CD reviews

This week: > Sean Na Na > Garrison Starr > The High and Mighty > The World/Inferno Friendship Society > Mason Jennings > Flogging Molly > KMFDM > Rusted Root Sean Na Na My Majesty

This week:
> Sean Na Na
> Garrison Starr
> The High and Mighty
> The World/Inferno Friendship Society
> Mason Jennings
> Flogging Molly
> Rusted Root

Sean Na Na
My Majesty
(French Kiss)

Indie heartthrob Sean Tillmann dishes up sweet emo-pop like it’s chocolate ice cream. Abandoning the aural assault approach of his former band, Calvin Krime, Tillmann has assembled a smooth four-piece backing band to spread his gospel of drunken nights and hazy mornings. By far Tillmann’s most interesting characteristics are his affecting vocals and picture-perfect lyrics.

Unfortunately, his obtuse songwriting is too often only catchy enough to get you through the song without total boredom. Few tunes match the fuzzy warmth of “Spread the Good Feelin’,” a reincarnated version of The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba,” or the full-on ’70s rocker, “Surrender Foreign Lizzy.”

Still, for every long-lost-Wham!-demo-sound-alike (“F You A-Bomb”), there’s a heart-on-the-sleeve gem like “I Need a Girl” which boasts such three-liners as: “I need a new wave girl to dance with me / Curl up on the couch while I pull DJ duty / Adam Ant is spinning.”
—Neal Ramirez

Garrison Starr
Songs From Take-Off to Landing
(Backporch/Virgin Records)

OK, I admit it: I like a good country chick singer. I have Nanci Griffith and Mary Chapin-Carpenter albums in my collection. And with Songs From Take-Off to Landing, Garrison Starr does a darn good job of writing some confessional country tunes with a college rock twist.

Her style is more “alt country,” and, not surprisingly, others in that genre like Carpenter and Steve Earle lend a hand on Songs. The songs fly by, one strong rollicking number after another. The production by Chris Fuhrman and Starr includes crunchy guitars and big drum beats, and Starr’s Southern drawl adds to the album’s rugged vibe. Her lyrics make her come across as confident and determined, with highlights being “5 Minutes,” “Big Sky,” and the sweet “Anytime.”
—Maureen Walsh

The High and Mighty
Air Force One
(Eastern Conference/Landspeed)

Philly should be proud of these perverted, marijuana-obsessed, pop-culture fiendin’ sports nuts, they represent the city well. Cohorts Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi make records that are a lot of fun. Eon’s verses bounce from battling to masturbating, and Mighty Mi’s pimped-out ’70s funk makes those verses sound even dirtier.

Like their first two releases, their latest offers plenty of rhymes that would piss off your mother. Sadly, the set is too damn short; by the time the novelty songs (“And Then,” “Illadelph Jackmove”) are through, the album is done. But what made the cut is fresh.

Havoc and RA the Rugged Man team up with Eon on “You Don’t Want to Fuck Wit” on a song with the same name. “Mighty Mi in the Land of Deadstock” is a crazy collection of scratched samples.

If High And Mighty had laid down four more tracks, Air Force One would be worth it. They haven’t lost their inner filthiness though.
—Bobby Sumner

The World/Inferno Friendship Society
Just the Best Party
(Gern Blandsten)

When they first started in 1997, The World/Inferno Friendship Society was playing semi-interesting music resembling deranged show tunes. The frontman had a commanding, if obnoxious, presence. Their performance resembled a circus: at least nine people would take the stage, some would play horns, others played with fire. A song with a title like “All of California and Everyone Who Lives There Stinks” could easily coax out a smile, if not laughter. But with each listen, they became progressively less entertaining.

Five years later, not much has changed. The music is still pretty good, upbeat and danceable; song titles remain at least marginally clever, but the overall effect is kind of dull. Party might do well in the hands of those who find a suit and tie coupled with a glass of wine amusing. The rest of us might be more entertained by taking a gander at the song titles: “Zen & The Art of Breaking Everything in This Room,” “I Wouldn’t Want to Live in a World Without Grudges,” and “All the World is a Stage (Dive).” Despite a less-than-amazing record, The WIFS is probably still fun to see live. The addition of a “full-time incendiarist” couldn’t make a nine-member line-up any less chaotic.
—Richard Charles

Mason Jennings
Century Spring

Judging from Century Spring, Mason Jennings seems like the happiest man on earth. Hope springs eternal for the Minnesota singer-songwriter on his third album. The record is neatly packed into 32 minutes, but that is ample time for Jennings to openly celebrate love and life. Lyrics about opportunism, true love and acceptance pack the record. “I’m living in the moment with the friends I love,” he exclaims on the opening track, giving up on his quest for perfection and finding peace with himself.

“New York City” is a smartly disguised ode to the city, which parallels the resilient and spontaneous nature of the town with the idea of following the heart. “I believe if you fall in love,” he writes, “you should jump right in.”

While mild mannered and together, he is real enough to take on a vengeful tone in the bitter “Bullet.” Hence, Jennings’ music is reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright, but has the edge of a Nick Drake or Ryan Adams; save the cynicism.

Not many records in the past few years have been as heartfelt and sincere as Spring. Jennings’ brilliant songwriting, laden with poignant lyrics and melodic neo-pop melodies that make this record a can’t-miss. His genius is simply too great to ignore.
—Jesse Chadderdon

Mason Jennings will play at The North Star Bar on April 12.

Flogging Molly
Drunken Lullabies
Drunken Lullabies is such an intricate, layered, complex album, you’d never guess it was recorded by Steve Albini. But what less would one expect from a traditional Irish septet? Flogging Molly’s sophomore outing continues to fuse Celtic-folk and punk sounds, using tin whistle and fiddle as much as it uses a distortion peddle. Vivacious cuts like “What’s Left Of The Flag,” “Rebels Of The Sacred Heart,” and “Swagger” are what the Dropkick Murphys wish they could be doing, while ventures into the realm of acoustic dittys (“The Son Never Shines On Closed Dorrs”) and sea chantys (“Cruel Mistress”) show that the band has more than a few tricks up their sleeve. The eastern-leaning “Another Bag Of Bricks” is less successful, and some moments drag (“If I Ever Leave This World Alive”), but on the whole, Lullabies is anything but.
—John Vettese

Flogging Molly will play at the Troc on April 11

The members of KMFDM have managed to outdo themselves again. With enchanting vocals provided by Lucia Cifarelli of Drill and throbbing beats, Attak is truly one of the best CDs ever released by KMFDM.

Although some diehard fans might be left wanting more, KMFDM members have adapted well to their new surroundings with little loss of their hardcore edge by attempting to broaden their fan-base with deeper rhythms and more of a club sound.

However the band has managed to stay loyal to their original fans through their dark and sexual vocals complimented by outrageous backbeats. Although some will be surprised to hear the new direction that frontman Sascha Koneitzko has taken the band in, they will definitely not be disappointed.

By creating smoother transitions between songs and a more fluid style to their music, KMFDM has created a CD that sounds excellent both in clubs and at home.
—Moira Cochran

Rusted Root
Welcome to My Party
(Island Records)
Unless you’re a die-hard Rusted Root fan, this album is probably not your cup of tea. Welcome to My Party is anything but, as the group who once blessed us with “Send Me On My Way”, attempts to return to stardom and album charts.

The first track “Union 7” isn’t as bad as the rest and offers listeners a funky beat in which all the instruments come together making for a sound that’s catchy, but not anything new to jam band and funk fans.

Lead singer Michael Glabicki’s voice on “Welcome To My Party” sounds more like a desperate attempt to get people to his party as he strains and bellows his voice on nearly every line of the chorus. He is also accompanied by the constant female background vocal sound of “doo doo,” that seems to appear in almost every song.

Still, “Blue Diamond” seems to be the anthem for Rusted Root and its fan base. The track holds more meaning than any other on Welcome as it pertains to an accident Glabicki suffered when he was two-and-a-half years old.

There is something else that is striking about this record…no drum solos.
—Chris Silva

Rusted Root will play at the TLA on April 15

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