Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #283 reviews
The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound
By and large, when I get a package from Tee Pee, I know something interesting and unusual is inside. The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound lives up to its name, spewing forth a loud and reverb-laden set of modern psychedelic trippage. A lot like the Brian Jonestown Massacre (whose recent compilation was released on Tee Pee), only much, much louder.
Which is, in fact, saying something. And in saying that, these folks are about a lot more than sonic carnage. There's a fairly rigid devotion to melody and an almost fanatic desire to explore as many tangents as possible. Under less qualified hands, that would render this a bloody mess. As it is, I think I'm listening to a travelogue of the highest order.
The sound is rich and full even within the rippling chords. Sometimes the heavy hand of the effects makes it difficult for me to discern the true melody. Then I figured out that it was a lot easier to not worry about such silly things.
This is an album for relaxing, for leaning back and letting the music take control. If you give these boys an inch they'll steal your cerebellum...but they give it back at the end. You can decide if it's been improved or not.
You Were a Shaman
The artwork (and what serve as liner notes) for this disc are so obtuse I couldn't even figure out the name of the band. Oh yeah, idiot, look at the CD.
Similarly, it took me a few times through to get a handle on the music. It's kind of a minimalist take on the 22nd century blues promulgated by the good Captain B all those years ago. Fewer flights of fancy, but plenty of weirdness. All wrapped up in a package that kicks out every sound as clear as day.
Indeed, the stark production here means there can be no mistaking what you're hearing...except that it doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. At first. Then I kinda let go (which is going to be something of a theme this month, I believe). Two bourbons down, I was still a bit baffled, but I felt better.
That's when this snapped into focus for me. The whole Beefheart connection. And the nicely warped stripped-down take on all that. Is it as brilliant as all that? Probably not, but it's definitely as strange. For professionals only. But it sure do make us pros some happy folks, now.
The Eames Era
Heroes + Sheroes
The sorta vaguely disjointed--yet almost unbearably lush--pop songs that have a way of completely distracting me from the issue at hand. Which is to say that the Eames Era has just ended.
Not the band--at least, I assume not. Rather, I'd like to note the recent passing of Alan Eames, a cool beer scholar. He roamed the earth in search of beer, and he sent back a missal every now and again when he found something. That has nothing to do with these folks, but the name kinda made my mind wander a bit.
But, right, the Eames Era (the band). Pretty songs that break down at what have to be described as utterly cute times. The breaking down thing is intentional; the hooks are always in place. And while often quite involved, those hooks are as sweet as anything out there.
If these folks were a bit more, well, refined, I'd say they were a perfect fit for Minty Fresh, those Chicago-based purveyors of extreme pop. But maybe a slightly more eclectic label like Merge would be better. I dunno. I'd be proud to have them on my roster, if only because I got to hear their new stuff first.
Dial T for This
(In Music We Trust)
I've been listening to a lot of Big Star lately. And so this kind of crafted, almost-British Invasion stuff hit the spot. Grand Champeen does add a bit of the modern style, but mostly this album takes me back.
It was a good time for music, though. Sometimes nostalgia is a perfectly good thing. Grand Champeen plays rock and roll like it oughta be, whether it's channeling Alex Chilton or Rick Nielsen.
Oh yeah, there's a big chunk of the Trick in here ("Wounded Eye" sounds like a hit the boys from Rockville would die to play these days). A nod and a wink and big ol' hook. With plenty of guitars. Indeed, nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.
I was too busy having a good time to figure out if Grand Champeen was much more than a time machine from the early-to-mid 70s. In the end, it doesn't much matter to me. Summer is coming soon, and this puppy will be doing heavy rotation. Monster smiles.
Jessie and Layla
Jessie and Layla (Collins) sing and play in that offhandedly cool way that Liz Phair used to way back when. There aren't any songs about blow jobs or redistribution of various body parts, but the sound is similar (especially to whitechocolatespaceegg, the Phair-est of them all, IMHO). Specifically, lots and lots of sound and very little in the way of space between the lines.
This sort of heavy-handed production usually makes an album sound dreadfully pretentious, but it works here precisely because the songs are relatively simple and the Collins sisters don't oversell them. The tracks tumble out one after another, kinda like the mint juleps at Churchill Downs on Derby day.
If none of this is making sense, imagine that Wilson Phillips wrote songs with the slightest bit of bite and then let their producer run wild in a lush, psychedelic landscape. Kramer's final mix probably didn't hurt, either. If you didn't guess, Second Shimmy is something of the reincarnation of Kramer's old Shimmy Disc label. I'm pretty sure someone else owns the old stuff, but when you're releasing stuff like this and Rope, Inc., there's no need to look back in anger. Except, perhaps, at my dingbat literary cliches. Ouch.