March 9, 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Filed under: Music — myarmy @ 10:12 pm

[Mute Records; 2008]

There is a certain phrase which frustrates nearly every recording artist, particularly one with a career as long as Nick Cave’s. That phrase goes to the tune of “It’s alright, but not as good as their early stuff.” I’m hoping that Cave blew that phrase out of the water with his 2004 effort Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus, however he is out to battle it again with his new album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! which is coupled with the pressure of having to back up his strong previous release. While there was his Grinderman side-project in between, which was met with mixed responses (perhaps you had to be a long-time single alcoholic male to “get” it) this is his highly anticipated return with the Bad Seeds.

The title track sets the tone for the album and with its catchy chorus hook you can understand why it’s the lead single. The band doesn’t hit full stride yet, however we do get a taste of a new style of guitar effects and Cave brings the energy and witty, jabbing lyricism we’ve come to expect.

While the general style of the album is one of hook-orientated garage rock, which Cave has dabbled into in recent times, here he adds several distinctive sounds such as the squealing organs in “Today’s Lesson” and the odd handclap in the relaxing “Moonland” which may even induce swaying at some point throughout the song.

Cave returns to familiar ground with the slow paced, spoken word track “Night Of The Locus Eaters”, but despite the fancy name it fails to grab your attention, or really hit hard emotionally. However the atmospheric background and floating guitar still provide an interesting listen.

If you were wondering whether Cave’s Grinderman venture would have any influence on future albums, well the answer is yes. This is seen most clearly on the bluesy “We Call Upon The Author”. If it doesn’t get you amped up enough to demand an explanation from the author as well, then if nothing else the intermittent use of loops and drum machine should momentarily capture your interest.

The subdued “Hold On To Yourself” and “Jesus Of The Moon” are stand outs as Cave ponders life and religion and I hang on his every word, particularly during the concluding passage of the former “One day I’ll come back to you and I’ll lie down and I’ll hold on to yourself”. There’s something undeniably real about Nick Cave, and not only can you tell he really connects to the lyrics, it means that we can too.

The albums is littered with upbeat tracks including “Albert Goes West”, “Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)” and “Midnight Man”. While they might not be the most memorable, well actually there’s a certain guitar lick in Lie Down Here which is guaranteed humming material, they add a certain level of fun and energy to the album. While Cave isn’t quite becoming cheerful in his older age, he shows that not everything in life has a sinister twist to it.

The album peaks with the transcendent closer “More News From Nowhere”. In a beautiful tale of self-reflection Cave references some familiar characters including Miss Polly and Deanna, which is sure to please some of the nerdier Nick Cave fans. While the song just rolls along for 8 minutes on just a few chords not once does it become stale as each verse speaks not solely to your ears but much deeper too, such as the relatable “Don’t it make you feel so sad / don’t the blood rush to your feet / to think that everything you do today / tomorrow is obsolete”

Ultimately Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! isn’t going to convert many listeners who haven’t previously thought too highly of Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds. However if you’re looking for all your favourite elements of Nick Cave to be here along with just a spot of originality then you’re sure to be not one bit displeased when you here that on his next concert tour he’ll be playing a fair amount of “new stuff”.

January 26, 2008

Coconut Coolouts – Pizza Regret EP

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 5:17 pm

[Seeing Eye; 2007]

Ahh, Pizza Regret. Who here has not had this particular regret? Everyone in America loves pizza, and there comes a time in every young American’s life when he or she wants to order one kind of pizza, but for whatever reason ends up getting a different kind of pizza, or no pizza at all! And then the place closes, and this terrible feeling comes over you. “What could have been? I will never know that pizza. I was so c lose.” You wake up with the sweats.

So how do you deal with pizza regret? Well, up until now, all you could do was cry yourself to sleep. No longer! Dry your eyes! Wash your tear-stained face! Seattle party-rock fiends the Coconut Coolouts have given us another way to cope, and let me tell you what, their way is a whole lot more fun. Instead of moping around feeling sorry for themselves over their pizza predicament, the Coolouts choose to do what they always do – throw a party! Probably even a pizza party, with all the kinds of pizza they could ever want. Imagine that. A world without pizza regret. Through the power of song, the Coconut Coolouts make it possible.

And, oh what a song it is! Even if you took away the weight and importance of the lyric, “Pizza Regret” would be incredibly compelling. I was knocked over by its energy from the very start. The opening moments, which feature a four-on-the-floor stomp, rock and roll guitar, and a chorus of ‘ba ba ba’s, is meant to grab pizza lovers and non-pizza lovers alike, shake them violently by the collar, and say “Wake up! It’s party time!” If you’re not won over by the time the massive, triumphant Moog solo kicks in, well, I honestly don’t know how that could be possible. This is pure verve, four chords that bash your brain into a state of perfect jubilation. And while the lyrics on the rest of the EP don’t quite live up to the standard set by “Pizza Regret,” the same spirit of fun and joy in the music is present in each and every track, making it impossible not to recommend!

Recently, I heard of a person who didn’t believe in regret. At first I didn’t get it, but now I think that I do. You can’t go through life thinking that every time you make a mistake it’s the end of the world. Some times, you just have to throw a party instead. The Coconut Coolouts have taught me this, and I am grateful.

Hear assorted Coconut Coolouts tracks here:

Buy Coconut Coolouts records here:
Seeing Eye Records Store
Heads Up Records Store

January 24, 2008

Pink Reason – By a Thread

Filed under: Hype,Music — ed the portal @ 6:47 pm

[Trickknee Productions; 2007]

A whole lot of bands put out a ton of great music in 2007. One of those bands was the psychedelic/lo-fi/folk/one-man powerhouse Pink Reason. Early on in the year, Pink Reason presented us with his debut LP Cleaning the Mirror. After the first couple listens, I basically wrote it off as a good, but not great, collection of bleak, slowly-paced tunes. However, several months later I came back to the album, quickly fell in love with each and every song, and it shot up towards the top of my end of the year albums list. The reason for this awakening came with the release of the 7” EP By a Thread. I was addicted to this EP for almost two months. I honestly listened to it at least three or four times a day for weeks on end. Unlike Cleaning the Mirror, By a Thread hit and floored me immediately.

The titular opening track is driven by simple, pounding drum beat and a distorted electric guitar constantly fills the background behind the beat and vocals. The chorus of “You keep me hanging/Hanging by a thread” is repetitively droned over a faster drum beat, and each time through you can feel it lodging itself firmly into your memory. It’s almost unbearably catchy and if the next two songs weren’t just as good, you’d probably just leave this track on repeat all day long.

“The Devil Always Wins” is a short little burst of lyrical brilliance accompanied only by the sound of a few feet stomping on the floor and some sparse handclaps. I wish I could pick a line to quote here, but every damn line is great. The lack of any instrumentation really makes this song. Anything more than the man-made percussion would distract from the lyrics of the song and take away from the feeling that Pink Reason is preaching his message of dismay from some shabby pulpit in a dilapidated church while we all smirk and nod along knowingly.

The final track “Down on Me,” focuses more on the instrumentation. While again we’re treated to a few painfully catchy verses, the second half of the song finishes off the album with an intoxicating duel guitar solo. One guitar starts screeching right away while the other holds on to some of the rhythm held by the drum beat. However, the second guitar eventually joins in distorted, high-pitched wailing before jumping back into the song’s opening sequence and grinding to a halt. Of the three songs on the EP, this is the song most likely to make you want to dance, or at least rock back and forth a bit in your chair, but the lyrics maintain the downtrodden feeling that pervades Pink Reason’s music.

But why did these three songs hit me so hard and so fast compared to those on Cleaning the Mirror? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the more upbeat/faster pace. The songs are much slower and combined with the bleakly sung lyrics make for a really depressing album. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it does make the album a little harder to swallow. The combination of a quicker pace and vocals that seem a little higher in the mix make By a Thread a much more accessible and immediate listen and also made me appreciate the contrast of Cleaning the Mirror much more. It’s rumored that Pink Reason has a double album in the works, and it will be interesting and exciting to see where he takes his music from here.

Listen to Pink Reason songs on myspace

Buy Pink Reason Records here:

January 22, 2008

Son House: Live At The Gaslight Cafe, New York, January 3, 1965

Filed under: Hype,Music — tha rhythm tha rebel @ 11:03 am

[Document Records; 2000]

You know, there’s two types of the blues: there’s the blues, and there’s Son House’s blues. There’s just something about his playing, something between the percussive slide guitar and grumbling vocals. Something very eerie that makes listening to his music an almost uncomfortable yet utterly compelling experience.

Son House began recording in 1930 and by the early 1940s he had become a well-known blues player, but after recording with Alan Lomax from the Liberty Congress in 1942 he retired from the music busisness and moved to Rochester, New York. During the country blues revival of the 1960s his music was popular once again and Son House came out of retirement to tour America and Europe. Many critics had suggested that the flame had gone out in Son House’s playing and his heart was no longer in it, how wrong they were.

This album was recorded live in 1965 at the Gaslight Cafe in New York. It surely has to be one of the most intense and haunting solo performances ever recorded. Songs of hope and desperation, heartbreak and mourning, with House’s squealing guitar cutting through the tension and suspense to create something unlike anything I’ve heard before. The music seems so delicate and measured whilst being delivered straight from the heart with such strength and weary composure. Every second feels sacred and you dare not even breathe even though you know this happened over 40 years ago in a cafe hundreds of miles away. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you’re not sure why.

The man who mumbles introductions to the songs is clearly not the same man who is playing the music, he is a different person as if possessed by the power of the blues. This album is far from a live greatest hits, although you could be forgiven for thinking so by looking at the setlist. All of House’s most popular numbers are there, but the stand out track is “Levee Camp Blues”. The thumping rhythm of House’s guitar mixed with the strained pinging of the slide puts you in a trance and before you know it the song’s over, 8 minutes later. I defy anybody to listen to this album without being hypnotised and transported back into that cafe in New York 40 years ago.

January 21, 2008

CoCoComa – CoCoComa

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 9:56 am

[Goner; 2007]

I have read, from a number of trusted sources on the internet, that the organ/guitar/drums trio CoCoComa is one of the loudest rock groups in Chicago, if not the country. Having never seen the band live myself, I cannot say with certainty that this is true. Listening to their records, I could definitely believe it. But their records are not their live show, so I understand that I may not be getting everything about CoCoComa that there is to get.

That said, what I have heard of the band, namely their debut LP and an earlier split EP with the Hipshakes, has given me two very different takes on how to recreate the (presumably) raw power of a CoCoComa concert in the studio. It might seem straightforward, you know, if it’s a loud, trashy garage rock band, you turn up the guitars, blow out the drums, and just basically turn the whole track into a blistering, treble-heavy mess. This is the approach used on the split EP, and I have to say that when I first heard it, I thought, “Damn, this is LOUD. I can hardly even make out the riffs, let alone the vocals.” And to me that was a good thing, because by all accounts, that is how I was supposed to be hearing this band. At the same time, though, the music didn’t really hit me too hard. The too-much-guitar approach to recording that works well for a lot of other loud bands seemed to have left them sounding somewhat souless. Still, I wanted to hear more, I wanted to understand.

So then CoCoComa comes out and I can’t help but think to myself, “Is this even the same band?” The album is heavily organ-driven. And it’s not some tinny, distorted organ that might as well be a whiny guitar, it’s a thick, meaty, propulsive organ. The drums sound pretty fat too, while the guitar kind of takes a back seat. It’s a totally different sound, there is actually a rhythm section here, and it’s relatively clean. And while it may not be as accurate a representation of the CoCoComa live sound as the other record is, it’s just as powerful of a recording. Moreso, maybe, because instead of wanting to turn it down, I just want to turn it up, and make it even louder. I wanna bang my head a bit and move around, because this is a tight, fast garage-punk record with heavy organ-driven grooves (and I can actually hear the grooves), and catchy Nuggets-style tunes. In other words, this record puts the garage in garage-punk. And hopefully one day I will see the band play and understand them and realize that maybe the guitar is supposed to play a more prominent role in the mix, and maybe they are supposed to sound trashy and treble-heavy. For now, though, I’ll take the sound on the LP, because I feel like CoCoComa is a band that wants to make me move, and that is how i like my rock and roll.

Hear assorted CoCoComa songs here:

Buy CoCoComa records here:

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