Welcome to A&A. There are 14 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 #269 reviews
The Aiden boys have a full-on goth look. They have a full-on Maiden-meets-Alkaline Trio sound. I can only imagine the live show, but the songs on this disc are astonishing in scope and intensity.
I suppose it's only natural for pop punksters to have a Eurometal jones, but this is the most pronounced I've ever heard. Kinda interesting to hear the prog excesses blurred with crunchy harmonic excesses.
Aiden has a few other influences that burble up from song to song. There are a few extreme hardcore moments (which are surprisingly unjarring, considering the general content of the album), and every once in a while there's the fleeting goth keyboard wash and glam metal reference. I'm partial to these kinda asides, obviously.
Truly invigorating. Aiden brings a few strange mates to the table, but hell, who says one emo band has to sound like all the others. Oh, yeah, the major labels. Good thing these boys are on Victory, a label that knows a thing or two about distinctive music. Play it loud and smile lots.
Follow Me Blind
A King's X for the modern era. Baleen is much more electronic than hard rock (though these songs are played, not programmed), but there are more than a few points in confluence. The science fiction references (The title of a song on this album, "Magnifico (The Mule)," is a character in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy). There's also the use of strong, if somewhat unusual harmonies and an off-kilter rhythmic base.
Mostly, though, the resemblance is strictly artistic. At its best (say, on its second and third albums), King's X re-invented hard rock. Baleen is simply a modern rock and roll band, but by infusing jazz elements (including saxophone), an electronic sensibility and more melodies than any album rightly ought to have, these boys have carved out their own space.
And it's one hell of a space. Even in the quiet moments, a lot is going on. I know a few folks who would make a Morphine reference, and I suppose that's legit on an artistic level. Hell, while you're at it, why not include Roxy Music and any other band that didn't fixate upon any fixed conception of music?
Sorry about the soapbox. This is one of those albums that sneaks up on you fast. The first few bars aren't anything spectacular, but I can't imagine anyone not getting hooked by the end of the first song. Spectacular.
(54-40 or Fight!)
C might stand for the Czech Republic, home base for these boys. Or it might stand for "champs." These boys play instrumental post-rock like few others.
And even before I saw the reference on the sleeve, I thought of Del Rey, one of the great, oft-overlooked instrumental bands. These guys incorporate that signature ringing guitar tone often enough, though C likes to veer in plenty of other directions as well.
So much so that Sonic Youth and (early) Don Cab (also listed on the sleeve) are completely accurate comparisons...both in style and quality. The songs on this album lurch and stagger from sound to sound, but the underlying strength is present throughout.
I really dig the way C cycles through ideas. Give each notion its due, and then move on. Proof, I suppose, that there's always something new under the headphones, after all--even if it is largely a sly re-examination of the past. Most exciting.
Desert City Soundtrack
Desert City Soundtrack hasn't been around for the longest time, but I think it's time to acknowledge what seems almost inescapable: This trio from Portland is quite likely the most creative, even brilliant, band in the world.
Yes, this stuff sounds "important" (in that urgent, almost pretentious way), but what sets these boys apart is their ability to shift gears (and keys and time signatures and...) without losing focus. Each turn of the corner pulls the listener in closer, every little tic further binds the ear to the song. This is something that can't be taught, though it must be learned.
And, of course, piano is an important instrument (piano-oriented rock is, of course, all the rage these days, especially in the mainstream), but frequently the keys are used as percussion as much as melodic elements. Desert City Soundtrack uses every single sound and trick at its disposal to create its music, and the result is a richness beyond compare.
Bathe in the luxury, if you like. The sheer weight of the ideas on this disc is staggering. But the approachability of the music is perhaps the most stunning thing of all. Your mom would probably like this, though not necessarily for the same reasons you might. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that no one does it better.
Metallic Blue Electric
I've been listening to Gomez for a while now, and I've always kinda liked his stuff. His guitar playing relied a bit too much on rock and roll licks for my taste--though I've always thought his playing was first rate--but his voice is one wonderful blues instrument.
Turns out it wasn't his guitar that was too rock and roll. It was the band. So here Gomez sits down with his electric guitar and wails the blues. There may be some bass drum work in here, but that also might be the sound of his feet pounding the floor (amplified, of course). Otherwise, we're talking about electric guitar and voice and nothing else. And damned if it isn't the most arresting, invigorating blues album I've heard in ages.
There's no reason why more people don't play this way, but in the last decade or so I've only heard a couple of folks attempt it--and that was live. Jon Spencer came close often enough, and that's not a bad reference point at all. Gomez shreds the blues here, and it's about time.
Sometimes less is more, especially when you're talking about the blues. Gomez strips down without letting up on the throttle one inch, and the result is one of the best white-knuckle blues albums around.