A COASTLINE ENDING Ė IN THE NAME OF PROGRESSIONÖ(Not Alone Records)
THE ACTION DESIGN Ė NEVER SAY (Popsmear Records)
THE CLASSIC CRIME Ė THE SILVER CORD (Tooth & Nail Records)
STREET DOGS Ė STATE OF GRACE (Hellcat Records)
Reviewing these CDs separately is, quite simply, pointless. If youíve attended the Vans Warped Tour within the last few years, odds are youíve seen bands just like this. Now I know the Warped Tour does manage to bring in one or two good bands every year, but you canít help but notice how (1) the emphasis on skateboarding and BMX has dwindled and (2) the lineup has slowly but surely taken a turn for the worst. Whether itís the tolerable but played out Boston punk sound (Street Dogs), Paramore clones (The Action Design), or just horrible, annoying-as-fuck indie/emo/pop (A Coastline Ending, The Classic Crime), itís all been done before (and in some cases, it wasnít even good the first time). You know, about ten years ago I got to see the Descendents at the Warped Tour. Today, Iíd settle for seeing All.
RATINGS: FIVE STARS (If you add them all together)
BLACK LIGHT BURNS Ė COVER YOUR HEART (I Am: Wolfpack/YMA Music Group)
When you quit playing guitar for Limp Bizkit to try something new, you can pretty much guarantee youíre taking a step in the right direction: enter Black Light Burns. Wes Borlandís new band, which already released a full-length last year, has finished up with Cover Your Heart to tide fans over until the release of their next proper album. This ďkeep the kids at bayĒ release is split between some heavier cover tracks (from Jesus Lizard, The Stooges, Fiona Apple, and Duran Duran to name a few) and some more airy original instrumentals. Iím sure Fred Durst would hate it, and that should be all the incentive you need to give it a listen.
RATING: THREE STARS
TAB THE BAND Ė LONG WEEKEND (North Street Records)
Tabís debut, Pulling Out Just Enough To Win, brought the band reviews haling them as a garage rock version of the Rolling Stones or early Aerosmith, and my review of it also expressed something of the same sentiment. But when I listened to Long Weekend, something changed. As weird as it may seem, Tab seems to have gone from a band that happens to sound like a garage rock version of the Rolling Stones, to a band trying to sound like a garage rock version of the Rolling Stones. Thereís still some decent tracks here, but it feels much more contrived. Iím sure the poppier sound of this album will branch out their fan base, but they seem to be straying slightly from the sound that brought so much promise to their debut.
RATING: TWO STARS
THE RUMBLE STRIPS Ė GIRLS AND WEATHER (Gigantic Music)
I hate admitting when Iím wrong, but I am here. You see, two and half hears ago, when I started writing for Tastes Like Chicken, I was given a two-song CD by the Rumble Strips as part of my first batch of discs to review. I listened to it and wrote an absolutely brutal review (Donít look for it, it never ran on the website. But I do remember comparing the lead singer to a terrible wannabe Freddie Mercury). So imagine my surprise when I was looking through this monthís batch and found the Rumble Stripsí full-length debut. I grabbed it quickly, thinking of all the entertaining ways I could warn the world to stay away from this awful shitstorm of a band. But upon listening, I realized that my ears must have been retarded two and a half years ago (or theyíre retarded now), because this good-time British indie rock band with a horn section just sounds better now. Then again, I suppose a trumpet can make anything sound betterÖfuckiní Flobots.
RATING: THREE STARS
THE SNEAKS Ė IN AN INSTANT (Self-Released)
In An Instant, the debut EP from five-piece indie pop band The Sneaks, is one of the cutest most darling albums Iíve heard in a while. It conjures up fluffy thoughts of unicorns, puppies, and sunshine. In other words, I really donít like it.
RATING: ONE STAR
YOU SAID IT, BUDDY
Whether it was in sadness or tribute, I think itís safe to say that some of us blurted out at least one of these words when we heard that George Carlin had died.†
Most of us were probably too young to hear Carlinís classic 7 Words You Can Never Say On Television rant when it was first performed.† Most of us in Milwaukee probably werenít there to see him get arrested at Summerfest in 1972 for performing said routine.† Personally, my first experience with those words would fit better under the title 7 Words My Dad Would Say Everyday After Work.† But even though I wasnít around for some of his most notorious days, his act always remained original, hilarious, and racy enough to make my fourteen-year-old self quickly change the channel when my mom came into the living room.†
Since I started watching him, what always amazed me about George Carlin was his fanbase.† I personally know people from all ends of the religious, political, and racial spectrums who are fans of his.† And for all the vulgarity and offensiveness, his ability to bring in all different kinds of people seemed to make him endearing, even though he never really toned it down.† In fact, I actually think this is the main reason I never saw his show live.† When someone spends that long of a time running strong, you tend to think theyíll never stop.
Even in his last HBO special, Itís Bad For Ya!, he managed to shock me.† I sat and watched as this seventy-year-old man discussed what he knew would be his own soon demise with no apologies.† He blasted religion and scoffed at the idea of any afterlife, suggesting that even if heaven existed, your loved ones would have better things to do than watch over you and help out with all your stupid problems.† I can only hope that if Iím lucky enough to hit that age, Iíll still be as full of piss and vinegarÖbut Iíll probably puss out and find Jesus or something.
Considering his beliefs on what happens after death, Iím not gonna say that George Carlin is now at peace.† Iím not gonna say that heís in a better place.† And Iím certainly not gonna say heís smiling down on us.†
Instead, Iíll just say this:
And besides, even if there is an afterlife, George will be exactly as we want him: really fucking pissed.
REVIEWS: ADAM LOVINUS
MWVM - "ROTATIONS" (Silber Records)
Abstract and unapologetic, the shoe-gazer genre tends to be far too weird for the casual listener, as it is written as an aesthetic bitch-slap to the verse-chorus-verse blueprint of pop-rock. The shoe-gaze movement--started in the U.K. by Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins in the late-Eighties--lives on as second-generation artists employ new technology to discover new sounds and textures.
Rotations, the first full-length album by U.K. multi-instrumentalist Michael Walter working under the moniker mwvm, is an opus of single-note volume swells, synthed-out loops and thunderous layered texturing with no melody, no drums, no apparent structure and no lyrics. But thatís the beauty of it. The ten-minute opener ("Context. Where?") introduces the recorded-in-a-cathedral vibe that fans of Arcade Fireís Neon Bible will find familiar. It features lots of echo-y organ washes and gothic harmonic layering, from which the rest of the album flows like a stream from a snowcapped mountain.
By track four ("Negative Pole") the cathedral vibe has transformed into more of an abducted-by-aliens texture, with lots of low-end digital droning and Doppler-effect organ. The album peaks in the twelve-minute "Oratory Clout," humming like a swarm of digital cicadas until giving way to a clean, David Gilmour-style guitar vamp, exposing Walterís affection toward Meddle-era Pink Floyd.
Though Rotations isnít anything experienced shoe-gazers havenít heard before, itís still a solid debut effort. Surely, things will only get weirder (read: better) from here.
THE GRADE: 3 STARS
KARMIC WHIPLASH - "NERVOUS SYSTEM" (City Duck Records)
Guitarist-songwriter Brendan Themes got tired of playing bass on the Twin Cities punk and metal scene, and decided it was time to change direction. He picked up an acoustic guitar, wrote some folk-y tunes and recruited multi-instrumentalist Travis Lund to bang out the drums on his solo debut that he recorded in various basements and living rooms.
Whatís cool about Karmic Whiplash is that it isnít typical singer-songwriter fare; Themes wears his punk roots on his sleeve, penning melodic up-tempo tracks that sound somewhere between the Violent Femmes and, at best, an unplugged version of the Descendants.
Some highlights: The sudden, unexpected hook in "Second Brain" is a welcome shot to the solar plexus, proof that Themes might be onto something with this unlikely punk-acoustic hybrid. Brit-pop fans will appreciate "On A Wire," with its Kooks-like chord progression and swift storytelling, something Themes replicates on "Getting To No."
Some gripes: Sometimes Karmic Whiplash treads dangerously close to Dave Matthews, especially on mellower tracks like "Detox" and "Blindfold." Theyíre at their best when they play acoustic punk. Punk-ish acoustic doesnít suit their sound.
THE GRADE: 3 STARS
THE DETAILS - "DRAW A DISTANCE. DRAW A BORDER." (Parliament of Trees)
Before their debut album came out, Winnipegís The Details already gained the reputation of one of western Canadaís hardest working bands. The indie-rock quartet has been on the road extensively since forming in 2005, twice embarking on coast-to-coast winter tours across the frozen Canadian countryside.
Draw A Distance. Draw A Border embodies the great things about a DIY debut album, namely that air-tight quality songs get only after being played hundreds of times at no-name bars in towns named Saskatoon and Halifax. Even if emo-ish Canadian indie-rock isnít your bag, at least they donít bullshit you with songs that wonít hold up live.
Some highlights: "Reunion Souvenirs" is a straight-up stomper, despite the "long-distance-relationships-are-hard" lyrical sullenness. The tasteful banjo and trumpet parts on "Underground" acknowledges the bandís artistic range without getting all uppity about using weird, old-timey instrumentation like some Canadian art-rockers. *cough* Of Montreal *cough* And what would a debut record be without small-town angst? "Height of Land" fulfills that requirement dutifully.
Some gripes: The album is an honest piece of music, but that doesnít mean youíll suddenly like the emo-pop genre that the band (intentionally or not) creates within. But it is unfair to knock a band for being itself. The Details will have plenty of time to break this mold.
GRADE: 2.5 STARS