Get ready for another batch of Cheese Coney album reviews from John Crowell…..
The Chronicles of Marnia
Kill Rock Stars
Marnie Stern makes guitar rock for people who don’t know anything about guitars and who don’t like rock music. I can’t really think of anything about her that doesn’t peel the skin from my teeth. She’s constantly referred to as a guitar “virtuoso” even though she’s clearly just dicking around and approximating what she thinks two-hand tapping sort of sounds like. Her voice is horrible – her singing style is to just shriek/moan the exact same off-key tone in sixteenth notes to the downstrokes of a beat (it makes my skin crawl). If she’s going for “prog” or “experimental” here I guess I just don’t get it. Is this supposed to be a performance art project where a hipster from New York convinces everyone she’s good at guitar?
Trust me, it’s OK to admit that you don’t like Marnie Stern. It won’t automatically make you a sexist. There have been amazing female guitarists throughout the history of rock. Go check out Orianthi. We really don’t need to prove our open-mindedness by suffering through Marnie Stern.
Purling Hiss opened for Dinosaur Jr. at last year’s Midpoint Music Festival, and I remember thinking what a perfect match they were. The Philadelphian rockers cemented that feeling with Water on Mars, which tames the fuzzy squall of their earlier work into a more palatable collection of saturated guitar rock songs that recall the best elements of J Mascis and company, with a couple decades’ worth of indie rock in the middle to spice things up.
“Mercury Retrograde” and “Rat Race” are amazing rockers and two of the best songs I’ve heard all year. Purling Hiss then try to get spooky with mixed results: “Dead Again” sort of falls on its face, but “She Calms Me Down” is sweet and sad in all the right ways. Apart from its early standouts, this collection of songs never coalesces into anything truly great: the band struggles with slow burners and tends to fall back on their crutch of mangled guitar squelch. But the high points of Water on Mars are reason enough to catch Purling Hiss on tour this summer so you can tell everyone that you had the chance to see them before they blew up and/or broke up.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away
Bad Seed Ltd.
Ok, I’ll admit that I’m not a very good “music lover” – I’ve never listened to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I realize Cave has a decades-long history of artistic growth and progression which, I imagine, would reveal Push the Sky Away as a textured product of weathered perspective and hard-wrought experience. Not having been around to absorb all the background, I have to approach Push the Sky Away from where I currently sit. I must say, this record didn’t convince me.
The music is fine: very regal, refined, subdued with an interesting deep tension underneath. But although Cave has spent countless hours dressing up in black suits and glaring into camera lenses, as well as undoubtedly countless hours perfectly honing these songs, he chose to include the following lines in the song “Mermaids”: “She was a catch / We were a match / I was the match / That would fire up her snatch / There was a catch / I was no match / I was fired from her crotch.” This is a real line from a real song that he really recorded and chose to put on an album. Please remind me how his historic virtue is unassailable.
Look, I can appreciate mystery, deep power, and hidden darkness that I sensed on this record. But there was nothing about about it that grabbed me or made me want to listen again. I didn’t dislike Push the Sky Away, I just really didn’t give a shit.
By the way, how aging rock star-smarmy is this album cover? If it weren’t black-and-white with a beautiful filter, we’d be into Smell the Glove territory here. This looks like a photo from a feminist theory text book which is meant to illustrate what the phrase “male gaze” means.
I’m so poisoned by internet blog hype that I’m not even sure if I really like this album or not. Am I truly impressed by the songs, or do I like it because Pitchfork gave it “Best New Music?” Is singer/songwriter Trevor Powers really talented, or will I forget all about these songs a month from now?
I’m too confused to make a decision, so I’ll just focus on how much I like it right now. This record has a cool Beatles mixed with Animal Collective sound, and I’m still humming the choruses of a few of the standout songs. Most importantly, it’s a HUGE improvement over the last Youth Lagoon record. It’s always nice to see a kid try hard and succeed.
I feel a little bad for Nosaj Thing because he’s like the unwanted stepchild of laptop bass/beat music. If you’re in the mood for Flying Lotus’s subwoofer-busting genius explosiveness or Baths’ nerdy/dance breezy tenderness, Nosaj Thing will sound boring and subdued. As such, he always seems to be the least talked-about guy rocking an Akai MPD32 and a copy of Ableton Live.
But listen, if you come home exhausted from a long road trip or swinging a third shift, it won’t be Cosmogramma or Cerulean that you’ll put on – it’ll be Home. Nosaj Thing is very subdued and quiet here, but once you let the waves of digitized sound envelope you, the record will definitely be worth your time.