Welcome to A&A. There are 17 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #260 reviews
The latest musings from Rent Romus and Ernesto Diaz-Infante (and a revolving cast of pals). Are these improvisations? Performance art? A whacked-out attempt at art songs? Probably all of the above. The only thing I know is that each songs pushes a different part of the envelope.
And so you can flit from a silly political discussion to something that sounds like Leonard Cohen deconstructed to some really nice abstract noise--with a cool vocal track, to boot. A fine mix of fare.
A sonic bouillabaisse, if you will. Romus and Diaz-Infante throw just about everything into the pot, and somehow it comes out as a nice, cohesive stew. Not for the faint of heart (or mind), but just the sort of musical adventure I like to take.
But then, I had a feeling I'd like this as soon as I opened the package. So maybe you can't take my word for it. For fans, though, this album just keeps on keepin' on. And that's a very good thing.
Shock City Maverick
The latest from former Anti-Pop Consortium member Beans finds him working just as hard as ever to find the funk within the electronic. The rhymes? Solid, if occasionally a bit heavy on the braggadocio. Ah well, like they say, it ain't braggin' if you can do it.
And since Beans doesn't skimp on the political musings, his occasional forays into silliness don't worry me too much. Personally, I prefer to lie back and let the beats wash over me. It's all too easy to get lost in the background of this album.
The reason it's so quickly addictive is that Beans keeps things stark and simple. The sound is stripped down and basic. One bass line, one beat track. That's it. Hey, if those two elements are great, why throw a blanket over it? Just let the funk roll.
So it does, and interestingly, this one sounds better on repeat listens. I wasn't knocked out after my first listen, but I'm quickly becoming a fanatic. I'd say sneaky good, but this is really much better than that. It's quality is apparent from the beginning. Just turn up the volume and keep out of the way.
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective 2xCD
Kinda fitting that this arrived in the mail just after the passing of Greg Shaw, founder of Bomp! Records. BJM was the first Bomp! artist I heard, and soon I was a big fan of the label. Anton Newcombe and whoever else has filled out the Massacre has been on one long trip the last 10 years, and this set is just a hint of the madness of that experience.
I should note that there are no tracks from the band's biggest "hit," Strung Out in Heaven--not coincidentally, the only album with major distribution. After that puppy flopped, Newcombe simply kept writing songs and releasing albums. And while the sound has changed a bit in the last decade, the quality has always been high.
Now, of course, there's Dig, a documentary that focuses on the divergent paths of the Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard it's great. The music shouldn't suck, anyway.
This is kind of a cute little Christmas present for me, a mix tape of some of my favorite songs. There are a few unreleased songs and alternate versions here--just enough to interest the true fans--but this set ought to serve as a nice into to one of the better songwriters of the last decade for those who know BJM only from the movie. As a friend of mine used to say, "These are happy presents."
Cusp of the Precipice
Somewhere between, say, Gary Numan and the Cure, lies Faux Fox. Well, there's also this kinda fun modern sheen to the sound, but the songwriting style is definitely grounded in the early 80s, all that sorta punky, gothic, pre-industrial stuff.
Which means that the masses might not exactly embrace this album with open arms. Probably why I like it so much. Faux Fox doesn't so much replicate a now old-fashioned sound as much as wallow in it. There's no reason electronic music needs to sound like this--unless you want it to, of course.
And given that John Congleton (The Paper Chase) is on the boards, it's apparent that this is precisely what Faux Fox wants. The disarmingly simple production highlights the complex songwriting, which then makes all of this that much more inviting. There is a good deal that lies just beneath the surface.
Hell, this is simply a big wad of fun. Yeah, I can think of all sorts of "intellectual" reasons to dig Faux Fox, but I think the most important one is the overwhelming pleasure of the music. Yes, it helps that I was in junior high back in the early 80s, but I think just about any serious music fan will be entranced. First rate.
Flat Earth Society
Think of this as music for a series of noir cartoons. Band leader (and songwriter) Peter Vermeersch is obviously schooled in Carl Stalling, Henry Mancini, John Barry and, well, Miles Davis and John Coltrane as well. The result is a series of dark--often darkly comic--romps.
There's something of a Gypsy orchestra in this as well--think Angelo Badalamenti (City of Lost Children, Mulholland Dr., Arlington Road) meets Benoit Charest (Triplets of Belleville). Sometimes ominous, but most often simply wild and engaging.
So, yes, we're talking about "filmic" music, or more specifically, music that tells a story. The quality of the compositions and production lead me to wonder why one of the major classical labels didn't pick this up. Maybe they're too worried about offending someone. Too bad.
One of the brightest, most pleasant surprises I've heard in a while. Yeah, Ipecac rarely puts out a clunker. But this is surprising even for them. Of course, the "compiled by Mike Patton" note at the end does explain one thing: he found four albums by this outfit and decided that the rest of us ought to hear it.
He's right, you know.
Break-up Songs for Relationships that Never Happened
It's always nice to hear what's going on in the upper Midwest. Landing Gear is from Minneapolis, but has a sort of lush, rambling sound that is much more reminiscent of, say, England.
The moodier side of Britpop, the kinda stuff you often find on Jetset. And regular readers will know that's a pretty fair complement from me. Landing Gear is equally comfortable with delicate melodies and bounding rockers. That it can make such disparate styles cohere within the same album is a testament to the band's confidence.
Honestly, I think the boys are a bit better at the mellower side of the spectrum, but the heavier, more raucous pieces here are quite impressive. What helps is the band's reliance on keyboards--that sort of thing does help to provide a touchstone for all of the songs. The band recorded most of this itself--and it did so very well. This album hardly sounds like some muffled demo. Though I haven't heard a demo like that in years. Technology is an amazing thing.
A solid and nicely varied album. Landing Gear may just be getting started, but it already has set out a nice road map for itself.