Never was much of a Dylan fan, but when Rolling Stone magazine bestows an album with its rare 5/5 review, I always get curious. I don’t know if I’d rank it quite as high, but there is something addictive about this album. I’m really not sure what the raspy old coot is carrying on about half the time, but the music chugs along in classic rock-n-roll fashion and manages to wrap around your brain like a comfortable old blanket. There are moments of graceful surprise, and the all-around vibe is sunny. I like to play this album a lot at work because it’s toe-tapping and familiar but background-y and inoffensive at the same time. (Rating 7.5/10)
Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye (Domino)
This Canadian synthpop duo is haunted by the ghost of mid-period OMD and not afraid to sulk about it. Opening track “Double Shadow” is the first single an album highlight, evoking moody Molly Ringwald moments, its electro bass line pulsing seductively behind plaintive but plain male vocals. The rest of the album mines a similar vibe but never really takes off, remaining pleasantly mid-tempo throughout and occasionally boiling down into mush. At times, it reminds me of late-80's Depeche Mode wannabe band Camouflage. It’s the kind of thing a true synthpop songwriter like Martin Gore would cough up like an Aqua Net hairball and flush. (Rating 6/10)
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton – Knives Don’t Have Your Back (Last Gang)
Ms. Haines is the enchanting chanteuse from Canadian indie rockers Metric, and occasionally Broken Social Scene. Her new solo album finds her mellower and moodier than ever with a record that is truly gorgeous and haunting. It’s a dark album with lethargic undertones and occasional glimpses of light, as on the emotionally jarring “Doctor Blind” (video below). The instrumentation is stripped down and sparse, just Emily and her piano with occassional strings. Haines voice is as comforting here as it is bold and anthemic on Metric’s records. She’s working kind of an early Cure vibe here (Seventeen Seconds) but even further stripped down and just as bleak. On paper, it sounds a little depressing, and it is slightly, but her glacial beauty and lyrical wit shine through the heaviness enough to create a captivating late-night candlelit classic. (Rating 8/10)
Darkel: Darkel (Source)
Darkel is Jean-Benoit Dunkel, who makes up ½ of French retro-synth maestros Air. His solo debut meanders into proggier territory than the clean Ikea-isms of his main band. The sound is fuzzy and raw, and ironically sounds more like a full band rather than a solo gig. The songs percolate toe-tappingly like French Roast coffee, favoring the vintage analog sounds and lyrical naivety that distinguishes much of Air’s music. Dunkel’s heavily accented voice occasionally drifts into straight-up whininess, and the overall sound is a bit claustrophobic in comparison to Air’s planetary space-outs. Darkel’s highlight is “TV Destroy” which drops a little Berlin-era Iggy Pop energy into the picture. (Rating 7/10)
Easy Star All-Stars: Radiodread (Easy Star)
Wow. Who would have guessed that a track-by-track cover album of Radiohead’s epic OK Computer done in reggae and ska styles could be so effective? Most “tribute” records of this ilk come across as novelty-esque and are usually good for one spin, maybe a few tracks for mix CDs. Radiodread, on the other hand, stands on it’s own as a highly listenable collection. The bleakness of the original tracks fits surprisingly well into the reggae vibe, creating for some unexpectedly intense moments throughout the album. Each track features a different vocalist from Horace Andy (who’s worked with Massive Attack), the lovely Kristy Rock (who’s take on “Paranoid Android” is mind blowing), and Junior Jazz (who manages to inject a bit of gospel soul into “Subterranean Homesick Alien”.) A few rough patches (“Karma Police” is just painful, sorry) keep it from being a truly great album, but overall its charms are winning. (Rating 7/10)
Missy Elliott: RespectM.E.(East West)
Melissa Arnette “Misdemeanor” Elliott came bouncing out of the blue in 1996 wearing a black hefty bag and bug-eye shades and hasn’t stopped since. A true innovator like no other hip-hop artist of the last decade, she has earned her place in the upper echelon of future funk with James Brown and Prince. RespectM.E. is her long-awaited greatest hits collection, which for whatever insane corporate reason is not being released in the US. Fortunately, I’ve seen import copies at a domestic price, and it is well worth hunting down. It’s simply all Missy’s thumping hit singles presented in non-chronological order including such ear candy as “Get Ur Freak On”, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, “Work It” and the stunning Basement Jaxx remix of “4 My People.’ Like Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, this soon-to-be-classic compilation sums up the early career of an unstoppably creative woman who pushed the direction of pop music forward with each new single release. Essential. (Rating 10/10)
Big shout-outs today to DFO/Huckleberries and Jennnifer/Taste Eveything Once for featuring Making Flippy Floppy today.
The gruesome karaoke catfight (see below) made it all the way to the print edition of the Huckleberries column in the Spokesman-Review paper (see scan above). You can check out Huckleberries Online here. Hopefully the Hagacops aren't clever enough to track me down and give me the works for exposing the Resort to a dose of well-deserved bad press.
If you've never checked out Taste Everything Once, then put down your toast right now and visit. It's a fantastic site full of no-fuss food reviews covering Spokane, Post Falls, and CDA. It's gorgeously designed and check out the forums to find out the gossip on restaurants opening and closing. Site owner Jennifer was kind enough to feature this site and a fun interview with yours truly in her weekly "spotlight" column. Okay, now I just need some new restaurants to open so I can victimize them with one of my reviews...
You just never know what you'll see during a trip to the inner bowels of Hagadonia.
Last Sunday, Q and I had the Karaoke itch, as happens from time to time, so we polished off a bottle of cherry vodka and marched down to the Shore Lounge. CDA Karaoke Queen Tequila Leah was in full effect, and the place wasn't quite packed, but there were a lot of people floating around. We joined some friends at a table and I ordered an enormously tall mug of Kokanee for a mere $5, quite a bargain for a Resort establishment.
We were just settling into a rather screechy rendition of (I think) a Fleetwood Mac hit when suddenly a full cocktail flew across the room and smashed to bits somewhere near the stage. We looked over to see a not-so-petite brunette girl with her claws firmly entrenched in the blonde hairdo of another girl. They fell, knocking over several tables full of drinks in the process, and began speaking to each other in tongues that young ladies aren't supposed to know. Some dude shouted the obvious: "Catfight!" as hunks of blonde teased hair landed hither and yon (see pic).
For some reason, drunk guys began piling up on top of these girls, either to get them to stop fighting, or out of some kind of fetish, I'm not sure. The house lights came up as the brunette stood up and spit something out of her mouth. "My fucking finger!" the blonde screeched from the floor as the brunette quickly gathered herself, pat down her hair, grabbed her purse and got the hell out of dodge, pronto. We realized that the object we saw the brunette eject so daintily from her mouth and sent flying in front of our faces was a small portion of the blonde's fingertip! The funny thing is, no one chased the brunette at all, she just took off and was probably home having her bedtime toast and tea before the slow-as-molasses Resort Security guy even decided to meander in from his eternal coffee break. He ushered the fingertip-less blonde crying and bleeding out into the lobby as CDA's finest in blue showed up to shine flashlights in our drunken faces, as if somehow we were indirectly responsible for the whole smash-up. She was still out there blubbering to the cops when we left over an hour later.
The house lights eventually dimmed again and karaoke continued on. Somehow the whole catfight scene put everyone in the lounge in a bit of a crazy mood for the rest of the night. When one of their party hit the stage and began moaning George Michael's "I Want Your Sex", the previously sedate businessman-types sitting behind us hit the dancefloor and began prancing around like she-cats in heat, full-grown men acting like disco divas. We laughed and blamed it on too much booze, but when they returned to their table they began hitting on everyone at our table and offering to buy us drinks. Naturally, we politely accepted their offer before telling them to piss off.
Much of the rest of the night is a blur, and the next morning when I got up painfully early for work, I discovered that I had left the oven pre-heating all-night and on the counter sat a now-soggy tray of frozen french fries that never made it in to said oven. I had started to cure a munchie attack then promptly forgot, going directly to bed instead. Bad, bad, bad...
It might have been Erasure who coined the term "Abba-esque", but not since the heady days of Anni-Frid in a gold lame catsuit has an album come along that fits that description as well as Ta-Dah, the second massive album from New York's delicious Scissor Sisters.
The album opens with a guitar riff that you'd swear was lifted from the intro of some un-nameable Abba tune, and we are instantly whisked away into the disco-ball world of glitz and glamour that is "I Don't Feel Like Dancing", a track which has already snorted every top-ten chart in Europe up it's nose. In the UK, our fair Sisters even kept the seemimgly unstoppable Mr. Timberlake from reaching number one two weeks in a row. It's a rollicking uptempo Elton-esque stomper (Sir Elton actually does guest star playing piano), so authentically '70's that you could imagine it crackling from an ancient K-tel collection right between KC and the Sunshine Band and Kiki Dee. It's a bit polarizing - some folks still can't stand the music of that overproduced, glossy era - but I think you'd have to have a cold black soul not to feel the vital pulse of this song.
The album starts as it means to go on, with "She's My Man", "I Can't Decide", and "Lights" packing some serious Abba hotness, each catchier than boogie fever and layered with sugary retro-pop goodness, and lyrically soaked in just enough cattiness and irony. The instrumentation is thick and wild seemingly including everything from banjo to accordion to noseflute. Jake Shears' riotous falsetto is in full effect here, and Ana Matronic's harmonies are spot on. I can't remember the last time I heard a band having so much pure fun on record.
With “Land of a Thousand Words,” the Sisters don a mellower shade of eye shadow, slowing the frantic pace for a Wings-style epic ballad. It’s nice, although not my favorite track on the album. It brings nothing new to the table and like McCartney’s Wings, it’s a temporary confection that melts away into pointlessness. The psychedelic Sgt. Pepper-isms and jazz harmonies of “Intermission” comes off a bit on he corny side, teetering perilously close to filler.
Ana Matronic gets the mic for her only lead vocal track (I think we all would have loved more Ana songs here), “Kiss You Off”, which successfully mixes in a touch of ‘80’s neon and a Benatar attitude with it’s “SummerNightCity” vibe. “I don’t need another tube of that dimestore lipstick” spits Matronic before we are kissed off into the “Rio”-era Duran-isms of “Ooh.” I had to check the credits and make sure John Taylor himself wasn’t responsible for that breathlessly pumping art-disco bassline. “Paul McCartney” keeps the energy level high, but at this point the album is starting to get a little exhausting. The same-iness of many of the tracks creates the feeling of one long song and it’s a great song, no doubt, but the listener is starting to crave a change.
Fortunately, a change is what we get with the elegant and endlessly appealing “The Other Side”, perhaps the only track on the album with a hint of seriousness and drama, instead of endless party madness. It’s mid-tempo 80’s rock vibe again brings Duran Duran (or dare I say Kajagoogoo) to mind, complete with a blazing sax solo and dramatic spoken passage. It’s a highlight of the album, sounding quite reserved and lyrically sedate compared with the rest of the tracks. “Might Tell You Tonight” is melodically strong, but again suffers from samey production (more chugging piano and banjo action). Album closer “Everybody Wants The Same Thing” is perhaps meant to be Scissor Sisters epic statement. Grandiose and sassy, it’s like the Rolling Stones recording “Sticky Fingers” on E instead of heroin. A great future single.
Ta-Dah makes for an enormouly fun listening experience and has some great singles, but ultimately it’s a wee bit disappointing. Gone are the electro flourishes that lent their classic debut album an appealingly futuristic bent. Here, the band slips all the way into the retro hole and the music suffers from a lack of creative innovation and overproduction. Scissor Sisters really could be pushing the texture of pop music in new directions, but it seems like they’ve consciously chosen not to use that power. Ta-Dah is pretty much fluff, and nice fluff it is, but if they continue down the road of Abba and Elton pastiches, they’ll end up in the cut-out bin with Stars on 45. (Rating 7/10)
Flexible Records, a free mp3 internet record label based in Coeur d'Alene, ID, is in the process of accepting submissions for our 2nd annual Halloween Compilation. We are looking for tracks with a specifically Halloween vibe. You know, ghosts and goblins, drag queens and draculas, blood and gore. This collection of songs will be available for free download in mp3 and zip format with unique artwork. We specialize in lo-fi electronic, experimental pop, and indie rock but will accept submissions in all genres. Please submit mp3's and a short bio or pic (optional) to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 5, 2006.
Please visit our site at www.flexiblerecords.com
I wanted to try out some new toys, so I made a boring little video today around town and around the house. It features a rough instrumental version of a future Orange Television song I've been working on. Look for an actual music video someday soon...