October 2, 2009
A cursory listen to In And Out Of Control, the new album from Danish but US based band the Raveonettes, may give the impression that the band is playing it safe and treading on familiar musical ground, but it’s in fact one of their strongest albums yet. Yes, their mix of droning, fuzzy guitars with 50’s and 60’s rock and pop is still in effect here, but it’s in the service of darker, sometimes harsher material, both lyrically and musically, as songs with titles like “Boys Who Rape (Should Be Destroyed)” and “Suicide” might indicate. “Break Up Girls!” starts with a shrillness that almost sounds like screaming, and the album in general has a more confrontational feel to it. Somehow they’ve managed to make it all sound energizing and dance floor ready for the most part, despite the overall dark tone. I wonder if this is an album some fans will feel put off by, but I liked it a lot, and definitely recommend giving it a chance. Standout cuts: “Bang!,” “Gone Forever,” “Last Dance” and “Break Up Girls!”
September 27, 2009
Album, the new record from San Francisco based band Girls (Christopher Owens and Chet “JR” White), didn’t exactly set me on fire the first time I heard it. I didn’t hate it, but something about the way it mixed 50’s and 60’s rock and pop styles with distinctly modern, angst ridden and sometimes profane lyrics just rubbed me the wrong way. I did like “Hellhole Ratface,” however, which starts out as a gentle Wall Of Sound influenced ballad and gradually builds into a droning guitar shoegaze influenced workout. It’s such a good song that I had to go back and listen to the album again, and I finally started to get what was bugging me about the record. The songs that influence the material on Album are frequently about complex emotions and situations that are distilled into simple, sometimes deliberately evasive lyrics. Girls, however, bring those complexities to the surface with startling and often deeply unsettling honesty, as on “Lust For Life”: “I wish I had a father / Maybe then I would’ve turned out right / But now I’m just crazy, totally mad / Yeah, I’m just crazy, I’m fucked in the head…” Of course, bands like Belle and Sebastian have made sweet sounding music laced with lyrical acid in the past, but yet the work Girls have done on Album has a unique power all its own, accomplished without a surfeit of irony or campiness. If you can listen to the album on its own terms, I think it will make for a remarkable experience. Standout cuts: “Lust For Life,” “Laura,” “Hellhole Ratface” and “Summertime.”
January 6, 2009
The debut album by Scottish band Glasvegas arrives on American shores with some rapturous UK press, notably from NME, which declared it “the best album of the year (2007).” Having now listened to the album, I recall a critic reacting to record industry ad that touted an Echo and the Bunnymen album with the rhetorical question, “Best album ever?,” by writing, “It’s neither good enough to be true, nor bad enough to be funny.” Glasvegas would have been nowhere the top of my best album list of 2007, but that said, it is an earnestly made, promising pop debut, which will justifiably earn them some the Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons, as they share with that band a fondness for droning guitars and “Wall of Sound”-style percussion. Glasvegas also shows some serious 50’s and 60’s pop music influence in their music, but whereas the Raveonettes and Clinic can draw from the same sources and have the result sound positively menacing and weird, Glasvegas opt for a more traditional, less edgy approach, though they certainly are not shy about dropping the F bomb from time to time. Glasvegas could be capable of great things if they maybe roughen up their decidedly glossy edges next time out. For now, they’ve produced a solid, appealing debut. Standout cuts: “Geraldine,” “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,” “Polmont On My Mind” and “Daddy’s Gone.”
February 23, 2008
If the new Raveonettes album, Lust Lust Lust, never quite hits the peaks that its first two brilliant tracks do, well, so what? Most albums don’t have a single song as cool as either the eerie, almost menacing “Aly, Walk With Me” or “Hallucinations,” with its beautifully distorted guitar riffs. It’s not that the rest of the album pales in comparison, either, as the Danish band, now based in Los Angeles and New York City, have returned with an inspired, powerful album that finds them playing their now familiar mix of distorted, fuzzy guitar sounds and 50’s and 60’s rock with a renewed energy, infusing and complicating even the album’s poppiest moments with a strange, almost delirious obsessiveness, true to the album’s title. Other standout cuts: “Dead Sound” and “You Want The Candy,” but there are no duds to be found here.