweeps 9+ minutes of static around a sample of echoing footsteps. As the backing to a film or performance of some kind, this would be excellent. But there’s isn’t remotely enough going on over this album’s 70 minutes for it to be considered music. Even for a chill out CD, Aaltopiiri is entirely too chill.
Polar Goldie Cats
Polar Night Stress
There must be some good drugs out in California. Polar Goldie Cats are a conceptual L.A. quartet who don cardboard cat ears onstage, boast feline alter ego names, and speak of the inferiority of the human intellect…not to mention spinning a ludicrous yarn to explain the band’s inception (it involves a road kill and aliens).
But for all their insanity, one thing they have got down pat is their goal to focus on sounds instead of songs. Polar Night Stress is an instrumental album built around experimental guitar noise; think Sister-era Sonic Youth without the vocals. “L. Machina” is a terse, frustrated number with sulky guitar harmonics that give way to angry bursts of open strings.
“A Paw to Cry On” begins with a despondent bass line supplemented at first by awkward guitar chord structures and later by a fierce hi-hat line. While the mood stays dark and – true to the album’s title – distressed throughout, tempos switch from the droning “Supa Unchi” to the hyper “Puppy Shurg” and back.
Polar Night Stress is by no means an easy album. At times it can be downright chafing. But it does provide nine tracks of fiercely original, challenging music.
Reach the Sky
Friends, Lies, and the End of the World
Breaking down boundaries between different genres of music is definitely a trend of the times. Combining the energy of hardcore, the speed and catchiness of punk, and the feeling of emo, Reach the Sky has taken another step towards breaking down boundaries and exceeding expectations with their newest release Friends, Lies, and the End of the World.
Whether you like an album because of lyrics you can relate to, powerful riffs, or catchy choruses and harmonies, Friends, Lies and the End of the World combines all of those things. In songs like “This Sadness Alone” front man Ian Larrabee’s voice makes Reach the Sky sound like a more harmonic Good Riddance. Even though the track “Wherever You Go” starts off sounding like a 3 Doors Down song, after the 25 second intro, you are definitely singing along and drumming on your lap to something totally different.
Friends, Lies, and the End of the World, the band’s third release on Victory Records, is definitely worth checking out. Put some money aside now so you’ll be able to pick up the album when it hits the streets on March 20.
Composed of the Philadelphian hip-hop duo The High & Mighty (featuring rapper Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi) and underground rapper Cage, The Smut Peddlers release their first album, Porn Again. Their music is composed of smooth loops, funky bass lines, and rap.
As the name suggests, the album pays homage to pimps and is full of songs about sexual conquests, girls getting played, and how tough The Smut Peddlers are. It is little surprise then that Kool Keith (aka Doctor Octagon) makes an appearance on the album. The music even sounds a lot like something he’d use on one of his albums.
Porn Again is full of funny rhymes such as: “Up I got downers, down I got uppers/Now chuggin’ Pediasure for f—ing supper.” Another personal favorite is: “Ain’t worth your weight in molecular structure/Out of work like JFK Jr.’s flight instructor.” It isn’t bad but it’s not great either. On a scale from whack to phat, it would get a whack and a half.
-Eric Van Osten
Former lead singer of Eve’s Plum, Colleen Fitzpatrick has come a long way from the pseudo-grunge outfit that defined her in the mid-90s. She has since (d)evolved into critic’s darling and Radio Disney mainstay Vitamin C. Critics treat her like a Todd Rundgren of the new millennium but last time I checked, Rundgren’s early pop songwriting phase did not involve enlisting professional songwriters. Most songs on More were written with and produced by a “who’s who” of songwriters/producers (Billy Mann, Billy Steinberg, Jimmy Harry, etc.) to the female pop stars. For what seems like a lot of work to get together one kicking pop album, there isn’t much to show for it. The album is pretty bland aside from the single “The Itch,” “Busted,” and “She Talks About Love” but the latter two have more to do with interesting sonic ideas than songwriting or performance.
The strangest thing about Vitamin C is even though she is pushing thirty she sounds like a teenager. If her past hit “Graduation (Friends Forever)” didn’t convince you of that, then her God-awful remake of the Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” or the Disney love theme “As Long As You’re Loving Me” will.