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Random Stabbings 28

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Ministry, “The Last Sucker” (Megaforce Records)
The good ship Ministry is headed for the scrapyard as of The Last Sucker, although there’s no doubt the next White House administration will rankle Al Jourgensen’s nerves enough to warrant yet another unprintably named star-studded project to serve as catharsis. Last year’s Grammy-winning Rio Grande Blood ran the gamut from Bush-bashing speed-noise to Bush-bashing doom-metal, and it’s the same this time out save for an increased depth of the layering, which can get so thick as to sound as though two songs are going on simultaneously (“Life is Good” rattles along with a Skinny Puppy-like transistorized-mosquito line providing air support). Opening salvo “Let’s Go” is a ferocious piece of old-school speed-metal that does with two chords what most of today’s thrashers can’t accomplish with 150, Jourgensen’s angry caterwaul panned off into left field someplace. Album closer “End of Days Pt 2” catches Jourgensen honestly resigned and melancholic but flailing away to the last by applying an angelic chorus to a good chunk of Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell presidential address, with special echo-chamber emphasis on Ike’s despondent “military industrial complex” warning. Order from

Shout Out Louds, “Our Ill Wills” (Merge Records)
It’s natural that Merge would want to build an entire suite of candlelit-bathtub-indie products around Arcade Fire, but Swedish quintet SOL is going to have to try something a little more innovative than myna-birding their labelmates’ hayloft symphonics and vicking a good 80% of their magnetism from the Cure. The fact that their vocal sound is redirected through a Deep Blue Something filter of faux-Scottish pompousness is distractive but doesn’t necessarily herald an alt-pop renaissance; the best any sentient fan will get out of this record is one or two songs to squeeze onto hir next Arcade Fire-centric mix burn. Album opener “Tonight I Have to Leave It” – and isn’t that a phrase you could easily picture Robert Smith cradling to his bosom – is “Just Like Heaven” retooled for an Arcade Fire B-side, finally landing on its duff when its break moves into a crescendo of “Give love, give love” just like Freddy Mercury does whenever you’re getting a medical checkup. Order from

A.I., “Sex & Robots”
Your daily hypothetical: Someone walks up to you and starts jabbering about this awesome new band that’s a cross between God Lives Underwater and Prince. You either A) demand to know its name so you can run out and buy their record, or B) correctly assume that you can’t find their record in stores because the band had a short-lived relationship involving one album getting itself carelessly blapped out by some major label, after which they were summarily dumped when the paltry few thousand shekels the label invested in them somehow failed to turn the band into a giant ringing cash register overnight. Put less obscurely, these guys have a slam-dunk formula that re-engineers early Prince for the sequencer age, ie a lot of deep techno, hard guitars (think Mindless Self Indulgence) and rip-off-thy-clothes mayhem. The major label cock-up in this case belongs to Dreamworks, though it may have arisen from the label going under if I recall, not that anyone’s keeping track. Highly recommended for people in search of something medium-heavy, wildly danceable and about ten minutes ahead of its time. The sound engineering doesn’t sound at all home-brewed, production is big league. Release date 9/11/07. Order from

Northern State, “Can I Keep this Pen?“ (Ipecac Recordings)
It’s sort of a painful way to avoid becoming another Andie McDowell statistic caged in a repressive suburban marriage, but surely there are far riskier ideas for avoiding conventionality than going off to start a bubblegum hip-hop circus. This Long Island trio of college grads has survived their old-school rap trip for 7 years now, at one point fighting for, you know, artistic integrity with Columbia, who probably wanted them to do the very same 80s-pop mindlessness that’s found here on songs like “Better Already,” but what sort of frightened furry animal would resort to something like that with the slow-flow ship sailed long ago? Obligato cynicism aside, there’s really no other bunch of white chicks you’d want to see doing prehistoric Run-DMC/Beasties toasting than these three, with their animalistic urban stares and amazingly clever ways with irreverent phrase. Created in the image of the Clueless girls doing 90s radio, “Away Away” is another well-timed break from their simple rap flows. Release date 8/28/07.
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Foreign Born, “On the Wing Now”
(Dim Mak Records)
The heavens part at last to reveal an indie-rock album that, if anything’s right in the world, should be standard equipment in every car by Thanksgiving. Like autumn itself, Foreign Born’s essence instills a sense of nervously happy dread; there’s an odd coldness to this album that emerges from a few isolated guitar lines, but more prominently from a set of ghostly, near-subliminal background layers that defy identification. This one’s a grower in the manner of Arcade Fire’s last couple of records, but that’s the only similarity between the two bands, being that FB lean more toward the Radiohead and Spacemen 3 cemetery of sounds, Cold War Kids and Jesus and Mary Chain along for the ride. Of course, blurbs like that mean precisely jack to the 80-90% of readers who aren’t walking All Music Guides, and the band does indeed try to throw non-disaffected types off the scent by putting their least accessible song at the top of the track list, but from there it’s simply stunning, coming across like Verve assigned to beefing up a bunch of unreleased Radiohead bootleg singles. Nothing? Okay, try imagining Keane reincarnated as a useful band, or better yet, download “Holy Splinter” and/or “In the Shape” and see if you can articulate the myriad selling points yourself. Order from

Panacea, “The Scenic Route”
(Rawkus Records)
Panacea beatmeister K-Murdock gravitates to plots of space-shot terrain that leave you confounded, not so much about all the chill-out going on but where this quasi-hip-hop falls in a categorical sense. Up front at the intro, you’re held by the hand and told that K and his emcee, the slithery/sensual/ratty/hard-ass Raw Poetic are caught between reality and the dream world and digging it, so when their rocket takes off, fueled by retro Steve Miller bong-time weirdness, you’re somewhat prepped. But stay aboard and the sci-fi keeps rolling, past galaxies and stars, all after a Cosby Kids fashion, with funkadelica, trip-hop and multi-layered state-of-the-art rap cutting in here and there as well as some Third Eye Foundation experimentalism when K can’t keep his hands off the shiny knobs of his sequencers. In the end it’s a fusion of old and new school hip-hop and 70s klutziness held in a vise grip by Tricky, the lines blurring even further when some drum n bass pops up in “Between Earth and Sky.” Order from

Dan Fogel, “15 West” (Laughing Waters Records)
From his humble Atlantic City beginnings as Club Harlem’s resident shoeshine boy/club-rat to gushing references from Max Roach and Downbeat, Dan Fogel looks and plays the part of a supremely pro jazz organist. His weapon of choice is the Hammond B-3, the seminal instrument for both roller rinks and big-time jazz halls, but this ain’t your grandmother’s two-step vibe. Extraordinarily quick but simultaneously possessed of a natural feel, Fogel’s soloing is an essential acquired taste for those who want to round out their jazz collections and knowledge of the genre. Along this record’s collaborative angle, the choice of ex-Duke Ellington/Jack McDuff guitarist O’Donel Levy is a fortuitous one not only for fans but for the whispery sound as well, since anything more overtly aggressive on the guitar end (not that Levy’s sizzle is kid’s stuff) would have clashed enough with Fogel’s sound to leave the record unusable. Pete Chavez’ flitting sax lines, somewhat reminiscent of Wayne Shorter, are another excellent value-add. Order from

The Wildbirds, “Golden Daze” (Pat’s Record Company)
Possessed of the good sense not to strew failed art-school experiments all over the dump, Wisconsin-based Wildbirds exhibit every trait a non-wimp indie band needs to get their pusses in Rolling Stone. Like a frazzled Cold War Kids with Jack White as a frontman, the quartet sticks to a formula sure to annoy mope-rockers but bring on the happies to new alt-rock fans who are simply trying to get solid albums into their glove compartments. Nicholas Stuart’s voice depicts a dorm party boy snockered on glue, almost like the dude in the Horrors but softened for prime-time TV, and every note he sings is cool, catchy and tailored for its support system, a guitar-bass-drums mess that kicks in the front door and starts doing Wayne’s World moves in your face while you’re trying to watch The McLaughlin Group in peace. Only thing missing is a nasty knuckleball comparable to Cold War Kids’ “Saint,” not that the finger-plucked guitar and ragged breathing of “Where Has Goodness Gone” isn’t an honest effort. Order from

Biffy Clyro, “Puzzle” (Roadrunner Records)
The NME and Kerrang hack-a-maniacs would have you believe that Biffy Clyro are the most important thing to happen to hard music since Blue Cheer guzzled their first fifth of bourbon together. After all, they opened for the Stones (somebody has to, right?) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (ditto, but with different inflection), and they’re not 100% emo. Like an old scratch ticket left on the sidewalk to be tromped under the feet of a million Manhattan pedestrians, however, Puzzle isn’t destined for greatness but mass apathy, a stone to be turned by every half-ethical reviewer in the States and quickly rolled back to where it was. The small fault lies with their parrot-like response to bands that inspire them, which in their debut album’s (Blackened Sky) case spelled regurgitation of old grunge songs note-for-note, whereas in Puzzle they steal the cheap Trans Siberian Orchestra idea Muse trotted out in “Take a Bow” (over which the laughter still echoes in distant canyons). Yep, that’s the small fault, but the Grand Fricking Canyon-sized planet-splitting fault lies in the fact that the rest of this album sounds like what Bowling For Soup would write if they were worriedly preoccupied with finding out which one of them was going to be on the hook for fathering Amy Winehouse’s love child. Wanna know something funny, too, “My Sharona” could walk up to “Saturday Superhouse” and say “I am your faaaather.” Order from

Akron/Family, “Love is Simple” (Young God Records)
Nothing says “Remember, George Harrison was successfully sued for a half-million dollars by the Chiffons” more than a sloppy hippie jam-along to the lyrics “Go out and love, love, love everyone.” When you haven’t had enough morning ciggies yet to medicate your spree-killer side, a CD full of four Brooklyn hipsters imitating University of Vermont stoners should come with a Surgeon General’s warning to everyone around you, therefore I personally recommend you avoid the 7-whole-minutes of Native American chant improv in “Ed is a Portal” until afternoon rush-hour, after you’ve successfully battled your circadian rhythm and stayed awake in the face of every cell begging you to nap, because by then you’re on a natural high, not like these guys, and your objectivity’s sharper. In other news, the title track dwells on the drawled line “don’t be afraid, you’re already dead” for like a million times, and “I’ve Got Some Friends” is easily the greatest psychedelic noise-jam you’ll hear this fiscal quarter. Order from

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome. Email

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