Steal With Pride
Sharp Practise = REO Speedwagon + The Who – Little River Band
“Sharp Practise” is a slang term more common among Brits, meaning behavior that is underhanded or dishonest but technically within the law. When Nigel Clothier started the band in 1999, he recorded a demo playing all the instruments himself, and took photos of himself as various members, to give the impression the band was already in place. Truth in advertising, if tongue in cheek! Honestly, I don’t know what to think about the band’s identity, but they know how to rock! On Steal With Pride, Sharp Practise’s fifth album, the playing is technically very adept and recorded skillfully to achieve a radio-friendly melodic rock sound. The songs are fairly generic, especially the plodding blues of “Hard Heart.” But here is a band that has enough talent to create their own intriguing rock persona, given some more original ideas. –Stakerized!
The Physical World
Last Gang Records/Warner Bros.
Death From Above 1979 = Pink Mountaintops + QOTSA – Frank Black
After nearly a decade apart, Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger are back together recording and performing as Death From Above 1979. “Cheap Talk” leads off the album, and it reveals the theme of the disc: the divergence between live and machine music, written and recorded, the created and the manufactured. You can’t get back what’s lost, no matter how hard you try. In “Always On,” which talks about living in the “always on” Internet age, Grainger sings “If we brought Kurt back to life/there’s no way he would survive.” This is a highly danceable dystopia—no Nirvana indeed. Even though they miraculously picked up where they left off, living in The Physical World is, among other things, sobering. As they say in “Right On, Frankenstein!,” “It’s the same old song, just a different tune.” They are even jaded about their own creativity, though they exuberantly rock hard as they express it. This musical monster they’ve created is no new Cobain, but it’s one mean mutha. –Stakerized!
Serial Lover Records
Mahalya = Superchunk + Better Than Ezra + Sonic Youth
Mahalya is a band with a pedigree, but you wouldn’t know it by their discography. The New Orleans musical collective—based around Richmond, Va. native, frontman Dave Fera—only released one album and EP shortly after inception in 1999, and then his side project, Big Blue Marble, was cut short by Hurricane Katrina. Fera is no stranger to major-label success. His first band back in the early ’90s, Seymores, had landed a record deal after their first show, a festival gig with Superchunk and Archers Of Loaf, with whom Mahalya has been compared. Fast forward to the present: Fera broke out of the self-described “funk” he’d been in and, along with bandmates, has cobbled together a set of songs that bottles all the original ’90s indie rock exuberance, updated with a newfound sense of melodicism and verve. It’s a great album to greet the opening up of springtime! –Stakerized!
Carnival Of Souls
Pere Ubu = Rocket From The Tombs + Red Krayola – Devo
The ghostly musical renderings of David Thomas, the singer/songwriter frontman of long-time Cleveland bizzarro band Pere Ubu, are more like strange narratives, stories told through a smoky, foggy lens of the imagined world than songs. By “singer” I mean he creates an off-kilter, high-pitched lilt that careens around the corners of verses like a carnival ride. Titled after the 1962 horror movie Carnival of Souls, filmed partly at Saltair, the album has more than one tie to the Beehive State. These songs were developed as an underscore for the film, and are a continuation of the trilogy that began with last year’s Lady From Shanghai. Thomas weaves together elements of poetry, sci-fi stories, ambient radio signals and religious mythology to create a truly uncategorizable musical vision. Two songs from Carnival of Souls will be featured on the TV show American Horror Story: Freak Show. The group, in the form of Thomas, drummer Steve Mehlman and synth player Robert Wheeler (sans guitar and bass), premiered the song “Road to Utah” and others at a house show in Farmington, Utah last December. Attending it was a musical transport, candles adding an eerie ambience. I also found this the perfect soundtrack for my Halloween hauntings. –Stakerized!
Alexander Ortega = Leonard Cohen + Nick Cave + Huun-Huur-Tu
You may have seen SLUG Magazine’s Managing Editor, Alexander Ortega, playing around town, including Friday night in-store local-band appearances at Diabolical Records and the busking area at the Craft Lake City DIY Fest. Now, his musical ability has coalesced into a three-song EP that is diverse enough to demonstrate several facets of his talent. “Broken Color System” uses some nimble finger-picking in minor tonalities as an intro to the foreboding “Year Of The Snake,” in which the vocals are sung in the overtone manner of Tuvan throat singers—with its sinister lyrics, it’s quite effective. “Inside Every Soul” tells of a meeting with Satan, and Ortega’s strumming adds urgency. His melodies and chord progressions are slightly repetitive, but one could imagine them as metal or punk rock arrangements that sound pretty cool, too. There’s a wildness that is contained within the acoustic guitar singer/songwriter format that makes it even more powerful. –Stakerized!