There’s something perversely charming about Kelley Polar’s puckish mucking-about with electronica/post-dance conventions. If you can’t dance to it, what the hell do you do with post-dance music? But over the course of I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling, the cool effect wears a little thin. Originally toasted for his creative additions to house releases by the Metro Area production crew, New Hampshire’s Polar dropped a string of excellent singles under his own name in the early years of the new millennium. The song-by-song format is still where he does his best work, and there are a few outstanding cuts on his second full-length. The moody “Chrysanthemum” and the caffeine-jittery “A Dream In Three Parts” work both as deft production showcases and pop songs. But removed from the club or the house-music group settings that provide the best context for the kind of formal experiments Polar attempts here, much of I Need You sounds slight, like a symphony heard through earpiece headphones. At 43 minutes, its charms will be best appreciated by electronica fans knowledgeable enough to appreciate what Polar is doing when they hear it all on its lonesome. That’s not a criticism (the same applies to Kraftwerk, for example), but it means I Need You is best suited to a slim minority, even within the electronica fan base. [www.environrecords.com]
Robert Forster was always the darker, more literary Go-Between, the Lennon to Grant McLennan’s McCartney, as was often noted during their three-decade partnership. The Evangelist (Yep Roc) is Forster’s first album since McLennan’s untimely death in May 2006, and while it continues in the vein of previous Forster solo releases (the last one being 1996’s Edwyn Collins-produced Warm Nights), it is also a ghostly Go-Betweens album. Bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson of the final incarnation of the G-Bs join Forster, and Audrey Riley provides string arrangements, as she did way back on 1986’s Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express. And Forster finishes three songs that McLennan had written before his passing. It adds up to collection of haunted and haunting songs, from the understated, mandolin-driven “Let Your Light In, Babe” to the strummy, talky title track to the jangly and catchy “Pandanus.”
Forster spoke to MAGNET in New York City at the Hi-Fi bar on Avenue A, which he called “Go-Betweens Headquarters” because of the band’s songs on the jukebox and memorabilia on the walls.
Continue reading “Q&A With Robert Forster”
For a master of the tongue-in-cheek, the bright marquee lights gracing Nick Cave’s 14th studio album seem like a heartfelt greeting. It’s been 25 years since the morose Australian first assembled his Bad Seeds and four since their last LP, with Cave having dabbled in writing movies (The Proposition), film soundtracks (The Assassination Of Jesse James) and Snoop Dogg-approved blues rock (Grinderman) in between. Cave, now 50, commands the Bad Seeds’ classic obtuse fascinations (God, death, decadence) like a ringmaster. As such, the playful Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! stands among his most mature albums. God plays an important role on “We Call Upon The Author,” as Cave asks Him to explain “mass poverty, Third World debt, infectious disease” and other maladies (amid calling Charles Bukowski a jerk and punnily praising suicidal poet John Berryman for doing things “the Heming-way”). On “Jesus Of The Moon,” Cave addresses mortality: “I’m more afraid of things staying the same.” He casts the Biblical Lazarus as an ungrateful teenager on the title track, opining, “He never asked to be raised up from the tomb.” But Dig!!! is by no means mopey, quoting Iggy Pop on “Today’s Lesson” and unleashing catchy hooks on the chorus to “Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl).” Cave’s only sign of decadence is his solipsism, and that’s still why he’s likeable. [www.anti.com]
On 2005’s Supernature, Goldfrapp proved itself the life of the party, delivering a heady stew of glammy stomps and groovy dance-floor fare to accompany discerning listeners’ post-collegiate bacchanalia. All the more striking, then, to hear Seventh Tree opener “Clowns” sounding more Sandy Denny than Marc Bolan. The hushed, pastoral track evokes images of the lush English countryside where the London duo—vocalist Alison Goldfrapp and multi-instrumentalist Will Gregory—wrote and recorded Seventh Tree. While “Clowns” is the only purely acoustic song on the album, the rest of it is decidedly muted. “Happiness” finds the duo flirting with a mellow, Wilson-ian lilt, while “Cologne Cerrone Houdini” sounds like the Hi Records rhythm section resurrected. But Goldfrapp is most at home here with the whispery psych of “Little Bird” and “Monster Love.” With the exception of the ridiculously catchy “Caravan Girl,” Seventh Tree is a moody, understated gem. A finer hangover record will be hard to come by in 2008. [www.mute.com]
Beach House’s druggy, dreamy self-titled debut drew polite applause from the indie cognoscenti in 2006, but expect the thunderous standing ovation three songs into this sterling sophomore record. “Gila,” a monster slice of minor-key guitar noir, lurches to life like a sinister wind-up toy with guitarist Alex Scully’s gently weeping six-string octaves, unrelenting Transylvanian organ and vampish singer Victoria Legrand’s moaned vocals. It’s a bona fide star-making turn—the best track on either Beach House record—and along with the rest of Devotion, it’s sure to change the way people think about the Baltimore duo. Legrand’s gauzy yawns were a large part of the first LP’s appeal, but the overly simple waltz-time instrumentation often amounted to nothing but narcotic, carnivalesque mood music. On Devotion, the melodies and arrangements take center stage, and they’re consistently stunning, never more so than on “Gila” and in the stretch to follow. A syncopated girl-group swoon (“Holy Dances”), swirling sonnet (“All The Years”) and Cream-worthy guitar showcase (“Heart Of Chambers”) all seem to fit together as thematic movements in one flawless, three-part pop sonata. [www.carparkrecords.com]
—Noah Bonaparte Pais