Sometimes a press release comes across our desk that we just can’t help but print verbatim. Well, portions of it at least.
Author Archives: Tankboy
Sometimes a press release comes across our desk that we just can’t help but print verbatim. Well, portions of it at least.
The new Breeders disc, Mountain Battles, sounds an awful lot like the very first Breeders album, Pod. Most of the songs unfold at a sluggish pace, with Kim Deal’s ethereal vocals often the heaviest component of the songs within. In fact. there’s very little here reminiscent of the pop leanings explored on Last Splash, although the bouncy “Walk It Off” could have fit in alongside any of that album’s tracks. And were this a Major Label offering I suspect they’d bring in another producer to scrape the grime off “It’s The love” to reveal the shiny pop tune underneath.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the “comeback album” Title TK, but I’m enjoying this return to form more than I thought I would. To be honest, when I first heard Pod, I hated Albini’s production and though the whole thing dragged, but after listening to the album over and over during the interminable wait the group made us sit through before finally recording Last Splash, I grew to appreciate the subtle intricacies Pod offered up. Mountain Battles plots the same path, and while it doesn’t outdo its almost 2-decade-old predecessor, it does prove the band is slowly marking a clear return to form.
So, listening to the new Duran Duran album, one can’t help but admire the group for trying to update their sound via a truly risky route. Timbaland may be production gold to most, but his aggressively odd production doesn’t always mesh well with established acts. Plus, after missteps like his own solo joint, and the M.I.A. collab that is almost painfully brutish, his track record is no longer untarnished. So the fact that Timbaland, and his protégé Nate “Danja” Hills, basically sculpt Duran Duran (what is it, v13.0 now? something like that) is more fraught than it might have been a year or two ago.
The results are mixed. On one hand it’s a testament to Simon LeBon, Taylor, and the Rhodeses’ nimbleness that they end up sounding just like Duran Duran, despite the hip-pop backing beats. For the most part their pop smarts reign supreme, and the band actually turns in one of its best efforts in ages. At the same time, it’s weird that the flattest tracks on the album are the ones featuring Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. “Nite Runner” and “Skin Divers” feel constricted and too heavily scripted, and stand in stark contrast to the freewheeling white-boy funkiness of tracks like “The Valley” and “Tempted.” For the record, Timbaland does turn in one winner, “Zoom In,” even if I could have done without the race-car revving sound effect that pops up throughout that tune.
So Duran Duran proves they can still pen a winning pop single that sounds of the moment, but they also display, yet again, their inability to actually produce a solid album of pop singles. The album has too many turgid tunes weighed down by their own sense of misplaced drama — and one inexplicable instrumental track — and it’s these that ultimately torpedo the disc as a whole. I almost wish they had truly embraced the “now” and just released a series of digital singles … and maybe a couple cool globe-trotting videos to go along with those singles.
Photo from the band’s MySpace page by Kristin Burns
Only Neil Young would write a sequel to an album that never got released in the first place. The original Chrome Dreams lives in that grey limbo also occupied by the long-in-the-works retrospective box set Young has been piecing together for, well, forever. Chrome Dreams II collects songs written over a really long span of time and shuffles them together in a fashion that would lead most to believe the album was conceived as a cohesive whole from the get-go.
The album begins with the bucolic bliss of “Beautiful Bluebird” and then picks up to a shuffling boogie with “Boxcar.” So far, so good … nice pace, pleasant build-up, and solid songwriting is all in play. And then comes the walloping 18+ minute opus “Ordinary People.” Who has the balls to put an 18+ minute song three songs in?
Well, the answer is pretty obvious, and even more surprising than the placement of “Ordinary People” is the fact that those 18+ minutes never get old. Young hits gospel-choir heights through his churning guitar chords and trademark tenor warble, evoking a spiritual air grounded by his matter-of-fact lyrics and delivery.
The problem is that as wonderful as “Ordinary People” is, and it’s pretty terrific, there’s still seven songs to go after it’s finished it’s last note. And Young simply is not up to the task of besting such a shining moment, so the listener is left with an album’s worth of music that on its own would be a lovely experience, but pales as it’s forced to follow a true epic. And it’s a pity, because moment like the children’s choir bursting from within “The Way,” and the Appalachian hootenanny feel of “The Believer” are truly affecting.
I guess what I’m saying is that Chrome Dreams II is a terrific album, flawed only by its internal architecture. There are worse things to complain about, huh?
Fader is releasing the Trent Reznor / Saul Williams collaboration The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! free of charge in DRM-free 192 kbps MP3 format. If you want a choice of formats, or you just want to directly support the artist, you can shell out $5. The album will be available for download November 1, but you can pre-order now.
In some ways this is awfully similar to the Radiohead model, with a few improvements. First of all, the higher baseline kpbs encoding is nice, but I really like the fact that if you pay, you can get the download in whatever format you’d like on up to FLAC.
Secondly, I don’t think this is physically coming out, so it won’t be viewed as a leveraging ploy / future CD-sales tactic. In fact it’ll probably give Williams more recognition than he’s (ever?) had. This is not just due to the sales model, since obviously Reznor’s involvement is pretty noteworthy … especially given his own recent outspoken disdain for the Major Label model of distributing music.
I’m liking these changing times.
I haven’t really written much about Rachael Yamagata, and what I have written tends to stick strictly to reviews of her music and previews of her performances. I’ve had lots of people ask me to write more about her, but I think that when a friend becomes famous you tend to grow overprotective of them. Considering Rach was like the little sister I never had, I’d say that was certainly the case in this instance.
However her name has been popping up more and more lately, so I’ve been thinking about her more. My little brother pointed out that she did an interview with Mandy Moore recently — which really is a good read since it dispenses with the usual back-and-forth in favor of a more revealing look at how Moore actually operates — and I keep hearing murmurings that her new album is coming out in the near future, though I’ve been hearing that for over 6 months now, so who knows.
I don’t really get to talk to Rach that much anymore. Aside from a couple of “catch-up” emails a year we don’t really get to talk, which is too bad, but that sort of thing happens even with friends who still live in town, a couple blocks away from me. It’s just sort of the natural progression of things. There was a period of time where all we would do is have hours-long conversations late into the night, and now I think our last spoken conversation was at my birthday party last year. Or was that the year before? Time flies.
Anyway, I dug out some old demos of hers that never saw the light of day. One batch is a bunch of recordings she did with Chris Holmes, some of which showed up in her later released stuff in a slightly less gritty form. I can’t really post them or share them, since they were given me by the artists involved and I don’t think they were ever meant to see the light of day. What I can share, however, is a track off her first demo, since that got passed around, and at one point Rach was giving them away at her solo shows, so I think it’s safe to share it.
The track, “Super,” was in regular rotation in Rach’s early sets. I didn’t give Rach her first solo show, but i do think I gave her the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th solo shows! It was fun to watch her go from playing to an audience of 9, including me and two of her bandmates from Bumpus, to playing sold out shows. Due to timing constraints I haven’t seen her the last few times she came through town, and I admit it might be a little weird to see her playing the Metro to a sold-out crowd of Rachael Yamagata fans, but I’m sure she’s still terrific on-stage.
Anyway, “Super” is a little poppier than some of the stuff she’s now better known for, and I think it was maybe one of her attempts to write a “guitar rock” type of song. It’s a little simple, but in this case I think “simple” is perfect for the song.
In Rainbows .. available now! With liveblogging!
Getcher hip-hop on boys, including the trademark Yorke yowl.
A rocker, but in the “anthemic” sense, a la “National Anthem.” Get it? Anthemic sense? Whatever … next song.
All I can say? finally.
The title would lead one to believe this is a throw off track .. but it’s not. In fact it’s a slow builder in the vein of King Crimson. That is if Fripp when knew when to hold back, which he doesn’t. A great bridge too, by the way.
All I Need
Mmmmm … bass keys. Nice and claustrophobic. Slowly expands,. but never really resolves itself.
Think “Row Your Boat,” if “Row Your Boat” was sailing on the seas of paranoia. Also, file under folk tinged disaster.
I’ve heard this before … the band is beginning to repeat themselves. But at least their cribbing from some of their best moments. Creepy, subterranean, folk.
House of Cards
A distant cousin of “Pyramid Song,” only with a taste of The Bends.
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Oh! Now we’re back in OK Computer territory? I suspect this is the one that will have have fans wetting their pants. Aside from the inclusion of “Nude” of course/
And again, a taste of the past, sort of “Exit Music.”
Overall, well worth the four bucks I paid for it — with is twice what the band would have made from a physical copy sold through a label.
Color us pleased androids.
BTW: The downloading process? Seamless, super-quick, and painless.
Here’s the tracklisting:
ALL I NEED
HOUSE OF CARDS
JIGSAW FALLING INTO PLACE
By now it’s such a fucking cliché to say, “singer X has reclaimed their glory days on this solo album … it’s a COMEBACK!” But, as Frank Black has shed his “given” name to reclaim the persona of Black Francis on his latest, BlueFinger, that previous statement is no cliché.
I was wary when the Pixies reformed, and even more wary when I heard they might record together again. So far, so good, as the band has remained silent and hasn’t attempted any new output. But that doesn’t mean the world is wanting for a new Pixies album, because with the resurrection of Black Francis comes an album that would make the Pixies proud.
The urgency is back. The propulsion is back. The melodies are back. “Threshold Apprehension” surfaced a few months back, and is included again on this disc, and proved again that Black Francis could write a tune that grabbed the listener by the throat and throttled until the gave in to a sweet asphyxiatitive state rife with the dark pleasure of chaotic atonality running head on with the girl-group arrangements that only Black Francis’ furtive and screeching falsetto can deliver.
I’ve always admired Frank Black’s solo output, even if it didn’t really hit me in the solar plexus, but Bluefinger delivers a double fist-punch right below the heart, failing to break the breastplate in all the right ways, and leaves me gasping breathless for more.
P.S. If “Angels Come To Comfort You” isn’t a sequel to “Alison” then, well, I’m not gonna double-think the master so I won’t make a sweeping claim to tie up everything into a nice neat package, but I will say if it ain’t, then maybe (perhaps) I’m a monkey’s uncle.*
Which, given Darwin, is probably true anyway, right? Fuck it, listen to the lyrics and you’ll see what I’m getting at.
*Mose, by the way, not some random gal or other crush, duh.
Chicago cool kids OFFICE have made their first video in advance of the release of their newest disc, A Night At The Ritz, on September 25. They are getting massive accolades all over the internets, and I couldn’t be happier for them.
The only unsettling thing about the video is that I’m pretty sure the look Scott gives the woman coming down the stairs is the same one he gave me when I ran into him late last Friday. Kidding!