1/15/2007

 

Music Review Cha-Cha (Part 2)

Marnie Stern - In Advance of the Broken Arm LP It's pretty rare these days that it happens: a record so original, so unlike anything anyone's ever heard creeps out of a dark corner and bites the ass of the avid music listener. I think the absolutely noisy and jaw dropping debut from New York guitarist/vocalist Marnie Stern is bound to be one of those albums. It's a wicked mix of punk-metal acrobatic guitar riffage that seems totally random at times, scattered - overly arty, but amazingly concise - nothing proggy here, she molds what could be ten-minute over-the top epics somehow into economic three-minute tunes. Stern's guitar skills are otherwordly and purposefully noodley - at times she comes straight from Planet Eddie Van Halen. Yet, just when the big-hair and spandex quotient of the speed-metal riffs begins to become enjoyably unbearable, the song shifts into something else and bam - another complete shift is chasing right behind it. Stern's voice is feminine and powerful, childlike at times, chanting unintelligible mantras. The drummer seems to just complicate matters - his patterns totally random and improvised, heavy, but when they click with the rest of the cacophony, the effect is gripping. The closest comparison I would make is to the first Throwing Muses album from 1986, only if Kristin Hersh had loved AC/DC instead of the Violent Femmes. But it's much noisier than that. Or maybe if Joanna Newsom did an album with Lemme Motorhead, and it was produced by Sonic Youth. A Yeah Yeah Yeahs record played at 45 instead of 33 RPM. None of these comparisons do really do In Advance of the Broken Arm a lot of justice. It's wild and untamed, experimental but familiar. Stern's lyrics are sufficiently arty as to create an appealing shroud of mystery and chemical imbalance. This album might not appeal to everyone - it can truly be a bit much at times - but I have a hunch it's going to have an impact and influence that will linger for years. Rating 8.5/10 Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity I've always had a bit of a hard time wrapping my brain around the music of San Fran's Deerhoof. Early works were pure noise and nothing but squawkity-squawk to me. They seemed like a band that was just being weird for the sake of being weird, abandoning any inroads toward actual listenability. Fortunately, recent releases have seen Deerhoof shift the focus to more direct melodicism and aesthetic appeal. Last year's release The Runners Four finally intrigued me enough to merit repeated listens. Friend Opportunity is even stronger, brimming with pop riffs and unexpected melodic shifts. The band retains an experimental edge, and keeps it sonically exciting by dropping in some intriguing and occasionally oddball electronic elements. A major part of the appeal is Satomi Matsuzaki's voice which is light and pleasant throughout, avoiding the cloyingly cutesy tendencies of similar Japansese female voices. Deerhoof allows themselves a lot more breathing room here, at times drifting into cinematic territory (the wistful and gorgeous "Whither The Invisible Birds." There is a nice balance on this record between these delicate moments and guitarist John Dieterich's more in-your-face classic rock riffage, such as on the Beatle-esque "Cast Off Crown." The album for sure has a more mature vibe than earlier releases, with the exception of the silly "Kidz Are So Small", a wacky Cibo-Matto style old-school hip hop farce. Also, closer "Look Away" meanders tunelessly for eleven slow minutes, causing the listener to crash into a naptime nightmare of noise. Rating 7/10 Hinder - "Lips Of An Angel" I don't know exactly why I would torture myself by even putting this absolute turd of a song into consideration. When something comes along that's this bad and actually makes it into the upper regions of the pop charts, I feel it's my duty to heavily make fun of it and anyone that actually takes it seriously. Like the irritatingly rotten Creed before them, the music of Hinder appeals to lazy consumers who cannot see beyond mainstream radio and the WalMart music section, and still believe that somehow hi-gloss grungy hard rock is edgy and cool, and that rock stars come only in one sensitive, uber-masculine, pleather-pantsed variety: some asshole with Seattle-throat and some bad junior high love poems. A glance at a publicity photo shows five hilarious young men who were plucked, tucked, and fucked by record company honchos, given a "rock star" makeover with a few facial piercings, perfectly messy hair just so, a bit of eyeliner, a moody glare. The corn-fed kids of Hinder claimed recently that they want to "bring the fun back into Rock and Roll!" On that front, they truly get a zero for effort, because this track is about as "fun" as toenail fungus and the surgery to have it removed. The lyrics and melody are just plain embarrasing, cloying and cringeworthy. Reading them is like being socked in the gut: "well my girls in the next room / Sometimes I wish she was you /I guess we never really moved on." or "girl you make it so hard to be faithful /with the lips of an angel." Yeah, it doesn't even make sense and manages to be pathetic and misogynistic at the same time. The production is pure '80's power ballad a la Great White. But even that makes it sound more interesting than it actually is. It reminds me of something from one of those TV soundtrack albums from the mid-90s, like "Melrose Place" or whatever, some anonymous post-post grunge song they used in the background of a pukey love scene. This track is just so fucking boring, it brings absolutely nothing new to the big table of popular music and mocks all other music by managing rise into the pop charts and sell millions of albums. Are the kids really listening to this or is it an older crowd, like a grunge-burnout crowd of some type? Personally I don't know anyone who would admit to liking it, even if they were trying to be somehow ironic. I guess no matter how much we try to flush it away, the bloated turd of post-grunge will forever float in circles in the toilet bowl of rock. Rating 0/10

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