Belle and Sebastian
Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
When I first popped in this disc it seemed familiar: “I Fought in a War” is classic, lethargic-to-emphatic Belle and Sebastian, the sort of joyous song that started each one of this Scottish group’s previous three albums (all classic must-owns). “The Model,” an upbeat number with call-and-response singing was another gem.
But after the CD slowed to a halt, I honestly didn’t know what to think. Like a movie that gets your head all messed up hours after you leave the theater, Fold Your Hands Child is something of a perplexing trip with a band many young hipsters have already deemed the next Smiths.
And like the boy at school everyone fancies, the band has gone through some noticeable changes. Instead of spending a week or month on this record, the band spent a year. Sure, it resulted in a better sounding record, but their creativity sounds stunted. They reportedly recorded some of these songs three times.
As with 1998’s The Boy with the Arab Strap, reluctant leader Stuart Murdoch shares songwriting duties with his eager bandmates, resulting in a lack of robustness. Other problems arise when on a few songs they even seem downright derivative of themselves–which is doubly perplexing because of their already derivative folk-pop sound.
Imperfections included, I like this record and I play it a lot. I don’t know what it is but there’s something about this band that keeps me coming back. It’s probably that same fan loyalty that kept Tom Jones fans flocking to Vegas in the ’70s. Who knows how a song as downright effortless as “The Chalet Lines” or as twee as “Family Tree” can somehow snuggle up inside this foolish heart.
Whatever it is, here’s to hoping they keep on doing it.
Competent songwriting and a sense of humor are what keep this from being another album by Sugarsmashmoutheyeblindray. Unfortunately, a cursory listen to this Seattle quartet’s first album paints a picture of an inexperienced band overwhelmed in the studio by an industry producer. It is all the more confusing then that singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Liebert shares production credits with Chris Ballew (Presidents of the United States of America). Bicycle are at their best during the Beatles-ish “View of the Valley” and “Earthquake. “They are at their worse on songs like “Bionic” that sound as though they were made for a Super Bowl halftime show.
After two long years of crisscrossing the globe on tour buses, a stark change has come to (hed). The band brings a vicious new sound on its second album, Broke.
Broke tears into listeners from the first song, “Killing Time.” Beginning with an annoying guitar bleep (reminiscent of the alarm that kicked you out of bed this morning), “Killing Time” further wakes up the listener with two thunderous bursts of guitars, drums and bass followed by the fiery blasts of vocalist Jahred screaming “Baby, I’m a survivor!” The intense song makes for a great opening to the album.
“Waiting to Die” and “Swan Dive” are two standout songs on the album. Each song vividly expresses the vein-popping reality between life and death. “Boom (How You Like That)” is another deep and heavy song that delves deep into their conflicted emotions and exposes them to the world. These three songs alone clearly show how redefined (hed)’s sound has come since their first album.
The Orange County, Calif., group is joined in the song “Feel Good” by Serj Tankian (System Of A Down) and Morgan Lander (Kittie). Lander and Tankian provide great vocal additions to the heavy call-and-response chorus. By far the centerpiece of Broke, “Feel Good” is a song about the end of the world and society’s unwillingness to care.
As a whole, the 12-track album is a very welcome change. No overwhelmingly weak tracks are found on the album, but (hed) did leave room for a few mellow songs in “Jesus” and “The Meadow.” Besides their aggressive change in style, these six hardcore young men remain the same. They can be found out on the place that has become home to them, their aspirations and their music: the road.
The Paper Route
The Paper Route is Mack 10’s fourth album to date, but unlike some rappers, whose careers and lyrical ability progress after every LP, Mack fails to improve. What saves the disc from complete wackness is the production, wasted on unimaginative rhymes and poor rhyme skills.
“Nobody,” featuring the infamous Westside Connection, offers top-notch production by arguably the best producer in hip-hop today, Timbaland, but that’s all that’s worth mentioning. His mentor Ice Cube, a legend in his own right, couldn’t save listeners from pressing the fast forward button on the weak “Tha Weekend.” Mack 10’s girl T-Boz offers her unique vocals, providing the hook to “Tight to Def,” but it was too little and to no avail.
Mack 10 won’t be winning any best rapper awards anytime soon, so running his own label, Hoo Bangin’ Records, and exploring movies aren’t such bad ideas for him after all.
(Word Of Mouth Records)
I can sum up this album in four letters: D-U-L-L.
Basically, this album is 13 cuts of this guy Pluto and his acoustic guitar, singing about nonsensical things. And while the folky, acoustic strumming and melodious vocals are nice and all, that’s all there is to this album. No songs prove to be particularly catchy, the lyrics aren’t particularly compelling, and there is little to no variation in tempo, tune, or rhythm from one song to the next. It fails to grab you, and just puts you to sleep.
Props only for the spoken-word cut “Must Have Thought It Was True”, a 13-second little poem that makes for the only interesting moment on the CD.
Live – Everything, Everything
I love Underworld. Really, I do. In the realm of techno/trance/electronic music, I revere them as gods. But why in the hell did they feel the need to release a friggin’ live album? In their genre, the concert experience is more about what the band can do visually, how well they can work the crowd, and the sensation of dancing your ass off to their music as they are right there in front of you (as opposed to a DJ spinning their 12-inch). Hence, techno concerts don’t really translate well to CD, and Everything, Everything is Exhibit A.
A few songs, like the expansive “Pearls Girl” and “Juanita” have been re-worked somewhat; the varied parts of the songs are ordered differently, and Karl Hyde’s monotonic chanting sounds more human. But those tracks are the only one to succeed in presenting a “live” feel. The rest of the CD, in essence, sounds like the studio versions of the songs with applause overdubbed at the beginning and end, and crowd cheering and chanting interspersed throughout.
If you don’t have any Underworld CDs and would like a primer, this could theoretically serve that purpose. But if you do own Beaucoup Fish, Second Toughest, or Dubnobass, you’d be better off just listening to them.