Posted by: Necci – Jun 15, 2012
Yes, that's right, another one of these, where I attempt to get rid of my ridiculous promo backlog by writing a whole bunch of reviews really quickly and putting them all up as one big post. I hope you all didn't become too enamored of the negativity that pervaded the first installment, because this time around I actually liked everything I reviewed! Oops. Anyway, here you go:
Jeans Wilder - Totally (Everloving Records)
I first heard about this group when they released a split EP with Best Coast. Jeans Wilder frontman Andrew Caddick used to be in Fantastic Magic with a pre-Wavves Nathan Williams, which further intensifies the connection with that whole lo-fi beach pop aesthetic--but considering the much-improved fidelity of recent Wavves and Best Coast releases, it seems Caddick and Jeans Wilder are the ones out of that clique who are keeping it real. Actually, Totally begins with an ambient instrumental that makes me think an early-70s era Pink Floyd LP is about to break out, which is not really what I expected. But once that segment of the record is over, things get back to familiar territory: lo-fi roots pop featuring pre-Beatles sonic touchstones, such as the "Be My Baby" beat running throughout "Gravity Bong" and the reverbed-out crooning vocals throughout. Minimalist songwriting style adds a modern flair--as do song titles like "Gravity Bong." But really, I think this is music for people who loved the overloaded monaural production techniques of bedroom-closet pop geniuses like Spector or Joe Meek. Some fascinatingly strange production decisions (the mix-overwhelming handclap percussion on "Sunroof") keep things interesting and somewhat unpredictable. Mix in some weeded-out languidness and you've got a pleasant lazy-Sunday listen. Dig it.
Bradley Wik And The Charlatans - Burn What You Can, Bury The Rest (Coxcombs Anon)
Are you Lucero/Gaslight Anthem/Ryan Adams/emo-disguised-as-alt-country fans out there paying attention? Clearly I was not, as I've had this promo for close to a year (since last November according to my email) and never listened to it before now. What is my problem? I was blowing it. Y'all, this is a really good record. Bradley Wik (not to be confused with Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk, as I did at first) and co. are doing that whole late 80s college rock sound mixed with a sweet Southern twang and heartfelt vocals, plus more than their fair share of perfectly turned minor-chord melodies and yearning choruses. Their sound calls to mind that string of groups I mentioned in the first sentence, plus a few others: Uncle Tupelo, Vigilantes Of Love, even Buffalo Tom in their later years when they mellowed out a bit. I'm a sucker for all of those groups and I'm apparently a sucker for these guys too, because this record's great. I'm not one of those people who think Ryan Adams was better a decade ago, and has gone downhill since Gold, but those people in particular will probably be really happy with what they hear here. Hunt it down.
Greys - Easy Listening (Concession Records)
This EP from a young Toronto group is apparently their second release, though discogs.com casts some doubt on that assertion. But hey, with a generic name like "Greys," it's easy to lose track. I'm forgiving them for the undistinguished nomenclature due to an entirely unfounded assumption that they're named after those aliens with the big eyes and weird round heads--which is an awesome thing to name your band after if you ask me. But none of that is really relevant, so let's talk about the music. These guys have the kind of heavy post-hardcore sound that you'd expect to come from Chicago in the early 90s and be issued on the Amphetamine Reptile label; think Helmet, Unsane, Vertigo, maybe Jesus Lizard (though Greys don't get as sloppy and out of control as Jesus Lizard did). But then there's a good bit of the post-hardcore stuff that was coming out on Dischord in that same era (Circus Lupus, Hoover, etc.) and a faster pace that I'm gonna chalk up to youth and perhaps some modern-day Louisville influence (where by "Louisville" I mean "whatever the Patterson brothers [Coliseum, Young Widows, Black Cross, National Acrobat] are up to at the moment"). Plus, it can't be denied that the intro to the two-minute short-sharp-shock of "Gladhander" is a dead ringer for the intro to Nirvana's "Breed." Are you as into all of the bands I'm referencing as I am? (You should be.) Well, if so, go pick up this record. You won't be sorry. (Did I use too many parenthetical asides in this review?)
Mekong Delta - Intersections (SPV/Steamhammer)
This is my first encounter with this German metal band, who've been around since sometime in the mid-80s, and for whom Intersections is their tenth full-length album. The bass player is apparently the only original member left, and in fact he's the only one who has been in the band for more than five years. Fittingly, I suppose, this album consists entirely of rerecordings of songs from their first six albums. I have never heard the originals and thus cannot accurately measure how well these rerecordings stack up to them, but on their own they sound pretty good to me. There's some serious power metal inclination in the songwriting style and production used here, but thankfully it stays away from all of that overdone symphonic goop I was ranting about last week in favor of giving us a pretty solid German gloss on the sound that made Iron Maiden so brilliant circa 1985. Rather than pulling inspiration from the weird romantic poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as Powerslave-era Maiden did, though, Mekong Delta go in for some darker, more brutal influence by frequently citing horror godfather H.P. Lovecraft (fully three different of their albums are named after Lovecraft tales). That's always gonna win points with me, as will the chunky, shredding guitars on this album, and the complex riffing that keeps things interesting through unpredictable shifts and occasional time-signature trickery. But it always comes back to solid riffs--unlike all of the overblown modern power metal that gets on my nerves so much. I can't deny that the Maiden worship here is thick enough to make even a downplayer of the importance of originality like myself take note. However, I enjoy listening to this record enough that I don't see any reason to be a grinch about it. After all, Maiden haven't made a good album in a long damn time. Why not listen to a solid album by a German version of Maiden with a Lovecraft fixation? I can't think of any reason not to. Highly recommended.
PS I Love You - Death Dreams (Paper Bag Records)
Second full-length by this bassless Ontario duo, who manage to replace the missing stringed instruments in their sound through hard rockin' and creative use of pedals. Paul Saulnier's thick, effect-laden sound comes across way more like Kevin Shields than Jack White, but make no mistake, this isn't some hazed-out shoegazer album. I'd be more likely to compare these guys to the Pixies at their most hyper--Saulnier's nervous yelp when he gets excited sounds like Black Francis having a panic attack, but not only does it work, it adds even more energy to the already-driving rhythms of these songs (for which drummer Benjamin Nelson deserves significant credit). On some of the heaviest tracks, such as "Princess Towers," which I've written about before, melody takes a back seat in favor of raw power, but they usually coexist to excellent effect on these songs, with the catchiness of the choruses derving more strength from the power of the heavy rhythmic undercurrents. If you're a fan of bands who put the "rock" back in "indie rock," you need this record.
Rival Sons - Pressure And Time (Earache Records)
This brassy boogie-blues-rock ensemble out of LA somehow slipped under my radar for a year, and once again, I feel really dumb about that. Since discovering this album, released last summer, I've found myself returning to it regularly, whenever I need something upbeat and fun to listen to. To me it sounds like Elephant-era White Stripes crossed with first-LP Led Zeppelin--loud, overdriven blues-rock with that classic analog sound; big, perfectly-miked drums and howling tube amps. Singer Jay Buchanan is a blues belter of the first order--not as reliant on falsetto screaming as Robert Plant, he nonetheless can hit the high notes and does so regularly, yet with enough of an underlying grit to his voice that he always sounds recognizably human (a thing that, I would argue, one can't say about Plant). There's no overdone wankery in the music, which opens the door for the White Stripes comparisons, along with, perhaps, a dash of Blue Cheer circa OutsideInside in the mix. Guitarist Scott Holiday can rip off a loud n' proud solo, but he always does what's best for the song and avoids showing off. Rival Sons even evoke the early 70s proto-metal boogie era in a manner that most modern revivalists never bother with--ballads, in particular "Only One," which sounds like a cross between similar tunes by The Faces and Free. That's high praise--those were perhaps the only two groups of that original boogie era who could nail a ballad with enough panache to keep stoners from reaching for the needle to bump it ahead to the next uptempo cut. Rival Sons demonstrate enough solid talent on this album to renew my confidence in the personal theory that originality is overrated; if you can write excellent songs that get people's heads nodding and toes tapping, what does it matter if you sound just like a bunch of other bands from 40 years ago? Not at all, say I. So crank this baby up. PS--Apparently I slept on this Rival Sons promo for long enough that their label is already starting to hype their next record, Head Down, which will be out in August. I for one am looking forward to it. If it comes anywhere close to the level of this album, it's gonna be a monster.
By Andrew Necci