About once a quarter I like to do a column of CD reviews, which is below. I’ll be focusing more and more on CD reviews as the winter months approach, so keep an eye on the Reviews matrix, which will be updated this weekend.
Tonight is the big Michael Allison Memorial show at Sokol Underground. Allison, who was in a number of local bands including Kid Icarus and Goblin Grenade, recently passed away. According to a post on the webboard, “The money raised will help his brothers and sisters take his ashes to South Korea as well as release a collection of his many songs written over the last ten years.” The lineup includes Bombardment Society, Outlaw Con Bandana, The Stay Awake, Ladyfinger, and He Do The Policeman In Different Voices. It starts early, at 8 p.m., and is $7. In addition to supporting a worthy cause, you’ll get to see some of the best local bands the city has to offer.
Column 48: Digging Through the Stack
A round-up of worthy recent releasesDipping through my stack of CDs, here’s a handful of recommendations to check out at your local record store. The keyword here is “retro,” as in “tribute” or “influence” or “return of a style” or “art repeating itself” or “there is no such thing as ‘original’ anymore.” Oh well. Rock’s been eating itself since before Bo Diddley and will continue gnawing away at its own foot long after the kids from Smoosh (rocking from the age of 8) are finally put to bed.Ester Drang — Rocinate (Jade Tree) — Think Avalon-era Roxy Music with a touch of The Sea and Cake and Flaming Lips and you’re halfway to this Oklahoma band’s summer-breeze vibe. Tracks like “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” and “Great Expectations” sport a cushion of lush strings, brass and piano that would make Burt Bacharach blush with admiration. Jazzy and carefree, it’s hard to believe this was released on post-punk label Jade Tree, home to such angst brutes as Girls Against Boys and Onelinedrawing, and Omaha’s own Statistics.Early Man — Closing In (Matador) — I profess to rarely listening to metal of any stripe these days. Sure, I dug Queensryche and Iron Maiden as much as the next guy, but that was back in my younger, stupider days (he said with a sniff). Then along comes Early Man, and suddenly I feel like a 17-year-old again, riding around in my brother’s El Camino cruising for chicks and booze. Fist shaking. Bloody nose. Angry for no reason. Angry because it rocks! Sure, it sounds like the riffs were lifted directly from 1) Black Sabbath, 2) Judas Priest, and 3) Metallica (not necessarily in that order), but there’s no denying the pure head-bangin’ extravagance of rippers like “Death Is the Answer,” complete with Bobby Beers a.k.a. Steel Dragon falsetto intro. Could they single-handedly bring metal back from the dead? If it all sounds like this, I sure hope so.Eagle*Seagull — Self-titled (Paper Garden) — I’ve already proclaimed that these swinging Lincolnites as being Nebraska’s version of red-hot Canadian “It” band The Arcade Fire. Why? Could be because Eli Mardock’s breathy moan resembles AF’s Win Butler’s, or that both bands have a penchant for jaunty non-traditional arrangements on a grand scale (“Your Beauty is a Knife I Turn on My Throat” sounds like it came straight off Funeral). Still, the comparison ain’t fair. Too often E*S’s debut veers headily away from AF’s Bowie worship, especially on tracks like the momentous “Lock and Key,” with its late-song waltz that creates a majesty uniquely its own. Ambitious, and good too.Acid House Kings — Sing Along with the Acid House Kings (Twentyseven Records) — Like the last Kings of Convenience album, Sing Along… sports a falling leaves / Simon and Garfunkel texture thanks to its gliding strings, chiming acoustic guitars and twee vocals. Add more reverb to the guitars, hand claps and some sweet West Coast harmonies and you’ve got a modern-day version of The Association. Elevator music for a new generation.Sufjan Stevens — Come on Feel the Illinoise (Asthmatic Kitty) — Like listening to a choir of indie slackers led by a Little Prince in a Cubs hat whose voice is a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. Fans of Greetings from Michigan will find it all too familiar (In fact, if you weren’t paying attention, you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate between the two). Can there be too much of a good thing? I don’t think so. On the other hand, it could get pretty tired if he repeats it over the next 48 states (albums).
My Morning Jacket — Z (ATO/RCA) — Am I the only one who thinks that the CD’s first single, “Off the Record,” with its Hawaii Five-O guitar riff and trippy reggae beat, sounds like a laid-back Who track circa Who’s Next? Maybe it’s because of how they’ve made Jim James sound like Robert Daltrey or the fact that there’s so much reverb throughout the album that it feels like it was recorded from the bowels of whale… or the back of a smoky arena circa 1972 haunted by the memories of Neil Young, Alex Chilton and Joe Walsh.
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