Upon seeing American Hi-Fi’s video for their first single, “Flavor of the Weak,” it was amusing that obviously these guys don’t see the irony in their song title. Not only is the concept of this video lame (supposed video footage of the parking lot of a 1986 heavy metal concert – no one’s ever used metal fans in an ironic way before…yeah, right) but the whole idea of American Hi-Fi is lame. The band is made up of a former member of both Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo and another member from Tracy Bonham’s band; yegads! An altera-trendy-supergroup! All of the songs have that wannabe power pop thing going on but just end up sounding like Blink-182 was taken over by a snotty, whiny singer – in other words, a flavor of the weak/week.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Taking their name from the film, The Wild One, San Francisco’s B.R.M.C. mix 60s rock and 90s British psychedelia a la Jesus and Mary Chain. Their debut album kicks off with the swaggering and cocky “Love Burns” which could teach the Black Crowes a thing or two about creatively borrowing from great rock bands of the past. All of the tracks on BRMC have dark, ominous undertones and a forcefulness that lives up to the band’s name. At the same time, they are catchy and radio-friendly. It’s good to finally hear a U.S. band that is British-influenced but still able to retain a truly American rock and roll sound.
Read the Book, Seen the Movie
This album is your prototypical emo-punk-pop CD: lots of songs about girls and relationships with loud guitars, fast drums and caterwauling vocal melodies. But while it may be formulaic, it’s also well executed on Cadillac Blindside’s part.
“At Wit’s End” is tight and clean, loud and vibrant. The guitar in “Did You Get All That?” rings with open chords as opposed to the constraints of typical power chord structuring. And “A Touch Of Nostalga,” easily the most memorable track on the disc, is a heavy number with a shuffling bass line and a vigorous shout along/sing along chorus.
While Cadillac Blindside doesn’t exactly take pop/punk down any roads that it hasn’t already traveled a hundred times, it does do a respectable job sticking to the highways.
Everybody Got Their Something
Funky funky white sexy girl thing red head twelve song debut album thing singer 70s soul funky shaky butt thing. Bass boom boom guitar fill a room thing bracelets hip huggers boys go whoa girls go wha thing. Everybody got their something thing. Nikka Costa got her thing like a Lilith second hand fair ass hanging out weird whoa wha thing.
Fiona lip synch thing.
-Mal E. Zirenar
We Love the City
Hefner are the kind of band that annoys a lot of people, but that doesn’t make them any less passionate or, at times, even great. Singer Darren Hayman is the definitive skinny nerd everyone picked on in grade school. Donning clunky glasses, he grew up feeling out of place. It wasn’t until he formed Hefner that he found his calling as true-tongued pop singer. None of this biographical info may be accurate per se, but such a tale seems to emote from each song on We Love the City, the English quartet’s third album.
Whatever the source of these bittersweet vignettes, each one encapsulates a mélange of emotions that only the so-hip-everyone-thinks-their-square city dweller could experience. The album is tailored to city lovers who are in love. Hayman’s voice is one of the most peerless in music today; whether it’s Hefner’s best weapon or biggest impediment depends on who’s listening. While not all of the songs are as divine as the poignant “Good Fruit” (with Heavenly’s Amelia Fletcher on guest vocals), the festive “The Greater London Radio,” or the rebellious anthem “The Day that Thatcher Dies,” We Love the City is a worthy addition to Hefner’s skewed-pop legacy.
Math and Science
Like most quirk-rock CDs, you’ll probably hate this album the first time you hear it. But it won’t take too long to grow on you.
Math and Science’s eponymous debut is very much akin to 1998’s fiercely underrated Music To Mauzner By LP by a fella called Spy (ne’ Joshua Ralph). For that matter, it’s also a lot like anything Beck has ever recorded; the album is the output of a lone weirdo (one John Wolf), and bounces and cavorts with overtly synthesized drum loops, cheesy instrumental hooks, and sound effects.
At the same time, there’s enough going on to keep it from just being weirdness for weirdness’ sake. “Cool Me Down” starts off with a They Might Be Giants-esque melody and later rips into distorted vocals a la Beck’s “Hi Five.” “Airstream on the Highway” boasts a rootsy harmonica solo, and “Soundbite” opens with 80s sounding reverb guitar, delivering what could be the album’s most accessible moment.
Sure, it has its share of painful moments when things get just too damn weird. But its also very lively, very fun and musically/instrumentally very impressive. If you don’t find yourself toe-tapping to the sheer cuteness of “Eternity,” check that you still have a pulse.
The Best of Modern English: Life in the Gladhouse 1980-1984
Unfortunately, Modern English are best known for “I Melt With You,” AKA “The Burger King Song.” For those unfamiliar with the rest of their work, the one hit they had does not resemble anything else in their catalogue. In actuality, Modern English were an adventurous post-punk, art band whose lush arrangements and romantic vibe could easily rival Siouxie and the Banshees or Echo and the Bunnymen.
This collection, which details the group’s hey day, displays that Modern English were not just one-hit wonder throw-aways. Their songs are intelligent and subtle and hopefully this collection will show those too young to remember the 80s that the decade wasn’t all about big hair, Casio-pop and jelly bracelets.
Wave of Light By Wave of Light
As long as minimalist techno doesn’t just numb your mind into submission, as oh so many minimalist techno artists do, it can be quite brilliant.
Exhibit A: Scannerfunk. The latest outing from Robin Rimbaud (formerly known as just Scanner), Wave of Light By Wave of Light has entirely too much going on for it to fade into the background.
“I Am Calm” shakes with frantic Aphex Twin-esque blipping and bleeping, while “Light Turned Down” is ambient expanse with chopped-up vocal sampling akin to Skinny Puppy’s lesser-known work. Later, “Speechless” and “Ice That Abandons Me” turn things up a bit from minimalism with some mellow trip hop.
Practically every form of electronic music is represented in some form, and it’s all impressively delivered. But the best moments are the ventures into trance. “Automatic” slightly bubbles with subtle grooves, and “Spinique” is a light synth/hard dance frenzy reminiscent of Underworld. For a CD that is so largely low-key, Wave of Light really makes you want to move your ass.
Build Your Own Radio
Genius. This compilation from the tiny bedroom label (or have they moved it to the living room?) BumbleBEAR Records is brimming with it. Here we have 26 songs ranging from 80s synth-pop to disheveled indie rock and catchy retro pop. Unlike most compilations, there is an actual theme. The disc is a tribute of sorts to a time when radio-friendly pop was something to cherish. How they packed a 74 minutes CD with virtually unknown bands and kept it interesting is baffling. Also, there are tons of bands you’ve never heard of, which is refreshing. From the acoustic beauty of Koko and the Future to the dance-music outfit I am the World Trade Center, Build Your Own Radio continues the goods over and over. Definitely a label to watch.
Fresh Cold Cuts
A complimentary collaboration between a haunting vocalist, Bare Wire, and an exceptional electronic musician, Wiremnky, brings about an experimental sound, titled Fresh Cold Cuts.
Wiremnky’s electronic orchestrations are a flawless hybrid of Trip-Hop and Break Beats, which are randomly accompanied by stunningly synthesized instrumentals.
Simone Grey, the voice of Bare Wire, croons throughout the album in a way that is reminiscent of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan and the poignant melodies vocalized by Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. Grey’s crooning does become somewhat overzealous and redundant, however.
In a way, the entire album becomes redundant. It lacks any significant change in sound or style between the songs. Thus, this CD is best listened to as background music while studying or sleeping.
Fresh Cold Cuts may not be the next hottest thing to hit the airwaves, but if you want to hear something different, it’s worth checking out.