April 29, 2002

Donna Regina "Northern Classic"

Sometimes, when you've got a record to review, certain things come up. A record will sound like another record; a band will sound eerily like another band. Styles are copied, mimmicked, and manipulated. If you're lucky, then the imitators are good. I have gone on and on and on about bands that sound like others, the influences of one band over the other, or the imitation factor. Lazy as it may be, sometimes it's the only way to convey the point. Occasionaly, you stumble upon a band that pulls from influences so diverse that to mention them in the same setence negates the reviewer's ability to compare and contrast, and makes said comparison seem nothing more.

Donna Regina sounds like the musical meeting of Nico and Sade. There, that's been said. I know, I know, it's a hard-to-picture combination, but, I swear to you, this is what Northern Classic sounds like! From the first notes of "Let's Get Slow," I'm reminded almost immediatly of Sade's hit "No Ordinary Love." Then, when Regina starts singing...it's automatic that I think of the ice-queen herself, albeit with a more feminine touch. Not that you have to wait much longer for the High Priestess of Weird to appear; she shows up in "Blue (Happy Without You)" and makes you wonder what Nico would have sounded like had she lived long enough to enter into this post-electronica era. For pure,"this could be an outtake from a Nico album" pleasure, skip over to "When I Was Younger," which sounds *exactly* what Nico was going for on her last album.

Comparisons aside, I have to say that Northern Classic is an aural pleasure. If you like the dark sounds of Europa after closing time--the sound of a dark, foreboding city torn between day and night, between good and bad--then Donna Regina has made your soundtrack. Smooth, sensual, sexy, dark, mysterious, and cool--Northern Classic has the sounds to your pre-dusk ecstacy-comedown chillout Eurotrash moments. Donna Regina know what you're up to, because they've been there. If you've not been there, then I'm sure you'll enjoy the trip.

--Joseph Kyle

April 28, 2002

Transistor Six "Johnny, Where's My Purse?"

Okay, I'll confess, the first time I heard this record, I didn't like it at all. In my mind, there's nothing worse than calculated quirkiness and forced humor. At first listen, I couldn't bear to listen past the second track. While the "Intro" is a lovely, inconsequential little instrumental passage, the next song, "Little Joe Your Head's Too Big" made me take an express dislike to this record. Modest Mouse is bad enough, and a British version of them seemed to be just way more than I wanted to deal with at the time. Having to give the record the benefit of the doubt, I continued to "The Neasdon Poisoner," which started off with a slight Cocteau Twins/Trembling Blue Stars instrumental passage. Then Frances Castle--who IS Transistor Six--started to sing.


I set this record aside in the hopes of finding someone to review it, yet, for all the praises I read for Johnny Where's My Purse, I couldn't quite--well, I couldn't get it. I couldn't figure out how this record could get good reviews. After all, in my mind, it wasn't a very good record. Still, I was intrigued. Why couldn't I like this record? IT wasn't that the music itself was bad; for a lo-fi record, it actually sounds really good. Frances seems to know what she's doing, so last week, I decided it was time to sit down with Johnny and give them another chance.

My first experience with this record, though nearly a month past, led me to skip straight to song number four, "elgar v the smoke alarm." Starting with a clicking, cutting electronic beat, the song seemed to go nowhere. Then, in mid song, the tempo changed, and, off in the distance, Stewart Anderson (boyracer and steward ) began to sing. My ears perked up for a moment; hey, this song wasn't half-bad! Having been uplifted somewhat, I felt a lot less uptight about listening. Maybe this record had something good to offer.

Then it happened.

When "I Collect Plastics" came on, I wasn't really expecting to hear the Lee Marvin-esque vocals of Sexton Ming. His growling, gravelly, rough voice over some nonsensical, slightly surrealist poetry really struck a nerve with me, and that nerve still cringes when I hear it...but it's a good cringe, mind you. It's a fun little tune that seems so out of place on the record.

The rest of the record continues in the electronic folk/blues/beat direction, to varying degrees of success. Castle's problem isn't one of having too many styles, but of not having a good foil to help her refine and solidify some of her ideas. There are numerous collaborations on Johnny, Where's My Purse, with atmospheric folk-rockers the Iditarod, a remix of a Printed Circuit tune, and poetry by Jesse Todd Dockery. Other than the poetry bit which reeks of Harold Budd (who can't get away with it either), her collaborations stand out among her own original work, and these songs seem to have a dimension the others don't have.

Despite its flaws, Johnny, Where's My Purse is not a bad album, thought at times it does seem to run together monotonously. Realizing that this is Frances' debut album, perhaps this is not so indicative of her ability to write a song, but more of an indication that she's in the process of finding a distinct style. It's clear from listening to Johnny, Where's My Purse that Castle is an artist who has the ability to produce a top-notch album, once she clearly defines who she is as an artist.

--Joseph Kyle

April 27, 2002

My Morning Jacket "Chocolate & Ice"

This little record is an interesting collection, and, really, I feel like it's a double-EP. Jim James and crew have really bneen working hard over the past year or two, and have been building up a reputation of being the purveyors/torch-bearers for "rock and roll." Chocolate and Ice is an interesting diversion for My Morning Jacket.

I say it's a great double EP because one song, "Cobra" is more than a mere song--it's an epic, 24-minute song, but instead of being a long jam session or dirge-like "movement," it's a compacted collection of about three or four different songs. It starts off with a slinky, slightly seductive drum-machine and bass beat that reminds me a lot of Prince's "Cream" with a hint of "Radioactive." There's also something rather sultry about James' voice set to a R'n'B beat. The song then fades into a country ballad, and, when done, goes straight into a blues jam, which then returns to a similar beat-driven number, which fades into an ambient instrumental that fades out into a country number with harmonies straight out of Brian Wilson's "Cabinessence" that concludes with a hip-hop shout-out session. Taken by itself, "Cobra" could very well stand alone as its own record.

For the most part, the rest of Chocolate and Ice seems to merely extend the musical ideas of their album At Dawn. "Can You See The Hard Helmet on my Head?" kicks off the EP with a marching-drum beat and Jim James' off-kilter growl. "Sooner" follows, a nice country acoustic ballad that would be quite at home on At Dawn. "Holy" and "Sweetheart" also follow closely to the At Dawn pattern of thick, syrupy singing over sad country accompanyment. "It's Been a Great 3 or 4 Years" is a series of answering machine messages from a former member of the band. An interesting break after the epic "Cobra," but ultimatly, it's really not an essential track.

Chocolate and Ice is an interesting little transitional record for My Morning Jacket. Building upon the grounds of their established sounds is always a good idea, and this record, especially "Cobra" helps to highlight the fact that My Morning Jacket has plenty of ideas up its sleeves.

--Joseph Kyle

April 22, 2002

Rosie Thomas "In Between"

I enjoy a good weep every now and then. Nothing too terribly Morrissey, mind you, but an occasional good cry is a rather healthy release. You know, at the end of the day, those emotions get built up and up and up, and that isn't healthy. Just a tear or two, oh, about a month or so, and I'm tellin' you, you'll be refreshed, rejuvinated, and cleared out. Things happen in our lives and sometimes we need a release. Why not cry?

I can't say for sure, but either Rosie Thomas also enjoys a good weep, or she knows the cathartic power of teardrops. She's certainly tapped into that thing we call "emotion," and this little debut EP of hers is a rather nice platter of tear-stained tunes. Of course, after a few listens, you realize that her tears are not so much the "ohhh, woe is me, my life is bad" variety, but are more akin to the idea that "life is beautiful, life is sad, and I weep for them both." She was a vocalist for underratedly beautiful Velour 100, and has also served as a guest singer with Damien Jurado as well, and her voice his pure emotional pain, reminding me of Heidi Berry, though Joni Mitchell's name has been unfairly tossed her way as well. (It should be noted that her backing band also serve as Jurado's new rock band, Gathered in Song)

In Between starts with "Paper Airplane," a sad, acoustic-plucked ballad that allows for Rosie's voice to simply soar with emotion, heartbreak, and beauty. The soaring continues on with another strummed guitar number, "Tired." A full-band backing appears with "Leftover Coffee." The winner of the EP, "October," is sad, simple, and utterly heartbreaking, and is slightly reminiscent of Glen Campbell's hit "Less of Me." With her lyrics directed (at least in my humble interpretation) towards her lover who's found a new woman, if you've ever had your heart broken in an unrequited-love setting, you'll be turning on the waterworks in no time flat. The final tune, "Farewell," is a piano ballad that sounds like a spin-off of This Mortal Coil's cover of "Holocaust," and is topped off with samples of Rosie's family and Rosie as a child.

All in all, In Between is a quietly powerful, moving little record of an artist with a bright future. Sometimes that's all there is to say.

--Joseph Kyle

April 21, 2002

Imperial Teen "on"

Comebacks that are worthy of unglowing praise are few and far between. Normally, when one thinks of a comeback, they're usually prone to think of someone like Elvis or Frank Sinatra, whose bright careers had slumped terribly, and are revived on a wave of both inspiration and nostalga. Other comebacks stem from an artist or group returning after years of absence or uncomfortable silence--such as John Lennon's brief return shortly before his murder, or like Wire, a long-dormant beast whose return is quite welcome.

Over the past few years, the music industry has changed in a most unfortunate way. With an increasing focus on marketing towards already-successful trends in order to assure a fast buck, the idea of developing new, interesting, and original artists has become a naive concept. Bands who sign to major labels and who don't automatically register major sales, or whose sound doesn't click with the secretary of the assistant to the vice president's clerk, you know the one--she's 40, with a teenage daughter and thusly is seen as someone who "knows what the kids like" and thinks that the person who signed that band obviously couldn't understand that the kids won't like this band. It's because of this weird sense of motivation that a lot of new bands suffer. Records that are very good indeed never see the light of day, or are presssed up in such a small quantity that nobody ever gets to hear them.

Imperial Teen are one of those bands that suffered at the hands of an unsympathetic record label. Their debut album, Seasick, was a fresh, breezy breath of fresh new-wave pop air, full of more harmonies and hooks than you can shake a stick at. It was a lovely record that you couldn't help but love and enjoy. The follow up, What Is Not to Love was aptly titled, though a bit ironic, considering the indifference it met with, and the fact that the band was dropped not long after its release.

Now signed to Merge, Imperial Teen present us with a glorious new album, On. You know, as in "Spot On." On proves that Imperial Teen was far from giving up the ghost when dropped, and like their labelmates Spoon, the Teens prove that losing their label doth not mean that the band loses their quality. Like Spoon, Imperial Teen have produced the album of their career, and thanks be to Merge for recognizing an excellent record from an amazing band. Just don't call it a comeback.

To call Imperial Teen retro or new-wave would do a disservice to both the music and the band. With Will Schwartz's popstar singing, tempered with Roddy Bottum's musical genius and Jone and Lynn's harmonies, you might think you were listening to something straight out of 1985, without all of the cliches. They aren't trying to be anything other than themselves, and if it sounds retro to you, then so be it. While it is true that Roddy Bottum and Will Schwartz's hearts can be found in a new-wave disco, they certainly do not linger there for one moment. In fact, opening number "Ivanka" seems to take a page from the book of Unrest, with a dark musical beast riding underneath a facade of breathy boy-girl vocals and a driving beat.

From there, Imperial Teen turn on the charm, pick up the pace, and set out on a course of action that is best summed up in one word: FUN. The next 39 minutes of your life will be pleasant, to say the least. If, after hearing "Million $ Man," you don't feel sorry for their former label losing the feel-good hit of the season, then, my friend, you just aren't feeling. It's this album's classic Imperial Teen tune, up there with "You're One" and "Lipstick," and if you can't feel it, then, my friend, you simply can't feel. Don't be embarassed, though, if "Million $ Man" and On prompts you to dance around the apartment; every time I've heard it, I've indulged in some massive bedroom break-outs.

The only flaw with On, however, is more of an aesthetic one. While the band are relentless in providing non-stop uptempo pop, the album closes with two rather slow numbers. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, as the songs are both excellent, but it gives the feeling that the band, after pop-rocking out, has seemingly run out of gas, worn themselves down, and have tuckered out on the couch. Of course, after the previous ten songs of fast-paced, hyperactive pop, you'd probably be tired as well.On is a full-throttled joyride, if only you'll dare to take the trip. What is not to love, indeed!

--Joseph Kyle

April 16, 2002

Boxing Lesson "The Boxing Lesson"

There's something undeniable about The Boxing Lesson's debut. At times, you'll be more than quick to think, "Haven't I heard that song before?" I know I have, but I also know I haven't, which means that The Boxing Lesson is doing something right. They've got a quality that belittles the fact that this is a debut album--leading me to think that they've spent time working in the studio--which more bands should do, it seems. Yes, their songs are dark, a bit sad, and heavy on the atmosphere--which probably means that they're going to grow tired of the Radiohead and Coldplay comparisons.

Of course, the critics are certainly right to point potential listeners in that direction. The Boxing Lesson make Britpop that does follow along those lines, but don't think for a minute that they're simply imitating anyone; they're simply expanding on preconceived notions, and they do it quite well. Kicking off the set is the droning, somber "Mexican Disguise," which grows louder and louder and then fades off into the shadows. "Motorola" follows, and though it's a pleasant number, it doesn't quite match what came before it, and it pales in comparison to the loud, epic dirge of "Every Bite Tastes the Same." The set closes with a grand finale, "Hard to Fake" which shifts and shimmers and simply burns in passionate intensity.

The promise on The Boxing Lesson is so great, that you'd probably want to hold them to their potential in a court of law. If there's a band that I'm certainly pulling for in terms of their next album, it's The Boxing Lesson. Though the songs on here are all a bit long, they fly by rather quickly, and doesn't leave you satisfied...because you'll certainly want more of The Boxing Lesson. Maybe that's why someone invented the "repeat" feature. A band to watch, for sure.

--Joseph Kyle

April 13, 2002

Dump "A Grown-Ass Man"

James McNew, gunslinger for Yo La Tengo, has been stepping out on his main gig for nearly a decade. While his dalliances on the side have been few and far between, they've often also been a far cry from Yo La Tengo. Instead of grand, elegant instrumentals and stoned-out rock, Dump is often a sublime, lo-fi affair, highlighting the singer-songwriting skills that often get overlooked. You can't really compare the two bands, but it's good to know that he's got an outlet for his own musings.

Critics have often accused--somewhat rightly--that Dump records fit too heavily into the lo-fi acoustic mold, but A Grown-Ass Man is actually pretty varied. Sure, moments like "Peggy's Blues" and "I Wish/You Wish" are of the lo-fi folkie style that McNew's always done with Dump, but he's got a few other little surprises up his sleeve--such as the wonderful cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" and his duet with the lovely Sue Garner on "Once Upon A Time." These songs have a bit more polish than past records; the droned-out "Sisters" sounds like a Yo La Tengo outtake, and all throughout the album, everything just seems so much better than previous records. I won't tell you about the awesome one-two punch of "Daily Affirmation" and "Mr. Too Damn Good"--you need to experience this on your own!

Of course, Dump isn't Yo La Tengo--yet. A Grown-Ass Man is McNew's most solid Dump record; it doesn't fall into the monotony of previous releases, and it just sounds really, really good. Perhaps he's realized that this is a place for him to shine, and since Yo La Tengo's reputation has grown tremendously since his last true full length, the good-but-could-be-better-considering A Plea For Tenderness, it should harldy be a surpise that McNew's other projects are becoming just as wonderful as his day job.

--Joseph Kyle

April 12, 2002

The Kills "Keep On Your Mean Side"

It's hit me like a smash, really. When they released their Black Rooster EP, I easily felt like greatness was theirs in the making, but who knew? Who knew that VV and Hotel would turn in a record that justified the greatness of another dynamic, druggy duo, Royal Trux? That they've done so without ever sounding like mere imitators is an even greater joy, too. I don't know about you, but down-home naughty rock is something that's just not done right anymore.

Don't worry, though--The Kills aren't the new Royal Trux, and they're not "the new" anything. Sure, Keep On Your Mean Side is one helluva druggy-blues record, but theirs is the sound of pure sexuality, gettin' it on in London's darkest, dirtiest alleys. You're not even thinking of chemicals when VV opens her mouth--you're thinkin' lovin', hard lovin', gritty lovin' that comes with being horny in the summertime. She exudes pure SEX when she sings and she knows no equal--except, of course, when Hotel joins in. Lo-fi, dirty field recordings of incidents that spread social diseases--the blissful joys of unprotected, unexpected, dirty-alleyway sex, it's THAT good---but are you that bad?

Two songs reappear from Black Rooster, but they're quite welcome. Songs like "Pull A U" and "Fuck The People" are tough little numbers, "Fried My Little Brain" is perhaps the album's highlight. You can't help but feel the poverty in their songs, and the lust in their heart. The only problem to be had with Keep On Your Mean Side comes not from their gritty sound, but because at times one gritty lo-fi blues number seems to sound like the previous gritty lo-fi blues-rock number. Though the album's fresh, it does kind of lose its wind when "Black Rooster" comes around.

No matter--if you're properly experiencing Keep On Your Mean Side, you shouldn't be paying attention by then, anyway. If you're not gettin' down and dirty, then you ain't listening right. This is one helluva debut.

--Joseph Kyle

April 08, 2002

Go Back Zero "Calling Zero"

Bob Pollard. The man's a veritable fountain of song, and most artists should consider themselves lucky to record and release as many albums in their career as Pollard releases in a year's time. From his own band of rock and roll fun-loving hooligans Guided by Voices to one of his various and uniquely-named solo releases, Pollard's not one to rest on his laurels when it comes to his muses. Apparently, his muses have one hell of a contractual deal, as one look at an abbreviated Pollard discography will clearly show.

Of course, one of the main complaints about Pollard's gift is that he seemingly lacks the ability (or the desire) to submit his ideas to any form of quality control. Since Guided by Voices has become a rather slick, very straightforward rock band, many of the little bits and pieces of songs that used to occupy the spaces between fully-developed tracks have gravitated from the GBV moniker to all the other solo Pollard projects. Although three or four experimental pieces in the scope of a basic, fully developed album may provide for an interesting, eclectic record, an album consisting of these little sonic scraps of ideas could easily prove frustrating, excruciating, and terribly self-indulgent.

Go Back Snowball is Pollard's collaboration with Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, and is Pollard's first high-profile, non-GBV related collaboration. Like his collaboration with Tobin Sprout in Airport 5, this "collaboration" involved Mac recording the musical backing in Chapel Hill, with Bob adding his vocals in Dayton. Pollard has recorded in this manner before; Airport Five's Tower in the Fountain of Sparks was recorded in this manner, although the fact that the music and the lyrics were recorded separately proved to be quite obvious.

The biggest highlight of Calling Zero is clearly Mac's musical accompaniment. From the low, rolling drone of the opener "Radical Girl," you realize that McCaughan's going to create a different, more experimental kind of backdrop for Pollard's often straightforwardly-oblique lyrics. While Pollard's other solo work often felt rather rough and unpolished, McCaughan has done a most excellent job of creating soundscapes that are mellow yet rocking, minimalist yet very lush. Mainly, it's the fact that Mac's adding an electronica element to Pollard's backing that makes Go Back Snowball quite a pleasure. I highly doubt Guided by Voices will be doing any piano-and-loop based tracks, such as on "Climb," yet, if you want to hear Pollard with a jazz backdrop, skip over to "Dumbluck Systems Storefront" for Bob-as-lounge singer. What you don't hear, however, from Mac's backing, is anything remotely Guided by Voices--and, aside from maybe "Throat of Throats" or "Lifetime For the Mavericks," you don't hear Superchunk, either.

Pollard's in fine form, too. The songs aren't balls-out cock-rock; in fact, they're a bit sad, and rather tender in spots. There's a certain sense of sadness to these songs as well, with lyrics that seem to be most melancholy, with just a hint of regret and a slight touch of disappointment. While I've never been one to analyze the meanings of Pollard's lyrics (we save that for the postal blowfish), one can't help but think that the trials and tribulations of the past year are fodder for this project. With Bob, you get a no-bullshit approach to songwriting; if you love the way he writes, you won't be disappointed.

Calling Zero is a refreshing little surprise. It's good to hear two highly talented musicians finally getting together after years of friendship, and the results are most pleasant. It's also good to hear Pollard backed by someone that doesn't make music with--or that sounds like--Guided by Voices, and it's certainly good to hear Mac expanding on his already vast and interesting musical ideas with a highly-talented collaborator. Since both men are two of the hardest working men in indie-rock, it may be a bit of a wait for the next Go Back Snowball, if it ever happens again. Luckily for us, Calling Zero whets the appetite and keeps the listener happy. For those who wonder if Pollard's starting to lose it, it will take all but half a spin of this record to realize that such worries are unjustified.

--Joseph Kyle

Interview: The Burden Brothers

It seems as if the 1990s are littered with the ashes and the failed dreams of many an alt-rocker. Many a musician from this era certainly must have moments of wondering "what could have happened if only..." Others, however, were quite lucky to have a shining moment in the sun. Sure, the moment was lasting, but the moment was, indeed, theirs. The Toadies, led by Todd Lewis, were such a band. When they released their debut album, Rubberneck, they scored an almost-instant radio hit with "Possom Kingdom." Then, after extensive touring...nothing. It would be nearly seven years before they released their follow-up album, the crunchy, punch-out-the-lights Hell Below/Stars Above. Like many a band from the early 90s, this album was neglected by their label, and the band would subsequently break up shortly after its delivery.

But that's the past. Todd Lewis has joined forces with Taz Bentley, former drummer for the Reverend Horton Heat, another band who encountered difficulty during their stint on a major label. Instead of looking back, Lewis and Bentley are plowing ahead, and this time, they are sailing their own ship, and charting their own destiny--without that annoying middle-man, the record label. Their music, however, is a blistering, enjoyable, hard-hitting rock and roll affair, prompting the listener to prop up their ears, and making them anxious to hear what they will do next.

You fellows don't care much for the music industry, do you? It seems like the motivating factor behind Burden Brothers is "do everything just the opposite of how we did it before."

Taz Bentley: I guess you could look at it that way. I just feel that for now we aren't in the hunt to get a big deal. We both have bad taste in our mouths from our respective past label(s). But to say the industry is bad in general wouldn't be fair. Most fans of music never totaly get to hear what the artist wants them to, the lablel is more involved in the process than most people think. We just want to get music to the fans without the months of red tape involved when dealing with a lable. For us it also helps to be able to make any call without having to jeopardize the integrity of the rock jamz by answering to a label.

Todd Lewis: I wouldn't say we're doing everything "just the opposite of how we did it before," but damned close. I just want to be more in control of the whole thing. I want the songwriting pressure to be the right kind of pressure-doing what we feel is good without input from someone who controls our careers. No matter what their intentions are, when an outside party has the power to green-light or stifle a band it fucks with the program. I want to be able to fuck with my own program.

From your previous experiences, do you think that everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, or that the labels, for all their good intentions, couldn't see or understand what your bands were wanting to do? Do you feel that since you had a hit very early on in your recording career, that you weren't allowed the opportunity to grow and mature as a recording act?

Todd: Based on my previous experiences, everything that can go wrong will, and not just in "the biz." The issue is "how do we deal with this, will the label support us now, how do we convince them it was a fluke?" There is so much pressure on a major label that any bump in the road gets blown out of proportion, just as any small success. As far as "growing and maturing" goes, that's a luxury of multi-platinum acts, as far as I can tell.

Taz: For me, they weren't prepared for how headstrong we were. We built our band from nothing to something without any outside help. We were basically an "in-house" organization. When we started doing things the way we were accustomed to doing without stopping along the way to wait for the label to catch up, it started a rip that over time did grow to a tear. I feel like they ment well but tried to jump on our success instead of utilize their talents to take it to the next level. As I'm sure you know, there really is some play involved when dealing with any relationship. And when you team an artist who wants to freely express themselves with an investor who feels that by funding a project automatically allows them some say in the outcome. Then what usually happens, but alot of head butting. And for the second part of the question, well I never had a hit.......Dammit.

Are you enjoying being totally hands-on with your music now?

Taz: Like a breath of fresh air, I feel like a little girl.....who drinks a lot of beer and works for a living.

Todd: Yep. Being hands on is a lot more work, but we have a great team working with us at Last Beat. It's not like we have to do everything.

Burden Brothers, from what I've gathered, is the two of you with a rotating cast of musicians. Do you want to avoid creating a defined band, with each member playing their part, considering how things happened with the Toadies?

Todd: Right now the plan for Burden Brothers is to keep the lineup fluid. We want to be able to stretch out in any direction we feel like. We're having a great time with different musicians creating sounds unique to each session. We may change our plan eventually, who knows. That's the beauty of our situation: keep growing and writing and see what happens.

Taz: Yepper.

There's a very raw, live feel to your most recent recordings, and both of you come from very active touring pasts. Are you anxious to hit the road?

Todd: We just did our first "official" show at last week's South by Southwest and loved it. I can't wait to get back out on the road, and I know Taz feels the same. Both of us are very different people than we were when our bands were touring like mad, so we have a different view of homelife and family and such. I hope we'll be able to plan tours that will allow us to "do the rock" as well as see our wives, kids, friends, dogs, etc.

Taz: Playing live has alwayes been the reason for me. So yes I'm anxious to start gigging but will ease into it seeing as we have stuff at home that we didn't use to have, like kids and mortgages and herds of Bison.

Do you think that the internet is playing, or will play, a major role in the growth of the band?

Taz: I still think we'll have to get out there and promote it live, but yes we will utilize the net as much as possible.

Todd: The internet is just about our only connection to the fans right now, and seems to be working pretty well. Along with occasional touring, it's the key to our master plan.

Since Austin gets all of the attention when it comes to Texas music, do you think that this lack of attention helps Dallas area bands to flourish and work harder?

Taz: Good question......I think that if you are willing to give it all you've got, then you pretty much have a chance no matter where you live.

Todd: Austin has a great music scene, and I guess Dallas does get overlooked. Kinda hard to say, since I'm in the middle of it. Whatever the reason, D has some amazing talent. Pinkston, Baboon, Deathray Davies, DARYL...can't think of all the great bands...

Dallas seems to be heading towards another renaissance of music, much like the early 1990s. What advice do you have for the young musicians out there, just now coming up, who might not know what they're doing?

Todd: I'm in a good mood right now, so my advice to upcoming bands would be to play live a lot, go in the studio whenever you can afford it, stop calling it "practice" and start going to "rehearsal", give away lots of free tapes/cds and don't expect to make one red cent. If I would have answered these questions yesterday, I would have skipped right to the end of that list and added "don't quit your day job. This business is ugly and cut-throat. It will beat your ass and make you cry. It will kill your trust in your fellow man. Stay in school. Read a book. Get a haircut."

Taz: Enjoy the beers, eat three times a day, and never trust whitey!

Thanks, guys!

---Joseph Kyle

Rye Coalition "On Top"

On Top, the third album by Rye Coalition, is a good, healthy dose of no-bullshit, no-frills, whiskey-and-women-loving rock and/or roll. It's as simple as that. There's no intellectual postering or posing that can or, dare I say, should, be done to this record. Rock and roll is an easy beast to make, after all. Just mix together plenty of "drugs" (more or less to taste) and a nice smidgen of sex--sexuality, sexual prowess, sexual suggestiveness, or downright nastyness, it doesn't really matter what kind of sex you throw in, it's all good, and the results are the same. A living, breathing, rock and roll beast has just been created. Pass the cigars, you're now a proud parent of the Rock!

From the first moments of "One Thousand Daughters Hotter Than A Thousand Suns," you hear it. Those rifts. Those Angus Young-reminiscent, classic-rock radio pounding anthem-esque tunes. For the next 45-minutes, you're going to be steering straight into traditional hard-rock territory. Not that you won't mind the ride, though. If, like me, you occasionally like rippin' it up, tearin' it out, and kickin' out the mutha-fuckin' jams, then there's really no further need to look any farther than Rye Coalition. Clinic, White Stripes, and The Strokes are "revisiting" rock and roll? Fuck that. Rye Coalition aren't talking about how they're part of a "movement" that is "revisiting" rock and roll, because they're simply too busy playing rock and roll.

If you like sounds that range from AC/DC-style blasts of pure-rock heaven, to the slightly more modern, certainly hard-rockin' sounds of Les Savy Fav and Tight Bros. From Way Back When, then this is simply the next album you should purchase for your next roadtrip. On Top is the best beer-swillin', Interstate-Highway road-trip stereo-blastin', air-drumming, air-guitaring R.O.C.K. record I've heard in a while, and God bless 'em for simple pleasures.

--Joseph Kyle

April 07, 2002

Cathode "The World & Back"

This little record is an excellent example of how modern recording techniques have seemingly made record-making easy. Anyone with a little bit of skill and a computer and some keyboards can now make their own music, and though this style isn't necessarily my preferred form of music, I can't discount it when it's good. Cathode is from England, and that's about all I can gather from this little record...there's no listing of personnel, and I really wouldn't be surprised if Cathode were a one-man project.

Not that these things matter, really. The sound of The World and Back is, indeed, electronic. With a little bit of ambient thrown in, the bleeps and blips of Cathode could easily be confused with such artists as Autechre. There's a danger of similarity when dealing with electronic music, and, of course, that may be the point; setting aside genres and originality to focus on making head music seems to be the point with a lot of the nameless/faceless techno and electronica groups today.

The World and Back starts off nicely, with "Afterchord," a nice little beat-driven tune, with a slight Twin Peaks-style melody line thrown in, making it a haunting little number. The song fades in to "Known Undesirables," which slows down the pace and goes for a more ambient feel. "The World and Back" follows, and, for some reason, I hear variations on the basic melody of Guns 'n' Roses' "Sweet Child O'Mine"--which, while probably not intended, is a nice little diversion. The final track, "Glascow Suburban Electrification" proves to be the big finish, pumping in a nonstop, relentless beat, but it ends way too soon.

While not necessarily my particlar style of music, the homemade sounds of The World and Back have, at least for the time being, proven a nice little musical excursion. Sometimes I just gotta put on my dancing shoes. Cathode are enjoyable makers of intelligent dance music, and you won't dislike this likeable little record one bit.

--Joseph Kyle

Monster Movie "Last Night Something Happened"

Do you remember those heady days after the levee broke on the underground, shortly after the release of Nevermind? It seemed, if for a brief moment, that "alternative" was the big new thing in terms of music, and that all of these odd little bands could very well achieve something greater than small club play and "cult" status. Sure, we all know that this was not to be, and that most of those bands were lucky to play only one show on the second stage at Lollapalooza and were even luckier if anyone actually bought their record afterwards.

Hindsight tells us now that such dreams would never, could never come to pass. Lots of broken hopes and dreams can be found in most bargain bins of any mom-and-pop record store. While there are many bands who populate that graveyard, there are quite a few hidden gems to be found in the rock-bottom racks. One of those bands is Slowdive--a noisy, melodic, and beautiful band whose place in history has been sealed quite nicely next to such shoegazing greats as My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, House of Love, and Lush--you know, gone but fortunately not completly forgotten. While Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, the leader and tamborine/backing vocalist of Slowdive went on to form the stoner-country-folk-rock band Mojave 3, and the others seemed to fall by the wayside in the annals of music history.

Monster Movie, however, marks the return of Christian Savill (from the aforementioned Slowdive) and scene veteran Sean Hewson. On listening to Last Night Something Happened, it doesn't feel like either have been away very long. While Mojave 3 strayed away from the shoegazer trail, Monster Movie haven't, and it's pretty good to know that there are vets from that scene who are still interested in pursuing the sounds. Though Last Night Something Happened is following very closely along the shoegaze/dreampop history of both men, I don't think Monster Movie sound anything like Slowdive. The singing does, at times, remind me of former Pale Saints lead singer Ian Masters, especially on "Shortwave" and "Take Me Away." In fact, if anything, they owe their sound to In Ribbons-era Pale Saints.

Of course, regardless of whether or not Monster Movie sound like Slowdive or Pale Saints or a church choir, nothing can deny the fact that Last Night Something Happened is a most lovely little record, full of quiet atmospherics, cooing crooning, and gentle instrumental melodies. You can't help but feel a little bit of warmth from this duo, whose collaboration has dated over ten years. This is their debut album, and it's a clear sign that good things come to those who wait, and no matter what their other bands sounded like, Monster Movie is a band that clearly stands on its own.

--Joseph Kyle

Damien Jurado "4 Songs" LP

Damien Jurado is a singer with an imperfectly angelic singing style. Not quite rough, yet not quite perfect, his voice is most distinctive. WIth his most recent album, I Break Chairs, Jurado adds the element of a rock band, which adds a really great dimension to his singing, breaking the folk-singer mold that he's seemed to develop. Four Songs is advertised as recorded at the same time as I Break Chairs, and for good reason. This is a little record that came out shortly before the album was released, perhaps to whet the appetite of Jurado fans everywhere. It's a limited-edition, one-sided EP. On the reverse side of the record is an etching by Jeremy Dybash, and a short story about flying by Adam Voith. They look interesting, but are slightly hard to see.

Unlike his latest record, Four Songs is purely folk, and, if you were to listen to the two records without knowing their chronology, you'd think you were either listening to an earlier Jurado record, if you ever realized that you were listening to Jurado at all. Folkier, darker, and almost exclusively acoustic, Four Songs is a radically different record than I Break Chairs, and, for the most part, is a different, darker style for Jurado. As funny as it seems, this sounds like a Damien Jurado solo record as opposed to a band record.

The EP starts off with "Splitting Teeth," with some awfully evil-sounding crooning. His voice strains in a place or two, leaving you to wonder if the pressing plant accidentally switched the track with a Will Oldham number. The next song, "How I Broke My Legs," Jurado is joined with a solemn, sad organ drone, though the formula remains the same. "The Killer" follows, and is the most up-tempo song on the record; though still an acoustic ballad, Jurado is joined by a, erm, killer pedal steel guitar lick, and halfway through the song, his backing band come in, creating a rather enjoyable hoedown, even though the song's about a killer on the run. The final song, "Flowers in the Yard" is a most atmospheric number, with a quiet little keyboard riff that reminds me of East River Pipe--and then the album ends, not with a bang, but with a very pretty locked groove that flows straight from the last note of the record.

The one small flaw with Four Songs stems from the fact that Jurado, when setting his voice in a darker, more atmospheric folk setting, tends to lose that unique vocal edge, and drifts into sounding not unlike Will Oldham. Though the similarities are there, Jurado is no imitator, as his very excellent discography will tell you. Four Songs is an interesting diversion from a very talented and criminally underrated singer/songwriter, and is worth the extra effort to find.

--Joseph Kyle

April 06, 2002

Parlour "Octopus Off-Broadway"

You'd think that, after all of these years, people would be sick and tired of that whole art-rock/math-rock/Chicago post-rock/post-jazz post-melody anti-rock music trend/media manipulation thing. Jokes about the tortoise popping his head out notwithstanding, that whole scene is, in fact, rather tired, dull, and, to a lesser extent, lacking in imagination. I mean, my god, Jim O'Rourke's in Wilco and Sonic Youth now and, from what I understand, no longer lives in Chicago--isn't it time for the rest of the world to give up the ghost?

The main problem about this whole post-whatever genre isn't that the music is bad; often, it's rather lovely--its that the music is so repetitive, with the styles created by a few being imitated ad nauseam by lesser musical minds. The copycat syndrome is so bad, that I actually dreamed last night that Jim O'Rourke married Courtney Love and then was found dead in his attic of an "apparent" suicide, and disillusioned hipsters everywhere imitating O'Rourke's passing. Andy Rooney came on the air and lambasted the poor quality of the imitator's suicides and infuriating the staff of Your Flesh by saying, point blank, "who cares?" In my dream, these hack musicians all sold their marimbas and either got temp jobs or jumped to the new trend--Ryan Adams! (Later in my dream, James Iha subsequently rumored to have been involved in the affair, only to turn up dead from eye-liner poisoning. Hey, can't fault Iha, he probably needs the money.)

At the end of my dream, Parlour became Creed. Not that Creed are good, mind you, but because Creed are successfully feeding off of the corpse of grunge, and though I personally don't like 'em, I can't begrudge anyone their success. Nobody's going to confuse Parlour for Creed, but, thankfully, nobody's going to confuse them for anything that has the scent of Jim O'Rourke or Thrill Jockey. I have to give Louisville scene veteran and Parlour mastermind Tim Furnish (ex-Crain, For Carnation, Papa M) credit for not doing this kind of music during its heyday a few years ago; I'm sure the music would have been lumped unfairly with a lot of the crap that was out during that time. Kudos for realizing that this kind of music needed time to mature, grow, and stand out from the chafe.

Octopus Off-Broadway is a beautiful record that, thankfully, mixes up these familiar, tired sounds with their own with a grand, lush, slightly cinematic approach that will simply gently sweep you up into the air, down into the ocean, and will fill your eyes with the wide open skies of that planet we call Earth. Don't believe me? Then simply take a listen to "Mperfect." It's a seven minute piece that seems like a half-hour, but in a good way. Starting off with a simple, repetitive beat, it progresses into a grand, lush, synthed-out orchestra, and takes you higher, higher, higher ever so slowly, until you are floating in the air gently and unknowingly.

Time passes realllllllly slow when listening to Octopus Off-Broadway, and that's a totally good thing. The only thing about Octopus Off-Broadway that's not a good thing in my book are those chimes. Yes..those new-age chimes. I always hate to throw out that term when talking about this kind of music, but I'm not one for them. They populate "Sleeper" predominantly, and appear throughout the album sporadically. Using that device is about the same as hearing a sample of "The Funky Drummer," and you'd think that little trick would be avoided. It certainly doesn't help matters, and it makes me think someone at the pressing plant accidentally slipped some Yanni or Windam Hill on to this record. Or..maybe they did!

Octopus Off-Broadway is the product of some talented minds working together, such as Trevor Kampmann and Paul Oldham, and is a rather surprisingly fine debut album. It would be easy to make jokes about this kind of music, but when the music's this good, it's not necessary. In fact, it still gives me some kind of hope. Sometimes it's good to rock out, and sometimes it's good to just turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. Parlor have done just that, and this is their document of their journey from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere. Quite a climb, quite a debut.

--Joseph Kyle

April 04, 2002

Less Than Jake "Goodbye Blue and White"

Curiousity led me to this record. I think it's a well-documented fact that I'm a real whore for singles-comps, and, as such, I thought I'd give Goodbye Blue & White a go. I never cared for ska, ska-punk, pop-punk, or anything of that ilk. Like that very-brief "swing revevial" a few years back, I always thought that ska, outside of the live arena, really didn't have much to say. It's totally cool to dance around and bop about to a loud, brassy band on stage. With many of these bands, the intensity of the live show was merely dwarfed by their studio work. It's like watching Rocky Horror Picture Show at home--a dull experence that thrives on live performance.

I'd have to say that Goodbye Blue & White is, if anything, quaint. These songs thrive on the vitality and youthful vigor. The album is dedicated to one of their touring vans, and the liner notes are full of stories about said van. What the liner notes are not full of, however, is information. Unless you look up a discography for Less than Jake, you won't know a thing about any of these songs, where they came from, who was in the band, or what year they were released. I'd be interested in seeing what songs are early-career, what songs are later years, etc., simply because I think records like this are good for scrapbook reminscence. The "all of these tracks are previously released on out of print & limited edition vinyl" is simply too vague for my taste.

The greatest problem with Goodbye Blue & White--if you can really call it a problem--stems from the fact that most of these songs are from singles. As far as I can tell, Less than Jake simply wanted to hit the listener with some really racuous rock and roll and then get the hell outta dodge--which, by the way, is perfect for the format of a fourty-five. A single, however, isn't an album, and when these singles are put side by side, Less than Jake's limited scope in musical ideas is quite transparent. One senses by listening to these songs that Less than Jake really wanted to capture the live feel in the studio. It's obvious that they are a real scorcher of a band live, but in the studio, the live sound simply makes the song fast and loud and loses some of the potential intricacies that their lineup can offer.

Don't get me wrong, Less than Jake aren't that bad of a band--they're simply not my thing. The best best would be to see them live, as I'm sure they're a lot more fun live. Judging from the numerous covers on Goodbye Blue & White--including the Outfield's "Your Love," "Teenager in Love," "I Think I Love You, and" "Freeze Frame"--you can pretty much rest assured that they're gonna entertain your ass. Or, better still, use it as soundtrack material on your next roadtrip with you and your friends in your shitty car--I'm sure the spirit of Blue & White will be with you.

--Joseph Kyle