National CD Reviews – August 2009

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10ft. Ganja Plant
Bush Rock
Street: 07.28
10ft. Ganja Plant = John Brown’s Body + Jimmy Cliff
The sticker on the front reads: Guest vocals by Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid. How can anyone take a band with that name seriously? For years I’ve passed over Slightly Stoopid albums on the shelves, shaking my head as I searched for the latest Sleater-Kinney record. I quickly looked past the sticker, though, pressed play, and was greeted with dead-on throwback sounds of sweet, sweet reggae. When Kyle makes his first appearances on “Too Much Gun A Bust,” the album is elevated to a new level. In the seductive downtempo track, “Got To Be A Soldier,” his voice serves as a complement to the laid-back retro sound. The album isn’t trying to break any new ground, but these guys sure as hell know the classics, so sit back, calm your soul, and let the album send you on a trip down vintage lane. –Courtney Blair

Against Me!
The Original Cowboy
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 07.07
Against Me! = Against Me! - present-day mediocrity
Whether you think Against Me! lost it when they ditched their acoustic instruments for electric ones, signed to a major label or started punching anarchist kids in coffee shops, there’s no denying that the band’s best days are behind it. The Original Cowboy is a bittersweet reminder of just how good this band was, even if it is an entirely unnecessary addition to their catalog. It’s kinda cool to hear the demos for what would become As the Eternal Cowboy, but the songs here are essentially the same exact songs on the finished album. The only notable changes are a slightly rougher sound overall, a different arrangement on “Unsubstantiated Rumors” (which has been available as a 7” from No Idea for years), and the omission of “Sink, Florida, Sink.” Unless you’re an Against Me! completist, there’s no reason to buy this if you already own the original. Still, this is a whole hell of a lot better than New Wave. –Ricky Vigil

The Antikaroshi
Crushed Neocons
Exile on Mainstream
Street: 08.11
The Antikaroshi = Maps and Atlases + Rumah Sakit + Helmet
If you were going to make a mincemeat pie made up of parts of bands, the mincemeat pie that would make The Antikaroshi would consist of: James Iha’s hands circa Siamese Dream, Walter Schreifels’ vocal cords circa Manic Compression, Les Claypool’s fingers circa Fizzle Fry and, last but not least, Jack Iron’s arms and legs circa No Code. This would be the most delicious pie ever, yet somehow you would feel kind of odd about enjoying it. That’s exactly how I feel about these gents. I really like them, yet something is throwing me off and I’m not sure what it is. But it sure is fun listening to their dreamy prog-funk jams. These dudes are like the hippie stoner brothers of Porcupine Tree, but they’re not vegans or tree lovers, they’re cannibals. What more could you ask for? – Jon Robertson

The Antlers
Frenchkiss Records
Street: 08.18
The Antlers = Shearwater + Antony and the Johnsons + Jeff Buckley
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most heartbreakingly beautiful album of the year. You’ve heard the story before, an artist entering a self-imposed isolation only to emerge with a masterpiece. Hospice is just that. After Peter Silberman released In the Attic of the Universe in 2007, he had an idea for his next album and went into isolation for two years. The result is the story of a love affair between a patient and a healthcare worker, two people becoming one, and death tearing them apart. The album teaches us about mourning: “I’ve woken up, I’m in bed, but there’s no breathing body there beside me. Someone must have taken you while I was stuck asleep” Silberman sings in “Epilogue.” Hospice also teaches us about moving on.¬ –¬¬Courtney Blair

As You Drown
Metal Blade
Street: 07.07
As You Drown = Through the Eyes of the Dead + Whitechapel + Divine Heresy
Sweden’s As You Drown is deathcore through and through—do I need to say more? I can sit here and bitch about how sick I am of bands playing this style bursting forth, but that would wind up sounding as redundant and boring as actually listening to this record. I understand there is a scene and a sturdy fanbase for this music with its chugga-chugga growl chugga chugga, long-ass double-bass drum-pounding with pointless lead guitar and time changes. I can sit here and be Captain Cynic, but the band’s debut offering, Reflection, will sell records and get the band on high-profile tours. All that said, Reflection is what it is, and if you like the style, that’s fine and dandy; just be aware that this album is redundant and gets under your skin quickly and it’s only about 35 minutes. –Bryer Wharton

Fragmentary Evidence
Nuclear Blast
Street: 08.11
Augury = Atheist + Death + Alchemist + Morbid Angel
Ever get that dumbfounded feeling where you cannot put your thoughts into words? Well, after many listens to Canadian progressive death-metal crew Augury’s second full-length album, Fragmentary Evidence, I’m still in the dumbfounded state. It’s been said many times before, especially with all the so-called new tech-death-metal bands, but Augury shatters the standard death-metal cookie-cutter mold. The perplexities of every rhythmic portion will leave you scratching your head. Add some excessively brutal blasting, all executed with fervor, and it’s one challenging death-metal experience without sounding like a pointless guitar show-off contest. Everything has a wealth of power and wide diversity about it. Fragmentary Evidence, with its brutal core and vast assault on auditory senses, is a raucous symphony of mind-bending rhythms, time signatures and visceral guitar-shredding. –Bryer Wharton

Bird Names
Sings the Browns
Upset The Rhythm
Street 07.21
Bird Names = DeVotchKa + Akron/Family + a sober Captain Beefheart
Sometimes when your influences include 1950s American doo-wop, traveling carnival sounds, Slavic folk songs and country swing music, the resulting sonic mixture is both wildly inventive and catchy. All too often, though, it sounds like a mish-mash of unrelated shit strung together haphazardly. The latter is true for Chicago’s Bird Names. I am not sure why this disc was made. I know they want me to describe it using words like “restless, plucky guitar” and “woozy, throbbing keyboards,” and to mention that their music is frank and instinctive, but I really can’t do that. I respect you too much. The truth is that almost every song sounds like someone playing the weird middle part from The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” both backward and forward at the same time, while an ironic ’80s-night DJ spins the Ace Frehley-sung tracks off of the KISS album Music from the Elder. Not even remotely listenable. The only positive thing was that the songs took a long time to start. It was like Bird Names were being merciful for a short few seconds before reminding you that it was time to listen to something else. –James Bennett

The Black Drumset
The Black Drumset
Self Released
Street: 07.28
The Black Drumset = TEXT + Holy Fuck + Secret Machines
Austin, Tex., has been a mecca for rock music for nearly 20 years, and The Black Drumset are yet another shining example of the power of local musicians to self-produce an album full of tremendous texture and depth. Two drummers play intricate polyrhythms over lofty organ and synth drones, twisting and turning delicately, but with tremendous fortitude. The song “3 and a 33rd” is a smoke-filled dream, while the synths at the beginning of “The Good in the Bad of the Good” are ominous before the introduction of some super-sweet vocals. The album is cinematic and sounds like the genuine interaction people have when they are faced with the impending doom of something out of their control. –Andrew Glassett

The Casualties
We Are All We Have
Street: 08.25
The Casualties = GBH + Discharge (at their best) + Circle Jerks
Every time I swear I’ve heard punk rock’s official death rattle, I think nope, the Casualties are somewhere tonight playing unflinching hardcore punk to some kid who’s going to shave their hair into a mohawk and start a band the next day. Working with legendary figure Bill Stevenson as producer, the Casualties have undoubtedly put together their strongest outing yet. We Are All We Have may be the first record to match the incredible power this band has live. The title track has choruses that will ring in your ears for days. The band has really become a great cross section of hard-hitting punk rock; you can really hear everything from The Ramones to Black Flag. Up until now, the Casualties have only given us straightforward punk, but for the first time, a reggae track, “Rocker’s Reggae,” has entered the mix and feels right at home with its up-tempo counterparts. Lead vocalist Jorge’s trademark snarling rasp delivers each song with such bite that it lets the listener know that only an ear trained in real punk rock need apply. –James Orme

Sweet Time
Big Legal Mess
Street 07.07
Chooglin’ = Muddy Waters + Foghat + the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs
The road to hell is paved with the living souls of white-guy blues and R&B players like Chicago, Daryl Hall and John Oates. Literally—I’m not making this up. As a result, it is really hard for a band made up of white guys from Minneapolis to feature a deep rhythm-and-blues groove without falling into the familiar ’70s pop-rock trap. Fortunately, Chooglin’ errs on the side of Creedence Clearwater Revival and pairs this healthy Caucasian roots sound with a dynamic four-piece horn section. My biggest fear was that this was going to be another lousy Midwestern ska record, but thankfully, this was not the case. The horns are there, but they’re nowhere near overwhelming. Placed rather low in the mix, the brass parts give the disc more of a Rocket from the Crypt feel than a Voodoo Glow Skulls one. The music is hard, even metal in parts. The vocals will remind the listener of CCR’s soul-shouting John Fogerty. These features, mixed with a Memphis-meets-Foghat feel, work together to make a surprisingly good and listenable record. It’s as if booty-shakin’ 1970s guitar rock was just reborn in a Minnesota garage recorded at a breakneck pace and is now being served up to you in all of its huge and natural glory. Listen to it. Feel it in your hips. –James Bennett

Church of Misery    
Houses of the Unholy
Rise Above Records
Street: 04.20
Church of Misery = Sourvein + Melvins + Electric Wizard
Japan’s Church of Misery have been cranking out Sabbath-esque doom for more than a decade now, but with Houses of the Unholy, the band shows they’ve still got a full tank. Super-riffy songs about such notorious baddies as Albert Fish and Richard Trenton Chase make it easy to see why Church of Misery, along with fellow countrymen Boris and Coffins, have put Japan on the worldwide doom map. Equal parts 70s stoner rock and modern-day doom metal, Houses of the Unholy is an album that any doom fan needs to check out. –Gavin Hoffman

Daniel Francis Doyle    
We Bet Our Money On You
Responsible Songs
Street: 06.09
Daniel Francis Doyle = Japanther + The Robot Ate Me
Though I appreciate DFD’s music more when live, the recordings are true to the beating distortion emphasizing Doyle’s wide yelling and pull for attention. Jarring, looped guitar and countering drums bounce back and forth through the first half of the CD. Tracks “Send You Away” and “Learning Things At School” slow down, and Doyle’s voice becomes sweet and quite pleasant. “Your Cursive” keeps a silly bounce, and fades into the distorted, clinking guitar in “How Can You Work?” The track “Your Baby is Speaking” is smooth, and might fit in a 50s musical as a character reminisces over the past scene. “Always Calm” is far from calm. Explosions of distortion, heavy bass drum and slinky guitar end the album with a good dose of monstrous confusion. –Jessica Davis

Darkest Hour
The Eternal Return
Victory Records
Street: 06.23
Darkest Hour= In Flames + All That Remains + As I Lay Dying
Don’t be surprised that Darkest Hour is another metal/hardcore band enforcing the more thrash-metal rule. A resurgence of thrash has seemed to replace simpler hardcore elements. The Eternal Return makes sense with what the band is going for and it’s all in the name. They wanted this sixth album release to be a “modern-day thrash metal masterpiece.” I can agree that they’ve taken their sound up a notch in every aspect, and there is an incredibly pleasing amount of speed. However, I didn’t hear that traditional thrash sound I was looking for. With that said, The Eternal Return is its own unlabeled creation. It’s an electrifying boom of speed and cloud of heavy-metal looms with melodic stints that make a giant sound evolution. “A Distorted Utopia” and “Death Worship” are the album’s heaviest assaults. – Nicole Dumas

Dead Man’s Hand
The Combination
Agonia Records
Street: 01.28
Dead Man’s Hand = The Haunted + Witchery + The Forsaken
Welcome to mediocre land, where bands are forgotten or never paid attention to to begin with. By all means, Norway’s Dead Man’s Hand’s debut offering, The Combination, isn’t really a bad album, it’s just not all that fantastic, either. I guess if you miss the older, less melodic style of The Haunted or need a fix of Witchery-type material, this could tide your tastes over. The Combination is simplistic in its nature and there are some nice riffs lying in wait on the album, but nothing that is going to make this record top-shelf material. Maybe, just maybe, if the vocals weren’t so damn bland, the album would have repeated, listenable value, but the change-up between higher death shrills to death growls are downright embarrassing at times. However you take it, Dead Man’s Hand aren’t going to be burning up the metal presses anytime soon. –Bryer Wharton

Deaf Judges
All Rise
Emerald City Ruins
Street: 06.30
Deaf Judges = Wu tang + Beastie boys + Sage Francis
Straight outta Athens … Georgia, that is … Deaf Judges are comin’ on strong with their debut album, All Rise. I have listened to this album multiple times now and I must say it has grown on me. I felt like a lot of the beats had a Wu Tang feel in the samples while mixing it up vocally. At first I wasn't a fan of the flow, but I must say, now I do like this album. These guys are killin’ it in the South playing shows with 3 6 mafia, Ghostface, and other legends. This first album took them three years to get out, but they have done a great job. A couple of the tracks I found myself breakin’ my neck to were “Space Cadet Setlist,” “Deaf Sentence,” and “Phone Sex.” Keep it up, white dudes!!! –Hehshun

The Dear Hunter
Act III—Life and Death
Triple Crown
Street: 08.04
The Dear Hunter = The Black Heart Procession + My Chemical Romance + Glassjaw
Oh bless the gods! The third installment of The Dear Hunter’s grandiose rock opera, Act III—Life and Death, has finally been released. Sweet Jesus in the sky, let’s raise an offering. While the rock opera/concept album seems to be quite the hipster thing to do these days, I would have to say that The Dear Hunter seem to pull it off quite well next to the almighty Coheed and Cambria. Claudio, I love you! So this album’s tough and rocking parts are great, but I just wish there were less theatrics, because it seems like once the song begins to get into a groove, some weird choir comes in or a ditzy breakdown happens. But I probably shouldn’t dis on this because Anthony Green totally has a boner for these guys and wants to give them favors and everyone knows that if someone successful says they like you, that makes it good. Right? –Jon Robertson

Death Angel
Sonic German Beatdown—Live in Germany
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.28
Death Angel = Exodus + Anthrax + Slayer + Forbidden
Death Angel’s Sonic German Beatdown’s live album is more about the whole experience of the album than individual songs. After a multitude of listens, one takes away a feeling of old-school thrash metal played live and raw instead of any one individual track standing out. Is that a problem for this live offering? Not at all—with the tracks lacking their own identity, the tracks just turns into a speed-laden shred-fest that you don’t necessarily have to be a die-hard Death Angel fan to enjoy. Hell, if you didn’t know any better, you could safely assume this is just a live classic thrash album from back in the day; it makes you forget that the Bay Area thrashers were broken up for almost 15 years. So what if it’s not the greatest thrash metal live album ever? It’s still a blast to listen to and I’d jam to this any day over listening to any new thrash revivalism band that is just blatantly copying this style. –Bryer Wharton

April Rain
Sensory Records
Street: 06.30
Delain = Within Temptation + Nightwish
I’ll admit that I like Within Temptation and Nightwish to a degree, but listening to Delian feels like listening to a bland generic copy of both. Interestingly enough, Delain’s keyboardist was in Within Temptation but had to quit because of health problems; unfortunately for him, he quit just before Within Temptation became big. April Rain isn’t a terrible album by any means; it’s just lacking its own identity. It sounds far too similar to Within Temptation, mainly. Big, symphonic keyboards with heavy riffing and female vocals and tons of pleasing melodies—yes, it’s all done, and done fairly well, but it just sounds forced, almost as if the band is trying too hard to be like their peers instead of searching for something to set them apart. When all is said and done, why listen to a mediocre clone band when you can just listen to the real thing? –Bryer Wharton

Regain Records
Street: 07.28
Endstille = Mayhem + Darkthrone (old) + Dark Funeral + Marduk
To be fully honest, I’m definitely not the biggest authority on black metal—we all have our own tastes and genre preferences, after all. While there are quite a few bands I get a massive amount of black metal satisfaction from, Germany’s veteran black-metal troupe Endstille may pack a wallop on their sixth studio offering, Verführer, but after a few listens, it plays itself out and sounds like another wannabe Mayhem band. The band utilizes the wall-of-sound effect here to create the dark, anti-Christian and war-themed atmospheres. Regardless if a song’s pacing is blistering, mid-paced or almost doom-like, it still has the wall-o’-sound. The vocals do have a wealth of pain and power behind them but unfortunately, the music doesn’t follow the same path. It just has the “I’ve heard all this before” feeling to it. In all fairness, Verführer is nowhere near a terrible record for what it is, but you just have to like what it is. –Bryer Wharton

Eryn Non Dae
Hydra Lernaia
Metal Blade
Street: 06.23
Eryn Non Dae = Meshuggah + Red Harvest
I’ll admit I can see the appeal factor amongst heavy music fans for France’s Eryn Non Dae. It’s heavy, has an interesting sound and unique textures, and for the most part, does a good job at purveying a dirty, gritty atmosphere. If this record had been released maybe four or five years ago, I wouldn’t wind up being as cynical as I am about the band’s sound. To sum up the band’s full-length debut, Hydra Lernaia, it basically is a dumbed-down version of Meshuggah, with a huge similarity to Norway’s Red Harvest, intentional or not. There are the ball-busting, heavy, steamroller, math-infused riffing a la what-Meshuggah-does-best songs, and then there are some calmer moments that infuse industrial elements and itty bits of black metal. I’m always apt to give credit where it’s due, and the album does have a nice dark and weighty vibe. If I had never heard Red Harvest, I could forgive the comparison to Meshuggah, but nope, Red Harvest remaining one of my favorite bands, any originality that this album may have or the band intended it to have is lost on me. –Bryer Wharton

The Evaporators/Andrew W.K.
A Wild Pear 7”
Nardwuar/Mint Records
Street: 06.23
The Evaporators = The Briefs + Atom & His Package
Andrew W.K. = Jay Reatard + Gary Glitter
If you don't know who Nardwuar the Human Serviette is, drop everything you're doing, search for him on Youtube and come back to this review in a couple of hours when he's your new favorite music journalist. Back? OK. This split finds Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada's favorite son fronting The Evaporators for one original (“The Bombs in My Pants!”) and one cover (“Oh Non” by Les Hou-Lops), while Andrew W.K. covers the Canadian Subhumans (“Oh Canaduh”) and The Leather Uppers (“Don't Sell Hot Dogs Tonight”). The Evaporators' original is easily the best track on this brief release, but all of the tracks deliver the kind of simple, stupid fun that both Nardwuar and Andrew W.K. are known for, and it's also cool to hear a few lesser-known Canadian bands covered. A Wild Pear is only eight minutes long, but it's long enough to keep you rockin' in the free world. –Ricky Vigil

The Fiery Furnaces I’m Going Away Thrill Jockey Records Street: 07.21 The Fiery Furnaces = The Enflamed Heating Devices + The Extremely Hot Space Heaters Do you like the Fiery Furnaces? OK, then. Since we’re on the same page on this one, I’ll let you know this album is as good as any of their other six releases. Upper register plinkings? Check. Sudden prog-rock freakouts? Check. The delicious sound of Eleanor Friedberger crooning over some jazzy drums? Oh yeees. The lazy listener in me always wants to shout, “Hey you, you guys in the furnace band. Chill out with the fucking inventions and serve it to me hot and poppy––consistent-like.” But the attentive listener that is still holding on inside totally digs this shit, still. Even the intro and title track, an old-school cover of a song called “I’m Going Away”––which, interestingly enough, invokes heavy blue-grass tones––made me wonder what band I was listening to when I first heard its strains at SLUG HQ. –JP

Carving Out the Eyes of God
Metal Blade
Street: 06.23
Goatwhore = Phazm + Soilent Green + Immortal (post At the Heart of Winter)
I had this record for nearly a month, probably longer, and given it a couple listens a week and was having trouble finding the Goatwhore I have come to know and enjoy. Then it was as if some odd devilish angel switched something on in my head and it all came together. While Goatwhore’s last record, A Haunting Curse, marked some stylistic changes for the band—mostly in production value but also inviting a bigger death metal sound than before in—COtEoG takes the sound of the band’s first two records and gives it a clear production, but returns the raw, bitter edge the band displayed on those albums. The new album isn’t anything massively superb or anything, but it’s a solid output that plays out in the least redundant way than the band has ever offered up. There are moments of straightforward, grimacing death metal with some dirge-styled guitar moments, then there are some tracks that sit on the edge of full-on death n’ roll. If anything, get the album for the glorious “In Legions, I Am Wars of Wrath.” –Bryer Wharton

Helado Negro
Awe Owe
Asthmatic Kitty
Street: 08.04
Helado Negro = Coconot + Os Mutantes + Animal Collective’s parents
Roberto Carlos Lange is the man behind Helado Negro and is stacked with musical associations, from Prefuse73 to School of Seven Bells to Paul Duncan. He has called in all his favors from his friends to produce Awe Owe, an album completely unrelated to the aforementioned projects. Lange is of Ecuadorian descent, and is heavily influenced by South American 60s pop. He uses organic percussion and pairs it with subtle vocal and percussive loops to produce a dreamy atmosphere of Hispanic flair and airy vocal melodies. The music is amazingly complex while remaining completely approachable and addictive. If you are looking for the perfect music for a gathering at dusk during the summer, look no further. ¬–Andrew Glassett

Horse Meat Disco
Street: 08.04
Horse Meat Disco = Donna Summer + the 1970s + Perez Hilton
Disco really is dead, and thank God for it. Though Horse Meat Disco revels in the frantic era of 1970s disco, the album is uninspiring and boring—even for dance music. Who would’ve thought an album with a pink horse sporting a giant boner on the cover would be so mundane? Tracks from TJM, Eddie Drennon and Plaza round out the compilation of nostalgia that was put together by dudes with either a penchant for big, gay dong or a serious problem with bestiality. Sheryl Lee Ralph’s “In The Evening,” The Two Tons’ “I Depend on You” and Gregg Diamond’s “Danger” are very reminiscent of the actual disco era with their poppy vocals and high-energy dance beats, whereas “Freakman” by Empire Projecting Penny is a lackadaisical and boring with its dispassionate vocals—faked is the best way to describe them. The label describes Horse Meat Disco as “a space where heterosexual disco fans can party at a gay disco club without feeling out of place,” but are there really any heterosexual disco fans around anymore? Europe doesn’t count. –Nick Parker

Terroreign (Apocalyptic Armageddon Command)
Agonia Records
Street: 05.25
Impiety = Sadistik Exekution + Impaled Nazarene + Watchmaker
Singapore’s Impiety have been thrashing it up evil style and taking no prisoners for close to 20 years now. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for some great straight-up, faster-than-shit black-thrash with massively evil undertones, all of which Impiety embody in their sound. I had a notion of what Terroreign was going to be, but the band that has been pretty consistent with their records and sound threw my ass in the blender and proceeded to shred my eardrums into pulp. Some of the tracks on Terroreign tread a fine line into almost grind territory with the band’s notion of blast-stop-blast-stop. Everything here is fast, from frenetic riffing, howling-to-hell-and-back, sloppy-on-purpose guitar soloing and inhuman drumming. The guitar tone alone eviscerates through metal mediocrity. Just when you thought the black-thrash genre has been overdone, you get an album like this—hell, yeah! –Bryer Wharton

Job for a Cowboy
Metal Blade
Street: 07.07
Job for a Cowboy = Cannibal Corpse + Decapitated + Suffocation
Ruination isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Apparently, I missed the memo that the band sent out with their debut full-length, Genesis, which I fully ignored because, judging from their Doom EP, I thought it was going to be a deathcore crapper. But no, the Arizona-based crew changed over to straight death metal. I can ultimately see the appeal and why the band gets picked to go on so many damn tours; the album is extremely well produced, almost making you forget the redundancy and rehashing of all the album’s riffs and meandering drumming—you almost find yourself enjoying the enormous amount of tempo changes. But then the album is done and you have absolutely no desire to listen to it again and you barely remember what you just listened to. Ruination is a fine example of the fact that sheer brutality and no songwriting capability does not make for good death metal. –Bryer Wharton

“Hi, We’re JONESIN’”
Free News Projects
Street: 07.15
JONESIN’= Joy Division + Gang Gang Dance
“Please come aliens/Humans need new friends,” JONESIN’ sing on track seven. That song and track three, “Too Stoned To Screw” (I think I inherently have to like that title for its “humor” alone) are the most listenable on a first spin. The other songs on this effort start to pick up on further tries. The majority of the album also does a great job of sounding like the vocals were recorded through a megaphone, and they were, or were effected to sound like it. I think another album more will see a fuller revelation from some of the more creative constructions on display this time. Warning! This is pretty poppy stuff, so steer clear, anti-pop thugs. –JP

Johnny Winter
Live Bootleg Series Vol. 1
Friday Music
Street: 10.09.2007
Johnny Winter = Muddy Waters + Lynyrd Skynyrd + B.B. King
What’s pale, old and leaves only blue in its path? No, not a geriatric, post-orgy Smurfette. The answer is Johnny Walker. The albino brother of the similarly pigmented Edgar Winter (you know, the guy from that “Frankenstein” instrumental on Guitar Hero) has been a blues musician since the ’60s, and is releasing “bootleg” recordings from his glory days of the ’70s. The first entry in the series has good jams (“Rollin’ and Tumblin’”) as well as more song-based tracks (“Stranger”) among classic covers from The Rolling Stones (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”) and Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”). Though blues musicians often get caught up in slow-hand improv, Winter mixes the jamming with swift transitions and keeps the tunes moving. This collection is a good primer for the blues for anybody curious in the origins of rock n’ roll. –Nick Parker

Last Resort
‘You’ll Never Take Us:’ Skinhead Anthems II
I Scream
Street: 06.30
Last Resort = Sham 69 + Cocks Sparrer + Slaughter and the Dogs
Here’s the deal if you don’t know: After the initial wave of British punk in the late 70s, many bands formed to have their voices heard, particularly kids from the working class. More down to earth, the anarchy theme of the first wave had been replaced by class warfare themes. Drinking, fighting, soccer matches, and working-class life were the themes around the rough-and-rowdy sub-genre of punk. At the center of the oi/skinhead movement was Last Resort. Releasing the genre-defining record Skinhead Anthems, the Last Resort would go on to influence countless punk and skinhead bands that would follow. Twenty-five-plus years later, the band has gone through several incarnations and break-ups, but the lead singer, due to the urging of longtime fans, has forged ahead to undertake the daunting task of following up the group’s most significant record. These 14 tracks display a band that is not trying to recapture the feelings and emotions of their youth, but rather, trying to make sense of a world where “sense” is no longer an acceptable currency. Harsh and unbending, these methodical (by punk standards) anthems hit like a wrecking ball. Songs such as “Stand Your Ground” and “You’ll Never Take Us” capture the attitude of a band that refused to give in to the bullshit we’re often handed in life. This really is the record that the street-punk scene has been waiting for. –James Orme

Let Me Out
I Think I Can
Warbird Entertainment
Street: 08.11
Let Me Out = Pennywise + Bad Religion
I have always had a soft spot for bands from Sweden—some of my favorite bands are Sweden’s Cult of Luna, Meshuggah and Refused. However, the Swedish quintet Let Me Out probably compares closest to Refuse, but nowhere near as good. It is definitely safe to say that these guys will not be making my favorite band list any time soon. The 14 tracks included on the disc are basically just rehashed, mid-90s punk hardcore. While I have much respect for the genre, I have absolutely no respect for bands that pick a style of music and just basically make the same songs without bringing any originality or new elements to the table. Let Me Out, you are giving Sweden a bad name. –Jon Robertson

Man Overboard
Hung Up on Nothing E.P.
Street: 12.2008
Man Overboard = Weezer (Blue Album) + The Cab + The Trademark
The first track on this EP opens up with a song that sounds like it belongs in the old-school Weezer category: It's catchy, it's fun, it's simple, and unfortunately, it's the only one of its kind on the album. I was hoping to see the band build on that first track and prove that they are the “saviors of pop-punk,” as touted in their press-kit. Unfortunately, however, the rest of the songs on the EP are grossly disappointing, full of radio rock that's largely unmemorable and lacking in the hook that really sells a pop song. Here's hoping the full-length has songs more akin to that first track, but I'm not holding my breath. –Kat Kellermeyer

Municipal Waste
Massive Aggressive
Street: 08.25
Municipal Waste = D.R.I. + Nuclear Assault + Anthrax
There is good reason Municipal Waste are one of the best thrash revivalism acts on the scene. Fan or newcomer, Massive Aggressive will suit any thrasher’s palate. They’re not the best because they take classic thrash and make it nice n’ fresh for the millennium—no, it’s because their music is packed with the energy that made all those 80s thrash bands so damn cool. I’ll admit, the rhythm riffs can sound a bit repetitive after a while, and there aren’t nearly as many guitar solos as I’d like, but I’ll be damned I keep coming back for more. This is razor-sharp and fast, punk-rocked-fueled fun with not a lot of technical guitar hullabaloo. It’s just to-the-point, grab-a-beer-and-jump-in-the-circle-pit tunes. Few records win me over with style and not a lot of substance, but Massive Aggressive is some good, simple thrashin’. –Bryer Wharton

Middle Class Rut
25 Years
Bright Antenna
Street: 08.04
Middle Class Rut = Local H + Perry Farrell + Nirvana + Cave In
Middle Class Rut is what guitar drum duos should be. The band consists of Zack Lopez, (guitar/vocals) and Sean Stockham (drums/vocals). Within the first few seconds of the beginning track, “25 Years,” you can tell this band plans on mesmerizing you with their tandem attack of ball-kicking progressive post-punk awesomeness. This band is the real deal. The drums sound like they’re on the verge of breaking and the urgency of the vocals and voice tone want to make you get up and start a riot of some sort. Imagine the best shout-yell-scream that Cedric Bixler-Zavala ever yelped out and you would have an idea of how legit Zack and Sean’s vocals are. I am grateful to have discovered Middle Class Rut; I will definitely be spreading the word about this band. –Jon Robertson

Mos Def
The Ecstatic
Downtown Records
Street Date: 06.09
Mos Def = Roy Ayers + Madlib + Black Thought
Take a break from all this peanut-butter dance shit that is played on U92 at least 1,039,234,902 times a day and take a lesson from the mighty Mos Def. Mos has been on the eccentric tip for a minute and has failed me with his last couple albums. I had big expectations for The Ecstatic and the first half of the album delivers. The first half offers top-notch production from The Neptunes, Madlib, J.Dilla and Preservation. Mos goes back to rare lyrical form, dropping fresh flavor and clever lyrics. We even get a guest spot from the great Slick Rick on “Auditorium.” Then, the downfall begins. “Life in Marvelous Times,” the first single from the album, which leaked about 2-3 months ago, drops and marks the regression of the boogieman. Mos tries too hard to be eccentric in the final half of the album, and recycles lyrics and catchy phrases left and right. My expectations were high and Mos delivered a mediocre album with a lot of filler. The first half is so good that I can’t knock Mos too hard, though. Standout tracks are “Auditorium,” “Wahid,” “Priority” and “Quiet Dog Bite Hard.” –JRapp

Tombs of the Blind Drugged
Rise Above Records
Street: 07.07
Moss = Monarch + Corrupted + (early) Earth
With an album title that is an obvious take-off of the cult horror classic Tombs of the Blind Dead, England’s Moss have once again shown why they are in strong contention for the stoner-sludge crown. While this release is tagged an EP, it contains four songs together totaling over almost 40 minutes, and is easily one of the band’s best to date. The direct opposite of death-metal blastbeats, the drums on Tombs of the Blind Drugged could be generously clocked at 4 to 6 beats per minute, and the gut-busting tone of the guitar and bass come damn close to hitting the ever elusive “brown note.” Bong required. –Gavin Hoffman

Okie Dokie
Street: 06.06
Okie Dokie = 400 blows + Anti-Seen + the Locusts
These guys are a jackhammer of sound. Guitar and bass smash into the chest like a good right cross, and the vocals are decapitating. These three guys hit with so much sonic weight. Their songs are more like explosions set to a drum machine, a drum machine that Okie Dokie have creatively used for percussion. I can already hear some of the doubters saying, “Drum machine? Really?” but I’ll tell you this, it’s not noticeable because everything else is so noteworthy that the percussion elements are barely key. Like a voodoo spell, these tracks blast past like a spirit escaping a dead body. The vocals are so gritty and nasty and blend so well that they’re almost like a second guitar, just adding more snarl to this raging beast. Okie Dokie is highly aggressive, and yet somehow through it all, the blues can still be heard and emotion is still accurately conveyed, things that are easily lost when bands have such intense aggression. Okie Dokie is a creative, belligerent force, stronger than anything I’ve heard in a long time. Listeners, beware. –James Orme

Pacific Theater
Animals at Night
Whale Heart Records
Street: 08.11
Pacific Theater = British Sea Power (Man of Aran) + Snow Patrol
The album starts with heart-pulling instrumentals. Thumping bass and swaying guitar reverb flow strong, then become distant in the background of slightly delayed vocals. As the instruments grow uplifting, a deep voice returns, and everything crescendos into an essence similarly found in Explosions in the Sky. Each song begins as a new breath, lungs waiting to fill with satisfaction just after each intense explosion. As a whole, the album fits nicely together to create a solemn but wonderful experience. –Jessica Davis

Ephemeral EP
Southern Lord Records
Street: 06.06
Pelican = Red Sparowes + Russian Circles + old Jesu slightly
Pelican has always been hit or miss with me. I hate to be one of THOSE GUYS, but I enjoyed their old material much more than the recent few releases. I’m still not sure how they’ve managed to gain so much notoriety for what they do. My main frustration is that there really hasn’t been anything that sticks out to me enough to warrant more than a few listens. Though they are clearly adept at songwriting, this just feels like the same uninteresting stuff over again, when I do feel that there is potential for so much more. Perhaps I’m taking things too seriously, and they probably are just doing what they do and enjoying it and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I wish they would branch out and actually surprise me for once. This release is more of the same Pelican, as usual. –Conor Dow

Reign Supreme
Testing the Limits of Infinite
Street: 06.23
Reign Supreme= Lamb Of God+Shipwreck A.D.+Down To Nothing
Keeping it hardcore and not stepping too far away from that is the general feel of Testing the Limits of Infinite. This second release following their first EP, American Violence, is a 13-song run of catchy guitars, chorus-style back-up vocals and plenty of double-bass drumming. They don’t tamper with trying to have an enormous vocal range and various styles of metal. There is a small dose of punk and the more I listened to the album, the more I referenced riffs similar to 90s hardcore like Integrity and even Dead Guy. What I like most about this album is that it shows its face without confusing what genre you’re listening to or trying to appeal to multiple audiences. Take it or leave it. –Nicole Dumas

Set Your Goals
This Will Be the Death of Us
Street: 07.21
Set Your Goals = Saves the Day + Four Year Strong + Rise Against
For some reason, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I really, really enjoyed the first Set Your Goals album. If I was alone, I could blast Mutiny! at full volume, but posi-pop-punk-core just isn’t as fun when you’re trying to not seem like a total pussy in front of other people. This Will Be the Death of Us doesn’t exactly make me feel any less ashamed to like Set Your Goals. SYG have toned down both the good hardcore stuff and the good pop-punk stuff on their second album, leaving a whole bunch of songs that are decent, but only a couple that truly stand out. “Summer Jam” finds the band at its poppiest and “The Fallen” features all six SYG-ers firing at all cylinders for the album’s best track, but the rest of the album isn’t very exciting. Plus, the inclusion of four guest vocalists (including a cringe-worthy contribution from Hayley Williams of Paramore) is a bit ridiculous since this band already features two vocalists. This album isn’t bad, but it’s a definite disappointment. (Murray Theatre: 08.25) –Ricky Vigil

Stardeath and White Dwarfs
The Birth
Warner Bros. Records
Street: 06.02
Stardeath and White Dwarfs = The Flaming Lips + Mercury Rev
OK, let’s just get past the obvious. Yes, this album looks like Wayne Coyne artwork—that’s because it is. Yes, these guys sound very similar to The Flaming Lips—that’s because lead singer Dennis Coyne is Wayne’s nephew and he and his bandmates were roadies for the Lips for several years. Glad we got that taken care of. Now, if you enjoy the Soft Bulletin and Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, then this is a score. Stardeath and White Dwarfs are also one of the openers for the Lips 2009 tour. If longevity runs in the family, maybe S&WD will entertain us for a few decades. –Cinnamon Brown

The Wounds That Never Heal
I Scream
Street: 06.09
Stigmata = Sepultura (Arise era) + Overcast + Turmoil
It’s a shame that the sound of hardcore in the 80s and early 90s has morphed into a bastardization of mostly Swedish metal bands in the modern era. It seems that traditional straight-up hardcore has dribbled to only a few bands. While the name Stigmata isn’t the most original one this NYC-based act could’ve picked, I’ll give credit where it’s due. The Wounds That Never Heal is a compilation album comprised of two of the band’s previously released albums, Hymns for an Unknown God and Do Unto Others. While this release doesn’t specify which songs are from which album, there is a big style difference between the two records, one of which sounds way too similar to Sepultrua’s Arise album and then the other being primal, fast, and heavy, classic NYC hardcore. Well, it’s easy to say the hardcore album is great while the other is bland and redundant. Regardless, if you dig the old-school hardcore metalcore style, than give this some listening and forget about what Killswitch Engage or Darkest Hour are doing. –Bryer Wharton

Taking Back Sunday
New Again
Warner Bros.
Street: 06.01
Taking Back Sunday = The Academy Is ... + Senses Fail + Straylight Run
By now, you probably know whether or not you like Taking Back Sunday. They make reliably catchy, radio-ready post-hardcore/emo/whatever you want to call it, and they’re pretty good if you like that sort of thing—usually not excellent, usually not bad, just ... reliable. New Again is a bit weaker overall than their last LP, Louder Now, but mostly it’s just more of the same. The first half of the album is the strongest, with choruses that beg to be sung along with and songs that contain a variety of mood and styles within the standard Taking Back Sunday template. The second half unfortunately gets bogged down in angry, emo snarling that falls totally flat, with songs that are entirely forgettable until the last track, “Everything Must Go.” This is probably the most experimental song on the album, and it’s also several notches higher in quality than the rest. –Cléa Major

This Will Destroy You/Lymbyc Systym
Field Studies
Arts & Crafts/IODA
Street: 07.28
This Will Destroy You/Lymbyc Systym = Mogwai + Explosions in the Sky
I’m just going to throw this on out there: I think Godspeed You! Black Emperor is absolutely boring as hell. Just because your indie-kid neighbor cums all over the place when he hears a song drone on for 35 minutes doesn’t make it cool for you to do it, too. Anyways, I’ll just say that the two bands featured on this split EP are not like Godspeed at all. Everything on this album is indeed instrumental post-rock, and damn, does it sound good. The horns and keyboards are absolutely stellar touches, adding their own unique touches without detracting from the wonderfully heavy sounds that permeate this release. If you need some new prog-rock in your life, this little EP might just be your best bet. –Ross Solomon

Timber Timbre
Timber Timbre
Arts & Crafts/IODA
Street: 07.28
Timber Timbre = Jana Hunter + Iron and Wine + Devendra Banhart
Deceptively simple, Timbre Timbre’s latest release captivates from the very beginning. A hushed voice accompanies a soft, strumming guitar in the aptly-titled opening track, Demon Host. As the album progresses, light organs and soft beats join the mix. The sound is consistently minimal, and always very pleasing. Yet, the senses are never overwhelmed. With this being Timber Timbre’s third release after Cedar Shakes and Medicinals, his sound has appropriately progressed. All of the tunes are hauntingly catchy. He takes bits and pieces from such artists as Devendra Benhart and Iron and Wine, then goes on and makes them all his own. This is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year, and is definitely recommended. –Ross Solomon

Tom Brosseau
Posthumous Success
Fatcat Records
Street: 06.23
Tom Brosseau = Will Oldham + Turin Brakes
This feels like you’re listening to two different albums. Half of the album sounds like the Tom Brosseau we are used to; the guitar-plucking folk songs and quick-wit lyrics like “I keep having the same dream with Dave Grohl, the one where he’s playin’ the drums in Hole,” from the track “My Favorite Color Blue.” The other half of the album ventures into pop territory. Tracks like “Been True” and “You Don’t Know My Friends” feel full, with lush guitars and hopscotch-like drums. The multiple personalities of this album cropped up as a result of having two different producers from two extremely locations, New York and Portland. Distraction creeps in when the breezy instrumental tracks hit at random amongst the sophisticated broadness of the album. Despite the split personalities with which Posthumous Success has been diagnosed, these are two sides that can live side-by-side in peace. –Courtney Blair

Various Artists
Ze 30
Strut Records
Street: 08.03
Ze 30 = Tom Tom Club + Grace Jones + Funkadelic
Take your seat, kids, Strut Records has a historical music lesson for us on the influential New York label Ze Records, which is celebrating 30 years in the business. Ze is best known for delivering the mutant disco sound, combining elements of punk and dance music. The end result of Ze 30 is a pinch of smartass, danceable music, like Was (Not) Was, with their twisty bass line on “Tell Me That I’m Dreaming” and one-time Patti Smith roommate Lizzy Mercier Descloux on “Hard-Boiled Babe” talking about how she doesn’t want to be a whore. Other standouts include the French duo Casino Music covering “The Beat Goes On” and the classic “Contort Yourself,” by James Chance. If you own Mutant Disco Vol. 1-4, pass on Ze 30 because many of the tracks are repeats. However, if you’re new to Ze, get ready to pull out your skates and hit the streets. –Courtney Blair

Street: 01.01
Vitamins = Sonic Youth + Cat Power + The Velvet Underground
Vitamins are an odd band to figure out, and their sound changes quite a bit from track to track on this album. Sometimes it’s droning post-punk; sometimes it strays into country and folk territory; sometimes it’s cheerful indie pop. Vocalist Lizzy Allen recalls Nico, hitting that particular feminine whispery deadpan, but Vitamins aren’t trying to be The Velvet Underground—as the album meanders from genre to genre, it’s unclear what exactly they’re trying to be. Calliope has a lot of long songs that don’t seem to go anywhere, and they don’t put enough oomph behind their music to pull off this kind of aimless experimentation. There are some lovely moments on this album where the band hits its stride (most of “Dear May,” the grunge momentum of “Bat in My House”), but it’s mostly just a sea of confusion. –Cléa Major

We Were Promised Jetpacks
These Four Walls
Street: 07.07
We Were Promised Jetpacks = Frightened Rabbit + The Twilight Sad + Danananaykroyd
I’m probably not the best person to attempt to review Scottish bands, because I just really love hearing Scottish accents. These Four Walls could be total shit, and I wouldn’t necessarily know it because I’m just happy as a clam to hear someone from Edinburgh crooning at me. But even if you take out my exoticisization of Scotsmen out of the picture, We Were Promised Jetpacks are still a more-than-solid band. This is a pretty straightforward indie-rock/pop album with lots of jangly guitars and impassioned melancholy, and vocalist Adam Thompson brings all the yearning and emotional intensity to the yard. Their only crime is sounding too much like their label-and-tourmates Frightened Rabbit, but Frightened Rabbit is a pretty fucking awesome band to sound like. –Cléa Major

White Wizzard
High Speed GTO
Street: 07.14
White Wizzard = Judas Priest + Iron Maiden + Motley Crue
While I appreciate both thrash and NWOBHM revivalism movements in the metal scene, there are a few bands that actually impress me. My first impressions of the L.A.-based White Wizzard (yes, there are two z’s in the band name; it’s not a typo, why spell it that way I don’t exactly know) and their full-length debut High Speed GTO were intriguing. The mixing of styles gave the record a fresh, newer feel. However, about the third listen in, my mood suddenly changed and a redundant feel washed over me. While there are some nice rhythm guitar riffs and solos on the album, I swear there is a riff repeatedly used on the album that sounds exactly like the main riff in Mötley Crüe’s “Too Fast For Love.” So add that rehashed sound in the already short album—yep, it’s less than a half hour long—with a vocalist that sounds strangely similar to the vocalist for Wolfmother doing heavy metal, and the album keeps going downhill until it snowballs into heavy-metal disaster. –Bryer Wharton

Street: 08.11
Xerath = Meshuggah + Dimmu Borgir + Hollenthon
While the angle of the musical direction (other than being atmospheric and heavy) that the UK’s Xerath are attempting is eluding me, the orchestration on I is huge and at times shows a great depth and provides a much-needed element to the rather simplistic, chugging drudgery of the majority of the guitar-riffing on the album. But at other times, the orchestration becomes derivative and monotonous along with the rest of the album. The screamed vocals have no range and there are some clean vocals from time to time that sound horribly forced and out of place. It feels as if the band attempted to create an enveloping sound to immerse listeners into epic territories, yet the album’s tracks seem to cut themselves short while they’re directly in the middle of exploring musical themes. There is potential here, but the record misses its mark. –Bryer Wharton

The Great Cessation
Profound Lore
Street: 07.14
YOB = Sleep + Middian + Sunn O))) + Knut
Ah, YOB, it’s good to have you back, damn good, actually. The Great Cessation, a monstrously and significantly darker, harsher album, is of an expected progression for the re-grouped band. When the band split up briefly, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt formed Middian, which took on darker territories than the standard YOB fare. While different in its embracing of the darker side of doom metal, the new offering won’t disappoint longtime fans of YOB. The record is still chockful of the mammoth, low, bottom-end dredge-riffing that YOB is known for and still retains the psychedelic atmospheric moments, either in the band’s swirling rhythm section or in the buzzing guitar feedback. This time around, instead of a nicer, almost soothing vibe, you get a highly sinister effect. There is lightness in the dark, making said psychedelic moments that much more potent. Scheidt’s vocals are immense and powerful here, with haunting clean passages and growls that are almost inhuman; just flat-out bone-shattering. I strongly urge any doom lover to take this acid-corroded, darkened journey YOB is offering. –Bryer Wharton

Zechs Marquise
Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare
Rodriguez Lopez Productions
Street: 08.25
Zechs Marquise = The Mars Volta’s Halloween party + John Cage
Zechs Marquise is a Mars Volta side project of Marcel and Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez. It is named after the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, a veritable clusterfuck of anime clichés about mankind colonizing space and being ruled by an earthly alliance until one of the leaders is assassinated and then the story meanders for forever and a day. Zechs Marquise is very similar in scope, with spooky synths and underdeveloped drum lines that wander into the stratosphere. For this music to be successful, it needs some type of visual element to make any sense. I may not be a scholar of anime or psychedelic rock, but I know when something is excessive. –Andrew Glassett