Get ready for another batch of Cheese Coney album reviews from John Crowell…..
You can’t fault the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for trying, I guess. They’ve followed up 2009’s synth and dancefloor-leaning It’s Blitz! with a record that similarly strains as reaches far away from their early 00’s garage-rock sound. It’s just that this time they didn’t end up with any good songs.
It’s really disappointing, especially considering the four year wait since the last record and the fact that they had TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek at the sound boards. Mosquito certainly tries to make something unique and interesting out of its experimentation with warbled vocals and ambient rhythmic elements, but none of these ideas really land. Too often, as on the title track, the band seems confused as to where to go next: Karen O just yelps one word over and over again while guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase plod along in response to whatever slopped-on electronic/ambient soup they and Sitek constructed. This is the lowest-possible form of expression for this band. A lot of people will give this record better reviews than it deserves because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and it’s cool to say that whatever they do has merit. I can tell they were really grasping for something special here, but Mosquito really sounds like the album a band scraps before heading back into the studio to do it right.
By the way, early leader in the clubhouse for worst album cover of the year. Just awful. What the hell is that?
We talk a lot about Grey Host here at Each Note Secure, but it’s probably just because they’re one of the best bands in Cincinnati right now. I’ve waited eagerly for Dawn for Vultures for months, and it absolutely did not disappoint. Every tortured scream, every galloping riff, every moody guitar line . . . it’s like listening to Sleep’s Dopesmoker for the first time. Not that Dawn for Vultures necessarily sounds like Dopesmoker . . . it just holds the same feeling that you’re listening to something special.
I like this band a lot, and if you like loud guitar music at all and haven’t checked them out yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. They really need to be experienced live, so get off your lazy ass and go to one of their shows. You won’t hear a heavier, hairier doom metal band than this, or at least not one as satisfying..
Don’t get me wrong, we all love The Thermals. They just need to start having the courage to mix things up, at least a little bit. Remember when everyone came all over themselves when they had like ten seconds of electric organ, really far down in the mix, at the very beginning of The Blood, The Body, The Machine? The Thermals’ core aesthetic of readily pogo-able pop-punk is so comfortable and static that all they need to do is slightly turn one knob in the formula and all of a sudden they’ve made a great record (it also doesn’t hurt when they happen to write really catchy songs).
Their last two albums, Now We Can See and Personal Life, saw the Thermals going back to the same well that fed The Blood, their 2006 high point. On each record, the results were further diluted and less satisfying. Desperate Ground can be seen of something of a return to form because at least the band sounds present and engaged. But really, the songs just aren’t there, and the whole thing comes off as a slab of mediocrity.
One of the happiest Thermals moments I ever experienced was watching them perform at Pitchfork Festival, where they ripped through an unabashed cover of Green Day’s “Basket Case.” Maybe that should be the future for the Thermals . . . perhaps an album of nostalgic covers for hipsters who can’t tell if they like it for real or just ironically. I’m only saying this because this is the second . . . possibly third collection of original Thermals songs in a row that we didn’t really need.
I really love gay indie love songs. Love songs written from a homosexual artist’s perspective can be so much more interesting. We’ve spent almost a century hearing pop pieces with men and women blithely serenading the opposite sex, using all the worn-out societal cliches . Songwriters with sexual perspectives outside the well-worn mainstream can write narratives that approach love and relationships with new slant. Listen to “Make it Hot” or “La Familia” by Mirah, for example. Heartbreaking. You won’t hear these stories in a Beatles song.
Baths didn’t just succeed on Obsidian by finding his voice in the world of laptop beat-makers (he manages to sidestep the rut of ever-beat repeating hip hop kick/snares in favor of carefully constructed happy minimal house with flair), but he succeeded in writing some beautiful love songs. Songs like “No Eyes” grab your heartstrings with lyrics like, “It is not a matter of if you need it / It is only a matter of come and fuck me / It is not a matter of if you love me / It is only a matter of my fix.”
Being gay doesn’t make you a spectacle, but it can make you stand out from the crowd. I admire Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld because he has the courage and self-confidence to be quite open with his sexuality in interviews. I also admire him because, on Obsidian he’s defined the strengths, both lyrically and musically, that make him indispensable in the world of electronic music.
We’re must be on, like, the third wave of post-industrial improvised noise at this point, but the guys from Wolf Eyes have been at the top of the heap for each one. Members past and present Nate Young, John Olson, Mike Connelly, and Aaron Dilloway have made brutal experimental sounds not only under the Wolf Eyes moniker, but also as solo artists and for a countless array of side-projects. We’re talking Dead Machines, Demons, Stare Case, Hair Police, Graveyards, Failing Lights . . . Midwest noise would not exist without these fellas.
How amazing is it, then, that these kings of squall embraced structure and restraint for perhaps the first time ever on No Answer : Lower Floors and ended up making one of their best records ever. Since we last heard from Wolf Eyes, Connelly left to pursue other projects, making way for new guitarist Jim Baljo. Also, founding members Young and Olson discovered music theory and the ability to tune their instruments to other sound sources. No Answer ends up being Wolf Eyes’ least shouty, least . . . well noisy full-length yet. These songs don’t expand outwards with blistering fuzz, they pool and coalesce. They get under your fingernails and behind your eyeballs. When they attack, they don’t need to screech: they’ve been stabbing you this whole time.
This is future of noise, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve finally grown up.
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