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Calexico Feast Of Wire _Quarterstick_ Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To

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					                         MUSIC
Calexico                                               Yeah Yeah Yeahs                                        The Faint
Feast Of Wire                                          Fever To Tell                                          Danse Macabre Remix
(Quarterstick)                                         (Interscope)                                           (Astralwerks)

     Especially if you’ve spent little or no time in       After the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s 2001 self-titled           If you weren't old enough to fully experience
the Southwest, listening to Calexico is an effec-      EP debut took both sides of the pond by storm,         the ‘80s the first time, worry not—you can still
tive way to coddle your romanticized notions of        the Yeah Yeah Yeahs served up a 3-song single,         feel the wave of the ‘80s again in full force.
desert life. In Feast of Wire, Calexico offers yet     Machine, as a taster—a reminder that the band          Electrobeat meets Molly Ringwald in The
another sand-hued sonic portrait of how we             was more than a handful of catchy songs. Now,          Faint's fourth and most recent release, Danse
would have ourselves experience the region, and        Fever To Tell—the New York outfit’s debut full-        Macabre Remix on Astralwerks Records, and the
                            you won’t have to          length—shows The Yeah Yeah Yeahs not only              album will have you pegging your jeans and
                            look out for snakes.       sustaining the quality of their debut EP, but bet-     flipping your collar. Formerly more lo-fi, The
                                Calexico tunes         tering the early effort tenfold.                                                     Faint has taken their
                            resonate like varia-           Countless bands have attempted the Yeah                                          fourth album into a
                            tions on a theme,          Yeah Yeahs’ garage-rock meets art punk aesthet-                                      more      accessible
                            even across albums.        ic. But the approach often comes off too man-                                        genre of electro-
                            Pointing to some of        nered and contrived to sustain more than a brief                                     dance/arena rock
                            the band’s musical         tour or two before the band disappears into the                                      with this remix of
                            phrases as persistent      dollar record bin.                                                                   their third album.
                            does not, however,             Don’t expect the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to be gone                                      Synthesized lyrics
imply that Calexico is redundant or limited. On        any time soon, as this collection of eleven songs                                    with a severe mono-
the contrary, the large ensemble, led by Joey          is everything a rock’n’roll band should strive                                       tone delivery and
Burns and John Convertino, adeptly encourages                                        for. Sexy, sassy,                                      loud bassy chords
tested musical phrases to fit into wholly unique                                     energetic         and    dominate the re-mixed tracks.
roles. Feast of Wire employs a few familiar riffs                                    unwieldy, Karen O’s             The opening track, “Agenda Suicide,” has
and tactics while stepping farther out than ever                                     femme fatale com-        the best hooks, but the record really comes to
before (farther North and/or East, perhaps).                                         mand of the mic          life in “Let the Poison Spill (City Street Riot
Along with the lazily foreboding Latin jangle-                                       extends to a listen-     Mix by Tommie Sunshine),” where it has just
twang you put down for, you’ll find a downright                                      er’s mind and body.      enough pop additions to be played in the electro
pop song in “Not Even Stevie Nicks,” while                                           Illegally good-look-     clubs but remains punk-rock enough to keep the
“Crumble” offers gimmick-free jazz.                                                  ing Nick Zinner          moshing set happy. Guitar-heavy “Violent
    Like a Mariachi band in John Deere caps                                          wields the guitar like   (Remixed by Junior Sanchez)” is another gem
ordering Cal-fusion at a roadside diner, Calexico                                    The Edge on one too      that makes you feel like you never left 1984
is liminal to the core. And like the albums that       many hits of acid. And drummer Brian Chase,            behind, with brooding Duran Duran-like hints
preceded it, Feast of Wire is replete with mar-        with his training in jazz beats, keeps the two         and poppy new-wave flavor.
gins, borders, and crossings. The lyrics are full      focused and aligned.                                       This record comes as a welcome blast of
of travel and landscape imagery, and the instru-           Fever To Tell retains a muddy, atmospheric         synth-driven craziness into a college radio
ment combinations are more novel than ever             sound, despite its major label backing.                soundscape dominated by sound-alike indie
(note the familiar horns and strings, along with       Listening to the YYY’s new album feels like lis-       rock.
an increased synth component, most prevalent in        tening to a 1970’s New York punk band of lore              The Faint, who hail from Omaha, Neb., cer-
a brand of Calexperimental that debuted in             that you regret not having seen (or been old           tainly have come a long way from their earlier
Attack El Robot! Attack!).                             enough to see) play in a ‘70s dive.                    efforts with this remix, but the arty crowd might
    In their genre migration, the band wanders               But don’t get the impression that the album      still wonder where the thought is behind the
into no-man’s-land only once, in “No Doze,” the        is all sex and sass. It’s got just as much guts and    tracks. (Megan Koehn)
foot-dragging closing track which, rather than         soul. “Y Control” and “Modern Romance,” for
traversing realms, actually resides neither here       two, are more heartfelt than any emo band could
nor there. (Sarah Marx)                                dream of. (Megan Gaynes)
30   SPRING 2003
                 REVIE
Nik Freitas                                            FM Knives                                             Johnny Cash
Here’s Laughing At You                                 Useless and Modern                                    The Man Comes Around
(Future Farmer)                                        (Broken Rekids)                                       (Universal)

   Nik Freitas is the musical equivalent of Cindy          Sadly, the Bay Area indie scene as of late        Personally I have no bone to pick with grave-
Sherman, the famous New York photographer              spends too much time revisiting eras and styles       yards, I take the air there willingly, perhaps
who gained prominence in the ‘70s posing as            already come and gone. At the very least, we can      more willingly than elsewhere, when take the air
celebrity icons such as Marilyn Monroe and             say that we do it better than anyone else, thanks     I must. – Samuel Beckett
Jackie O. Freitas (who also happens to work as         to bands like Sacramento’s FM Knives and
a photographer) tries on different skins from                                         records like their          Johnny Cash has crafted a beautiful and ele-
song to song. “Check the Weather” features him                                        debut, Useless and     gant testament to a career hard fought and gra-
and his Fender Rhodes in a smiling soul march,                                        Modern. Reissued       ciously won with his most recent effort, The
and he’s Billy Preston. On the very next track,                                       on SF’s Broken         Man Comes Around. Not since the days of Ralph
“Normal,” Freitas becomes Doug Martsch of                                             Rekids after a small   Stanley, Roscoe Holcombe or Hank Williams
                               Built to Spill, with                                   first pressing last    have more defiant articles of faith been so elo-
                               overlapping guitar                                     year on Moo-la-la,                                    quently put to
                               and synth parts that                                   this album is a per-                                  tape. This is no
                               would be at home                                       fect blend of punk                                    Sunday morning
                               on Keep it Like a                                      rock       melodies,                                  sermon, but a gen-
                               Secret.                                                hooks, slashes and                                    uine ode to life
                                    In lesser hands,                                  choruses.                                             made all the more
                               this would be mere-         Reviews from both the margin (online punk                                        poignant by Cash's
                               ly derivative. But      site Blank Generation) and the mainstream (lad                                       knocks on death's
                               Freitas isn’t trying    rag Stuff ) lavishly praise the album, not because                                   door and his wait
                               to fool anyone with     of any stylistic innovations or ridiculous claims                                    for a reply from
his appropriations, and he pulls it off beautifully.   to save rock’n’roll, but simply because it does its                                  the other side.
His voice has a kid-brother quality that endears       job and does it right. It’s true, such statements           The opening and title track, penned by Mr.
him as an underdog narrator, and his strong            are usually reserved for dreadfully boring bands      Cash and expertly recorded with hushed rever-
melodic sense never falters.                           who are also pegged as “solid” for lack of any-       ence by Rick Ruben, calls up an echoing past,
   Other precocious hook-masters try too hard to       thing else positive to say, but the Knives are an     riddled with both self-doubt and steadfast self-
impress by squeezing every ounce of catchiness         entirely different beast. They happen to belong       perseverance.
into the first few lines of the verse. Freitas shows   to a long Northern California tradition of bands            Extraordinary compositions by artists like
a patience with melodies that belies his youth.        that take the classics and effortlessly inject them   Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Simon and
His phrases leave room to breathe, and he devel-       with their own personality and energy, in effect      Garfunkel succinctly and cleanly interpreted by
ops them over the course of the full song.             not reviving the dead but creating something          Cash, succeed in ways their creators could not
   The album does have its weaker moments—             altogether new. While most of the comparisons         have imagined. My favorite, “Streets of
the repetitive and monochromatic twang of              place them alongside the Buzzcocks and the            Laredo,” makes me think of my own grandfa-
“Universal Buyout” loses its flavor by the sec-        Undertones (I hear a lot of the Vapors in there       ther. A long-gone Texan obsessed with women,
ond verse, and the lo-fi production backfires          too), they would just as easily fit in the Lookout!   mayonnaise and the novels of Zane Grey, he
with the grating vocal effect employed on “Pull        roster circa 1996, without the affected cuteness      would have loved the tumbleweed ghosts thrash-
My Leg.” As a whole, though, Here’s Laughing           of those bands.                                       ing about the song's uninhabited streets.
At You is this year’s most promising debut.                Bottom line, these 13 tracks just do what they           The Man Comes Around is a hallowed,
(Kevin Seal)                                           need to shake you up and leave you satisfied.         charming, inspiring and at times even frighten-
                                                       (Danilo Markov)                                       ing document, executed perfectly by one of
                                                                                                             America’s greatest artists. In a word, it is faith
                                                                                                             personified. (Randy Walker)


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