Monday, June 20, 2011

This Locussolus Album is WORTH IT!!!

I like his beard.

Forthwith, an excerpt from my PopMatters review of Locussolus by Locussolus, aka DJ Harvey, aka Harvey Bassett, a bearded hound dog of a man who admires thickums:

“I Want It” is the grooviest song on the Locussolus album, which collects three of Harvey’s recent 12” singles, along with the new tune “Bloodbath” and four remixes. Actually, the Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas remix of “I Want It” out-grooves the original. It pretty much out-grooves anything you might hear this year, sounding as it does like the Chemical Brothers’ “Galaxy Bounce”, which everybody knows was the grooviest song on the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider soundtrack. Now, Harvey’s original “I Want It” is a fine piece of work. It’s got dramatic clouds of synthy portent bursting over a pop-locking electro groove. It recalls Material’s 1981 “Bustin’ Out”. But the remix swirls the original into inspired realms of bouncy lunacy. It adds three minutes of running time, honky-tonk piano, cheesy organ, and a hilarious climax that includes a horn section playing Shocking Blue’s “Venus”, of all things. Essential.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Group Doueh is WORTH IT!!!

Here's an excerpt from my Group Doueh review at PopMatters:

Group Doueh plays noisy and exultant music, designed to pitch listeners into throes of bewildered ecstasy. This makes sense—they’re a wedding band. Remember how bewildered and ecstatic everybody was in the first third of The Deer Hunter? Or rather, recall how ecstatic the filmmaking was, with its leisurely voyeurism and its willingness to simply observe all the dancing and drinking in something approaching real time. That filmed observation, almost an hour-long, was itself virtuosic, itself a celebration. Yet it wasn’t real time. The Deer Hunter achieved its ecstasy by masterfully confounding viewers’ expectations of movie time. Doueh’s songs aren’t that long, actually—only one song on their new album tops six minutes—but they capture the same spirit of staggering along in search of joy, unmoored from time’s tyranny. Sometimes Group Doueh struggles for that joy, and sometimes joy seems handed to them by a happy confluence of design and fortune.

Then I go on to call Doueh "traditional griot music", which may be inaccurate, and I describe their rhythmic approach, specifically their method of displacing beats and unsettling listeners to presumably ecstatic ends.

Things I'd ask myself if I wanted to dwell longer on this album, which I may:

Is it fair to compare a Western Saharan band's manipulation of musical time to an American director's manipulation of movie time? Or is my comparison the worst kind of chauvinism? Or even any kind of chauvinism? Or does chauvinism have its uses?

Does Doueh's recorded output represent what they do as a wedding band? Or are the playing styles and repertoires different? 

What is it about weddings that suggests ecstatic unmoorings from time? Promises of eternity? And does that have anything at all to do with this particular Group Doueh album?

Anyway, good CD. If you know more about this stuff than I do, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Lady Gaga is (almost) TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

Where Unicorn meets Highway.

If you haven't read enough really long articles about Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Lifehouse, and fake theologians, this one's for you! (If you HAVE, I can't say I blame you.) Here's an excerpt from my Gaga review at the Burnside Writers' Collective:

And then there’s all the religious talk. Please tell me you don’t turn to Lady Gaga for theology. I doubt even her most ardent monsters do, except to feel flattered by some fancy Bible-talk. That’s fine; that’s also what people get from Bob Dylan. I’d guess that 90% of your record collection flatters you in some way, even the “challenging” stuff.
But yeah, “theology.” The lyrics of “Judas” use a wild phantasmagoria of Gospel images to express a timeless girl-group message: “He’s a bad boy, but I don’t care.” Actually, “wild phantasmagoria” is generous; you could also say “random-ass freewrite.” In the first verse Gaga’s boyfriend “Judas” betrays her three times, and that’s after she’s washed his feet with her hair, which seems to indicate that both Gaga and her boyfriend are Jesus. May we all so honor our loved ones.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

New Quintron is WORTH IT!!!

I keep using words like "charming", "delightful", and "wonderful" to describe Sucre du Sauvage, maybe because Quintron has a reputation for being a frothing basement scuzzmeister. He's really a pussycat. Not unlike his wife.

An excerpt from my PopMatters review:

Quintron songs have more dirty organ parts than the basement of a Moldovan youth hostel, but despite his reputation for low-fi scuzz, the guy can write some polished pop tunes. One such tune totally rips off “99 Luftballons”, but still. The first eight songs on Sauvage are supremely catchy and not at all low-fi—they sound rich and deep, as the songs’ textures morph through multiple organ sounds and plinking mallet percussion lines.

Quintron’s beats are canned, but over the years he’s learned techniques for playing with drum machines so the songs don’t sound stiff. His wild organ fills have something to do with it, but he’s also got a good feeling for sonic space. The Drum Buddy squelches along merrily, and every once in a while Quintron inserts some found sounds from the museum’s grounds—burbling water, quacking ducks, whatnot. In “Kicked Out of Zolar X”, he corrals “all [his] friends” (read: random people passing through the museum) into shouting “SO WHAT! SO WHAT! SO WHAT! SO WHAT!” There’s no one-man-band claustrophobia in this music, and those touches really open up the songs. (It’s worth noting that Paul Simon cops to the same production technique in his recent Rolling Stone interview: “I put the wildebeest in just to change the sound.”)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

David Bazan's new album is NOT Worth It.

No slouch.

In a disappointing discovery, recording an album with a post-punk power trio and minimal overdubs does not yield much sonic variety. If you go less for sonic variety and more for good lyrics than I do, your opinion may differ. From my PopMatters review:

Unfortunately, the album’s sound is sometimes so constricted that the songs can’t breathe. Gone are the thick synths and pedal steel of Bazan’s last album, Curse Your BranchesStrange Negotiations’ only sonic advantage is that Bazan isn’t drumming anymore. (He’s a little stiff.) Occasionally the band warms up their sound with a synth line, as on “Messes”; more often they simply sit back and play the songs. When they hit a locomotive groove like “Wolves at the Door”, they sound unstoppable. But when their groove sounds more like Aimee Mann, as on the colorless title track, they seem to be grinding to a halt.