February 18, 2004  




!!!/Out Hud (reissue of split EP)
All Night Radio
The Congos (reissue)
Xiu Xiu

Trans Am

Preston School of Industry
Casual Dots
Superchunk (DVD retrospective)
Linval Thompson & Friends (compilation of King Tubby produced tracks)
FEB Sun 22 Mon 23 Tues 24 Wed 25 Thurs 26 Fri 27 Sat 28



(Express Rising, Chains & Black Exhaust)
For a night of Deep Funk & Soul

w/Special Guest DJs:
Alec D. & Other Music's Michael and Duane

APT: 419 W. 13th Street NY, NY
9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
(Featuring Don Q Rum from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.)







Aw C'mon

"The Lone Official"
"I Hate Candy"


No You C'mon

"Low Ambition"
"Jan 24"

Lambchop is and always will be a band of thrilling contradictions; they revel in a myriad of influences, yet their own style is hard to pin down. They seem to be the quintessential "indie" band, yet their impeccable production and elaborate arrangements seem more in line with their Nashville roots than any D-I-Y aesthetic. Now, due to nothing more than over-productive talent, we are graced this week with not just a new Lambchop album, but two new ones. I'm told that Kurt Wagner challenged himself to write a song a day for many months on end, and then chose his favorite results for these releases. Both albums showcase a wide variety of the sounds that the 'Chop has become known for, particularly reminiscent (in both the music and the artwork) not of last year's spare "Is A Woman," but closer to the soulful orchestrations of "Nixon."

Although they always have a few leftfield tricks up their sleeve, the easiest reference point for Lambchop's sound might be the wonderful "Country Got Soul" collection that came out on Casual last year. Lambchop has fully digested both a full serving of classic early-'70s R&B, as well as a healthy dollop of the pop-country singer-songwriters of the same period. Wagner's dark baritone (and smart, twisted and funny poetry) is featured throughout on many emotional classics, but the real star here is the stunning interplay of tight Curtis Mayfield inspired strings, thrilling piano work, sprightly guitars and the occasional pedal steel moan. But of course Wagner is never afraid to try another direction, and will drop a Leonard Cohen groove or his version of fuzzed out rock as well, much as longtime-labelmate Stephin Meritt would experiment with genres on the Magnetic Fields opus "69 Love Songs."

And despite all this ambition, Lambchop seems to succeed effortlessly, having created two more wonderful albums that are bursting at the seams with creativity and life, as they consistently manage to sculpt wholly original works out of well-worn styles, and find both melancholy and beauty nestled in a well-executed string crescendo. Aw, c'mon. No you c'mon, buy them both cuz you know you want to, and I'm certain that you won't be disappointed. [JM]







  !!! / OUT HUD
Split EP


For those of you who were sleeping the first time around, you've got another chance to seize this little gem and experience the smash sounds everyone is already moving to. Initially released in 1999 as a vinyl-only issue debuting both artists, the dance party surrounding this Left Coast crew only began to grow. These close cousins (now bi-coastal, Sacto via Brooklyn) drown their funky and soulful grooves in a wash of reverb-drenched psychedelia and pounding bass. Both artists successfully deconstruct and recreate the "punk-funk" rage of what is the now sound, without really being comparable to any of the other current artists making waves on either coast. They've got a live show that is unparalleled (!!! are literally a touring ass shakin' spectacle) and releases that add a distinctive and innovative quality to their sound, as evident by creative production work that you can only really pick up through headphones as opposed to a live gig. This split exemplifies the best of their work (in my humble opinion)…. essential! [MT]







Spirit Stereo Frequency
(Sub Pop)

"Daylight Till Dawn"
"We're on Our Wave"

All Night Radio is the new band fronted by the Beachwood Sparks' Dave Scher and Jimi Hey, and their debut album is a masterful foray in baroque psychedelic pop. If you threw classic artists such as Syd Barrett, the Byrds, and Kevin Ayers into a blender with modern acts such as Mercury Rev, Olivia Tremor Control, and Beck, out would come All Night Radio. "Daylight Till Dawn" is definitely one of the best pop songs that I have heard in awhile with its ba-ba-ba chorus, trippy guitars and strings, catchy piano melody and effect-laden vocals, it is hard to tell that it is not some long lost psych classic. "We're on Our Wave" could be the best song that Mercury Rev never wrote, either that or a Pink Floyd outtake, while "You'll Be on Your Own" is a trippy rocker that is definitely influenced by "Rubber Soul" era Beatles... and there are still seven more songs on the album. "Spirit Sky Radio" is nothing new but don't get me wrong, it is a great, great record and a must have for fans of good pop music that looks to the past as well as the future. [JS]







Congo Ashanti
(Blood & Fire)

"Days Chasing Days"
"Music Maker"

Cedric Myton and Congo Ashanti Roy (aka The Congos) may forever be known, or possibly not, for their classic "Heart of the Congos" LP recorded by Lee Perry. Their material remains as classic as Bob Marley and Burning Spear's '70s output. The duo blended roots rhythms with beautiful harmonizing; Cedric's soaring falsetto could send chills up your spine, while Ashanti Roy kept it grounded. Blood & Fire's extended reissue of this release originally recorded in 1979 for VP, collects the proper album with four extra tracks -- two vocal with their respective dubs.

The Congos' power comes from their strong self-empowering lyrics bringing Rasta beliefs into a social context through simple words and engaging metaphors, and through their great use of harmonizing. Cedric's falsetto can be soft and delicate or forceful, similar to Junior Murvin, Culture, or US soul group the Stylitics in sound. "Congos Ashanti" was recorded at Harry J's, mixed by Geoffrey Chung, and backed by Sly Dunbar, Ernest Ranglin, and Tommy McCook among others, with additional backing vocals from Walty Burnett and his Congo partner, Roy Johnson. Soon after Congo Ashanti Roy would go on to work with Adrian Sherwood during the birthing of his On-U sound. Fans of soulful roots reggae should give this a spin, from one of the most distinctive vocal groups within reggae's history. [DG]







Kila Kila Kila
(Thrill Jockey)

"On Mani"
"Sizuku Ring Neng"

For an OOIOO album, the third in this band's lifespan, "Kila Kila Kila" begins modestly. The first song and title track tip-toes in and whimsically converses with an organ and contrabass "free jazz style" while Yoshimi rhythmically whispers words underneath. Easing into the rest of the album is like slipping into a warm bath. Tones, bells, aquatic sounds and chimes usher in the next song and seem to follow the path of sparse psychedelic sounds into a forest populated by a tribe of beings who communicate only by subtle rhythm. It's not until "Sizuku Ring Neng" that the bass and guitar pipe in to uncover some of the similarities to 2002's "Green and Gold" -- heavy, dense drumming and deep bass upheld by simple yet mesmerizing high ended, repetitive guitar lines with slight shifts and swerves, signaled by keyboard sounds.

Mostly though, strings lead this album down less psychedelic, more avant-garde tributaries thanks to guest players on the cello, violin and contrabass on "On Mani," and the almost all ambient "Aster" (well, at least the first seven minutes of this 15 minute ringer). No matter what direction OOIOO takes within or into the next song, the playfulness of this group has always been a good guide. Fun, epically extended melodies, experimental vocals, solid rhythms and interesting instruments (the Roly Pory and Vitamin C Soda?), will keep me buying OOIOO albums. "Kila Kila Kila" has its own share of these. And check out the nice domestic price on this one. You have no excuse. [LG]







Fabulous Muscles

"Crank Heart"
"Fabulous Muscles"

Xiu Xiu could be a bitter, hard pill to swallow, but there's something so sincere about Jamie Stewart's impassioned delivery. His exquisitely pained vocal theatrics often receives comparisons to Robert Smith, but the brooding and sometimes sexually charged imagery in his lyrics is more reminiscent of Morrissey - you might even detect an occasional hint of the Moz's thespian humor. Stewart is far from ambiguous though; just reference the name and the explicit lyrics of "Fabulous Muscles," the title track. Musically speaking however, Xiu Xiu sites modern classical (particularly Henry Cowell) and gamelan music as major influences which no doubt plays into the band's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink arrangements, abrasive dynamics and exotic use of instrumentation.

Previous Xiu Xiu albums have shown Stewart's ever-changing line-up quite adept at molding dark, melodramatic pop songs from a frenzied din of sounds, and the third full-length "Fabulous Muscles" drives this point home. More experimental in nature than previous releases, with a heavier reliance on electronics and skewed performances that play like an acid-cabaret, noisy outbursts suddenly drop to soothing drones as Stewart's voice trembles, yelps or whispers with elastic emotion. Skittering percussive clanks, buzzes and orchestra swells come at you with ramshackle abandon and then disappear without warning, but every instrument, every wheezing tone, every breath -- it's all there for a reason. Xiu Xiu is both challenging and accessible, and very human.

And then there are the moments that are completely stripped down to the barest of accompaniment; the spooky folk of the title track is a disturbing yet tender love song born from submission and death. (An earlier version of "Fabulous Muscles" appeared last year on a split EP with Jim Yoshii Pile-Up.) Throughout the album, Stewart tackles topics of child molestation, war, and suicide often viewed from the victim's eyes, but listen closely and you'll detect a small glimmer of hope shining through before the impending devastation. Not for the faint of heart, fans of Devendra Banhart, Birthday Party, Frog Eyes and even Current 93 will probably hail "Fabulous Muscles" as a necessary listen. [GH]







She's in Control

"Needy Girl"

This Montreal duo brings you more funk for your trunk with their debut album. Chromeo takes their inspiration from throwaway '80s-era Top 40 R & B (think Tamara & the Seen, Ready For The World, Shannon), gives it a nice, dancefloor analog thump and some appropriately tacky vocal stylings, and lets your waistline do the rest. Freestyle, early house and electro are the reference points here. I wouldn't say that this record expands on any of that stuff; it's more of a hands-in-the-air celebration of that era. I personally love stuff like this, and if you are a fan of the Les Rythmes Digitales, Phoenix and Daft Punk sound, you'll find a lot to appreciate here. [DH]








"Walk of a Gurl"
"Caught in the Rain"

If this was the debut of some hitherto unknown singer-songwriter, we'd all be very impressed. The songs are catchy and mature, drawing on influences ranging from New Zealand's underground heroes the Clean to Nikki Sudden's Jacobites records. Then the fourth track starts and you think, "Hey, this song sounds a lot like Pavement." To be fair, Scott Kannberg's second post-Pavement solo outing as Preston School of Industry is far, far better than your average indie rock record. But, you ask, does it hold a candle to any of Pavement's albums? And how does it compare to Stephen Malkmus' solo work?

To really enjoy "Monsoon" for what it is, you have to make yourself forget that it was written and performed by a member of one of the best American rock bands of the last decade. Just forget about all of your expectations, they're not necessary. No, this record isn't as good as "Slanted and Enchanted," but that's a hell of a big achievement to repeat. It's impossible for anyone to say that last year's Malkmus solo record was objectively better than this. To these ears, the stuff on "Pig Lib" sounds like the Malkmus Pavement songs, and the stuff on here sounds like the Spiral Stairs Pavement songs. The two albums actually work quite well together; take the best songs from each and you've got something comparable to a new Pavement LP.

For some reason that I don't completely understand, it's become much more fashionable to be into the Jicks than to be into Preston School Of Industry. It seems that as the recognizable "face" of Pavement, Malkmus always seems all too aware that he's got a lot to live up to, whereas Spiral Stairs doesn't sound like he has anything to lose. Sure, Malkmus has a certain attitude and sense of humor that Kannberg is missing, but part of me really prefers the simplicity and lack of irony on "Monsoon." It's hard not to dismiss a record like this as inferior to the original, but if you give this one a chance you're bound to be satisfied. [RH]







The Casual Dots
(Kill Rock Stars)

"Mamma's Gonna Make Us Cake"

A pretty impressive line-up, the Casual Dots is a collaboration between guitarists Christina Billotte (ex-Slant 6, Quix*o*tic) and Kathi Wilcox (ex-Bikini Kill), and drummer Steve Dore (the Finger). The 10 songs on this disc remind me of a mismatched drum kit and pawnshop guitars placed into the able hands of folks that have grown up listening to their parents' old scratchy 45's. The simple, but intertwining guitar interplay is pushed along by straight-ahead drumming that just makes you want to bounce around and jump on the furniture -- jagged, bouncy, raw pop that's deceptively complex in its simplicity. So okay, you're saying to yourself "this review says nothing", but it does you see. I'm just having a hard time focusing while I'm dancing around the room. That says more than any review ever could! So there! [RS]







Crowding Up Your Visual Field

Remember when Chapel Hill was being hailed as the new Seattle and "Slack Motherfucker" was the song you would put at the start of your friends' mixtapes? Well after 15 years of serving all your indie rock needs, the band's Merge label has released the quintessential DVD for every Superchunk fan.

Beginning with their first official music video "Throwing Things," this retrospective contains all 12 of their shoestring budget videos including my all time fave, "Package Thief" a high-powered performance of pogo-ing puppets done up in the likeness of the band. Other favorites featured are "Driveway to Driveway", "Hyper Enough" (I still remember Matt Pinfield announcing that one on 120 Minutes), and of course "Watery Hands," with David Cross and Janeane Garofalo playing the roles of pretentious video directors.

"Crowding Up Your Visual Field" also includes "Quest for Sleep," an hour-long documentary shot during a 2001 tour of Japan, Europe and the US. (Cross makes another hilarious cameo, this time as a student events coordinator.) The live video segments includes grainy footage taken of the band's first show back in '89 as well as more recent clips, plus four rare bonus videos, and of course commentary from Superchunk. [GH]







Whip Them King Tubby!

"Homeward Dub"
"Whe the Wicked"

Compiled by author David Katz, this Linval Thompson collection "Whip Them King Tubby" is the real deal. Thompson was born in Kingston, and then in the early-'70s moved with his parents to Brooklyn where shortly after he began his musical career as a singer. (He eventually settled with premier session band the Roots Radics to begin building his own rhythms.) This collection gathers tracks mixed by King Tubby, exclusively for his sound system, sharing the production with Thompson. Split in half with vocals and then the dubs, the tracks are solid rockers style as heavy rhythms abound amidst some familiar songs, but with exclusive mixes, and voicing by Horace Andy and Johnny Clarke along with Thompson's cool approach (similar to Dennis Brown or Keith Hudson's style). Of course he uses the best from the Isle: Sly & Robbie, Ansel Collins, Augustus Pablo, among others. Recommended. [DG]









(Thrill Jockey)

"Out Moder"
"Uninvited Guest"

Trans Am returns with a politically charged album. "Liberation" is darker than previous efforts with bass riffs and funky electronics fueling the paranoia. (Full review next week.)




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[LG] Lisa Garrett
[DG] Daniel Givens
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[DH] Duane Harriott
[JM] Josh Madell
[JS] Jeremy Sponder
[RS] Roy Styles
[MT] Mahssa Taghinia

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