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Showing posts from October, 2004

60. Dogs Die In Hot Cars - Please Describe Yourself (2004)

Poor Chomsky. They try their hardest to pattern themselves after early-period XTC, even going so far as to reference White Music lyrics and titles in two of their songs (Herod's Daughter and Animal), and here come Dogs Die In Hot Cars, stealing all the buzz and glory. Admittedly, DDIHC have an advantage. Singer Craig Macintosh's voice is a dead ringer for XTC singer Andy Partridge's. It's uncanny.

The current Neo New Wave movement in music needed this. If Interpol are Joy Division, The Killers are Duran Duran, The Libertines are The Clash, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are Blondie and TV On The Radio are Genesis, then why not have an XTC?

DDIHC don't seem very shy about the comparison. One of the songs on their excellent debut is called Apples & Oranges, which is the also the title of a 1989 XTC album. (It makes me wish a band would make a whole album of songs with titles named after albums without title tracks). And their songs are not a far cry from XTC's Drum…

59. XTC - White Music (1977)

It's somewhat reassuring to know that even the most accomplished people in the world have certain aspects of their past that they'd rather ignore. XTC are a band whose sophistication and vitality cannot be called into question, but did their 1977 debut album indicate that in any way? No.

It's not that the album is bad - it isn't - but compared to their later work it's pale and primitive. It's as if they only had 8 crayons to color with. Later albums like English Settlement (1982), Skylarking (1986), and Nonsuch (1992) were definitely the results of a box of 64.

Still, there are flashes of the brilliance that would fully emerge later. Radios In Motion and This Is Pop, both songs about songs, have a primal thrill: fast tempos, manic performances, punchy harmonies. Statue Of Liberty is a clear standout. It's a catchy mash note to the titular figure, and is filled with clever double entendre (singer/songwriter Andy Partridge's specialty). Check out th…

58. Jimmy Eat World - Futures (2004)

Is it possible to be proud of people you've never met? I first started listening to Jimmy Eat World in 1996, and they were just one of the unknown bands my roommate Nick had turned me on to. We went and saw them a couple of times in '96 and '97, in small venues with crowds of no more than 50 people. I listened to their 1999 album Clarity obsessively and for awhile I thought it brought me good luck (I was listening to it when I got the phone call telling me I got a job in Minneapolis).

So when the band blew up in 2001 with the album Bleed American and the hit The Middle, it was strange, but satisfying. Suddenly here they were performing on Saturday Night Live and MTV, their songs being used in the Super Bowl, and friends were actually asking me about them. Emo fans are notoriously hip and fickle, and, unlike myself, some fans felt the pop-oriented material on Bleed American was an obvious stab at stardom. The fact that it was semi-successful burned them even more. According …

Short Stack

In a blatant attempt to reach review number 60 by the first anniversary of this blog, I'm offering up some brief reviews of recent releases.

54. Ben Folds - Super D (2004)
This is the final EP in a series of three meant to tide us over until Folds finishes working with Captain Kirk and releases his second solo record, and Folds saved the worst for last. It kicks off with a bombastic cover of The Darkness' Get Your Hands Off My Woman. From there we have three sub-par original compositions (the most interesting of which, Kalamazoo, features a disco bridge) and a brief live cover of Ray Charles' Them That Got. The other two EPs each contained at least one sublime moment, but this one has none, giving the whole project a cast-off feel.

Rating: C
Fave Song: Get Your Hands Off My Woman

55. Duran Duran - Astronaut (2004)
Are your vinyl copies of Rio and Notorious wearing out? Here's a new album from a fully reunited Duran Duran. The band were responsible for their fair share…

53. R.E.M. - Around the Sun (2004)

Pre-release reviews can play a large part in how I view an album. I'm usually optimistic about any new effort from an artist I love, and reviews can either feed that optimism or diminish it. A bad review especially can drop the status of a new album to just above that of a Maroon 5 live album. The obsessive part of this is that VERY rarely would I avoid a new record by an artist I like just because of a bad review (or several). And no matter what, I'll usually be hard-headed when I get the album and insist that the critic was full of it.

The story can go two directions from there. One, the critics' complaints actually have merit and will eventually creep into my perceptions of the album. Or, my hard-headedness sticks and I love the album.

I mention all of this because the early words on R.E.M.'s latest effort have not been kind. As I see it, the main grievance is that the band hasn't made Automatic For The People again. This is a little sad to me, considering that al…

James Taylor - "Baby Boom Baby"

This is my confession: My mom is the single biggest influence on my musical tastes. It's not cool, I know. My dad is the one who was hip in the '80s. When I was ready he turned me on to Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, XTC, Roxy Music, Marshall Crenshaw, and many other great artists.

My mom, on the other hand, was square. Her tastes ran in directions generally reviled by my dad: Elton John, Billy Joel, The Carpenters, Lionel Richie, and James Taylor.

(In college my parents went to see James Taylor in concert. It was today's equivalent of a guy having to go to a John Mayer concert with his girlfriend. My dad just barely stomached it; my mom loved it.)

Just as with their politics and religious beliefs, I feel I've greatly benefited from having two vastly different viewpoints presented to me. About 90 % of the time, I lean toward my father's views, but on music, my heart will always truly lie with the artists my mom introduced to me. That will always be where I go for comf…