Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Somber Polly Jean…

PJ Harvey
White Chalk
Released 10.2.07

Rating: 8 out of 10

I hate to say that it summarizes the album, but it is very telling that White Chalk, latest offering from Mizz Polly Jean Harvey, has a song in it called “The Piano.”

Shaping the overall tone and especially the mood, the piano is indeed the vehicle by which Harvey expresses herself and reveals…well, it’s almost like she’s never sung before now. That’s not to say that Harvey’s past work doesn’t compare, or that she’s never sung a powerful note: none of that would be true. But, with White Chalk, you realize what KIND of singing she’s capable of as she exudes this childlike voice that’s worn life’s tragedies and reflected on its own perhaps uncertain existence. Emanating from that characteristically self-assured, charismatic rocker throat, I had to check a couple times to whom I was listening, because it doesn’t sound like Polly Jean.

Critics have applied the word “departure” to White Chalk like a cheap suit, and sure it is. “Quiet” would be another word, “haunting” yet another. The route that PJ took making this record has left it exposed to the most basic scrutiny. It’s probable that such a quick detour from her otherwise rock-riffed and snarled-lipped output would leave some scratching their heads, some bored but others in love with what she’s done, able to appreciate the artist for following her instincts.

I was uncertain about the record at first, because White Chalk is definitely not something that’s going to be appreciated ALL the time. With the inclusion of the 60s pop-infused “The Devil,” the extent to which Harvey has traveled isn’t quite apparent. Yeah, it’s got piano and it’s definitely more mellow than usual, but “The Devil” does maintain certain energy, hammering percussion that, even with Harvey’s “little girl” inflections, animates the opener and draws you in. From there, follow-up, “Dear Darkness,” drops the energy all together and replaces it with despairing and subtle beauty. Not that it’s a bad trade, but it can kill the mood if you don’t know what to expect, especially since “Dear Darkness” sort of sets a precedent for the rest of the album: despairing and subtle beauty, most of it without percussion or variation on mood. So mostly unified is White Chalk that when it even sort of changes its pace you have your standout tracks.

“Grow Grow Grow” sounds like it dances at points, piano keys swirling into loops as Harvey sings its hook. “White Chalk” adds some country flavor to the mix, throwing in acoustic guitar and banjo with Harvey sounding vocally distant. And “The Piano” does heighten the album’s tempo a bit with syncopated drum rolls and rapid hi-hat play. Otherwise, the piano balladry that Harvey explores, though beautiful as it is, comes dangerously close to flattening the album. And when she ventures into clichéd bouts of the epically sung outro, a sin she commits with “Silence” and final track, “The Mountain,” Harvey inadvertently ranks herself among the multitudes of sound-a-like sing/song female piano players. She’s better than that, and in those instances, she doesn’t sound it.

Overall, as somber as Harvey sits on the cover, that’s about as honest a conveyance as you can get for this record. It is morose, but it’s also gorgeously played and wonderfully sung. And, it’s definitely a “departure” that’s “quiet” and “haunting.” It’s such a “departure,” I have to wonder what her next “departure” will sound like. Hopefully not “quiet” or “haunting.”

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Since somehow making an impression with PC Magazine, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails. Musicians want to promote their music; promotional types want to advertise their music-related ventures…etc. It’s all very interesting, informative and overwhelming at once, mostly because I’m still not completely used to the idea that people read what I write and that I might wave a certain amount of influence. I’m too modest to believe that I do, but I figure I can at least spread the “word” for some of those that have found their way to my inbox.

For Hendrix fans:

I was given the heads-up about a month ago that a company called Hobnox put together an interactive documentary covering Jimi Hendrix’s historical appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. It’s available online through the company’s Mi145 channel (Music Intelligence) and is narrated by Henry Rollins. I’ve been checking it out and it’s a fantastic piece of work, thoroughly researched and worth your time. I mean, it’s Hendrix, it’s Monterey, it’s live…can you really go wrong?

Your 33 Black Angels:

A fellow named Bryan wrote me this extremely flattering letter and then gave me some info on an indie band that he’s really into called, Your 33 Black Angels. David Fricke at Rolling Stone magazine recently gave them a fairly positive write-up, promoting their self-released album, Lonely Street. I gave them a listen and I think they have potential in the Pitchfork circuit, if those guys haven’t discovered this band yet. To me, they sound like a somewhat unpolished take on Dinosaur, Jr.. If J. Mascis hadn’t brought Dino back into the spotlight, I might’ve said that Your 33 Black Angels was essentially collecting the pipe and running with it. My take on their tunes notwithstanding, I’m always willing to credit a self-financed band that manages to get the attention of eminent figures at premiere rock rags. Lots ‘o luck.

Letters From A Tapehead


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blues, Drone and Wail: Om Plays Johnny Brenda’s

Randall Of Nazareth
The Grails
Johnny Brenda’s
Philadelphia, PA

What kind of crowd could a show like this possibly draw? Answer: Metal HIPpies and metal HIPsters. So, I could guess you could say that I was at a HIP metal-type show.

The evening was this: Solo blues of the slide variety, atmospheric instrumentals and droned hypno-metal. My brother and I, after meeting up with friends for some food and beer before the show, climbed up the stairwell to see Om drummer, Chris Hakius reading what was possibly a copy of Philadelphia Weekly. I love venues like Johnny Brenda’s. When a member of the headlining act can hang out with the crowd, it’s like something special’s happening.

As far as the gang of people who faired the traffic-heavy streets of Philadelphia to see the show, I was happy to have a full beard going because that was the look of the evening.

First up was an acoustic act that went by, Randall of Nazareth. His actual name is Randall Huth, former member of Pearls & Brass and current bassist for Allentown’s own, Pissed Jeans.

Huth had the thankless task of performing solo for a crowd of loud talking motherfuckers that were mostly there for hefty wattage and beverage, and I felt kind of bad for him. He did well though, exhibiting skilled precision with every blues lick he explored and harmonizing with a very engaging vocal. Some of his jams even hit ragtime strides. He was definitely drawing from something genuine, evading the George Thorogood stigma completely.

Stepping up the noise pollution were follow-up, The Grails, an outlandishly eerie but accomplished four-piece that mixed bass-thick dub with flamenco guitar and free form jazz percussion. Bassist, William Slater, face obscured by his SEGURIDAD baseball cap, would keep his bass rhythm going with the neck while stroking keyboard notes. It was awesome to watch. In the meantime, the rhythms they hit were so strong that I kept my eyes closed most of the time so I could hear every note. They were definitely something to see live, but hearing them was almost a different part of their act. It was almost as if you could sink into their music. I was a fan by the time their set ended, picking up a CD and tshirt before I left the venue.

It was midnight when Om kicked into gear, their Wavy Gravy-looking sound-guy triple-checking every plug and sucking the patience out of an almost drained crowd of hypnotized and drunk metal geeks.

Now, keep this in mind: The Grails weren’t stingy when it came to song length. Om, in the meantime has songs that almost hit the 20-minute mark. Having said that, their set wasn’t the easiest to get through, especially after 12 on a Thursday night/Friday morning.

But, despite that, they were so fucking good.

Singer/bassist, Al Cisneros, was relentless with distortion, pulverizing aural capacity with every thick tendril of heaping boom he slapped from his strings. Hakius, lively beating his drum set to a pulp, had his head cocked into a pose of determination for most of the show. It was easy enough to move rhythmically with what they were playing, but the realization that you’d been doing so for a half-hour was sometimes hard to swallow. Their hypnotic blend of chemically fueled low end is beautifully entrancing, but also easy to get caught up in like a sonic swamp. And everyone was caught up in it, as their bodies and heads all flexed the same way.

Making my personal fanboy dreams reality, they played the entire Conference of the Birds album, throwing down with “At Giza” and then crawling into an ultra-slow version of “Flight of the Eagle.” Their actual set was three songs, but ran well over an hour.

I had just enough life in me to stick around for one encore, 11-minute ditty, “Bhimas’ Theme,” from their latest album, Pilgrimage and that was that. It wasn’t too long till last call, and I had to work in the morning.

I couldn’t hear shit when we got out to the street, so my speaking voice was probably louder than necessary. The both of us were thrilled with the show.

When we got in the car, I asked my brother what he wanted to listen to. He said, “Oh, anything’s cool. But, I can’t listen to Om for the rest of the night.”


I got home around 2:45AM and barely made it through work.

Letters From A Tapehead

A Letter to the Sixty-Two Percent...

To The Sixty-Two Percent,

Honestly, I never really thought that music downloading was all that bad. Being from the school of "get your music out there," I was always one of many that traded cassettes left and right; searching, digging, scraping for the newest sounds or the essentials with the knowledge that I wasn't making all that much money but that I really wanted to have all this music. I'll admit it: It's a lot cheaper to buy blank media and dub or burn and, for music fans, it's not a bad way to be up to date with what's going on. I learned a lot with dubbing tapes and, because records, CDs or tapes had to be purchased in order to get anything onto a blank cassette, I never really thought my actions were pulling loot from the wallets of record execs or artists. Plus, if I liked what I heard, I usually pulled my pennies together and picked up the CD anyway.

It's a little different now.

There was a point in time where you had to really work to find music, actually seeking out tattered rock rags for info and acquiring paper catalogs to purchase artifacts of the not-so mainstream persuasion. Now, with the indifferent click of a mouse, the world and all its wonderful delights are yours. And because accessibility is so high, media is easier to gain and dupe. So, now it's no longer a matter of swapping tangible media; now music can be gotten without purchase if you know the right avenues.

This isn't a stand against downloading per se. I still come from the "get your music out there" school because I think promotion is key, but it seems that we've forgotten about the "promotion" aspect. It seems now that the main goal is to just get music for free and that there's no intention of actually buying the physical album and helping these bands (our favorite bands, the ones that make us music fans to begin with) thrive. This was more or less proven a week or so ago when it was revealed that Radiohead's In Rainbows, having been made available to download based on a fan's preferential pricing, yielded $0 by 62% of the album's recipients.

So, to you Sixty-Two Percent out there, I need to understand how you justify offering NOTHING to a band that more or less catered to you, offering you their record in as quick and easy a way they could provided you threw them a couple bucks. I understand that Radiohead left it up to you to decide how much the album was worth but how is that translated into FREE? How do you, supposed "fans," expect a band to continue if there's no money involved?

It was disappointing that the outcome of Radiohead's grand experiment was met with such dismal results. It's also unfortunate that "music fans" couldn't work to heighten the music industry's faith in us. This move only justifies the cause toward heightened security on copy-protected media and possibly worse fines for people who illegally download.

And you can say "well, get rid of the media," but then what? Are we really okay with losing packaged music? Is it really okay that fast food culture has so thoroughly turned us on to "immediacy" as opposed to "personality" that we've lost our need to touch, feel, smell, see or work for what we want? If you look into the future and see a land without record stores and you barely shrug at the prospect, then music means very little to you. Record stores are Mecca, not to be replaced by file sharing networks, Amazon or iTunes. Bands put out records, not to be replaced by MP3s, m4as or any other calculated format. Whatever the future holds, tangibility needs to remain a constant in order for ANYTHING (books, film, art...etc.) to be appreciated and money needs to be given for these things to ensure that they continue to be produced.

So, to you Sixty-Two Percent, thanks for clarifying how little music matters to you. As evidenced by your actions, Radiohead has 62% less fans than they thought they did.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

“Party people in the house, get ready for this:” Alt Dance Revolution

The Go! Team
Proof Of Youth
Sub Pop
Released 9.11.07

Rating: 6 out of 10


I guess that being fun can carry you a decent clip. When first listening to Proof Of Youth, second helping from UK sextet The Go! Team, I thought its groove heavy dance jams were interestingly crafted, molding an array of guitar sounds that owe a lot to Fugazi and kicking old school breakbeats like they never went out of style. Go! Team founder, Ian Parton, has vision and he’s definitely into keeping the vibe uplifting if not drenched in rave-like urgency and ecstasy-tinged sweat. Not to say it’s the typical byproduct of glowsticks and laced pacifiers, but Proof Of Youth could easily fit into such a mold. That being the case, do we appreciate that Parton has a different take on party music or that it’s just party music?

It could be argued that hip-hop’s roots emerge from similar territory, being the music that got the room bumping and the crowd jumping. But, once philosophy was brought into the picture, hip-hop became a voice for an undervalued and mostly silent demographic. Dance music, at least as I’m typing this, has always been dance music. Its job has been basically to keep the bar crowded, keep the floor moving and get the patrons laid after hours. No one gives a fuck what it has to say and maybe Parton’s trying to change that by breaking through with his variation. But, if that’s the case, why would you hire The Spice Girls to deliver the message?

As I said earlier, the altrock/dance/hip-hop hybrid Parton and Co. has brought to life is a charged and excitable mix of energy and innovation. I love the almost scratchy horn section sampled at the beginning of “Doing It Right,” the meaty bass-line and machinegun guitar fire in “Titanic Vandalism.” “Universal Speech” has an awesome groove nicely accentuated by glockenspiel keys. And Chuck D makes an appearance for “Flashlight Fight,” which earns Proof Of Youth cool points with me on a personal level.

Where I get confused, and I really feel that this works to detract everything else going on, is with the vocals. Vocally The Go! Team relies too heavily on cheerleader reiterations of hooks and some very elementary MC’ing. As much as I’m all about the old school, there are some things that I’m glad hip-hop has grown out of and that’s the basic “reading is fundamental” lyricism that used to dominate the genre’s earliest offerings. A “cheese” factor is bolstered consequently and the music suffers for it.

Though Proof Of Youth is mostly devoted to its brand of dance music, The Go! Team also experiment with folk instrumentals (“My World”) and sometimes there’s singing involved (“Fake ID,” “I Never Needed It So Much Now” – featuring Solex singer, Elisabeth Esselink). Closing instrumental, “Patricia’s Moving Picture,” is the album’s best track, confidently throwing down its groove with harmonic strings and big band horn accentuating it. It’s bold but pleasant.

On a somewhat separate note, I’d like to mention Cibo Matto as they were also an act that had a hand in alternatively influenced dance music. They rapped over tracks, also with a somewhat elementary tack for rhyming (though it may have helped that English was their second language) and they experimented with sampled beats, rock and pop music. Not to say that Parton lifted his inspiration straight from them, but because Cibo Matto were doing something similar ten years ago, it’s possible that Parton’s sound is a little late in the making. Keeping this in mind, it could very well have influenced my take on Proof Of Youth.

But hey, at least it ain’t disco.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shopping for records #3

Adventures in the reissued:

Borders bookstore, North Wales, PA:

Elvis Costello
My Aim Is True – 2007 Originals Series
Reissued 5.1.07 (Set of 11)

Purchasing power is a bitch.

Knowing that I’m unfortunately bound to my income when it comes to the music I’ll actually get to hear, it’s happened a million times where I’ve been late to the game with certain artists. I have a backburner a mile wide and it does get kind of embarrassing, me being the guy who writes this shit, to admit when I’ve done without certain essentials. In this instance, I missed out huge with Elvis Costello.

I did manage to procure a copy of Armed Forces on vinyl a few years ago, but otherwise I was relatively lax on my Costello knowledge. So, I figured I’d begin at the beginning with My Aim Is True, which has undergone its latest round of reissuing by Hip-O Records.

The “Originals” series aren’t credited as actual remasters. They are essentially digipack duplicates of the original vinyl releases: No extra tracks, bonus discs or liner notes. You get the lyrics and the CD, the mastering of which was handled by Rhino for their round of reissues earlier this decade. So there’s nothing new or unusual for the avid collector to cherish, but the music sounds good, the price ain’t bad and they’re easy to get.

Of course, after I picked up the Hip-O version, a 2-disc Deluxe Edition was fucking issued.

A.K.A. Music, Philadelphia, PA:

Sly & The Family Stone
The Collection
7 CD Boxed Set
Released 3.20.07

I think it was just before summertime when I took a drive over to A.K.A. armed with a bag containing some of the lesser components of my CD collection. I was intent on selling them off with the hope that I could get a little cash toward something decent. I managed to get $21 and I put it toward the new Sly & The Family Stone boxed set, which boasts newly mastered versions of their musical septuplet.

The set itself is fantastic: Remastered albums, extensive liner notes for every release and beautiful packaging. Only flaw in this set are the notable absences of “Hot Love In The Summer Time” and “Star,” two tracks that never saw LP release. I guess you’ll have to go the “greatest hits” route to get those two, which seems to defeat the purpose of putting a set like this together.

Otherwise, if you’re a fan, Sly & The Family Stone have never sounded better.

Letters From A Tapehead

P.S.- Just FYI: If you’re at all interested, I found a very comprehensive write-up regarding the history of Elvis Costello’s reissued catalog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sonic Elder: 19 Years After Leaving the Daydream Nation

Thurston Moore
Trees Outside The Academy
Ecstatic Peace!
Released 9.17.07

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation — 2 CD Remastered Deluxe Edition
Originally released 10.88
Newly released 6.12.07

Rating: 10 out of 10

”What you have heard, is me wasting time, again asking myself deep inside, ‘Why the fuck am I doing this?’”
— “Thurston @ 13”

Though more than a few hands were responsible for the altrock boom in the early 90s, you can send most of your “thank you” letters to Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. Architecturally speaking, a blueprint so off-key and aberrantly structured manifested itself with high-frequency and urgent guitar arrangements, long outros and a much-needed “Teen Age Riot.” It was exactly the spirit Kurt Cobain caught a whiff of before he accidentally knocked the jiffy-popped 80s off its neon horse and offered artful cynicism and disenchantment to the media-dubbed GEN X’ers as a means of expression.

Sounding as inventive as it did almost twenty years ago, Daydream Nation, receiving the same respectful and necessary remastering treatments that graced Dirty (2003) and Goo (2005), brought the mostly-thriving music underground to the forefront, grooming its emergence into the public eye at the expense of Warrant and MC Hammer. Granted it also ushered in a gang of hacks, but for a little while, music felt legitimate in the mainstream. There was an uncompromising mystique that instilled its mostly unique posturing into its listeners while it simultaneously mortified baby-boomer parents everywhere. I remember it well: All was right with the world for that spec of utopian time.

Then Cobain died, unintentionally bestowing upon himself a morbid sainthood while the music-buying public turned complacent. A new era of Poison-bred hacks came into being albeit dressed like a gang of Pearl Jam cover bands while the punk renaissance took hold without the grit, grime or passion of the past. Punk reunions hit an all time high. Even The Sex Pistols jumped on that bandwagon. Was there any integrity left?

But, I digress. Point is: Daydream Nation brought a lot of scrutiny to the mainstream with its poise, its drama and its vision. We owe Sonic Youth and this record a lot.

Jump 19 years later and Thurston Moore, one of Daydream Nation’s altrock architects, is still making music and sounding relevant.

Trees Outside The Academy, Moore’s second solo record, (his first, 1995’s Psychic Hearts, was reissued last year by Geffen Records), is a folk-based take on the style he’s managed to make work for him since Sonic Youth’s inception back in 1981. Replete with classical strings and musical assistance from Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Dinosaur Jr. ’s J. Mascis, it’s a rather fascinating listen after you consider the boom-snap-crackle of something as momentous as Daydream Nation. Moore doesn’t come off like he has to change the tides or rock the boat, but he is personally engaging and well-aware of how to age gracefully after spending the last 26 years alienating and winning fans album-after-album. Now, he just hopes you listen.

Mostly shying away from the static-heavy noise rock that’s molded his reputation, Moore still brandishes his distinct guitar style though now it’s an acoustic variation. He still carries songs with mesmerizing midway guitar passages (“Silver>Blue”) and displays momentary fascinations with feedback and dissonance (instrumentals, “American Coffin” and “Trees Outside The Academy”). But the remarkably mature aspects of his arrangements are the album’s focal point. Once the album opens with the somewhat somber “Frozen GTR,” Moore’s familiar Lou Reed vocal graces light guitar static, acoustic guitar and lovely violin play. This interaction is carried out through following tracks “The Shape Is In A Trance,” “Fri/End,” and “Never Day.”

Despite the album’s primary device, Moore doesn’t rely on formula. The garage-rocking “Wonderful Witches – Language Meanies” brings some raw guitar rock into the mix and “Off Work,” an instrumental track featuring broken guitar harmonics over highly amplified string work and noise, experiments with interesting time signatures and mood.

I don’t want to say that Trees Outside The Academy stands as some sort of middle-aged testimony from a man that seems sometimes overlooked in terms of his involvement in the evolution of modern music, but it definitely makes his presence and the presence of our altrock forefathers known. Even though Daydream Nation stands as a tsunami-tide watermark in terms of artistic achievements, Trees Outside The Academy is almost more engaging as Daydream’s subtle postscript, proving that there are still places to go even after you get it perfect.

Letters From A Tapehead

P.S. Format FYI: The Deluxe Edition of Daydream Nation features live performances of the album’s songs and covers of The Beatles’ “Within You Without You,” Mudhoney’s “Touch Me, I’m Sick” and Captain Beefheart’s “Electricity.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baby's First Mixtape — Part 1

So, here’s an interesting break from reviews and essays:

I don’t really go into a lot of personal information on here, mostly because this blog is strictly meant for music-related musings. You know enough about me to know that I’m, by and large, a snob: very opinionated but also passionate. You know that I’m married and that I just moved into a house. What you don’t know is that my wife is 18 weeks pregnant.

Now I know that there are many things that I’ll be dealing with and looking forward to after the baby’s born. I can’t wait to look into the baby’s eyes for the first time, I can’t wait to take it on walks, teach it to speak, make it laugh…all those “fatherly” things. But, me being me, I REALLY can’t wait till I can play the baby some Beatles records. Out of all those wonderful “firsts” that my wife and I will experience with our new baby, Beatles records is what I anticipate most.

Today, the baby is 18 weeks along and developing ears. It can feel vibrations, but it will now be able to recognize my wife’s voice and possibly mine if I talk into her belly. That being the case, I can make my baby’s first mixtape!

Stipulations are such: Melodic and mellow, pleasant. No anger and nothing too loud. Here are some ideas:

Fugazi — "Waiting Room"
Monumentally pinnacle during my angst-ridden zit-faced development, "Waiting Room" is an appropriately titled song for a baby "waiting" (See that? Clever, right?) to make its lifetime debut. But, the midway "rock out" section may deem this unsuitable. A pity.

The Beatles — "In My Life"
This is my wedding song. It would only make sense that the song the baby’s Mommy and Daddy danced to be a part of its earliest musical intro, symbolically representing the love that created him/her. Is that cheesy, or what? Either way, it's probably one of the greatest love songs ever written, realistically examining the fact that "no, you weren't the first in this big life I've had," but you are the last and the best.

The Ahmad Jamal Trio — "Stolen Moments"
This is a piece of music that was originally penned by jazz sax player, Oliver Nelson. Ahmad Jamal adapted it for piano and featured it in his Impulse! Release, The Awakening, which is probably one of the most beautiful and entrancing jazz records I've ever heard. Jamal's version of "Stolen Moments" is very lyrical and quiet, forcing you to do nothing, say nothing and just listen.

DJ Shadow — “Midnight In A Perfect World”
I love the sentiment in the song’s title. Emotionally charged and stunningly beautiful, it’s the type of track that makes you think big thoughts, setting your sights high and believing that the world can be incredible. The beats might be a little severe, but the delicate piano and that gorgeous female vocal soften the blow. Plus, this track holds a lot of meaning for my brother in that “momentously life-changing” sort of way.

Frank Zappa & The Mothers — “Eat That Question”
“Inappropriate” is the first word that comes to mind, I know. This may be a little extreme for developing ears, but have you ever heard this fucking song? This is on the wish list, but probably won’t make the final cut. It’s still one of Zappa’s most amazing and least talked about pieces of music. From his “big band” era.

John Coltrane — “Bessie’s Blues”
One of the more upbeat songs from Coltrane’s seminal quartet. It’s short and sweet and it’s also the first Coltrane track I ever heard. It seems appropriate that my child’s first exposure to St. Trane would be with this song.

Tom Waits — “San Diego Serenade”
Does there seem to be some kind of life lesson to this song? This was always one of my favorites, Tom Waits in pre-ravaged throat mode revealing that some things can only be appreciated when they’re either absent or put into context. ”Never saw the white line, ‘til I was leaving you behind/Never knew I needed you ‘til I was caught in a bind.

Letters From A Tapehead

P.S. — Suggestions are more than welcome.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

“…In the pale moon light/In the silver rain…”

Released 4.7.07

Rating: 7.75 out of 10

Hearing “No Pussy Blues,” the self-explanatory single from Grinderman’s self-titled ode to testosterone-soaked disillusionment, it’s more than evident that Nick Cave doesn’t buy into James Brown’s assessment of which gender owns the world. Though not always with words, there is a degree of disillusionment that seems to carry through Grinderman, a personality that develops into a humanized characterization. He spills his guts while beating the bongos like he’s sitting amongst ZZ Top and The Nuge in a males-only drum circle and relates with raw prose: a hardened, bored desperado in a modern day nightmare wherein he’s sadly realized that he’s broken his back for the sake of his biological drive and has pathetically failed.

Grinderman, a product of Cave and fellow Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos, is stream of thought rock at its most determined and simultaneously frustrated. It seems to start off angry, turn sad, turn cynical and then ultimately turns resolute. Nick Cave will recite beatnik style over sometimes simple and uninterrupted streams of fuzztone noise and bongos. With opening track, “Get It On,” and the aforementioned “No Pussy Blues,” Grinderman adds arsenic to the coffeehouse dynamic, not only with their abrasive instrumentation but also with their commanding presence.

The spoken word gives way to actual singing though by the third track and somber turns prevalent. “Electric Alice,” wildly powered by a flurry of organ noise and distortion is the album’s most entrancing track, permeating with psychedelic sadness. And then “Grinderman,” Cave’s lonely introduction to his character, doesn’t really go into details. It relies on its tone to tell the story with a couple phrases:

”I am the Grinderman/In the silver rain/In the pale moonlight/I am the Grinderman”

Other songs like “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free” or “Go Tell The Women” point toward this need to either improve or find something new, as if the drum-circle has led to some self-awareness and a desire to fix everything. “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” and the rather passionate “Man In The Moon” only add to the heap of issues.

Closing with the violin driven “When My Loves Come Down” and guitar rocker “Love Bomb,” Grinderman is almost like a male-oriented Lifetime movie, a somewhat self-absorbed treatise on the death of the male archetype amidst an overabundance of dismay and lack of direction.

Or, I’m just over-thinking this whole fucking thing. Either way, Grinderman rocks.

Letters From A Tapehead

New Selections — Emma Ruth Rundle, Tropical Fuck Storm, Primitive Man, Private Life, Uniform, Erika Wennerstrom, Djrum, Windhand

Starting August off with some new singles. Emma Ruth Rundle:  " Darkhorse " (via Rarely Unable /  Sargent House  / YouTub...