CD reviews: King Crimson, Four Tet, Ruins, Slough Feg, Tony Levin, Barenaked Ladies,…

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28 oct. 2007, 23h34m

I bought these CDs a couple of weeks ago, but haven't gotten around to reviewing them until now partly because it took a while to listen to all of them, and partly due to procrastination. Maybe in future I'll buy fewer at a time so I can write up reviews in a timely manner. Anyway, enough of that, it's time for capsule reviews:

  1. Bulletboys: Freakshow — Found this hair metal album combing through the clearance bin at Rasputin's. Normally, I would have just looked at the ridiculous outfits on the back cover, chuckled, and put it back, but I noticed that the first track was titled Hang on St. Christopher. Huh? As in the Tom Waits song Hang On St. Christopher? Done hair metal style? With such a weird combination, I had to pick it up. The results are predictably dire—they really, really wanted by to be Van Halen but didn't have the chops—and the original tunes are totally forgettable. Hang On St. Christopher is a fascinating mess, a totally stylistically wrongheaded cover done without any irony. They also do a similarly pointless cover of John Lee Hooker's Talk to Your Daughter. I may never play this again, but I had a good laugh. At $2, I paid the right price.

  2. Buckshot LeFonque: Music Evolution — Another one from the bargain bin. I didn't pick this one up for the lulz, though. Buckshot LeFonque was Branford Marsalis's acid jazz group. I've always liked Branford (way more than his brother Wynton, whose historical revisionism has always rubbed me the wrong way). This is a pretty uneven album. At best (James Brown (Part I & II)), the jazz and hip-hop elements complement each other perfectly. At worst (Better Than I Am), it descends into generic smooth jazz and R&B. And then there are the weird one-offs: My Way (Doin' It), a sort of pesudo-Rage Against The Machine rap-metal track with a corny voice-over interlude courtesy of Laurence Fishburne, of all people, reminiscent of Orson Welles's intro to Manowar's Defender, and Jungle Grove, a high-energy hybrid of acid jazz and jungle. I'll probably pull this out every once in a while, but not to listen straight through.

  3. Barenaked Ladies: Rock Spectacle — Last one from the bargain bin. My only Barenaked Ladies album was Stunt, and I don't know much about them, but I like If I Had $1000000 and I saw that this had it. Turns out it's a live album. Whoops! No wonder it got stuck in clearance—somebody probably made the same mistake I did. Not bad, but nothing special. Brian Wilson and If I Had $1000000 were the only tracks that made much of an impression. The best part is the bonus track, where they joke about an encounter with a confused and angry old lady and rap about the frontman's Uncle Elwyn.

  4. Ruins: Pallaschtom — I love Yoshida Tatsuya's other project, Koenjihyakkei (高円寺百景), and have for some time, so it's kind of silly that I haven't picked this up before now. The style is basically the same as Koenjihyakkei—furious freakouts in an unknown language—but without the chorus and stripped down to a bass-and-drums combo. The results are just as complex, dissonant, and strange as Koenjihyakkei, but with a more rock-like and less directly Magma-like feel. As a bonus, it ends with a Classical Music Medley, Hard Rock Medley, and Progressive Rock Medley, cramming a bunch of musical quotations into less than 3 minutes each (the Classical medley includes bits of Beethoven, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Ravel's Bolero, Handel's Messiah, and more in one 1:15 track). Great stuff.

  5. French Frith Kaiser Thompson: Live, Love, Larf & Loaf — Their second album, Invisible Means, is fantastic, so I expected this, their first, to also be great. I was very disappointed. Invisible Means was playful and frequently funny, but tight and musically interesting. This just sounds like a bunch of guys screwing around in a studio. The only track I liked much at all was their cover of Surfin USA, with a deliberately awkward staccato vocal delivery on the chorus. The rest is a big nothing. A waste of money.

  6. The Avalanches: Since I Left You — I already had some of these tracks in mp3, so I was pretty sure I'd like this album. I was wrong: I love this album. I've enjoyed nearly everything these guys have done since the first time I saw the video for Frontier Psychiatrist, and this is no exception. It's pretty close to perfect. If I had to find a fault, it'd be Avalanche Rock, but since that's a transition less than a minute long between a couple of other tracks, it'd really be nitpicking. They range from demented hip-hop (though with less dadaist rapping as in Rap Fever) and turntablism (Frontier Psychiatrist) to indie pop and everywhere in between, and feature some of the most inventive use of samples you'll find. Now I've got to get their EP...

  7. Four Tet: Remixes — I'd only heard a few tracks by Four Tet before getting this, and really liked them, so I was ready to get an album. This double album—Four Tet remixing other people's songs on disc 1, other people remixing him on disc 2—looked interesting, especially since the artists being remixed include Radiohead, Madvillain, Aphex Twin, and Beth Orton, and the second disc features a remix by Battles. It turned out to be a disappointment. Disc 1 ranges from lame to merely okay, and disc 2 is terrible. Even the Battles track is no great shakes. I may listen to the remix of Radiohead's Skttrbrain, and maybe the Madvillain tracks, but not much else. For completists only.

  8. King Crimson: Beat — Another one of those "why didn't I buy this earlier?" cases. I thought Discipline was a very good album, but for some reason I'd resisted looking into their other '80s albums. In hindsight it seems silly. While this isn't one of my favorite Crimson albums, it's still a very good one and complements Discipline nicely. Neal and Jack and Me and Heartbeat in particular are excellent songs, but all of them are good. A more solid album, I think, than Thrak (which I still like despite the filler and the occasional lameness of the lyrics).

  9. Tony Levin: Resonator — This was filed in the same tray as Beat, so I picked it up. A bit of a disappointment, although not a bad album. Just not on par with his work with King Crimson. The composition is less intricate, and he doesn't have much of a singing voice. You can catch glimpses of some good ideas, but the lyrics don't really pull them off. He does do a fun cover of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance.

  10. The Lord Weird Slough Feg: Twilight of the Idols — Since I started getting into the genre in the last year or so, this has become one of my favorite metal bands. They are indeed a bit weird, though not what I would call progressive metal or avant-garde metal. I've seen it classed as power metal, but they don't go in for high-pitched vocals or fiddly shredding guitar solos; they head into folk metal territory on occasion (The Pangs of Ulster and Brave Connor Mac have clear Celtic elements), but not consistently; and they're not really dark or moody enough to be doom. It's right in the middle of the metal spectrum. Unfortunately, it turns out that the tracks I already had in mp3—Warpspasm, Bi-Polar Disorder (the best Black Sabbath song that band never made), and The Wizard's Vengeance—were some of the best on this album. Fortunately, the rest of it is still damn good. The only bad track is the album closer, We'll Meet Again, which has no verses, just a repeated chorus, and sounds unfinished, like they just hadn't come up with any lyrics by the time they had to record it. All in all, though, a great album.

Commentaires

  • optimistic_tour

    hi, this was linked when I viewed Koenjihyakkei's page and thought I'd comment and just say that this was an enjoyable read by someone who obviously knows his stuff. And, you reminded me that I need to pick up a new copy of [i]Since I Left You[/i] because the one I've had since it was new is as worn out as a cd can get without being abused heh.. such an amazing album. I still consider it my 'desert island' lp in fact. Anyway, just wondering but have you heard Burial's new album... think you may enjoy that. And Black Moth Super Rainbow! I'd hazard a guess that an Avalanches fan would dig them..

    21 jan. 2008, 21h01m
  • gwalla

    I've heard some Burial and liked it. I need to find some more. And I'll check out Black Moth Super Rainbow too, thanks!

    25 jan. 2008, 4h39m
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