by Tom Hallett
Ah, can't you just FEEL the love, baby? Spring is about to
be sprung, the grass will soon be green, and I'm almost to the bottom of the
stack o' discs that's been hiding my weekend pass from this looney bin for the
past three months or so. So let's get right to it—for this edition of
March Musical Muck Madness, we'll jam through half a dozen of the good, the
bad, and the merely mediocre.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Whatever it takes to make it be more
than a hate thing, because there's hate and you stack up a bunch of hates and
it's hate city, and that ain't no place to live."
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Shoot Out The Lights”
—Richard & Linda Thompson
A not half-bad EP from a Melrose, Minnesota skate-punk quartet.
You won't find any earth-shattering new takes on the genre here, but man, I'm
the last guy who'd discourage kids from pickin' up guitars and drumsticks and
crankin' up the volume knobs to eleven. Nice, even production that conveys a
live feel and a keen understanding of the value of a damn good pop hook make
these guys a band to keep an eye on. And I bet their live show kicks ass. Keep
it up, kids. What with a bus driver's strike looming on the horizon, your band
name just might have citywide appeal before ya know it.
I really, really want to like this album. Edina, Minnesota,
singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Nelson has an agreeable voice, a Beatles/Badfinger/Big
Star pop vibe running through his songs, and has done a fine job of engineering
and producing his own album. The problem is, the melodies, lyrics and delivery
of the majority of the 14 tracks on Good Everything are all categorically SAFE.
There's not a whole lot of daring-do goin' on here, and that factor is something
I've come to (most of the time in vain) hope for when I hear an artist I've
never come across before. That being said, I guess it's just a matter of personal
taste here. Nelson has a warm, honest vocal delivery, and is a top-notch musician.
If I were in a different space in my head (let's not even go there), I just
might love the shit outta the album. As it is, I'd recommend it for folks who
dig Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, or Toad The Wet Sprocket. Cool stuff, just
not my bag at this juncture.
40 Below Summer
The Mourning After
(Razor And Tie, 2003)
40 Below Summer's recent release on Razor And Tie (Dar Williams,
Marshall Crenshaw, Prince Paul, etc.) is a blazing, thrashing, pounding, shrieking
homage to the original spirit of metal—you remember metal, don't you?
Yeah, music that was conceived of, born and bred to PISS OFF OLD PEOPLE!! And
40 Below Summer are more than qualified to take on that mantle. Combining the
best qualities of Pantera, Sepultura and Cannibal Corpse with their own multicultural
groove, this quintet is bound to be as big a hit with hardcore teens as cheap
beer on a hot summer day. I like to think I'm still somewhat of a rocker, but
honestly, man, I had to turn this shit down after a couple minutes. That means
it works!! Fuckin' cool, man. These guys are gonna be staples on Ozfests and
the like for years to come.
(Right Left Records, 2003)
Another batch of upbeat, three-chord mod-punk from a trio of
disaffected kids. It's chock fulla vim, vigor and angst, so it's sure to strike
a chord with the youth of today who would've been Green Day, Rancid or Wax fans
10 years ago. But hell, I'll gladly take that musical mind-set over the brain-dead
hoo-ha goin' out over the 'waves these days. At least these guys sound like
they hope for something, even if you can't ever really pin down what that something
is. And they like to ROCK!! If they make it past the EP stage, they'll probably
make a mark in the genre they dig. Either way, I'd crank this disc up out my
window any day. To ELEVEN!!
Four guys and a girl record an album of trippy, keyboard-laden
dance pop on Malta. The guys play (and program) their equipment with precision
and skill. The girl sings with a voice that's a cross between Missing Persons'
front woman Dale Bozzio and Aimee Mann, and the beats, my friends, are never-ending.
This stuff would be absolutely perfect as background music in a club or as a
soundtrack to an IFC film-of-the-week, but I probably wouldn't sit around the
house listening to songs like "Superstar" or "Lilliputian Doll."
You know me, I'd end up throwing aside this silk smoking jacket and bustin'
a move in front of my picture window. Then the old bag next door would spot
me, and call the cops, and I'd have to go through that whole "I was just
dancing, officer, honest" trip again. Seriously, though, these guys are
good at what they do, and in small doses it has a certain funky charm.
The Umbrella Sequence
The Disappearing Line/Athena EP
(OHEV Records, 2003)
Slightly off-kilter, keyboard-and-guitar-driven indie pop from
a local quintet. They kind of remind me of what sort of record Will Oldham (Palace
Brothers) might make if he were locked in a room with only Ev Olcott of 12 Rods,
a bottle of absynthe and a bank of computer equipment for company. The five
songs on this EP are just weird enough to keep my attention, and while Radiohead
and The Flaming Lips definitely have the corner on this genre right now, The
Umbrella Sequence has the potential to rise above the electronic pack and plug
into the Syd Barrett consciousness of the 'Oughts. I'd give a full-length a
spin, and would be interested to hear how this stuff comes off live.
That's it for me this week, kids. Tune in next time as we wrap
up March Musical Muck Madness, and prepare for a spring chock fulla (hopefully)
great new releases, re-issues, and rock ’n’ roll mayhem. Until we
meet again—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/CD’s you’d
like to see reviewed in this column, or you’d just like to take your frustrations
out on somebody besides your friends and family for once, send replies to: (temporary
e-mail) james firstname.lastname@example.org.