Welcome to A&A. There are 16 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 #293 reviews
Really Real for Forever
The obvious comparison is the New Pornographers, though the Billionaires are more precious and moody than those effervescently eclectic Canadian popsters. The pretension level is high, but by and large these songs aren't quite overbearing.
This may sound like a right slagging, but in truth, the greatest stuff is always just this side of crap. The Billionaires have big ideas, and while there ought to be a similar focus on hooks (some increased sweetening would be nice), these folks generally manage to bend some complicated concepts into tasty packages.
Most bands can't swerve from a Supertramp-esque rumination into a raucous raver without losing something in the translation. On this album, such a whipsaw makes perfect sense.
The one major flaw is that this album is missing that one shimmery song that might burn itself into the brain. All of these songs are good, and some are great. The sound is wonderfully varied. Nonetheless, I never quite reached bliss. But then, I think the Billionaires are shooting a bit higher than that.
I know that My Chemical Romance didn't invent the doomy pop-punk-metal anthem, but no one has done more (certainly in a commercial sense) with the sound. Desoto Jones doesn't do a whole lot to mess with the formula, but it sure does things right.
Right down to the combination of speed, power and melody that drives some of the best songs of this genre. Kinda like Rage-era Queensryche run through an emo filter. That might sound horrific to you, but I dig it a lot.
The sound is moderately worn (not so shiny) when compared to the likes of MCR, but not by much. This isn't a rip-off or homage; the bands simply ply similar waters. Desoto Jones is--by far--the more aggressive of the two. I like that. When in doubt, play harder and faster.
Well done. Nothing earth-shattering, I suppose, but fun nonetheless. And when the songs really start racing, so does my heart.
Got the Goat by the Horns
Pleasantly throbbing rock and roll, with plenty of bump in the trunk. Indeed, the bouncing bass work is probably my favorite part of this disc.
'Cause what we have here is lead-jacketed blooze'n'boogie, the sort of fuzzy, heavy stuff that makes folks like me smile. It's not complicated or sophisticated or anything like that. Just throw in some power chords, add a pint of bourbon and set to spin.
And yet, so few do it well. Dirt Mall does it great. These are simple songs best enjoyed at 11, which is a description of some of the most exciting albums around. This one qualifies easily.
This is something of a throwback, I suppose, though there are enough sly references to make it difficult to pin down Dirt Mall's place in time. No matter. When a disc has as many obvious pleasures as this one, there's no need to worry about the why. Just turn it up and let it go.
Envy is yer typical Temporary Residence band, which is to say it's about as atypical as it comes. Lots of noise, walls of guitar and vocals that are more death metal than, well, sung. Check, check, check.
That would be my pleasure meter clicking. Envy does have a fine grasp of melody in its music, even if that melody sometimes disappears for moments on end. Gorgeous interludes are blasted to smithereens by fusillades of guitar, bass and drums. And, of course, the "singing."
I'm not making fun! I'm not! I like Envy's style. On the surface it can seem like a mess, but there's so much structure underneath that it is hard to appreciate in one or five sittings. I can't quite get my head around this one. Most often, that's a very good thing.
Free at Last
Bluesy pop, with just about every added brightener you can imagine. Josh Fix tries very hard to make these songs the best they can be.
He's got a light hand when he plays, though, so even the most involved arrangement manages to have a loose feel. Imagine Jeff Lynne produced by Jack White. Except, you know, nothing like that.
There are a ton of flourishes--Fix is a fine guitar player, and he is convincing in a variety of sounds--but they all feel natural. This is the rare hyper-ambitious pop album that sounds like nothing of the sort.
Rather, there is simply a feeling that this music is the greatest thing going on right now. And, who knows? Maybe it is. It sure is awfully damned good.
Forty Piece Choir
The Profound Nature of Life
(Cooked County Records)
Six members rather than the advertised 40, but when you've got an active horn section, it's easy to make small numbers sound bigger. And these songs generally sound much bigger than they are. Which is about what I expected, given how much I liked the band's earlier stuff.
The guts of the pieces are simple rootsy jangles. But throw in the horns, a Fender Rhodes, violin and mandolin and these songs take on a more ambitious life. They certainly sound more alive, in any case.
The sound of the album is raucous and restless, almost mono at times. That flat character really takes these songs to a cool place. Kinda like being present at the birth of rock and roll.
Alright then. Some folks know how to play the country blues, and more than a few can do the rock and roll. Most folks these days don't try to do both at the same time, but Forty Piece Choir does just that most impressively. Most fun.
Yoni Gordon and the Goods
Buried in the Basement
The second song on this disc is "I Dreamed I Saw Billy Bragg Last Night." That's utterly perfect, given Gordon's affection for strident punk rhythms and proto-americana bass lines. Kinda like if Bragg fronted early Uncle Tupelo (much heavier than Bragg's actual collaboration with Wilco).
Only kinda, though, as Gordon barely dabbles in politics or any strident subject. He's more of a wry commentator on the peculiarities of life--there's an off-kilter sensibility that reminds me of Welcome to Asbury Park. You know, Springsteen's first album with the original version of "Blinded by the Light." Asbury is a highly flawed album, but it does have a singular feel that makes it a classic.
And Gordon is the same way. He's got his own writing and signing styles, and his mates bash out these songs with sinewy punch. Aggression tempered with perspective.
I like that. These songs aren't the second coming of anything, just Gordon's glances askew. He's got the chops to make that more than worthwhile. Solid.
Kabuki Killers EP
Chunk, basic rock and roll. Kinda like Urge Overkill without the irony. I'm not complaining.
Rather, it's nice to kick back and let the music run roughshod over everything in sight. Kabuki Killers aren't out to make anyone think. The lyrics are occasionally amusing, but they're mostly window dressing for the high-throttle riffage. These songs plow forward and never look back.
Alrighty then. Why try to complicate something this pure and incandescent? No reason I can think of. Kabuki Killers rip off huge chunks of rock and serve them up with style. Be thankful.