For reasons best known to him, our outgoing assistant music editor continues to randomly listen to every single promo CD sent his way, in its entirety and regardless of genre, source, probable quality or personal interest.
The Black Magic Show
Do you like David Bowie? Me, too! Well, not all of his stuff -- my favorite is, like, the Station to Station through Scary Monsters period, all that Berlin stuff is just so...freaky but, like, icy cool. Really? You think so, too? You're kidding me! Oh, my God! Let's start a band. We'll call it, umm...Elefant! So, yeah, um...Have you ever heard the Psychedelic Furs?
Streets of London
"All the Love in All the World" is a truly great guitar tune, built around an accidental-sounding, acoustic, buzzing-string rhythm riff that's utterly infectious. The other three tracks leave behind the expected folkie tropes for an unforced, jazzy Nick Drake/Astral Weeks feel. A balm, in context.
The singer's name is Ida No -- get it? And the real joke is that they're trying to sound like a paper-thin '80s disco-new-wave crossover trio, basically Blondie or the Thompson Twins, only...not actually a band. The disc is set up like a parody of an overlong 12-inch single from 1983, so there're really only two songs done a few times each (for, like, 50 minutes), remixed again and again in the various anachronistic stylings of the arbitrary target date. The idea of taking this approach to a political-poseur "reimagining" of the Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko" ("I'll set your flag on fire!") is worth a chortle (once) but still can't keep me from remembering that I avoided this kind of stuff like das plague back when people were doing it in earnest. Say, how come nobody's covering Heaven 17's "Fascist Groove Thing"? I'd be down with that.
What's Wrong with Right
"The sound of western soul" -- well, occasionally the press materials say about all there is to say. These are five Arizona white guys with cowboy hats doing pedal-steel-tinged '60s-style R&B. Which is not as weird as it sounds. Not weird at all, actually. Singer Chris Gaffney sounds a bit worn-down but, like, soulful enough.
Chasing the Sun
Perhaps I'm possessed of insufficient roots, but this bluesy rock stuff does not do it for me. Call it Fab T-birds syndrome if you must, but I'm out in the cold here. Any suggestions appreciated. I mean, they can't be trying to sound this dull and shopworn and overfamiliar. Or can they? Either I'm missing something or they are.
Oddly, the vibe here is something like a mid-'70s John Lennon solo album...y'know, like, Mind Games or something. Awkwardly forthright lyrics, big piano-based chord progressions, outsize (possibly even unearned) vocal self-confidence, the whole thing disarming somehow. "Got so lost I went to church / Sorry, God, but you made it worse." Word.
Music for Moviebikers
With arrangements that strike a graceful balance between vintage Ennio Morricone and vintage Brian Wilson, this album of mood music (on madman Mike Patton's label -- make of that what you will) consists largely of melodic-harmonic soundscapes that are easy enough on the ears but not particularly eager to be relegated to background status. Nifty, sorta.
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Three hundred years later, Mr. Never-Been-in-a-Riot-White-or-Otherwise sounds more like Joe Strummer than ever. Good to know the guy's still plugging away, still pissed, still engaged, still tuneful. At least I like this better than the last JL solo disc I happened upon a few years ago (Skull Orchard, I b'lieve) which sounded more like aggravated attempted Springsteen than any sort of progression from Mekons Rock 'n' Roll. Here he sounds wearier, more shamelessly British, catchier. 'Tis a comfort.
Save Each Other: The Whales Are Doing Fine
We Put Out Records
These guys are to Green Day what Indigenous is to the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It's not impossible to do the pop-punk thing without becoming totally flaccid and redundant, but it apparently was this time. Occasional intrusions by ska horn charts and Mick Jones-ish jail guitar door interludes fail to spice things up. And the album title, along with its attendant cartoon cover art isn't, like, good dumb fun, but instead is just, like, dumb.