Tuesday, April 27, 2004
"Winning Days" (Capitol)
"Winning Days" is the second release from The Vines, a band that has never had the intention of making memorable or even good rock music, and has instead chosen status and image as their top priority.
From the opening notes of the single "Ride," which boasts a guitar tone conveniently similar to that of Jack White's, it's apparent that The Vines just want to look cool. It's surely not a coincidence they got Michel Gondry, notorious White Stripes imagineer, to direct the accompanying video. The title track is the least bad, boasting a few good melodies and guitar licks, but it fails to go anywhere. Most of the songs are insultingly bad, like "Rainfall," which is built off a textbook chord progression and unimaginative lyrics, and, wouldn't ya know it, ends with the sound of falling rain. There's a certain lack of creativity throughout the album that ranks just above bands like Bush, which is as bottom-of-the-barrel a rock band can be.
The album's one positive is its production, which is fantastic. Rob Schnapf, who also has Elliot Smith and The Anniversary to his credit, has seemingly mastered his craft. On Winning Days, this is most apparent in the improvement of Curt Hanson's voice. I have no doubt Schnapf was wringing Hanson's neck trying to get him to sing better takes. If so, it paid off, as his voice is at least a voice, rather than a badly attempted Cobain growl.
The Vines are on their way out. This is a well-known fact, and they very well may be out as we speak. No one cares about this band, and if there is anyone curious as to why, listen to one song from "Winning Days" and realize that they don't care either. They expect the minimum of themselves and in return bring into this world more unintelligible, unmemorable tunes for us to have to sift through in order to get to what will really affect us. I believe the late great Bill Hicks would gladly call The Vines "fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious, and making us pay a higher psychic price than we imagine."
This review is dedicated to Rob Schnapf, whose production and bravery in the face of utter disaster was this record's only saving grace from receiving an F from my overly critical ass.
New Music Rotation, 4-6 am Sundays
From the two members of Rocket from the Crypt, the Sultans return in excellent shape since their Sympathy release "Ghost Ship." The best way to imagine the Sultans is to have Rocket from the Crypt cover early R.E.M. and Elvis Costello songs, speeding them up a little bit, and adding the sensibilities of surf music without playing surf music. Swami has been releasing some of the catchiest records of the past year and "Shipwrecked" is better than the lot of them. Jangling punk pop in all its glory.
New music rotation. 2-4a.m. Fridays
"Church of the Ghetto PC" (Schematic)
As the album title suggests, "Church of the Ghetto PC" is a testament to the instrument used to compose the 11 tracks contained within. These 11 tracks, or "prayers" if you will, were taken from the gospel of o9 (oh-nine), perhaps one of the most enigmatic disciples of the holy trinity of IDM (Aphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher). And much like his fathers, o9 forges his own path with ease and precision, delivering us salvation through a multitude of conflicting styles. There is certainly a technical precision and experimentation akin to the album's label Schematic, yet the rhythms flow so naturally in a synthetic funk. The bass flirts between booty and breakbeat, and bouncy melodies (that owe as much to IDM as they do Dr. Dre) smoothly glide in and out in between the aural space.
o9 has managed to do what so many forgettable IDM artists have strived for the last 4-5 years: release an instantly classic debut album. Praise be.
Courtesy Flush, Fridays 6-7p.m.
"Hard Place" (Antenna Farm)
Famously known as Courtney Love's least favorite band, Hard Place plays a combination of the head bobbing art-pop of the Sparks, the quietness of Electric Light Orchestra, and some of the least radical new wave material of Devo. While this might sound like something particularly stellar, Hard Place doesn't fully exploit their sound and the record is lacking because of it. This little record could have been on early MTV rotation for a month but since the music video was lame (yes, even more lame than what was played), it got removed. Sad to say, Courtney Love is almost right.
New music rotation 2-4a.m. Fridays
Department of Eagles
"Whitey on the Moon" (Isota)
Department of Eagles are a duo that sample so easily and smoothly you might not even realize you're listening to an electronic album. But don't be too alarmed, "Whitey on the Moon" offers its fair share of collage-art dub sounds to still be considered "cool," if that's what you're going for. The LP shuffles through track after track of laidback beats to lazy saloon riffs to orchestral mutations to songs that sometimes make convincing arguments for a blatant rock classification. Perhaps the most interesting song on Whitey is "Forty Dollar Rug" a mock-tribute to hip-hop artists and fellow Brits, The Streets. The song is about PlayStation 2, among other things. With six months of shelf time under its belt it's amazing that "Whitey on the Moon" hasn't found a larger audience.
"Courtney on the Cracklebox," Saturdays 4-6 a.m.