A sweet swell of strings is followed by the peripatetic patter of percussion: The E Street Band gets ready to rumble anew in Jungleland, perhaps, or Spiritualized prepares yet another space-age symphony? Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in … Philadelphia, where local heroes the A-Sides have seeded their musical cloudlings to yield the utterly cleansing Silver Storms, produced by Brian McTear (Bitter Bitter Weeks, matt pond PA). The opening, strings-laden title track gives way to “Always In Trouble,” duly setting the album’s tone by ushering in a grandiose wave of chiming guitars, surging organ and impassioned vocals. Soon enough, you’re awash in the bouncy “We’re The Trees” (a top-down anthem for summer lovers everywhere), the truth-in-titling “Cinematic” (which gingerly suggests Wilco gone shoegaze) and the neo-baroque “Great American Novelist” (a suite for strings, keys and Who-styled power chords). The A-Sides have moved beyond their early-’60s/Beach Boys sound to ply a brand of dream pop that hearkens directly back to the great guitar groups of the ’80s college-rock era: the Feelies, R.E.M., Dumptruck, et al. Rather than wave their record collections in our faces, however, these five young men generate an infectious level of energy that makes the old seem new and fresh again. [www.vagrant.com]
Pretension, prog and the politics of dancing. Forward-thinking New York quartet Battles overcomes all obstacles to deliver 21st-century fight songs. By Michael Barclay
“Make me believe!”
The plea comes from the back of the audience at the sweltering-hot Lee’s Palace, the Toronto venue where Battles are midway through a set during their summer tour. The band is awkwardly attempting to fix a blown speaker cabinet that’s derailed the show, ending a weekend of Friday the 13th curses that also plagued Battles’ set at the Pitchfork Music Festival two nights ago, in front of 17,000 people. But since the May release of debut full-length Mirrored (Warp), very little else has slowed down the New York quartet. And the legions of believers are growing.
Continue reading “Battles: Life During Wartime”
These three Australians relocated from Melbourne to Europe a few years ago, eventually landing in Berlin where they recorded their third studio album. Intentional or not, Yes, U has absorbed some of the same noirish urban decay that famously found its way into the music of David Bowie and Nick Cave during their respective Berlin sojourns; in that context, the LP takes a while to pick up steam. Its first half is populated with slow-tempo numbers so draped in hushed vocals and hissing atmospherics that at times it more resembles incidental film music than discrete tunes. After that, though, the band turns poppy—for Devastations, a relative term—with “Mistakes” (a kinetic, cathartic sing-along that sounds like mid-period Talking Heads), the waltz-time “The Face Of Love” and the acoustic-shaded “The Saddest Sound.” On these tracks, the band also brings elements of countrymen the Church and the Go-Betweens to the mix, tapping the former’s strain of elegant psychedelia and the latter’s conversational, folkish intimacy. Devastations still cling to their gothic roots like comfort food, but with Yes, U, they’re clearly intent on moving away from that stereotype as they branch out in both stylistic and emotional terms. [www.beggars.com]
Eli Simon, leader of Philadelphia-based Bottom Of The Hudson, claims to be an unrepentant control freak: “The only reason I don’t tell the other musicians exactly what to play is because I can’t afford to pay them.”
Continue reading “Bottom Of The Hudson: Muddy Waters”
If for some bizarre reason you’ve remained immune to the candy-colored charms of the Go! Team’s 2005 debut Thunder, Lightening, Strike, then for the love of God, avoid this one like the plague. Because when it comes down to it, Proof Of Youth is pretty much more of the same: blaring Motown horns, double Dutch chants, cheerleader exuberance, blaxploitation soundtracks, early-’80s hip-hop party joints and guitar riffs lifted wholesale from Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth. All this usually occurs within the same song (listen to frenetic opener “Grip Like A Vice” for proof).
The pace is relentless, egged on by a Phil Spector-on-crack production style that only adds to the general air of genial chaos. Proof Of Youth is less sample-heavy than its predecessor, and there’s a host of guest stars on hand including Solex and Chuck D. Occasionally, it veers dangerously close to being irritatingly perky—as if the kids from Peanuts had formed a band after one too many bong hits—but ultimately, only a churlish, dead-eyed cynic would refuse to be moved by this inspired mix of riotous noise and feel-good vibetasticness. [www.subpop.com]