October 2008 Music Reviews

From the Mountain to the Sea (Fader)
Oh how I love Birdmonster. The San Francisco quartet has long been a favorite of Spokane (thanks in part to the Spokesman’s Isamu Jordan!), and though they’ll be skipping the tour stop on their next outing, this new disc is plenty to hold you over. Birdmonster plays with pop in the best way and emerges refined and refreshing. The new tracks that the band has been sporting on their MySpace lately are a great sampling of what is in store here, but there are hidden gems a-plenty, like opener “My Love For You,” and “Greenland Sound,” though my personal favorite remains “Born to Be Your Man.”

…Earth to the Dandy Warhols… (BTW)
What’s the deal with these guys? Having freed themselves from the restraints of their major label record contract at long last, the Dandys have opted to self-release a sprawling collection of scattershot material. There’s the string-laden psychobilly of “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty” and the white funk of “Wasp in the Lotus” and everything in between, all infused with the band’s trademark affected hipster detachment. They close the set with an epic fifteen minute goof-off called “Musee d’Nougat” that reminds me of the filler track on Public Image, Ltd.’s first album where John Lydon says, “We’re only trying to finish this album with a minimum amount of effort which we are now doing very successfully.”

Second to the Last Frontier (Sarathan)
One of the hottest things on the west side for the past couple of years, Seattle’s experimental noisemongers Feral Children garner heavy comparison to Modest Mouse, with dark, wandering anthems that feel very much on the verge of total collapse. Delivered in the easiest-to-swallow sort of ways (promise), the Children sound like they would pack a massive punch live (and, we’ve been told, holy crap many times, that they really do). They will be at the Blvd on October 10 with some other acts we’ve never heard of but…when things this good hit town, you must take advantage. Please do.

Go Home (Bdpnmnshp)
I’m always looking for evidence that the Spokane hip-hop scene is more than just DJ James Pants, now I have it. Go Home layers electro and trip-hop beats with rapid-fire dual MCs and the result is not exactly like anything I’ve heard before. The record has the feel of gritty, morally ambiguous film noir. A couple of listens and the middle tracks, “More Than Enough,” “Follow Me,” and “One With The Gun,” really dig into your skull. A solid effort that leaves me eagerly awaiting what this crew will do next.

Death Magnetic (Warner Brothers)
The Metallica Principle, as I’ll call it, dictates that organizational sports psychologist plus preeminent Thrash Metal Band equals an album to suck like no other. The converse of the Metallica Principle yields massive and punishing riffs. Without laying down too much pop psychology, it’s safe to say that Metallica had some serious issues with St. Anger and wanted nothing more than to distance themselves with their most impracticable and dire effort. We can now all get up off the couch, cuz Death Magnetic chunks and wallops like the glow that you first encountered listening to Ride the Lightening. They’ve ditched their odd apprehension towards guitar solos, Bob Rock, and crappy production. Metallica has finally come to fully accept their Thrash ancestry.

Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! (Milan)
New Zealand’s Mint Chicks have made their much-talked-about arrival in the United States, and luck for all of us in the Northwest, they’ve selected nearby Portland for their new stomping grounds. This full-length album, previously released by Flying Nun, is the Chicks at their best. Exciting, spastic, dance tunes as, mark my words, Spokane has never seen—nor have you EVER seen anything like lead singer Kody Neilson on stage! But alas, fortunate Spokane that you are, resident tastemaker Patrick Kendrick, along with a crew of ambitious twentysomethings going by “Wunderground,” has arranged for a showing: October 3 as part of Terrain! which will also showcase local favorites Hockey, Kaylee Cole, Kevin Long and others. Not to be missed!

Doll Domination (Interscope)
Produced within an inch of its life, this is a laughable attempt at perpetuating all of that already-laughable faux-girl power, git-yr-man-in-line crap. Music made by women can be empowered simply by the fact that women are already empowered (remember?), and judging by these tracks, the Pussycat Dolls dolls and their keepers don’t know that. Meanwhile, watch out for the solo careers.

Cold Fact (Light in the Attic)
Seattle-based reissue label Light in the Attic has unearthed another neglected gem in this 1970 album by enigmatic singer-songwriter Rodriguez. Looking like an ersatz Jose Feliciano with his ever-present shades and sounding like an angry American Donovan, the Detroit native wasn’t able to connect his druggy folk-rock with an audience in the States the first time around, although he inexplicably gained rabid cult followings in Australia and South Africa. Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffy produced, and he added several effective touches throughout, including spooky synth sounds in the strong opener, “Sugar Man,” and light orchestration elsewhere. Cold Fact might have been a little too far off the grid for mainstream audiences at the time of release but it may find new life with fans of neo-psychedelia.

Time Machine (Aviation)
I should start this by mentioning that this album has extremely attractive packaging and includes five trading cards that each depict a band member. To burn a copy of it would be to cheat yourself! Seattle’s See Me River is the new project of former Das Llamas frontman Kerry Zettel, and it’s much rootsier and more homegrown-sounding than his previous work, or it has prominent acoustic guitars in it anyway. Actually, the bulk of the record consists of well-composed, vaguely melancholy pop songs sung by Zettel in a slightly Calvin Johnson-esque baritone. The material is given understated, inventive lo-fi production that economically utilizes choral singing, strings, percussion and piano to powerful effect.

Dear Science (Interscope)
Despite what I’ve been told by critics and friends for the past few years, I’ve always found TV on the Radio to be a bit tedious and aimless. Return to Cookie Mountain had those couple of KILLER tracks (made that way in large part by amazing vocals, still the most powerful part of this band’s many), but overall was long, wandering. I’ve steered clear of them since (also despite having seen them in ‘04 KILL IT at the Showbox, alongside favorites Beep Beep and the Faint). Broad in its scope and grand in its delivery, however, TV on the Radio is a lesson in musical patience, one that I’ve now learned. Upbeat tracks like “Dancing Choose” (my favorite) and “Red Dress,” give way to the gorrrrgeous balladry (can it be called that?, I’d like to…) of “Family Tree,” on this new disc, and the overall is delightful. (Let’s even forgive Dave Sitek now for his involvement with ScarJo’s musical efforts…).

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