(A psychotic candyland full of glam glitz, trashy pop, new wave, post-everything, retrofuturisms and distorted beauty)
Reviews of The Warlocks's latest, Mice Parade, Vox Vermillion and more!!
[The Warlocks]If you were lucky enough to arrive early and catch She Wants Revenge open up for the Bloc Party show you already know that they could be one of the better bands to emerge from this post-chaos with a Joy Division twist. So when “Sister” backed with “Out of Control” appeared in my box for review I was anxious to see how they came across. I won’t say I’m disappointed but “Sister” sounds a bit too much like Interpol and “Out of Control” is an Interpol meets The Killers sort of hybrid. Hopefully their full-length offers a bit more variety that captures the strengths of their live performance.
Bobby Hecksher and his infamously bohemian cohorts’ last album, Phoenix, was one of the more interesting releases of 2003. It wasn’t perfect; there was a sense of noise and chaos that often overshadowed the actual hook of the songs. Call it beautiful noise but it was nonetheless a step behind the likes of BRMC or The Dandy Warhols. With Surgery The Warlocks obliterate that problem by channeling Phil Spector, which may seem like the hip thing to do, but unlike The Ravonettes’ new release (who had the balance right on their first album) The Warlocks don’t sacrifice the brilliant wall of noise just to write pop songs. They’ve kept enough of the past to advance the old sound into something more akin to the genre bending antics of Spiritualized. Produced by Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliot Smith, Coldplay) Surgery is the first “properly” recorded album and while that may look like a horrible idea on paper in this case it actually works to the band’s benefit. The focus is tight, nearly as tight as the despair and illness that dangles the band inches away from self destruction. You saw it in Joy Division; while they’ve yet to achieve that perfect balance of tension and release you can’t help but feel like there’s a train wreck around the bend and that’s both exhilarating and terrifying. The album isn’t out until the end of August but they’ll be making a stop off with BJM (currently 1 of only 5 shows they’ll be playing before the album’s release) in July and you absolutely cannot afford to miss The Warlocks. (07.18 Velvet Room w/ Brian Jonestown Massacre)
San Francisco’s Andy Cabic and co. are reminiscent of Damien Rice’s haunting, yet somewhat off kilter folk with subtle atmospherics drifting below the acoustic guitars. Stripped bare the songs push focus to the vocals much like the earlier Red House Painter releases. Already heralded in the UK where they recently headlined the Twisted Folk Festival series Vetiver are poised for critical acclaim a little closer to home.
Originally Mice Parade was Adam Pierce’s experimental instrumental project but over the years it has evolved to be a bit more pop structured with the inclusion of vocals. Mind this isn’t your top 40 sort of pop. No, when I say pop I mean Magnetic Fields meets experimental Tortoise complicated pop. This is an avant-jazz indie chillout and it works quite well. Bem-Vinda Vontade was recorded with the assistance from Kristin Anna Valtysdottir (Mum), who also adds her distinct siren’s whisper on a couple tracks, Doug Scharin (June of 44) and Dylan Cristy (Dylan Group). There is also a guest appearance from Ikuko Harada, singer of Japan’s top selling Clammbon.
The Luxury of Time
I know, you’re sick of the 80s and even more tired of bands paying homage to the decade of excess but before you completely abandon the retro-chic give NYC’s Shelby your complete attention. They don’t sound like the Killers or the Bravery with stolen Duran Duran bass lines and bubble gum electronics nor do they come across as a clone of The Gang of Four or whatever the mid-level band the critics are pushing towards a reunion. No, on the opening track “The Golden Boy” Shelby set up The Luxury of Time perfectly by wandering in with a rainstorm of guitars and just when you think you know exactly where everything is going lightning strikes. The Luxury of Time is bombastic at times and still retains a sense of vulnerability that most bands lose in the process of turning up the volume and hitting the distortion. Kenny Cummings and Phil Schuster swagger like Oasis had they listened to The Who and Echo & the Bunnymen rather than The Beatles and Paul Weller but without the overwhelming pretense of arrogance. So not exactly the 80s you were thinking of. Better, much better.
Standing Still You Move Forward
You might not expect to find mellow indie pop on a label created by hip hop artists Slug (Atmosphere) and Murs (Living Legends) but that’s exactly what you have in Minneapolis’ Vox Vermillion. Based around Kelsey Crawford’s distinct voice, which has a sort of retro jazz by way of Beth Gibbons (Portishead) feel to it, Standing Still You Move Forward tends to meander a bit. The music is warm, often mellow with a little bounce behind it, but only on “Controller” (which is certain to be your favorite or least enjoyable track depending on your point of view) do things really become reckless come together. Not that the slower material isn’t interesting. The use rhythm section’s use of tempo changes and touches of cello to augment the piano keep the album far from bottoming out. Not quite like anything you’ve been listening to.