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Random Stabbings 36

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People in Planes, Beyond the Horizon (Wind-Up Records)
Not that it’s your problem, but here’s another adult-oriented-emo album (any fellow CD reviewers out there remember Division Day?) with an ever-changing release schedule, making its review a possible moot point – Amazon lists it as “out of stock” with a release date of late June but an original release date of this coming August. Luckily I’ve been digging on old Irwin Allen TV shows like Lost in Space on, so wacky time traveling through revolving hypno-swirls with all sorts of lost luggage and stuff isn’t completely foreign to me.But again, that isn’t your problem; deciding on whether or not to buy it if biggie-sized-indie Wind-Up ever releases it is. By “adult-oriented emo” you should be thinking the post-Radiohead soft-hard-rock bands like Air Traffic and maybe Dashboard Confessional are doing, not that the album’s warmup track “Last Man Standing” doesn’t have a little paleo-Aerosmith in its genes; it’s a hard-bouncy, almost menacing slab of gravitas made for Indian rain dances as much as dripping lost-in-the-city survivor angst into the great cultural I.V. ots of marginally different styles otherwise and no filler, all the songs feigning attempts to elbow their way out of dentist-ready properness but eventually fitting snugly into the mold. “Pretty Buildings” is a Muse-like breakup-bummer with marimba, “Beyond the Horizon” is what Good Charlotte will sound like once they have to start thinking about putting their kids through college.

Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, Two Men With the Blues (Blue Note Records)
Though I can’t help but admire his commitment to helping green our ecological plane, Willie Nelson has always sung a little too grandfatherly to sell me anything. I don’t care how many times he’s been photographed swiffing away in High Times, his nondescript tone isn’t snake-belly-cool and certainly wasn’t built for sloppy New Orleans blues. So it’s cute and everything that he struck up a friendship with New Orleans classical/jazz trumpet-god Wynton Marsalis (who, sadly, became ten times more familiar to regular folk for being interviewed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina than for his 60-odd albums), but this is a case of big-league clout gone terribly wrong in the discussion phase. There are some successes (“Stardust,” thanks to Nelson’s being a most capable crooner), but the deeper N’awleans vibes – “Bright Lights Big City” and “Night Life,” both coming in succession – have no value whatsoever. “Caldonia” works as a swing workout for Marsalis but soon enough the cowboy hats come out and the jazziness goes belly-up.

Katy Perry, One of the Boys (Capitol Records)
Most likely what'll happen with this record is the culture-at-large will take dutiful note of its hooky choruses and promptly forget all about it after the next trumped-down arrest of Lindsay Lohan. In the copycat world of new pop-rock players, Perry's trip is a PJ Harvey Mini-Me, a good choice since Perry needs to cut down on the too-perfect sound engineering and grow a sense of artistic embarrassment ("Ur So Gay" is something Amanda Palmer from Dresden Dolls might have created had she been a junior-high-cheerleading MySpace kid, but it does conjure enough experimental funhouse atmosphere to keep the album as a package from being lumped in with similarly built major-label instant-oatmeal).
The candy coating can get thick. "Mannequin" is sort of 4 Non Blondes and sort of Van Hagar, a showcase for Perry's vulcanized rubber lungs but at the same time a walk of shame being that she was all too ready to be led by the nose by whichever company hack producer was hired to turn the song into filler that won't spoil the mood of post-Julia Roberts-era karaoke girls on the way to the bar ("I Kissed a Girl" panders to the same demographic – a little sexual confusion couldn't possibly muck up an imminent honky wedding). Much better is "Waking Up in Vegas," a vision of Avril Lavigne all growed up. Grade: C+ [street date 6/24/08]

Rob Gee, Says (Rock Ridge Music)
Well on his way to becoming the Weird Al of drum n bass, Rob Gee will make you laugh – not a woah-I’m-supposed-to-be-laughing laugh, but a these-chaps-are-total-imbeciles-and-I-approve laugh. This isn’t a joke band per se, mind, but by the same token don’t let the leadoff track chase you away – the first parts of “Asylum” may walk like album-filler for Kid Rock, but Gee’s gotten a lot of jollies from Ministry in this life and knows how to bring the murder-death-industrial, to which that song and the even better “Lost Control” attest. Something snaps, though, and without warning Gee and his perfect morons are perfecting their Robert DeNiro/Dice Clay impersonations, making like Alvin and the Chipmunks slapping together a cheeseball slab of original-sin hyper-speed Casio-driven DnB (“Jersey Guido”). And just like that, you’re hip-deep in Velveeta, bouncy gabber beats making the stupidly overdone ethnic jokes even stupider – it’s like being chased around by a Super Mario Brother methodically beating your head in with a test-your-strength circus hammer. What had me hitting the deck was the cover of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” initially tinkering away like a copy band trying earnestly to get the song right, and here comes Super Mario again with the square-wave bonk-bonk-bonk as though he’d lost you and he was eager to catch up on old times. This is fricking priceless. Grade: A [street date 5/6/08]

The Briggs, Come All You Madmen (SideOneDummy Records)
The world of Americanized oi was and still is Dropkick Murphys oyster, too bad for bands like The Briggs as it turned out. Any band that has a group-yelled syllable in the middle of every line of every song gets branded as a Dropkicks ripoff by casual listeners, effectively negating the years of work turned in by all the muscle-brained bands that helped develop the sound, from pre-Elvis Costello organ-punk geeks like Sham 69 to today’s carefully branded, kid-safe Street Dogs. The Briggs are from Los Angeles and do capitalize quite a bit on the Dropkicks’ puppeteering of mutt-Irish beer chuggers, but their avoidance of bagpipes and accordions in tandem with a slightly less hardcore sound actually puts them on the same page as prehistoric oi crew The Oppressed. Unlike Flogging Molly, there are no 80s-metal-ballad overtones, and unlike Street Dogs it isn’t all about jealously exposing the Dropkicks as money-greedy scammers who ran screaming from punk rock. The album is decently catchy from beginning to end, unobtrusive as mood music for rogue packs of pub invaders, and the Irish brogue isn’t heinously overdone. Calculated, yes, but it does fill a gaping void.

Various Artists, The Jewish Songbook: The Heart and Humor of a People
(Shout Factory Records)
I’m not Jewish, just a mere mixed-up schlemiel from one of those wiseass pro-Semitist, disgustingly Anglo families whose members threw out random oy gevalts whenever someone felt like getting a cheap laugh. I’m pretty certain, however, that the 13 songs included here capture a general sense of the Jewish musical language, even if the inclusion of Adam Sandler as a guest singer looked at first to pose a wonderful opportunity to go on offense for a sentence or fifty. But he handles “Hine Ma Tov,” a melancholy hymn traditionally sung at Shabbat feasts, with great care (albeit with un-great trilling), leaving the cartoon stuff to Richard Belzer and Paul Shaffer, whose good-stuff-cheap awkward-pitchmen vaudeville shtick in “Joe and Paul” serves as decent enough comic relief from the infinitely sad strains of Neil Sedaka’s version of “My Yiddishe Momme” and Dave Koz’ string-drenched “Raisins and Almonds.” Bolted in place by marching drums, Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander goofs around with “Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max,” to which Marvin Hamlisch’s piano later responds by accompanying Kenny Karen’s proud tenor in “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. Barbara Streisand closes with “Avinu Malkeinu,” the Rosh Hashanah prayer.

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

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