Apr 27, 2009

np: "Pound It Out" - Booker T

Booker T. is gosh darn national treasure. Just for the pivotal instrumental track "Green Onions" (which even if you don't think you've ever heard - you've heard) alone, not to mention all that fantastic session work he produced for the Stax musicians along with his buddies The M.G.'s. Which is why it shames me a little to admit that they only reason I bothered to check out his latest release, Potato Hole, is because his backing band this go-round is the only Southern rock band that matters right now - Alabama's own Drive-By Truckers. But, hey, the hook worked and I picked up an album I might have otherwise (wrongfully) ignored. And I'm really glad I gave it a chance, this might be one of the downright funkiest and most rocking album I've ever heard. The DBTs' growling three-axe attack is a perfect fit for Booker's grimy organ sound, givng every single track a loose and organic feel that never sounds over-thought or under-emoted. It sounds like everyone is having one hell of a time in the studio, especially when they break into the covers of Outkast's "Hey Ya" and Tom Waits' "Get Behind the Mule". Toss in an instrumental re-working of the Truckers' own "Space City", some extra fretwork from Mr. Neil Young himself and you've got a great little rock record that shouldn't be overlooked.

Apr 22, 2009

np: "Kind of a Girl" - Tinted Windows

The mere existence of this band is definitely one of 2009's most WTF musical moments so far. I was tempted to type something about "supergroup" in that sentence, but I think that would be stretching the definition of "super" to the thinnest of extents. It certainly is a group though, quite a group of random musicians. On guitars you've got James Iha, a dude who was smart enough to stay way the hell away from Corgan's shitstorm of a Pumpkins reunion. Then, on bass, you've got Adam Schlesinger of power-poppers extraordinaire, Fountains of Wayne. The connection between the two makes tons of sense since the pair of them, along with wayward former Pumpkins bassist D'arcy, established indie label Scratchie Records back in 1995. Now this is where things get a little weird. The drummer for Tinted Windows is none other than Bun E. Carlos. Yes, THAT Bun E. Carlos, him of Cheap Trick. Some strange cross-generation pollination going on here, but the Pumpkins played with Cheap Trick a couple times and they have that whole Chicago connection going on - so I can get with that. But what throws me for a loop is the vocalist these guys selected... Taylor Hanson. Yessir, the middle Hanson brother. Do the syllables "Mmm" and "Bop" ring any bells? WTF, right?

The bigger WTF, after hearing the self-titled debut album, is that they actually crank out some better than decent power pop. Unsurprisingly, as much as I love Fountains of Wayne, the songs written by Schlesinger (especially the opening run of tracks 1-4) are among my favorites on first blush. They fare much better when they stay away from the gloopy mid-tempo tracks, but Tinted Windows is a successful, breezy summer sun pop album. And you can never have too many of those. Check out the lead single...

Apr 10, 2009

np: "The Comedian in Question" - Coalesce

That's right, brand spankin' new Coalesce. This evening I've been enjoying the perks of being a music critic, namely listening to a highly anticipated album months before the thing is due to be unleashed on the world. The band's latest album and first in nearly a decade, OX finds the band in stellar prove and should prove to be well worth the wait for fans. I've only made it once through, but I'm hearing everything I'd expect and a few curveballs throw in to maximize the impact of the band cutting loose full-force. Get excited and be sure to grab it from Relapse when it hits the streets on June 9th. In the meantime, you can check out "Wild Ox Moan" on the band's MySpace page linked above.

Apr 2, 2009

np: "Airstream Driver" - Gomez

Really, how does a band go from winning the Mercury Prize to being one of the most bland purveyors of mid-tempo ballads around? Gomez has had such a disappointing career arc. This British band bust onto the scene with a refreshing debut album that artfully mixed the of-the-moment Britpop with American roots music, lovingly crafted with a pop sensibility inherited from the greats (it wasn't weird to see the Beatles used when referring to the band). Bring It On won the 1998 Mercury Music Prize over such worthy runners-up as Massive Attack's Mezzanine and The Verve's Urban Hymns. Liquid Skin and In Our Gun followed the formula and expanded upon the band's sound to interesting results. Not every song worked, but when they did ("Rhythm & Blues Alibi", for example) - they were fantastic. Two more middling albums, an interesting B-sides collection, and a surprisingly rocking live album followed. Thanks to the crossover appeal of breezy hit "See the World" the band finally latched onto the American mainstream, but it seemed to come at the expense of some of the more engaging approach of their early career.

So here we come to 2009 and their latest album, A New Tide, and the downward spiral continues. Seems the band loves the new audience brought to them by "See the World", as they've decided to exclusively pander to that side of their sound. The disc is packed with mid-tempo ballads that sacrifice any of the experimental, playful nature they've displayed in the past. Which, you know, whatever, but hardly any of these songs are half as good as "See the World". In fact, except for a few exceptions ("Airstream Driver" being my favorite) the tunes are far more bland, sliding right in one ear and out the other.

Such a shame to see a band squander away potential like these guys.