Thursday, April 30, 2015

Singles: Chelsea Wolfe, OVER, Amber Edgar, Sons Of Huns, Grounders, Lonnie in the Garden, Cavalry

Chelsea Wolfe: "Iron Moon" (via Rarely Unable PR/Sargent House/Rolling Stone/Soundcloud)

OVER: "Gone Are The Days" (via OVER/Soundcloud)

Amber Edgar: "Good Will Rise" (via Amber Edgar/Soundcloud)

Sons of Huns: "An Evil Unseen (w/ Scott "Wino" Weinrich)" (via Us-Them Group/RidingEasy Records/Soundcloud)

Grounders: "No Ringer" (via Force Field PR/Stereogum/Soundcloud)

Lonnie in the Garden: "Song 3" (via Lonnie in the Garden/YouTube)

Cavalry: "An Understanding" (via Ask Me PR/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Inbox Giveth: Young Knives and HUMOURS

Young Knives
Something Awful EP
Released: 4.18.15 (physical); 5.18.15 (digital)

"Something Awful" is a track from the Young Knives' 2013 full-length Sick Octave, the band's crowd-funded LP that marked a change in the band's creative trajectory and took the obligatory "art" and "post-" prefixes very seriously.  As an expansion of the title track, Young Knives's Something Awful is a decent companion to the LP, three additional tracks inspired by something   (fill in the blank)  .

Building off the mutant swing and playful math-harmonic of the title track, "Something Sweet" brings some Wire-stride with sections of guitar generated shriek.  Vocally, the track resembles some strange pairing of Michael Crawford and Scott Walker, theatrical off-rhythm declarations of "I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF YOUR SWEETNESS!!!" that almost crosses into spoken word.  Spoken vocals, though, do occupy "Something Tragic," which marries Suicide-era Alan Vega with the machined experimentalism of Wolf Eyes, quivering static and sporadic blasts of droid at times being graced by synthesized pseudo-melodies.

The closing track, "Something Cheap," instructs generations of parents to raise its progeny to be better than they are, remarking for its final minute, "Only today do we die fools... Only today do we die... incomplete... incomplete... incomplete...".  It's a rather morose, but compelling, finale.

The Onanist
Eolian Empire
Released: 4.14.15

For anyone that's found resonance via the melodic noise-craft of either Mutoid Man or Beastmilk, HUMOURS is likely to satisfy.  A post-hardcore band with some progressive elements a la Alcest (or even Mastodon to some extent) and pigfuck'ish bass rumblings, HUMOURS' The Onanist is a well-sequenced four-track EP whose aspirations and emotive sensibilities cultivate a high standard of song arrangement and melody.  It's got some sophistication and you hear this immediately with the opener, "In the Court of the Corn-Eyed King," ignoring the obvious homage/joke built into its title.  Changes are injected throughout, a musical flexibility working around the band's otherwise penchant for melody.  It works well. 

There's texture to "Happy Birthday Alex Tucker," an eerie blanket of prickly notes added to what begins as a rather somber number.  The song's second act takes the track's speed up and livens its emotional push. 

The most involved track on the EP, "Bride's Maid — The Onanist," is introduced by an ominous bass riff, which becomes a basic theme revisited at various points during the track's nearly eight-minute running time.  Sections of slowed stomp emerge, along with vocals about three-quarters of the way through the song.  By then, there's almost enough of a story instrumentally that words seem pointless, but the cut remains the EP's strongest inclusion and ably sets up the syncopated ascending loop that introduces "Dog Shredder," one last charge before the album calls it quits.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Daughter of a Tapehead: Beauty Pill

Beauty Pill
The Cigarette Girl From The Future
Butterscotch Records
Originally released: 2001 via Dischord/DeSoto
Reissued: 3.4.15

*What's not to like?  It's easily one of my all-time favorite albums.

The reissue of Beauty Pill's The Cigarette Girl From The Future includes four extra tracks including a cover of "Rubber Ring" by The Smiths.  It looks like the vinyl editions are sold out for now, but you can still own it digitally.  CD EPs are also sold out at Dischord Records, who originally issued the album. 

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, April 19, 2015

RSD 4.18 — Siren's Turn

Every year, it seems like the sidewalks leading to the independent record stores are paved more and more by good intentions and good intentions only.  Myself a proponent of Record Store Day up to this point, the gradual major label influence over the occasion has not gone unnoticed and the extent to which the influence has led to the true independent and/or underground musical apparatus being pushed aside is more apparent.  The major labels were taught a big lesson about fifteen years ago when online music sharing became the unapologetic response to the industry's complacent output of overpriced mediocrity.  With the vinyl resurgence only a few years old, you'd think the industry would've learned how to respect its audience, but not so much.  Prices for vinyl are becoming more and more absurd and the tried and true reissue machine is churning out more and more old and progressively irrelevant and geriatric catalogues and, thusly, new music from bands either too young or alienating to have ever experienced the arena rock circuit and all its romanticized wonders is getting cut out.  Co-opt... Co-opt... Co-opt...

You also would've thought the progenitors of Record Store Day would be sympathetic to the complaints of independent labels who've been having difficulty keeping themselves afloat since the corporate dollars started rolling in.  The official answer to Sonic Cathedral and Howling Owl, two independent record labels that earlier this year questioned the benefits of RSD, was ultimately this:

"To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops (the clue is in the name)."

One really can't thrive without the other.

While I give credit to RSD for helping instigate renewed interest in frequenting and patronizing the good ol' brick & mortar, it's also enabled the majors to act as if they've always been interested in the manufacture and dispensation of art.  This is pure bullshit.  I think that that may have been true at some point, but my era of musical discovery coincided with the hijacking of underground culture.  So, naturally I understand what it is to witness counterculture's transition into over-the-counterculture.  The only vinyl I saw during the CD-heavy 90s was in my brother's record collection, homegrown record labels distributing crust punk and grindcore on LP and 7" back when the majors figured the format had gone extinct.  These are the labels being choked.  These are also the labels these stores depended on for inventory and cred. 

And so it was on this Record Store Day in 2015, the year of Dave Grohl's ambassadorship, that I decided to take my record money and list of wants and head to sunny Doylestown to visit Siren Records, where you can still occasionally find old Disrupt, Drop Dead, Spazz and Charles Bronson singles tacked up.  

Pushin' at Siren Records, 4.18

First thing worth noting is that I wanted two exclusives this year.  That's all.  If I had some loot leftover after getting what I wanted and maybe finding something else I was otherwise looking for while shopping the store I might pick up that Shogun Assassin soundtrack or that Tomorrow LP, (which in retrospect was probably something I should've picked up—maybe they still have some copies).  But, I wouldn't be heartbroken if I walked out without a boast worthy haul.  The Run The Jewels EP would've also been a good find.  I saw a copy under someone's arm as he walked by while I was waiting in the check out lane.

I thought the exclusives list this year seemed full to bursting with a lot of thoughtless singles and overpriced novelties.  U2 had the balls to issue a double-LP of Songs Of Innocence after inflicting it on everyone with an iTunes account last year.  Sure, let me not buy that one again.  Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) put out a star-cut Black Star single that I might've picked up if not for the $17.99 price tag.  And even that Metallica No Life Til Leather demo cassette might've been an interesting buy, though all the eBay hounds picked through that stack before I'd gotten within 5 or 6 feet of them.  The "Side-By-Side" singles remain insultingly pointless.  Venom's From the Very Depths was a tad pricey if I remember correctly, as was Hawkwind's debut and D.R.I.'s Live At CBGB's 1984.  So, there were things there that I wouldn't have minded getting, but my budget wasn't going to stretch enough and I honestly just didn't feel like dropping the kind of money that was being asked.

Punk rawk...
I and some friends were in line, coffee in hand, around 8:30.  Siren was scheduled to open at 10.  Considering some other RSD waits I've experienced, this one wasn't terrible.  Once the doors opened, though, it was mob time.  Imagine the crowd Wal-Mart typically brings on Black Friday and add B.O., tats and ironic t-shirts.  So, at first, actually looking around was damn near impossible.  After managing to grab my wants, which were the Swans s/t EP and the KMD Black Bastards reissue, I pushed my way through the human padding, trying to keep my albums from bending under the pressure of the crowd and found a quiet spot behind the jazz LPs.  Figuring I'd shop the store while I was there, I let the scavengers have their space and started roaming.  Here's what I picked up:

Black Bastards (or, Bl_ck B_st_rds)
Metal Face

The second and last album from hip-hop group KMD, (brothers Zev Love X, a.k.a. MF DOOM, and the deceased DJ Subroc) Black Bastards had been denied release back in 1993 due to its unapologetic and racially charged artwork.  Plus there were apparently allegations that the album was lyrically offensive, but it's no worse than anything else out at the time.  The album did eventually see release in 2001.  Expanding on the "hangman" concept on its cover as a popular children's game, the package is a pop-up board book containing the actual album, a CD of bonus material and a 7" single of the track, "What A Nigga Know?"  It's one of the more creative and unique RSD exclusives I've seen. 

12" EP
Young Gods

As I'm not one to turn down a Swans release, the band reissued its 1982 self-titled debut EP for RSD.  This was the first thing I picked up before leaping from the crowd.  It comes with a lyric sheet.  I haven't had the chance to spin this one yet, but if the Filth reissue is any indication as to the level of attention paid to the remaster, then it's likely that I'll be happy with how it sounds.  

Otherwise, I picked up my obligatory Sun Ra album, Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow, and an impulse buy from The Master Musicians of Joujouka called Into the Ahl Srif, which is basically one track per side.  It's a challenging listen.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, April 17, 2015

Singles: Dommengang, Mondo Drag, Ariel Pink, Skinless, The Milk Carton Kids, A Troop of Echoes, Qui

Dommengang: "Everybody's Boogie" (via Thrill Jockey Records/YouTube)

Mondo Drag: "The Dawn" (via Us-Them Group/Brooklyn Vegan/RidingEasy Records/Soundcloud)

Ariel Pink: "Jell-o" (via Force Field PR/YouTube)

Skinless: "Serpenticide" (via Relapse Records/YouTube)

The Milk Carton Kids: "Monterey" (via Big Mouth Publicity/Rolling Stone/Anti-/Soundcloud)

A Troop of Echoes: "Masnifest and Legion" (via Us-Them Group/Exclaim!/Soundcloud)

Qui: "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy" (via Us-Them Group/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What I Heard This Morning: WHOOP-Szo

"Mirror North" is the A-side of a new 2-song 7" from the band, WHOOP-Szo.  There's something possible familiar about the QUIETLOUDQUIET transitions, a Pixies device that's gained some value with this track, but the overall presentation is nicely arranged, some brooding bass melody and soft melodic accents that beautify for melancholic effect.  Then the volume goes up, the distortion chars.  There are also some interesting, albeit loose, Slint derivations incorporated at the bridge.

You can sample the track below.

If you like what you hear, you can purchase the single here.  The official release date is 4.18: Record Store Day.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thursday, April 09, 2015

ZU: "Conflict Acceleration"

Erratic jazz-nihilists ZU have put out a new video from their recently released Cortar Todo LP, "Conflict Acceleration."  An unsettling buzz finds some rhythmic stride and eventually transitions into a corrupted seesaw of rampant drum sounds and scraping brass honks, an almost hardcore length fury that fades out about as quickly and abruptly as it begins. 

Check out the video below.

All info, links, tour dates and video were provided courtesy of Rarely Unable.


Following the recent release of their brand new full length, Cortar Todo, ZU have shared a music video for the album track "Conflict Acceleration" directed by Sara D'Uva. The band have also announced the first round of European tour dates, which you can also see below.



02.05 Ravenna @ Bronson
03.05 Rome @ INIT
06.05 Prato @ Decibel / Black Out (Free Entry)
08.05 Torino @ Spazio211
09.05 Chabeuil @ Rencontres entre les mondes (+King Khan and the Shrines)
10.05 Milano @ Magnolia
12.05 Innsbruck @ PMK (+Zeni Geva)
13.05 Graz @ Explosiv (
+Zeni Geva)
14.05 Zagreb @ KSET (
+Zeni Geva)
15.05 Padova @ Parco della Musica
16.05 Bologna @ Locomotiv Club 

1. The Unseen War
2. Rudra Dances Over Burning Rome
3. Cortar Todo
4. A Sky Burial
5. Orbital Equilibria
6. Serpens Cauda
7. No Pasa Nada
8. Conflict Acceleration
9. Vantablack Vomitorium
10. Pantokrator

Keep up to date with all things ZU on their brand new website:
Catch up with all label news via the Ipecac website:

"Cortar Todo contains all that’s great about Zu. It’s unassumingly loud, and intensely physical, wrestling with the listener in a swarm of noisy sax blasts, gnarly riffs, and often surprisingly catchy math themes. Long live Zu!" - DROWNED IN SOUND

"Without sacrificing any of the solidity, astringency or brutality akin to their previous blood-lettings, Zu spit out their most astral of recordings... Brain-draining and muscle-cramping, the voluptuousness of these recordings presents itself as a worthy anthem of the disinterested reality of our age." - THE QUIETUS

"Cortar Todo is yet another outstanding release from one of the most original musical acts today." - THE LINE OF BEST FIT

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Singles: Wilsen, Lakker, OOFJ, Daniel Lanois, Oddisee, High Wolf

Wilsen: "Garden" (via Force Field PR/Soundcloud)

Lakker: "Pylon" (via Force Field PR/Soundcloud)

OOFJ: "I Forgive You" (Dean Blunt SOUR ™ mix)" (via Force Field PR/Stereogum/Soundcloud)

Daniel Lanois: "Burning Spear" (via Big Mouth Publicity/YouTube)

Oddisee: "Counter-Clockwise" (via Friend of Friends/Billboard/YouTube)

High Wolf: "Wild At Heart" (via Julian T. Schoen - Artist, Event & Project Management/Leaving Records/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Pallbearer: "Watcher in the Dark"

Pallbearer put out a video for "Watcher in the Dark," one of the six pieces of solid, odyssey-driven gargantua that comprises the band's 2014 release, Foundations of Burden.  While there's not much to say about the video since it pretty much only checks off boxes, (features band *check*, provides competent visual accompaniment to single *check*, seems to follow the band's aesthetic or mood *check*), the track itself addresses the band's want of expanse and intensity, summarizing riff-lust as a means of aural pulverization and melody as counter to complete ruin and subsequent transit to any note of beauty. 

Check out the video below.

All info, links, tour dates and video were supplied by the wonderful Rarely Unable. 


Watch Pallbearer's epic and cinematic new video for "Watcher in the Dark"

The video was directed, shot and edited by Adam Heathcott (Hometapes) and produced by Adam Heathcott and Sara Padgett Heathcott and marks the first ever official music video for the band.

Pallbearer is currently on tour in North America on the Decibel Magazine Tour alongside At The Gates, Converge and Vallenfyre. Following the tour's completion next week, Pallbearer will canvas the greater part of Europe and the UK before venturing to Australia and Japan, then will head back to Europe for festival plays at Roskilde (Denmark), Radar (Italy), Stoned from the Underground (Germany), and more, with U.S. festivals like Bonnaroo (Tennessee) and Free Press Summer Fest (Houston) in their itinerary as well. Check out the band’s rigorous Spring/Summer European touring schedule below.

Formed in 2008 by Joseph D. Rowland (bass) and Brett Campbell (vocals/guitars), Pallbearer grew from the fertile underground metal scene of Little Rock, AR. A year after their formation, the band released their first three-song demo (with guitarist Devin Holt), which garnered well-deserved attention. Pallbearer went on to release
Sorrow & Extinction in early 2012 on well-respected Canadian indie label Profound Lore, and instantly made waves among listeners and critics who found the band’s compositional paradox of vulnerability and might unparalleled in the metal world. Sorrow & Extinction proved to be an unequivocal masterpiece in any genre of music and compelled Pallbearer to reach even further creatively for what would come next. In August of 2014, the band released the monumental and acclaimed, Foundations Of Burden; an album that delves even deeper into Pallbearer’s melodic contexts, adding a new and compelling dimension to music which has long since proven itself to be inexorably captivating.

PALLBEARER - ON TOUR May-20 - Berlin, DE @ Kantine am Berghain
May-21 - Prague, CZ @ Klub 007
May-22 - Koln, DE @ MTC
May-23 - Utrecht, NL @ Le Guess Who
May- 24 - Brussels, BE @ AB Club
May- 25 - Paris, FR @ Social Club
May-26 - Schorndorf @ Club Manufaktur
May-27 - Zurich, CH @ Rote Fabrik
May- 29 - Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound Festival
May-31 - Bristol, UK @ Temples Festival
June-1 - Glasgow, UK @ Broadcast
June-2 - Birmingham, UK @ The Oobleck
June-3 - London, UK @ 100 Club
June- 5 - Porto, PT @ Optimus Primavera Sound June- 30 - Oslo, NO @ BLÅ
July- 1 - Gothenburg, SE @ Truckstop Alaska
July- 2 - Roskilde, DK @ Roskilde Festival
July- 3 - Nijmegen, NL @ Doornroosje
July- 4 - Wiesbaden, DE @ Schlachthof Wiesbaden
July- 6 - Milano, IT @ Lo Fi Club
July- 7 - Bologna, IT @ Freakout Club
July- 8 - Roma, IT @ Traffic Live
July- 9 - Padua, IT @ Radar Festival
July- 10 - Vienna, AT @ Mind Over Matter Festival
July- 11 - Erfurt, DE @ Stoned from the Underground - Festival

Letters From A Tapehead

Lightning Bolt: "The Metal East"

"The Metal East," Lightning Bolt's latest single from their newest release, Fantasy Empire, has been released with this very colorful and visually dazzling animated video. You can check it out here:

Fantasy Empire is currently out via Thrill Jockey Records, who were nice enough to supply the video, links and all the information you can read below.

Lightning Bolt share animated music video for The Metal East

European tour starting in June

New acclaimed album Fantasy Empire out now

Iconic noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt have just shared an animated video for their adrenaline-fueled song 'The Metal East', the opening track on their new album Fantasy Empire. Directed by comic artist & animator Lale Westvind, the colourful video depicts a frantic post-apocalyptic world set to images of psychedelic demons riding crazed dinosaurs and vehicles...

WATCH - The Metal East:

Vimeo video link HERE

Lightning Bolt recently announced a short European tour this June and July. This will be their first European tour since 2009. The London event curated by Mogwai, will also feature Thrill Jockey labelmates Tortoise, as well as Wu-Tang Clan's GZA, Loop and Mugstar. Full dates are below.

Lightning Bolt European Tour:
Sat June 27th Antwerp, Belgium - Het Bos - tickets
Sun June 28th London, UK - Roundhouse * - tickets
Tue June 30th Paris, France - Le Trabendo - tickets
Wed July 1st Amsterdam, Netherlands - OCCII - tickets
Thu July 2nd Berlin, Germany - Berghain - tickets
Sat July 4th Keflavík, Iceland - Asbru (ATP Iceland) - tickets

* w/ GZA, Tortoise, Loop, Mugstar

Lightning Bolt's new album
Fantasy Empire has received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike and is available in all good stores now. The duo are featured as this month's cover stars on Rock-A-Rolla Magazine. More details HERE.

Fantasy Empire buzzes, drills and throbs with a brutal power that is relentlessly, terrifyingly exciting" - MOJO, 5/5
"Fantasy Empire is the best they've done it in a long time, and the new sheen makes everything seem magic again" - Pitchfork, 8.0

"The twosome decamp to a professional studio but somehow still do a stellar job of boosting fidelity without dialing down their energy or idiosyncrasies" - Loud and Quiet, 9/10

"Lightning Bolt's aim remains simple: to batter you into ecstatic submission" - NME, 8/10

"Thrillingly primal and intuitive, with laser-cut drum patterns and riffs hammered to the precisely judged point of obliteration" - Uncut, 8/10

"Long may they continue to shock” - The Line Of Best Fit, 9/10

“The strength that emerges from the pair’s cohesive playfulness, is back and at its best since 2001” - Metal Hammer, 8/10

“As a project to capture the energy of a live gig, Fantasy Empire is near-flawless” - Drowned In Sound, 8/10 

Over the course of its two-decade existence, Lightning Bolt has revolutionized underground rock in immeasurable ways. The duo broke the barrier between stage and audience by setting themselves up on the floor in the midst of the crowd. Their momentous live performances and the mania they inspired paved the way for similar tactics used by Dan Deacon and literally hundreds of others. Similarly, the band’s recordings have always been chaotic, roaring, blown out documents that sound like they could destroy even the toughest set of speakers. Fantasy Empire, Lightning Bolt’s sixth album and first in five years, is a fresh take from a band intent on pushing themselves musically and sonically while maintaining the aesthetic that has defined not only them, but an entire generation of noisemakers. It marks many firsts, most notably their first recordings made using hi-fi recording equipment at the famed Machines With Magnets, and their first album for Thrill Jockey. More than any previous album, Fantasy Empire sounds like drummer Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson are playing just a few feet away, using the clarity afforded by the studio to amplify the intensity they project. Every frantic drum hit, every fuzzed-out riff, sounds more present and tangible than ever before. Full bio HERE

Fantasy Empire Tracklist:
1. The Metal East
2. Over The River And Through The Woods
3. Horsepower
4. King Of My World
5. Mythmaster
6. Runaway Train
7. Leave The Lantern Lit
8. Dream Genie
9. Snow White (& The 7 Dwarves Fans)

Lightning Bolt profile page:

Fantasy Empire profile page:

New press shots / album bio / artwork:

The Metal East music video:

Lightning Bolt live @ TAICOCLUB 2014:

Lightning Bolt on: Facebook / Official Site

Brian Chippendale on: Twitter
Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Over The Hill (Quarter): Lullabies to Paralyze by Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age
Lullabies To Paralyze
Interscope Records
Released: 3.22.05

A little over a week ago, Lullabies to Paralyze, the fourth album from Queens of the Stone Age, turned 10.  Realizing that this particular volume of QOTSA's output doesn't necessarily garner the respect of its predecessors, 2000's Rated R and 2002's monumental Songs for the Deaf, Lullabies to Paralyze was, for me, an important album, one that occupied a great deal of my time and consideration for months following its release.

Remembering 2005, as I saw it, The Strokes and The White Stripes were supplying rock journalists with all the content they required.  Garage was retro-chic and vintage blues was the shit.  While QOTSA's Songs for the Deaf had earned itself some very well-deserved acclaim, (aided in part by the star power and involvement of Dave Grohl), Elephant and Room on Fire, both of which were the 2003 follow-ups to milestone releases for both The Strokes and The Stripes, had seemingly erased the album from memory. 

(Once again, this is just how I saw it.)

And while I appreciated Elephant and the lengths to which Jack White was bringing Detroit and blues rock back into the spotlight, Josh Homme represented something I'd not really heard before in mainstream rock n' roll, pop basics dialed the fuck up to some strange other world wherein melodic abstractions could resonate with a mainstream audience and somehow appeal to crowds that had grown attune to sensibilities more closely akin to those of the underground.  Queens of the Stone Age was a revolving door, a concept that encouraged the utopian notion of the creative community, enabling artists to exchange ideas and contribute to an overall conversation that would eventually grow into something unpredictable.  With a core of established performers at the helm, namely Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri and ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, QOTSA built something musically distinct that had managed to grow throughout three albums.  This concept also bore fruit via Homme's Desert Sessions, which were communal recording sessions held at the Palm Desert studio, Rancho De La Luna.

Following Songs for the Deaf, Homme released the 9th and 10th volumes of his Desert Sessions series (I See You Hearin' Me/I Heart Disco which featured PJ Harvey) and played drums for Eagles of Death Metal's 2004 debut, Please Love Death Metal.  In the meantime, Oliveri had been suddenly dismissed from QOTSA and rumors had circulated that Lanegan was also no longer part of the group, (which was false).  With Oliveri gone, however, the wilder, more dangerous element of the band's make-up would be lost.  So, how would Homme compensate?

With Lullabies to Paralyze, Homme had a lot to prove.  As it was the band's core components were now down to one essential player, so it was unlikely that QOTSA's fourth installment would be the ensemble-level effort of its predecessor(s).  However, as the mechanics of the album were relatively spare, there's a level of instrumentation to Lullabies that's of considerable weight, a density that, while not the overt riff-spew that surged through SFTD, reveals itself through a darker, more slowly intensified articulation.  Much of the group's signature wit and nuance remained.  And while Lanegan showed up here and there, most notably in the album's intro track, "This Lullaby," Homme's modified approach made use of a new core of musicians: Alain Johannes, Troy Van Leeuwen and Joey Castillo

The first single from Lullabies was "Little Sister," which lessened some of my worry as I was one of many whose anticipation of the album was unfairly laced with high expectations.  Quick tempo, slick melody, awesome hook, it was obvious that Homme's vision was still intact.  But, there was the question of how intact the album would be.  I acquired a copy of the album shortly after its release, (the 2-disc limited edition version with the DVD), and wasn't all that thrilled with "Medication," which at the time seemed like shot-level filler, sort of a quick-to-the-point and simple second track meant to bring home that QOTSA still thrived on Stooges-inspired repetition and sleek guitar sounds.  "Everybody Knows That You're Insane," however, with that howling lapsteel and abrupt transition into the hook, grabbed me immediately.  There's a section at the bridge where its almost like the rhythm drags and falters, regaining composure just in time for Homme's solo and picking up stride just before heading back into the last hook.  And "Tangled Up In Plaid" remains one of the my favorite QOTSA tracks, a carnival'esque dance that heads into a deep rhythmic stride accented by the tap of a triangle.  I've always loved the choral section of this track, that driving riff elevating the song's intensity, a mud-encumbered melody. 

Another of the album's singles, "Burn the Witch," features guitar work from ZZ-Top's Billy Gibbons, certainly one of the more notable collaborators to participate in a QOTSA album.  While perhaps not to the level of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," the bass riff that drives "Burn the Witch" wears a similar distinction.  Lanegan sings lead on a cover of ZZ-Top's "Precious & Grace," which showed up as a bonus track on other editions of Lullabies.  "In My Head" had originally shown up on the aforementioned Desert Sessions 9 & 10, strong enough to rework and include. 

Listening to the album now, I still feel that it suffers from a sequencing issue, its first half weighed down with singles.  Following the slowed-up balladry of "I Never Came," the album enjoys some less accessible moments with the oddly mesmerizing "Someone's In The Wolf," texturally meditative "The Blood Is Love" and "Skin On Skin," whose outward and commanding sexual sway compliments Homme's turgid falsetto like the hard-on that's driving him to sing it in the first place.  A zipper's loosed and a grunt is exhaled before "Broken Box," another repetitious guitar number in the evil woman tradition, possibly tries a little too hard with its "take that broken pussy elsewhere" line. 

And, because sexuality seems to inform this block of songs, the sultry "You Got A Killer Scene There, Man..." adds some feminine presence to the album with Brody Dalle (Homme's wife) and Shirley Manson providing backing vocals.  It's not really worth noting that Jack Black provides claps, but he does.  The groove is deep, the guitar a mere accent.

Ending with the lush "Long Slow Goodbye," Homme's Lullabies goes out on a passionate number, closing out what was a new era for the band creatively.  While my initial listen was met with some disappointment overall, it was obvious that this was a grower and deserved more than just a few spins to fully appreciate it.  I just needed to listen more closely.  In some ways, I actually find Lullabies more successful than either Rated R or Songs For The Deaf in that it stands as a testament to self-actualization and makes a case for moving forward.  Lullabies could've been a retread.  Instead, Homme saw an opportunity.  And while this opportunity did result in a generally well-received album, it's a pity that it's overlooked.  Ten years later, I haven't heard a word.  Have you?

Letters From A Tapehead

No Ripcord: Keiji Haino & SUMAC

A review of the recently released experi-METAL (buh-dum-chck) collaboration between Keiji Haino and SUMAC is up at No Ripcord .  The album...