Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spinning out of control

Image: Peter Sutherland

Everyday I Saw You in Egypt - Boo and Boo Too

Boo and Boo Too is a thrift store of sound, for sure. I don't even need to get my hands dirty digging through historical bins because the Lawrence, KS band is kissing cousins to Chicago's still alive-and-wailing (usually good, sometimes quite excellent) The Narrator. But what The Narrator hasn't managed to pull off (i.e. The Big Time [in the indie sense, natch]), I betcha these guys will. Yeah, yeah: punk-pop squawk uneasily buttressed by f(r)actious guitar noise, chaos contained by a thin membrane of control and a tiny salute to no wave. But also that elusive, near-impossible to articulate quality -- charisma. You heard it right here: for the 64th time this week.

From Iron Paw EP (Amazon), Myspace

- Miwagemini

When it gallops, this song, it's not like a flesh & fur horse. But like a pole pierced carousel creature spinning on a spit. It doesn't so much slip its reins as lose its terra firma, and run in place as cartoon characters do, feet forever soft-pedaling the air.

From This is How I Found You (eMusic, Amazon), Myspace

A lot of us
bitch about the collective fallacy known as Vampire Weekend fandom (howdy!), but Mr. Heart on a Stick does something productive (and great) with his hate.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bloodthirsty rainbows

Image: John Murphy

Bloodthirsty Angels & The Terrible Trumpets - John Ralston

"Bloodthirsty Angels & the Terrible Trumpets" borrows the language of Revelations to delineate a fraught relationship.
And with its lonely echoed spaciousness, the song sounds like it was recorded in a wooden church -- some 17th century New England meetinghouse in the dead of winter or a rough structure in the hot, arid western desert. But like most pop songs (and whatever I've led you to believe in the previous two sentences, this is a very traditional pop song), it's primarily about the Church of Me and the way misery makes you the most self-centered person in the world.

From White Spiders (Vagrant Records, eMusic), Myspace

What Swallows a Rainbow - Hysterics

Hysterics come at psychedelia sideways, through obliquely day-glo pop hooks and temperate guitar solos: the 60s as remembered from the 80s and 90s -- as neatly harmonized power pop blaring from a car radio in the high school parking lot. My hackles naturally rise whenever "rainbow" appears in a song title, but at worst these guys are smoking a lot of pot, which may be why the chorus keeps asking, "Tell me whaaaat holds me back."

From Hysterics (Amazon, eMusic), Myspace

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Keep the hits coming

Image: Mandy Lamb

Aly, Walk with Me - The Raveonettes

If it even crossed my mind in the past, I think I thought The Raveonettes were Dutch. I guess
I visualized them flogging their seedy Spectorish wares on the edge of some dank low-country canal a few meters from a red-light zone window display. Close enough: They're Danes living in New York. But you can locate the cathexis of their music in Los Angeles -- specifically, the LA of James Ellroy and Chinatown and its fictional, but viscerally oh-so-real fatal flaws, pitiless ambition, atavistic slaughter. Not that national identity matters much when every artist sings in English, is easily accessible via their social-networking site page and illegally downloadable off Romanian servers.

I can't help but think that The Rs' rootlessness is important, though, as if it lets them execute their art-damaged garage kink menacing and authentic. Sort of how the heroes of John Ford's westerns got away with violence (in the administration of justice) only because they were physically and emotionally disconnected from the familial and civic. Ok, this may not be the best analogy, because I don't get the sense The Raveonettes have any inclination toward moral markering. It's this anomie, in fact, that keeps a phrase like "walk with me" so open-ended. Are we just talking restlessness? Streetwalking? A haunting? Spiritual reassurance? Also, the way this song carves pop out of fizz and reverb is marvelous.

Buy Lust Lust Lust Lust Lust Lust Lu (Amazon, eMusic), Myspace

£4 - These New Puritans

I keep hearing how indebted These New Puritans are to hip-hop. The primacy of beats to this band of the mo I'll buy. But lyrically... there's not a whole lot of storytelling, cultural representation or linguistic calisthenics going down on
Beat Pyramid. "£4" pretty much consists of "four of your pounds" and its variation, "we've got four of your pounds." The only provocative, pause-and-ponder moment comes in the last few lines, "You get zero percent ... if you can fucking try to stay silent" (I think). Are TNP editorializing on the entertainment industry's decades-long exploitation of consumers and artists?

What's really fascinating, though, is how TNP uses symbols -- the number four, the pounds sterling currency -- not symbolically, but aesthetically, as sounds. "Four" and "pounds" are jackhammered into a blur of almost-abstraction so that they're sonic patterns as much as the cha cha chas.
Defamiliarization could go a couple ways here. The obvious one is the deconstructive path -- the song highlighting inherent instability of meaning (another track, "Numerology," repeatedly asks "What's your favorite number/what does it mean?"). But I think these boys and girl have a slightly different agenda. Consider what Jasper Johns did with his number paintings and drawings: highlighted process with texture and erasure, prodded the nature of representation by divorcing symbols from context. But more important, rendered the ordinary new and mysterious, made art out of the prosaic. The cool thing is, unlike a Johns' canvas you can dance to this.

Buy Beat Pyramid (Amazon), Myspace