Adventures In Stereo
Adventures In Stereo is the brainchild of ex-Primal Screamer Jim Beattie, lover of pop legends in the Brian Wilson/Phil Spector mold. AIS began as an oldies-inspired home recording project with Judith Boyle (who worked with Beattie in the short-lived Spirea X) and has since blossomed into an actual six-piece rock ‘n’ roll band.
Gone are the sample-heavy vignettes of ’97’s self-titled album and the four-track quaintness of ’98’s Alternative Stereo Sounds. Monomania is a solid album of well-produced three-minute (that used to be epic for Beattie) perfect pop ditties. As usual, Boyle’s vocals are like a thousand little treasures.
While nothing on Monomania reaches the orgasmic wonder of classic pre-dancefloor Primal Scream, AIS is a different kind of beast for a different generation. Their genuine love of melody and history is refreshing without being retro. AIS is the kind of band that has a self-proclaimed leader and yearns for things to be as good as they once were.
Jim Beattie just wasn’t made for these times.
The Donner Party
Complete Recordings 1987-1989
Before the amazingly talented group Quasi (with Sleater-Kinney drummer and ex-wife Janet Weiss) and the now defunct Heatmiser (with friend Elliott Smith whom he now backs up on tour), Sam Coomes was in a trio called the Donner Party.
Along with fellow members Reinhold Johnson and Melanie Clarin, Coomes created a sound of indie-rock before the term was even used. This may be the reason the Donner Party never achieved any commercial success.
This double LP is a reissue of the group’s first, second, and third albums (the first and second had been out-of-print, the third previously unreleased). The last eight songs are live, including covers of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” and Pete Townshend’s “Squeeze Box.” The album showcases the start of Coomes’ talent of pairing depressing, ironic lyrics with music orchestrated in an opposite yet complementary fashion.
A choice album for those curious to see the development of one of the most forward-thinking musicians of today–or just to get 53 songs for the price of 12.
Complete Recordings is one that is exactly that, complete.
The One and Only High and Low
(Digital Hardcore Recordings)
If any of you loved Atari Teenage Riot, then you’ll probably like EC8OR. The result of this Berlin-based band’s collaboration with Alec Empire, of ATR, is a barrage of sampling, distorted keyboards, and plenty of other crap that all the Ravers love to hear when they fry their brain with E on a hot and crowded night at Shampoo.
The knowledge that EC8OR is from Berlin explains a lot about its music. Unlike other great bands from Germany like Rammstein and Scorpions, EC8OR knows how to rock! A few tabs of acid help the music flow a little better. If you really want to freak out that freshman trying hallucinogenic drugs for the first time, just pop in this CD and watch the sweat begin to bead on his forehead as the barrage of synthesizers and mixing hits him like a sweaty fat woman covered with flour.
If you are a fan of bands, if that is what you call them, like ATR and Mindless Self Indulgence, then by all means go get this album. It will be the perfect accessory to your record collection.
Grade: A with hallucinogens, D without
Face to Face
(Lady Luck/ Vagrant Records)
OK. Joke’s over. Let’s face it. Face to Face is getting old and the band needs to start evolving in the music it plays. Punk music is for 12-year-olds, right? Wrong! Unlike many bands today that apparently evolve in their music and in the process alienate their fans, Face to Face comes back with a great album that was basically made for the fans. Many bands claim that they make music for the fans, but Face to Face actually does.
The songs on this album are there because that is what the fans wanted: and what the fans want, the fans get. In March, 18 songs were made available on the Web, then fans voted for their favorites. From there, 12 songs were picked and put on the album. So if you’re a Face to Face fan and you don’t like the album then it’s your own damn fault for not voting.
Face to Face could teach Metallica a thing or two about paying back the fans who made them what they are today.
A Place Called Home
SoCal punkers Ignite open up their third full-length album addressing the ever-popular punk rock topic of selling out–then proceed to deliver an album of formulaic, ear-friendly punk.
Sounding mysteriously like fellow Orange County notables The Offspring on tracks like “Veteran” and “Run”, the album’s 13 songs for the most part are carbon-copy. Its only redemption comes in Zoli Teglas’ impassioned vocals, and a few half-decent songs.
A hard bass line drives “Burned Up” with guitars only appearing on the chorus, sounding like old Tool. Also worthwhile is “Hands On Stance,” in which the bass, drums, vocals, and guitar slowly build on top of one another until the song erupts. “By My Side” is a good melodic number with some interesting guitar arpeggios during the verse. But that’s only three decent tracks against the rest of the album.
The album also happens to be laced with some confused and silly anti-everything politics (from “Bullets Included, No Thoughts Required”: “Tag your name on dirty toilet stalls / claim your turf on subway urinals / pay your rent by selling guns and drugs / understand I don’t respect you at all”). A tip to Ignite: trying to sound informed and socially conscious doesn’t make up for the fact that your album is flat-out generic.
Live Human mixes turntablism, a wide range of percussion (ranging from classical North Indian tablas to futuristic drum machines) and double bass. Blending together hip-hop, funk, jazz and electronic music, the San Francisco threesome successfully creates the music that George Clinton’s grandchildren will listen to. With no lyrics, moving bass lines and sounds of engaged telephones and traffic sirens, the album serves as background music to rob a bank to. Each track of the album brings out different emotions. It starts off danceable and head-bopping but gets more electronic and mischievous and sexy as it proceeds. Although each track is strong individually, the album is meant to be listened to from beginning to end, transporting the listener through different dimensions.
One Minute Science
Sunna harken back to the day of…well, a few years back when the music world was experiencing a short-lived fascination with rock-industrial bands (Filter, Stabbing Westward, Gravity Kills, etc.). And while it doesn’t sound too much better now than it did then, at least Sunna has managed to put a somewhat new spin on the sound.
Culling some vocal and melodic influence from early ’90’s grunge, the album’s slower numbers like the acoustic, drenched-in-reverb-and-weird-synth-noises “Preoccupation,” and the ballad-y “7%” make you want to go to a thrift store and buy some flannel. As an album, One Minute Science has the somewhat repetitious pattern of “loud song, quiet song, loud song, quiet song”, but it’s a formula that keeps your attention.
“Insanity Pulse” is representative of the album’s heavy half: acoustic strumming contrasted with crunching guitars and crashing drums. The vocals lean toward the caterwauling end of the decibel scale, and the chorus (“I wanna know if I wanna know if I wanna know if I wanna know if…”) becomes irksome after the first couple repetitions. Fear not: the song will be stuck in your head for hours after you hear it. It’s nothing revolutionary, but on the whole, One Minute Science is a noble debut from Sunna.
Out of Nowhere
Jimi Tenor is not just a musician. He is a serious composer. This album features a 55-piece orchestra. And while it doesn’t get much more serious than that, it’s not easy to listen to this Finnish Warhol-looking weirdo with a straight face.
Some songs on Tenor’s third album are soundtrack pieces from an imaginary ’60’s noir film, while others serve the sole purpose of shaking your thang on the dance floor. The first half of the album, including the eerie title track, is grand and somewhat inaccessible. The more lilting aspects of Bjork mix with Marvin Gaye sensitivity.
It isn’t until “Backbone of Night,” halfway through the album, that things pick up. The cinematic feel is mixed with Euro-cocktail electronic beats. “Spell,” Tenor’s modus operandi, is totally Barry White at Studio 54.
Out of Nowhere is a bit too subtle at times, but enough decent songs make the album an interesting journey down the hall of kitsch.
Low to the Ground
The Waxwings. The name doesn’t make much sense. But this Detroit quartet’s debut album is strong enough to bear any kind of name. With Byrds-like three part harmonies, instrumental savvy possessed by too few bands and a knack for instantly memorable songwriting, Low to the Ground is a stellar album.
The Waxwings could have been a mid-‘ ’90s Britpop band after the sarcasm had gone out of style. Or they could have been long lost 70s greats. Instead they are making now music with a foot planted firmly in the past.
Taking cues from power pop staples like Big Star, dB’s, and the Posies, the Waxwings understand that the song is always more important than what style or package you dress it up in.