By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Why do tired rock noises sound so refreshing when they come from non-English-speaking countries? F'rinstance: One of my fave records last year came from a demented Japanese surf-instrumental group called Wonwons, but if the same kinda music had been made by lummoxes from Brooklyn or San Fran I might've shrugged or spit. Why? Maybe because willfully absurd U.S. acts tend to perspire too hard. I can't hear the music over the implicit shouts of "WE KNOW BETTER! DO YOU GET IT?" Oh, I get it all right. Now please stop waving Krokus and Visage records that you dug out of the dollar bin in my face.
Example: Trans Am, whom I like but who always seem to be feverishly concocting new genre-fucking formulae to bedazzle Magnet readers. Like it's a race. On other continents, there's not so much one-upmanship = innovation stuff.
Which is one reason Spain's Manta Ray, on their new Estratexa, can move from Notwist bleeps to tight-ass indie mathcore to Sonic Youth grunge to FX-laden theremin-spiced Chi-town geek struts to instrumental homages to Stone Temple Pilots (who btw did the cheeky everything-in-a-bucket pastiche routine with some grace) to smoky slinky Slint-alikes and not even break a sweat. Is it novelty that makes it all sound so cool? Or the exotica factor? Maybe it's a parable thing: Music is theft, but nobody likes a thief who brags about all the crap he steals.