Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Book by its Cover: The Insperado of Sam Jackson

ed. note: This is the second in a series of reviews where the musical content of recently released or rereleased albums are critiqued by authors who have never listened to them. Musical content, therefore, will be judged completely on the album art and whatever biographical information the author deems relevant.

Let's face it, Samuel L. Jackson plays the line between icon and iconic caricature pretty damn close. But for many of us who straddle the end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y, Jackson will always be Jules, who broke through, literally, with biblical fire and brimstone and a tirade of bad mother fuckers in Pulp Fiction. Between Jackson and Tarantino, not to mention Dirk Diggler, and The Beastie Boys -- nostalgia got a kick in the pants not seen since the Brits found the blues. They showed us you could show props to the past without being sappy or even particularly faithful to the details -- and for that we should be eternally grateful.

This week, there are two CDs being released inspired by the booming bad mofo himself.

The RZA Presents -- Afro Samurai

I must admit, though I'm a big fan of films that RZA has scored in the past, Ghost Dog and both Kill Bills, I've never even heard of Afro Samurai.

Beyond that, I'm not exactly what you'd call a Wu Tang Clan expert -- I do understand, however that they are nothing to fuck with.

So in closing and in conclusion we got a black samurai (a la Ghost Dog), voiced by Sam Jackson who slices and dices to beats by one of the greatest visionaries in hip hop. I must not know about this for a reason.

Rating: 2/5

Various Artists -- Black Snake Moan

Named for a Blind Lemon Jefferson song (not the Bee Girl guys), Black Snake Moan brings together Sam Jackson and Christina Ricci together with the director of Hustle and Flow for a film that appears to be about a crazy old black dude trying to de-slut-i-fy a WT chick through involuntary imprisonment (incidentally, that was the original concept for When Harry Met Sally.)

The soundtrack features old, old blues by Son House, new, old blues from R.L. Burnsides, new, new blues from The Black Keys, something presumably blue from Detroit's own Outrageous Cherry, and what I imagine must be the real attraction of the album, the blues interpreted by none other than Samuel L. Jackson himself. I was thinking, this can't be good, except that Ricci's looking pretty good on the pulp-eque cover... so that's worth like...

Rating: 4/5

- Gorilla

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Some Loud Thunder

First, a point of procedure.

So you know, when our pale simian editor started this site, he made a point of outlawing half star ratings1. No rest for the awesomeYou don’t care, but for us writers, it’s a might maddening. It means we’re denied doling out our fail-safe three and half stars to anything we’re unsure about. Spare me your “These amps go up to 11” jokes, I know it was designed to keep us honest, keep us from pussying out. Deprived of our precious middle ground, we have to take a stand: three stars — bearably average, four stars — untainted aural pleasure.

My money's on Buster DouglasIf you’re hunting for the real-deal Holyfield litmus test on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s second album, skip ahead to track five, “Satan Says Dance.” It’s not the best song on Some Loud Thunder (“Emily Jean Stock,” ask anybody), not the worst (maybe the endless five and half minutes of “Goodbye to the Mother and the Cove” that stop the record dead, barely to recover), but you’d be hard pressed to find a clearer line drawn right down the middle of the follow-up to a much loved, much hyped debut.

It’s not hard to think of Issac Brook doing something far more compelling with the goof-ball theatrics of “Satan,” or for that matter David Byrne selling it as a real barnburner back in the day with all his fidgety Asperger’s certainty.

Free with 4 proofs of purchase and $2.50 shipping and handlingCertain isn’t how singer/ songwriter Alec Ounsworth sounds on any of these tracks. He’s picked up a fierce mumble to go with his divisive yelp; if he starts to stutter he can send away for the free Clark Kent action figure. On the last record, his Brooklyn compatroits could barely keep up with up with him, delightfully failing just behind his howl on “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and “Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” After months upon months of touring and the audio boost of Dave "Fucking" Friedman, the band is taut and Alec is the one falling back. Where are his witty, witty remarks about David Bowie look-likes or the growling pleas for some salt?

I call him David Faux-ieWell forget it. This record’s not as good, I won’t lie to ya’. Why would anybody in their right mind would miss 2005's, I don’t know, but here we are? We gotta take our fun where we can find it. Which brings us back to “Satan Says Dance.” If after three listens you’re annoyed beyond comprehension, just walk away. But if like me, you start giving into to the space-invader keyboards and kraut rock beat, then everything falls kinda into place. Suddenly you can wait to pile into a dirty club with other dorks in cowboy shirts and screaming the “SAID DANCE” call-and-response.

You start the record over and hold on to that little moment, others come soon after. Nothing grabs you by the throat this time, but given the choice you decide to enjoy it.

Rating: 4/5

- Dmitri Jr

1Ed. note: We work on a strict 1 to 5 scale, where 5 is the best, in case you hadn't noticed yet.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 30 Notable Releases

A few of the 2235 new and reissued releases coming out this week.

Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah -- Some Loud Thunder

Nora Jones -- Not Too Late . Starbucks, Borders and Amazon must have serious anticipation boners over an artist who sells actual compact disks.

Harry Connick Jr. -- Oh, My Nola. I sense someone is looking to leach off the Nora Jones week one drippage.

Lily Allen -- Alright, Still. See Nora Jones note and think the opposite. It'll be interesting to see if the $7.99 strategy pulls her numbers up (cds, not myspace btw).

Various Artists -- Endless Highway - The Music Of The Band. The Band rules, howevs, tribute albums are often spotty affairs. Plus I think this album should come with a free pair of J.J. Casuals.

Gilby Clarke -- Gilby Clarke. Mr. Clarke was in Guns n' Roses for almost 4 years, ending his tenure about 13 years ago. If he was still in the band, Chinese Democracy would be the first and to date only album of original Gn'R material he'd appear on.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Unnamed Supergroup — The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Why is this automatically a “Damon Albarn project”? I’m not saying the fussy Blur frontman isn’t the driving force here, but why isn’t this touted as Danger Mouse’s next joint with vocals by that guy the Gallaghers'The First Noel the angels said, fooking ell hate. Why isn’t press raving about Paul Simonon’s much-delayed response to Big Audio Dynamite?

That Albarn consistently gets “mastermind” billing is astounding, in part ‘cause he might actually deserve it over his orchestra mates. Kiddies, if you’re looking for a career template for surviving in modern rock, Damon is your man. That he remains relevant longer after Noel and Jarvis doesn’t surprise me — I am Blur man, always was — but that the reinventions keep coming is amazing in the most-important-band-of-the-last-five-minutes world of English rock.

Still even the most dedicated fan has to admit a pompous untitled world-music supergroup coming together to rage against war and the gentrification of greater London has “suck” written all over it.

So why the hell does it work so effing well?

It’s a decidedly dour, self-consciously “important” record that consistently wrings out more delights that has any right to. The terrible title revisits the Gorillaz’sLook for the new Albarn joint, Any Which Way But Loose Clint Eastwood fixation, and sonically you might say the record merely lobs off most of the hip-hop edges of that project — a pensive 2D solo record if you will. Yet anchored by the sophisticated slink of Simonon’s bass and the refreshing understated blips and tweaks of Danger Mouse’s production, it all holds together as a perfectly listenable, worthwhile side project.

Unlike everybody else I’ll admit I know nothing about drummer Tony Allen, but I assumed things would get funkier under his watch. Outside of a few minutes on “Three Changes,” it never really happens though. DM has processed so much of his work it often sounds like it was cobbled together on the laptop (not a knock, just a point of fact). The mournful interplay of Albarn’s carvival keys and the haunting guitar of the Verve's Simon Tong is what most often takes center stage.

I haven’t gotten around to listening to this back to back with last year’s Eraser, but I get the feeling that’s what Damon was shooting for. The album’s filled with weak-ass attempted Yorke-isms, “Emptiness in computers bothers me” on “A Soldier’s Tale.”

When's the Penfold album dropping?Still as a discerning organizer of collaborators, Damon convinces you to ignore the pretense and indulgence. His last sane man in London shtick works here because you believe outlasting his Britpop peers and even his real band (at least the classic Coxon line-up) has left Albarn as genuinely lonely as he sound on GB&Q — hence all the young and not-so-young dudes he keeps convincing to play on his records.

So bottom-line, modern life is still rubbish, but at least the company’s nice.

Rating 4/5.

-Dmitri Jr.

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Welcome to recordreviews.org Dmitri Jr.

It's no knock on nepotism to proclaim that indeed, Dmitri Jr. ain't heavy, he's my brother. While that doesn't really make any sense, you soon find his writing carries more than a thread of critical street-cred to match his Chuck Taylors and angular plastic frames1.

Previously, he reviewed music for Real Detroit and the Michigan Daily and of course you can also read his half of the too infrequent posts at the Barber College blog.

1. Thus far, everyone who has written for this site is sporting the angular frames, I can only conclude that our hearing has become more acute due to our collective Hyperopia myopia2 thus our mad-record-reviewing skills.
2. That's farsightedness nearsightedness y'all

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book by its Cover: Remastered Works of Steve Hillage

ed. note: This is the first in a series of reviews where the musical content of recently released or rereleased albums are critiqued by authors who have never listened to them. Musical content, therefore, will be judged completely on the album art and whatever biographical information the author deems relevant.

Steve Hillage is one unusual dude. As is abundantly clear from these album covers, Steve-o was a British prog rock guitarist. Later, like so many tech-friendly musicians he moved into producing, working on albums for Simple Minds, Robyn Hitchcock and later the Charlatans UK.

Then in the early '90's he heard Alex Paterson of the Orb playing one of his songs at a club -- they became friends and collaborators. Hillage ended up working with The Orb, founding electronic dance collective System 7 and working with a who's who of electronica, including Paul Oakenfold and Detroit techno faves, Carl Craig and Derrick May.

I have never, ever listened to the following albums -- remastered and rereleased this week by EMI and available in the US as imports.


Check that out, he's rocking that guitar so effing hard it's emitting it's own radiant light energy!

Or perhaps he's playing in front of an oncoming train. In either case, rating 4/5.

Motivation Radio

We can use this radio telescope to broadcast our prog to aliens in deep space. Then we can use the same radio telescope to pick up their interstellar rock. In theory, it sounds good, but we all saw Close Encounters and the alien songs were lamer than the demos on a Casio.
Rating 2/5

Fish Rising

This cover manages to out psychedelic fish Phish AND use the Enter the Dragon Chinese menu font. On paper that sounds good, but like Chinese food, ambient proto-electronica, prog guitar always leaves me hungry for something more substantial right after I consume it.
Rating 3/5


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Shins -- Wincing the Night Away

WHAM!I've been guilty of numerous cliches in my lifetime, one of which being "so and so changed my life." (Insert Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Wham! here)

The Shins (whether it be good or bad) have been made famous - for the most part - by being the "so and so" in that aforementioned equation, thanks to Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. And while they're not changing my life by any stretch, they're still a solid indie rock band.

That said, the New Mexico quartet's 3rd effort Wincing The Night Away is an adequate and consistent, if not safe, record. Unfortunately its "consistency" may also be its biggest flaw.

No, not old Mexico, NEW MEXICOFirst track "Sleeping Lessons" is a highlight (if not apex); the song crescendos into a driving rock gem and acts as a perfect opener, despite lacking a true chorus. The song is a bit of a microcosm of Wincing The Night Away - many songs are borderline great.

Single "Phantom Limb" is as catchy as anything on their previous album, 2003's near-masterpiece Chutes Too Narrow; probably because it features the same progression as "Mine's Not A High Horse." In fact, there are similar qualities to this record that occur (though not as blantantly) throughout the record - "Girl Sailor"She's no Portman and "Turn On Me" also resemble that same quirky shuffle of much of The Shins' previous work, without eclipsing the brilliance of "Saint Simon" or "New Slang."

And while there's definitely no shame in playing it safe, The Shins aren't going to be changing lives anytime soon in doing so.

Rating: 3/5


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Bozzel bop my puddin popBy Flazzum, it's Peabs!

recordreviews.org is proud to welcome its first contributing writer, the one and only Peabs.

You may already know Peabs from his former blog So Sayeth the Peabs, his life long friendship with Dr. William H. Cosby, and his near constant flexing.

We are very excited to have him review the first record here on recordreviews.org and look forward to a long and distinguished series -- not unlike the bozzel-bop of the before mentioned, Dr. Cos.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

January 23 Notable Releases

A few of the 1334 new and reissued cds coming out this week.

Clinic -- Visitations (US release; already out in UK)

The Earlies -- Enemy Chorus

The Good, The Bad & The Queen -- The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Of Montreal -- Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer

The Shins -- Wincing the Night Away

John Mellencamp -- Freedom's Road (if you aren't getting enough from the Chevy ads you might want to purchase this cd. PS, in case you haven't heard, THIS IS OUR COUNTRY!!)

And for those of you in Japan, the rerelease of several James Brown albums to cash in on the untimely and permanent breakdown of the Sex Machine.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Welcome to recordreviews.org, hosted by me, Gorilla.

You may know me from stints at whatevs.org and from the short period of time I wrote a blog as the 8th President of the United States.

But now here we are in 2007 and the idea of the day is recordreviews.org; a blog with a very simple mission... reviewing music.

You won't find rock n' roll gossip here or links to the latest fantastic quote from a Gallagher brother.

You will find reviews of albums, eps and singles the week they hit the US shelves and download services. From time to time you might also find a review of a live performance, a music video, film or dvd -- but by and large, we're going to be sticking to new and reissued downloads, CDs, albums, 8 tracks and cassettes.

I'm also happy to note that this won't be a solo effort -- recordreviews.org is in the process of building up a stable of critics who will be keeping the content fresh with frequent posts. In fact, check us out later this week to see who we've signed up as the first of our regular contributors.

Also, I'd just ask that you be patient as we get up and running -- we want to get to a point where we're posting daily, but it will take us a while to get our barings, so expect us to adapt and change our methods over the next few months until we're satified with our product.

Thanks for checking us out and if you have any questions or comments, please use the back blog or drop me a line over electronic mails.