Beguilement and Rage

So many unpretentious young bands with a geniune knack, so many others without a clue

Pick Hits

THE GO-BETWEENS
Oceans Apart
(Yep Roc)

Robert's songs more tuneful in their maturity, Grant's more atmospheric, they punch 'em all up to make a stronger impression than on their comeback album, thus proving that it was one. Settled down in real life, Robert recaptures his peripatetic past with a clear conscience and a sharp eye; still questing, Grant couches his romanticism in instrumental subtleties that soften his detachment. Robert so fond, Grant so elusive, both so beguiling, they're deeply civilized for the leaders of a working rock band. And for just that reason they can follow the calling until that distant day when strumming itself is too much for them. A
Stream "Here Comes a City" (Windows Media)

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LIVING THINGS
Black Skies in Broad Daylight
(Loog/DreamWorks) Lillian Berlin is Johnny Rotten with politics. His art would be nothing without his rage; he's so possessed by the need to get his point across that he grabs his brothers' music by the throat and makes it bellow his tune. But his rage wouldn't be much without his analysis, which however simplistic—and it is, though at this perilous moment no more so than apolitical cynicism or liberal equivocation—gives shape, purpose, and a referent outside his tortured psyche to feelings that emanate from who knows where. A more balanced person would have gotten this cleansing full-length released in the U.S. last fall, when we needed it so much, but a more balanced person wouldn't have recorded it. The Berlins have bought it back from UniMoth, and maybe some patient U.S. bizzer will put it out eventually. Meanwhile, my advance is identical to the U.K. version, while the Japanese boasts two bonus cuts that'll cost you 12 bucks apiece. Like it says inside their EP: "Just one enemy—The Exploiters." A MINUS
View "Bombs Below" (Windows Media)

BETTIE SERVEERT
Attagirl
(Palomine/Minty Fresh)

Down on my luck in Amsterdam, I'd want Carol van Dyk for an aunt, or a second cousin, or a friend's ex-wife, or something more. Back on my feet, I'd remember her fondly for the rest of my life. But we'd lose touch. And before too long I'd find it impossible to recall the details of the album we used to play at breakfast. B PLUS
Download "Attagirl" (MP3)

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
Push the Button
(Astralwerks)

Their genre incontrovertibly passé, they can put futurist games behind them. So, free to do their thing without looking over their shoulders, they turn in their best album since 1996 even though some schmuck from the Charlatans ruins track two. "Believe" and "The Big Jump" rock the block. The Arabian strings of "Galvanize" are augmented-not-improved by the tyrant-bashing rhetoric of "Left Right." And the three abstractions that complete the project clatter, tweetle, shudder, chime, whoosh, and phase. A MINUS
View "Believe" (Flash)

FANNYPACK
See You Next Tuesday
(Tommy Boy)

The attitude is tougher and the material thinner, but you have to love it for not falling flat on its heightened expectations. Two albums in, these three young things still aren't rich—not with their "dresser drawer full of broken cellphones" and their homeboy who'll "rob Mickey D's for condiments"—and that still hasn't taken them down. With electroclash a dead delusion, what sells their handlers' beats is the girls' faith in the sacred mission of growing up and having fun at the same time, which in case you've been away is no gimme these days. A MINUS
Sample Album

THE HOLD STEADY
Separation Sunday
(Frenchkiss)

Confession booths are for rosary twiddlers, but Bible lore is as American as Sunday school, so I take the scriptural references as tokens of Craig Finn's quality education. And since in my Sunday school, papists like my grandpa were going to burn forever because they never got "born again," I'm glad Finn's guys and gals get "born again" too. At bottom, his people are my people, and I wish them the same shot at heaven my adolescent Billy Graham experience guarantees my reprobate ass. Which is to say that this literature with power chords addresses not only the crucial matter of vanishing bohemias as cultural myth but also the crucial matter of re-emerging spiritualities as cultural fact. From "Lord to be 17 forever" to "Lord to be 33 forever" is a long road, and Finn is old enough now to know it keeps getting longer—and to spread the living gospel that 33 is too good to throw away on myths. A MINUS
Download "Stevie Nix" (MP3)

KINGS OF LEON
Aha Shake Heartbreak
(RCA)

There's an early-Stones feel here it would be perverse to deny: 12 songs in 36 minutes, each with an indelible identiriff and its own seductive rhythmic shape. Caleb Hollowill's slippery wiles recall Jagger's without grasping Jagger's gift for the pungent phrase. That Hollowill avoids cock-rock clichés hardly means he's come to terms with the jezebels who were driving backsliding Southern boys past their intellectual limits long before Elvis paid Mr. Phillips to record his love song to Gladys. B PLUS
View "The Bucket" (Windows Media)

LYRICS BORN
Same !@#$ Different Day
(Quannum Projects)

Unlike most remix albums, not a fanbase-only ripoff. None of the eight remakes is inferior to the Later That Day . . .version; Evidence and KRS-One's "Pack It Up" and a funked-up "Hello" constitute clear improvements, "Do That There" piles on ridiculous rhyme, and the standout "I Changed My Mind" was a 12-inch. Nor is that all—the five new titles include a Bay Area praisesong, a motormouth "capping" dis, and just one too many showcases for LB's quasi-operatic helpmate Joyo Velarde. In short, had Later That Day . . .come second, you might well prefer this reinterpretation. A MINUS
Stream "Pack Up (Remix)" feat. Evidence and KRS-One
Stream "I'm Just Raw"

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