A WALLFLOWER BLOOMS - Me and the Machine

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A WALLFLOWER BLOOMS - Me and the Machine
Page 16
In Tune
The Daily News
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 2008
A WALLFLOWER BLOOMS
Jakob Dylan emerges from the
shadow of his famous father
and, under the guidance of
super producer Rick Rubin,
crafts a solo debut that is
worthy of the family legacy
JAKOB DYLAN, “Seeing Things” (Columbia)
✰✰✰✰ — Producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin can
do no wrong. The guy who helped break the Beastie
Boys, rejuvenated the careers of both Johnny Cash
and Neil Diamond, and has even the most jaded
of Metallica fans optimistic about the metal outfit’s
upcoming record, has worked his magic with Jakob
Dylan.
Dylan has spent the better part of two decades
trying to get out from under the considerable musical shadow of his father. He never made much of
an impression on me with his band the Wallflowers,
but, under Rubin’s watchful eye and armed with
a handful of first-rate songs and a stripped-down
sound, the younger Dylan has a winner on his hands
with “Seeing Things.”
From the opening strains of “Evil Is Alive and
Well” through the final notes of “This End of the
Telescope,” Dylan has crafted an excellent solo
debut. Though he might not be as good a writer
as his daddy (and really, who is?), his singing voice
is much better and he uses it to optimum effect on
these 10 mostly excellent tracks.
Among the standouts are “Valley of the Low Sun,”
“Everybody Pays They Go,” “Something Good This
Way Comes” and the ironic (yet not over-the-top)
protest tune “War Is Kind.” Hopefully, this is the
start of big things for Bob Dylan’s boy. ((Jeffrey Sisk)
HERO DESTROYED, self-titled
(Relapse) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — Upper Darby grindcore/death/everything-heavy label Relapse
sure has a soft spot for Pittsburgh, what with
them already having scooped up instrumental math wizards Don Caballero and sci-fi
synth monsters Zombi. Now with Hero
Destroyed in the fold, it’s a trifecta.
The band’s brutal and bending seven-track debut drops
Tuesday, kids, but they’re going to smash your chest cavity
with songs from this satisfying record with a release show this
weekend (details below). Borrowing some of those brainy
calculations employed by Don Cab and adding them to a
hardcore-minded serving of grinding thrash, these fellows are
one of the city’s mightiest exports yet, with lead shouter Pat
McNicholas’ diatribes sounding like an angrier, more venomous Jamey Jasta. The tech-minded guitar chops of Zach
Moore and Jeff Turko make for a sludgy opener in “Cause
for Cancer,” and they even take a turn toward Meshuggah on
“Bloody Hand.” “Texas Heart Shot” has some thick and meaty
basslines from Dustin Newman, the band’s secret MVP, and
“Thin White Line” brings the record to a close with a thunderous breakdown and McNicholas demanding, “Cut yourself wide open!” I’d love to see Hero Destroyed capture this
town’s sniveling hipsters in a room for a good savage beating.
They’ll never know what hit ’em! Oh, and can’t wait for the
full-length. (Brian Krasman)
Hero Destroyed have a CD release show set for Saturday at 9
p.m. at 31st Street Pub in the Strip District. Admission is $5; also
on the bill are Abysme and Liquified Guts.
CRYPTOPSY, “The Unspoken King”
(Century Media) ✰✰1⁄2 — Perhaps only
the upcoming Metallica record will be more
anticipated, dissected and discussed as the
new one from technical death metal pioneers Cryptopsy. Listeners were warned that
things were changing, experimentation was
at full tilt, and with vocalist Lord Worm
getting the heave-ho, the album would contain clean vocal passages via Matt McGachy.
A band altering its sound can be a good thing. Take
Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon, for example, who thrived
from it. Or it can be awful. Witness Megadeth and Metallica,
who badly damaged their reputations. “The Unspoken King”
falls nearer to abject failure than glorious rebirth, as the daring
steps they took to change make them sound dull and, more
shockingly, like a really bad nu-metal band at times. If this is
supposed to be the daring new Cryptopsy world, then I’d like
an early checkout, because although “Worship Your Demons”
and “Anoint the Dead” still have that flesh-bruising magic,
there are too many moments such as “Leach” or “Bound
Dead” or limp closer “(Exit) the Few” that come off as poor
stabs at Faith No More weirdness or, even worse, like a bad
Disturbed knockoff. And we don’t need any of that. (BK)
SALLY SHAPIRO, “Remix Romance
Vol. 1 and 2” (Paper Bag) ✰✰✰1⁄2 for
both — Swedish Italo disco/synth pop
act Sally Shapiro’s debut release “Disco
Romance” was a surprise underground hit,
fanning flames of admiration all over the
blogosphere and inspiring a legion of producers and DJs to try their hands at reworking the songs.
The results, as one might guess, are mixed, and the feelings
about these new visions probably will shift from ear to ear as
people digest these separate releases.
By mixed, I don’t mean some are good, some are bad.
Really, no one fouls up these charming, warm pop treasures,
but some manage to take the songs to a higher level, while
others should have left well enough alone. For example, on
“Vol. 1,” Holy F**k do a magical number on “Find My Soul,”
making it a bit more streamlined and pop sensible, while
the Junior Boys add depth and buzzed whirring to “Jackie,
Jackie.” On “Vol. 2,” the SLL remix of “I Know” sounds like
it could slip easily into Erasure’s playbook, while the Dyylan
Subzero Nocturne take on “Jackie Jackie” is nicely minimalist,
and the Dyylan version of “Hold Me So Tight” is just plain
eerie. No one manages to improve upon the gorgeous “Anorak
Christmas,” nor does anyone top the original Shapiro/Johan
Agebjörn version of “He Keeps Me Alive,” one of the best
indie pop songs of 2007. Either way, the projects are interesting and provide new perspectives of a devastatingly strong
debut record. (BK)
BRAD CALEB KANE, “This Day in History”
(Lovelane) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — New York City native Brad Caleb Kane
grew up listening to the likes of John Lennon, Cat Stevens and
Paul Simon — “Anyone with a guitar and a point of view,” he
says — and those musical influences run deep on this excellent
debut album.
With Kane handling writing, piano, guitar and vocal duties,
“This Day in History” contains 10 very personal tunes that
offer a fascinating glimpse inside the mind of an up-and-coming artist. “My songs are pretty much all autobiographical,”
Kane says. “But by the time I’ve gotten them out of my head
and into the real world, they seem to pick up lots of new reference points.”
Without question, the most affecting (and best) song on the
record is “Freak,” a spare, haunting acoustic account of a disaffected teenager facing life on the streets and pondering suicide.
If this too is an autobiographical song, I can only hope that
Kane had some help tackling those demons. Yikes.
None of the other tracks pack the same kind of emotional
wallop, though that’s not to say they’re lightweight fluff. There
are confessional elements to keepers such as “Out There,” “Go
Mad,” “In Your Own Way” and “When the Lights Go Out,”
which help make “This Day in History” a valuable addition to
any record collection. ((JS)
INCOGNITO, “Tales From the Beach”
(Heads Up) ✰✰1⁄2 — Jean-Paul “Bluey”
Maunick, the creative force behind British
acid jazz collective Incognito, knew he wanted to be a musician from age 5. He heard
local artists play in his native Mauritius, a
tiny island off the coast of Madagascar, and
“concluded that this was the life for me.”
For almost three decades now, Maunick and his mates have
churned out jazz- and R&B-tinged records to great acclaim in
the United Kingdom. With “Tales From the Beach,” Incognito
are hoping to get better recognized on American shores.
Though there are some memorable moments on the group’s
18th release, “Tales From the Beach” is not an essential record.
The horn work on album highlight “I Come Alive (Rimshots
and Basses)” is tremendous, Joy Rose’s vocals on “It May Rain
Sometime” are beautiful, and the disc-closing title track sounds
like a hipper, funkier Manhattan Transfer.
Yet many of the 15 tunes on “Tales From the Beach,” which
clock in at a ridiculously overlong 74-plus minutes, are way too
similar. It’s pleasant enough music in small doses, but the lack
of diversity makes this a difficult record to get through in one
sitting. ((JS)
NELS ANDREWS, “Off Track
Betting” (Ignatiius) 4 — Singer/songwriter Nels Andrews was born in California, but
his travels have taken him from New Mexico
to South Dakota to Alaska, where he worked
in the fisheries after graduation. That wandering spirit is alive in his music, which is
low-key, rootsy Americana at its core. “Off
Track Betting,” his long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s “Sunday
Shoes,” dropped in Europe earlier this year and rose to No.
2 on the Euro Americana chart. It only takes one spin to see
why.
With a haunting sound that’s drawn comparisons to Ryan
Adams and Edwin McCain, Andrews has matured as a songwriter. He weaves fascinating slice-of-life tales that he describes
as “voices from a campground in the desert winter, from
behind the wheel of a yellow cab, of driving a rented car
through the streets of a town that froze in time and still treats
you like a stranger.” That’s hyperbole, of course, but not as
much as you might think.
Winning tunes such as “Fever Dream,” “Three Days,”
“Butterfly Wing” and “Sunday Shoes” paint pictures with
words and music that are sure to stick with you long after the
CD stops spinning. ((JS)
PRIMA J, self-titled (Geffen) ✰✰✰ —
I don’t have many guilty musical pleasures,
but that list has grown by one with this
infectious debut release from teen pop duo
Prima J. Comprised of Mexican-American
cousins Jessica and Janelle Martinez, Prima
J made a splash last summer with the
single “Rock Star,” which made it onto the
“Bratz” soundtrack.
“Rock Star” appears here as well, a fitting close to the 13track collection, but plenty other tunes are equally catchy.
There’s the hilariously silly fun of “Leftovers,” the affirma-
IT
tion-set-to-a-Latin-beat of “Corazon (You’re Not Alone)” and
Prima J manage to pull off “Boom,” a seemingly unnecessary
update of the L’Trimm’s “Cars With the Boom.” If “Nadie”
sounds familiar, it should, as the cousins offer up a respectful
Spanish-language version of the Alicia Keys hit “No One.”
While there isn’t any offensive language on the record, parents should exercise caution. Some of the subject matter is a
little racy — especially the thinly veiled sexual overtones of
“Tame” and “Chilosa” — and might not be appropriate for the
tweens I expect will be clamoring for this album. ((JS)
WALTER BECKER, “Circus Money”
(Mailboat) ✰✰✰✰ — For all intents and
purposes, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker
were the Lennon & McCartney of ’70s jazz
rock icons Steely Dan. They shared songwriting and singing duties for a band that
gave us such classics as “Hey Nineteen,”
“Deacon Blues” and “FM.”
For years, however, I’ve assumed (mistakenly, it turns out)
that Fagen was the man behind the Dan. After all, Becker
has slid into the producer’s chair for most of the past three
decades, leaving the music making to others.
“Circus Money” is just the second solo album for the 58year-old Becker, but it’s enough to convince me that at the
very least, he and Fagen were on equal footing back when
they were busy “Reelin’ in the Years.” This 12-track collection
is a fantastic throwback to the classic Steely Dan sound, with
Becker sharing songwriting chores this time around with producer Larry Klein.
Fans are sure to warm to standout tracks such as disc opener
“Door Number Two,” “Bob Is Not Your Uncle Anymore,”
“Selfish Gene” and “Somebody’s Saturday Night.” Becker
shines brightest, however, on “Circus Money’s” centerpiece
tracks, the reggae-tinged “Darkling Down” and the moving
“God’s Eye View.”
This super record likely won’t spawn any radio hits, but it’s
an absolute must for Steely Dan fans. ((JS)
JOSH PRESTON, “Exit Sounds” (Me
and the Machine) ✰✰✰ — Nashville
singer/songwriter Josh Preston started his
professional career playing numerous sideman gigs up and down the East Coast. An
accomplished guitarist, what he really wanted was to strike out on his own. Preston
began writing his own material and, in
2006, started work on what would become his solo debut. A
well-received EP followed last year, setting the stage for “Exit
Sounds,” his most ambitious effort to date.
Things open with the haunting “If I Had a Light in You,”
a brooding, downbeat tune that sets the tone for the remaining 12 tracks. There are more songs in that vein (too many, in
fact) on the album, as Preston seems to be cleansing his soul
with sad keepers such as “Safety Feels the Exit,” “Temptation,”
“Addict” and “Thousand Years.” Even the disc-closing bonus
track “Please Tell Me You’ll Be Home for Christmas” maintains a melancholy vibe.
All of this makes “Exit Sounds” a record that needs to be
spun several times (and in the right frame of mind) to be
appreciated. Though a little too mopey for my taste, Preston is
a capable frontman in his own right. ((JS)
REV THEORY, “Light It Up”
(Interscope) ✰✰ — So you’ve worn out
all your Nickelback and Seether CDs and
are getting tired of listening to Daughtry’s
debut over and over again. What’s a selfrespecting young rocker to do? Well, if
you’re looking for more middle-of-the-road
guitar-driven rock sound (hello Mercy Fall,
how ya doing Saving Abel?), you could do worse than this soso sophomore release by New York City quintet Rev Theory.
Of course, you’re not going to get lyrics much deeper than
“Give me a hell / Give me a yeah / Stand up right now”
(from first single “Hell Yeah”) or “It’s on tonight so hold on
/ ’Cause we’re about to light it up” (from the title track), but
nobody said the guys formerly known as Revolution Theory
were poets.
There are plenty of rocking guitars that should raise testosterone levels across America, and Rev Theory score with tunes
such as “Broken Bones” and “Ten Years.” Unfortunately, the
post-grunge sound — though still prevalent on modern rock
radio — no longer packs a real punch. ((JS)
FLEET FOXES, self-titled (Sub Pop)
✰✰✰1⁄2 — As mentioned in this space a
couple months ago when reviewing their
excellent “Sun Giant” EP, Seattle’s Fleet
Foxes are about as far removed from the
Emerald City’s trademark grunge sound as
you can get. Instead, this talented quintet is
all about the happy, with cheery introspective melodies enveloping frontman Robin Pecknold’s soothing tenor. Their self-titled debut has earned almost universal
acclaim since it dropped last month, though I found the EP to
be more satisfying. In my case, a little of Pecknold’s whimsical
crooning goes a long way.
The Foxes don’t make things easy on the listener as the
record opens with a pair of droning a capella tunes that establish a tone, no doubt, but also might alienate some would-be
fans. Just when you think hope is lost, however, Pecknold
and his mates hit their stride with remarkable tracks such
as “Ragged Wood,” “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “He
Doesn’t Know Why” and “Blue Ridge Mountains.”
In addition to the slow start, Fleet Foxes go astray a
few times. “Quiet Houses” is forgettable and I found
“Meadowlarks” to be downright annoying.
Still, the Foxes have crafted a satisfying debut that, if you’re
in the right frame of mind when you pop it into your CD player, might just sweep you away on a wispy musical cloud. ((JS)
HAYDEN, “In Field & Town”
(Hardwood/Fat Possum) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — My
very first thought when spinning this latest release from Canadian lo-fi folk rocker
Hayden is that he sounds an awful lot like
Elvis Perkins, whose 2007 debut is one of
my favorite albums. Of course, with four
previous studio efforts (plus a live release) to
his credit since 1996, it’s probably more accurate to say that
Perkins sounds a lot like him. Either way, “In Field & Town” is
an almost-great collection of 11 quiet, often introspective tunes
of heartbreak that underscore the 37-year-old Toronto native’s
evolution as a songwriter.
There are a few songs that miss the mark (“The Van Song,”
“The Hardest Part”) but Hayden makes up for the occasional misstep with keepers “More Than Alive,” “Worthy of
Your Esteem,” “Did I Wake Up Beside You,” “Weight of the
World,” “Lonely Security Guard” and the beautiful sadness of
disc closer “Barely Friends.” ((JS)
★ — Run for your life ★★ — Not awesome ★★★ — Not too shabby ★★★★ — Pretty sweet ★★★★★ — Awesome