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Road Reviews, June 3, 2011

No promises, but perhaps the beginning of a new idea… trying to write about stuff that I find one way or another on the road. Excuse typos and whatevers, just freewriting. Writing less/more/at all does not necessarily indicate better/worse. In fact, none of it is about that. Here's to making stuff and sharing.


Deserts Of Mars - Transmission - http://www.desertsofmars.com - Listened on the flight from Texas to Kentucky.

No one should have jewel cases anymore. Short runs, simple materials. 

Flange. Simple drivers, modest melody. Populist anthem-rock riffery. Retro in an endearing way. Sons of Sabbath, Uncle Hetfield. Stories and local studio glories. Never a bad thing.


Pulling Punches - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pulling-Punches/111610945516126 - Listened on the flight from Kentucky to California.

Long-ass lame FB address. I'm not writing the MySpace address. MySpace is kinda the jewel case of the internet. Sadly it's sort of the Betamax too; the more interesting technology (for artists especially) steamrolled by the Borg of the internet, Facebook. Anyway. Unhinged rockpunk. Whoa-whoa singalongs, half-time chorus breakdowns. Basement parties with best friends in the front row. Good times. Who knows.



Thursday - No Devolucion - http://www.thursday.net - Listened on the drive from Kingston to Southampton.

Someone gave me a burn of this. No chance of objectivity, know em for years, but truly, sounds neat. Geoff is being all dreamy, sounds great. Snare is a bit puffy, but fits the palate real well. Waves of synth and guitar, smooth and spiky both. Fridmann again, I think? He's so good. They all are. I dunno, hard to say too much, but I wish em well and they deserve your attention and money and trust.


Biffy Clyro - Only Revolution - http://www.biffyclyro.com - Listened on the drive from Kingston to Southampton.

The album titles rhyme, and there's some sort of symmetry. Bias here too, as I've known about Biffy for a while now. They really love Far, have always been quite nice. I'd love to write with them someday, make music one way or another. Admiration. Good on them for keeping going. I hope they're still nice. They're fucking massive now. They seem to have kept their heads musically. Mature without being too safe, rocking without being too self-consciously so. Some bands get defensive about their success, and it fucks up the music as much as when they try to get commercial. Is that horns I hear, and/or strings? Neat. Nice and thick. They seem the be the current UK torch-bearer for the music I grew up making. A tune, wonder if they know em. Weakerthans/Queens/Anthemland. Anthemland isn't a band (but should be), cant' think of a specific worthwhile sonic reference point, but yea, big chorus. A bit much, but I appreciate the trying. They're being math-y and poppy and trying. Good.


A House Cursed - Treasons, Strategems and Spoils - http://www.ahousecursed.com - Listened on the drive from Southampton to Slough.

It's astonishing to me how dextrous metal has become. It's such a strict form, with intros and breaks and structures more like traditional folk arrangements than anything else. The tones are very specific, the phrasing too. It's either Metal or it's not. So the point isn't originality, save for a very few innovators that come along every couple decades. It's as if it's a video game called World Of Metalcraft, where the object is to do increasingly long, complex passages at higher and higher tempos. No sign of songs per se, just a long sustained beating, then the chorus-y rim-shot saccharine sweet break that just seems restless and waiting for the next riff, then back to the mock violence. The other funny thing is the lyrics are often so deliciously emo underneath the bluster. Sensitive, scruffy misfits, too scared to really attempt to express or process the complexity of the sadness/fear/discomfort, so just focusing purely on escapist anger. Understandable, truly. When it's done right, with headlong desperation and abandon, it's very satisfying. As with any music, there's just a feeling when they've got the spirit.


Brandon Cunningham - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brandon-Cunningham-Music/20689684889 - Listened on the drive from Southampton to Slough.

Does he have a proper website? Every artist should. Look at that crazy URL, and when FB goes away (and it will, just like http://www.myspace.com/brandoncunningham8 did), it'll be all over all over again. Artists, it's ALL part of it. Stay involved and alive.

Okay, the music: Starts out like The Waterboys, first thought, that 'Hole In The Moon' tune or whatever it was. Great tune, great band. Then a wall of voices. Wait, I'm authentically curious and interested right now. This sounds of the post-Sufjan/Arcade species, but not in the way that usually annoys the crap of me. Has a buoyant sincerity that's carrying at least halfway through the first track, which is deceptively impressive. Simple arrangement, well-recorded, very musical drummers, nice synth-y stuff with the strident acoustic guitars. Splashes of War-era U2. Mmm, tasty. Refreshing. Good music is actually nutritious. If I were better at math or science, I'd go about proving such things with equations and double-blind studies.

Hmm, first tune seems to have segued into track 2, which is still nice, but overstaying it's welcome, kind of indulging in it's sweet sound and sentiment. It would be ponderous even for a dramatic last track, and as track 2, it… It knows it's good, and it's peacocking a bit. C'mon, I'm rooting for you. Get out of this rut and back on track. 

Okay. Not back to the majesty of the start, but at least a new tune, a new chance. This makes me want to record in a proper studio, with this engineer, and perhaps these musicians. I'm not sure what we'd do, but it would sound good. Tasteful playing all around. Singer has a bit of gumball-mouth in this one, more prevalent in female singers these days, you know, that 'post-Cat-Power, would-be-old-timey, who's-that-harp-playing-one?' thing. It's the indie version of the tight-jawed grunge growl -- but he's not too bad about it. He has a great natural tone.

Hipster indie pop, in general, is veering dangerously close to John Denver b-sides with bad beards, fashion accidents, banjos, 10+ on stage and lots of reverb. It's really not all that different from nü-country pop. Is anyone calling that out? I don't mind the melody and all, but the desperation for authenticity™ is a bit odd, and it's generally a bit wallpaper-y for me, very self-satisfied.

Anyway, this never made it back to the excitement of the first track. We're into the 6-minute deedle-eedle-eedle Explosions In The Sky build-up bit now. The record seems to be settling into something that still sounds good, but is happy to just do that, isn't reaching too far. Ah well. Almost. Almost is pretty good.

Just listening to the first track again to make sure. It's still pretty great. Whew.


Cast Of Thousands - http://www.castofthousands.net - Listened on the drive from Aberdeen to Leeds.

Burt, right? I feel like that's the name and how to spell it. Been comin to shows for years, and this band name's been in my memory the whole time. Did we ever play together? Feels like it. Oh, the music. You should make the noises you want to make. Feels like they do that. Unapologetically glossy, less about influences than just kind a by-product of all the earnest, romantic radio-rock that's come before, letting it all be there. Classic tenor 80s pop-rock voice; Cutting Crew, Men At Work, groups I can't remember the name of. Vacuum-packed production. None of this is bad thing, per se. I like that it's not self-conscious, I like that it's not hip. What a relief, these days. Doesn't feel like it wants to be famous, either. Just wants to be. Octave-harmonies for that ghostly hi-lo thickening. Ah, there's the post-hardcore angular stuff, like when it would occasionally pop up on Jimmy Eat World records, that one tune about Take Back The Radio and stuff. Some bands aren't meant to be muscular. Not that they can't or anything, not that it sucks. Just drifts back to the harmony, the lush. Not bad places to drift to, instinctively, just what's there, like it's in the muscles.