The New Amsterdams
Story Like a Scar
The first five songs are fairly lifeless, if professional, midtempo guitar rock, but then things pick up. The strident "Intelligent Design" is practically thrash compared to what came before, and "Calendar Days" makes the most of its loping "da-doo-ron-ron" shuffle. The Yo La Tengo-esque "A Small Crusade" isn't bad, as Yo La Tengo impressions go...but I already have several records by Yo La Tengo, as it happens. All in all, sorta middling.
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The New Amsterdams
Here's a current Dallas band that sounds more like Minneapolis circa 1985 -- well-executed if somewhat slick, pathos-ridden bar-rock that's pleased enough to meet me that it just might flip its wig, if you know what I mean, wink wink. Except, sorry, that makes this pedestrian affair seem way more interesting than it actually is: The Subdudes/Uncle Tupelo nods don't bolster their case much. Still, it's hard to feel too much antipathy toward a band that does a heart-on-sleeve version of "Bonzo Goes to Bitberg" in 2006. Good on ya, kids.
Postcards: Travels with a Great American Radio Show
If Dirty 3 were slick and self-satisfied and sort of boring, they might sound a little something like this. Kindly wake me when it's over.
Live at McCabe's, February 23rd, 1991
Here's an equally well meaning and painfully dated folk museum piece. Of course, the days of Bush Senior were technically more innocent times...but it ain't easy to work up a whole lot of nostalgia when faced with songs making broad fun of Gary Hart and the "scourge" of lawyers. Oh, and wasn't the whole making-fun-of-yuppies thing already a decade old in '91?
Damn, a rock record that actually rocks...Who allowed this to slip through? Mega-British vocalist Alan Donahoe (and we're talking a Bragg-Dury level of cockney, no mere prissy Ray Davies-isms here) is literate and personable, and the band, while never pushing the preset boundaries of straight-ahead post-punk, has certainly got that particular shtick down. Grows a bit wearisome a little less than halfway through, but hey, even British rockers are only human, right?
In which the nearly undisputed champeen of anal retentive guitar-showoff-osity does that thing he does. Again. Ya got yer fist-pumping anthem (the title track, duh), yer "Sister Christian"-channeling power ballad ("Ten Words"), yer "Axel F"-style synth groove ("One Robot's Dream"), etc., etc., ad nauseam. But for all the eternally ballyhooed, guitar-geek-worship-baiting technique on display, the guy never once actually lets go and shreds. C'mon, Joe, freak out for us just one time! And no, the utterly stupid disc-closer, "Crowd Chant" (in which a simulated concert audience sings Joey's riffs back at him en masse), does not count.
"Yee-haw, Texas!" exclaims Rusty Weir during "Texas Love and War," doing his small part to help overturn any lingering stereotypes that might still be attached to the Lone Star State. Things don't get quite that dire anywhere else, but it's still a pretty...cohesive...collection of decent singer-songwriter stuff of the sort that grows like, er, sagebrush in these here parts. Not bad, whatever that's worth.
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David Waxman Presents Ultra Electro
Also not bad, although there is something faintly amusing/disturbing about how this ostensibly "futuristic" type stuff is so totally dated and nostalgia-fied (at least as much as the Texas singer-songwriter stuff above, if not more). I mean, "Pocket Calculator" came out, when? 1981? Which was what, 25 years ago? Which means that this stuff (and, like, all current post-punk, too) should be about as "happening" today as the Platters or, like, Kay Starr were in '81. Conclusion: Oh, Christ, we're all DEAD! Fuck! Okay, I exaggerate, calm down. I mean, Daisy Daisy's "Michelle Plays Ping Pong" is fun and fresh and cheerfully literal-minded, basing its infectious beat on actual Ping-Pong sound effects as it does. But what's next? A rock band with a tap dancer?
Versus the Mirror
Oh, oh, shit, not more screamo. They quote R.W. Emerson and Twyla Tharp in the notes, which I, of course, can't help but applaud. After all, a wide cultural palette is useful in all walks of life...Now, if only I could stand to listen to singer David Siebold's dull, larynx-ripping vocal stylings, which strike me as the opposite of emoting (screamoting?) since there seems to be zero potential for personal idiosyncrasy (or even just personality) to shine through at this particular rabidly maintained frequency. None that I can detect, anyway. Which kinda hurts my feelings because, hell, I always considered myself a big fan of rock screaming in the main, being a lifelong booster of, um, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, Mick from early Napalm Death, Yamatsuka Eye, etc. The difference being that all those guys would either, like, modulate somewhat between various levels of vocalizing (up to and including ear-splitting screams) or they would kinda wordlessly howl in spontaneous or disturbing or hilarious ways. On the other hand, this stuff here is just predictably (perhaps literally) one-note and tedious. The band, in typical modern rock style, provides a surfeit of tricky little fillips but fails to offer up any memorable riffs...or grooves, even. God, I'm old.