Friday, December 22, 2006

Shuffling and Suffering #1: Saturday Night Pink

Not your father's Who. Because that one was good.

At the end of the year, I always have a good 30 or 40 new records that I picked up in the last 12 months for some reason or another, maybe some over-the-hill band I used to like and completism was my reflex, maybe some important-looking blogosphere hype that flamed out by the time people were concerned with the year's real albums. But I always feel somewhat guilty that I never end up playing them. Honestly though, who wants to sit through 30 or 40 mediocre-looking records just to make sure you won't actually like them and can move on? And who has the time? So to make it fun for myself I threw eight or nine of them on shuffle and decided to keep playing until enough songs from each record had passed to give me the general feel and a verdict I can live with. I may end up doing this alot actually, as there's always parts of the year that my backlog of new records is just out of control. So as a disclaimer, these records were literally thrown together in an impressionistic mishmash that in no way resembles a coherent, thought-out listen. Full disclosure: I spent the last few hours reading Entertainment Weekly and looking up at the screen when I was out of guesses or when I needed a song title for reference. So take my new column borne out of this intentionally shoddy method with a grain of salt.

deftones - Saturday Night Wrist

This was the surprise of the night. I checked out of this increasingly grueling band after 2004's impossibly grueling deftones only to find that they weren't stuck in a rut after all. Every bad 80s rock cliche, emo dynamic, and metal crunch isn't reinvented here, but they sure sound semi-perfected. And wtf, Chino sings, alot too, and minimizes his usual whisper/scream, a timely change for a cheesy and kind of fun 80s throwback album that reminded me more of an industrial VHS Or Beta than anything else. But then I tried to play it straight. Ah-ah. Stick to the right tracks or you'll end up at "Hole In The Earth" which sounds like Bono and Evanescence at some kind of reverb-junkie existentialist party. Not back up to speed, but taking some interesting detours certainly. B+

Boris - Pink

Since this album thrilled me a few times when I actually sat through once, what better excuse to make it my annual entry to the I Will Try And Enjoy Noiserock/Metal/Hardcore competition this year. Their production is fantastic, with sizzling guitars and escape-chute drums barrelling through what to them is a joke-hardcore nostalgia album and to me is the only album of theirs I'd even acknowledge. That said, the random tracks that popped up in this context were less than thrilling, kind of boring actually, which noiserock/metal/hardcore isn't supposed to be, especially when it crosses over to hipster success. How great can guitars sound when they're only playing sludge anyway? B

Field Mob - Light Poles And Pine Trees

The buzz on this group is that they do an un-wimpy imitation of Nappy Roots' type lite-South, but they're more like a parody of Andre 3000 and his parade of crunker-than-thou heirs to the throne, without biting the hand that feeds them. They honor Ludacris, 2Pac, and all those forebears who didn't need the veil of parody to forge their sound for what amounts to a musically rich Dirty South mixtape rather than a knockout tour de force. I wonder if they're gonna be famous. B+

Ghostface Killah - More Fish

I was so disappointed when first skimmed this lazy stopgap that I've been dreading the Close Listen ever since, and hey, it didn't turn out to be too bad, except for "Gotta Hold On" featuring, Christ, the worthless Eamon, who ruins an otherwise honey-sweet soul track. In fact, the beats here just glide on Ghostface's knack for picking gritty soul samples. In the mix context, some even surprise. But don't even mention it in the same sentence as Fishscale. B+

Pharrell - In My Mind

The little bastard cares about nothing but his dick's next warm destination, songwriting included, and this throwaway is even lazier than the defrosted beat on "Money Maker," but that doesn't make it one of the year's worst albums. It's kind of charmingly out of touch, in fact, throwing every guest star around trying to figure out who he can tail back up the charts, and flirting with disco and 808s not because Timbaland's bringing retro back, but because he's apparently not listening to the radio to know that. But he's still lazy, as evidenced by the annoyingly undercooked loop on "Raspy Shit." Not as horrible as I thought it would be, but I won't be playing this at all in a non-business context. B-

Electric Six - Switzerland

The music isn't too bad, workmanlike at best, so I was surprised to look up and see Electric Six marqueeing on my WinAmp over very non-disco, non-rock lounge jams, that all turn out to have made no attempt at a hook. But not only is this not funny or clever, the joke is so ungettable that it feels like they were never funny in the first place. Or hooky. I mean, are they being serious when they say "I'm sorry that I love you"? I can't even tell. C+

Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain

I had no idea what to make of this band before I even heard them, and I still don't. Mark Linkous is one of those depressed songwriters without a niche, like E or Joe Pernice, except even those guys have an identifiable schtick at least by this point in their careers. This guy just has depression, and songs that, while vastly overrated, occasionally hit a melodic target, as on the relatively rocked-out "Ghost In The Sky." Whether or not they're an appropriate catharsis for this guy's anguish or not I could not say. But they'd be almost catchy if he spoke up and projected a bit. B

Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country

Who exactly is designating this a pop record, much less a great one? Belle & Sebastian has both catchier and more complex songs, Holly Golightly is a sexier chanteuse, even damn Cat Power has her own identity. Three or four songs came on that skipped around from fake-string ballads to faux 60s pop, except those are supposed to come with feeling and hooks, respectively. As always with this band, I just continue to hear barely-realized aping from established entities with actual songs, and even those 60s homages are sung with contempt. At least the Pipettes have a sense of humor to help wash down the smug. C

The Who - Endless Wire

I look up from my magazine thinking, 'who put on the Bob Seger?', when I realize, oh God, that's Roger Daltrey. The guitar on "Mirror Door" and "Black Widow's Eyes" was too familiar, though, which is strange; for a prog guy, Pete Townshend sure enjoys his four-chord power-cliches, and he makes even those sounds joyless. What wasn't so familiar was Daltrey's beyond self-parodic operatic howls that made me mistake him for Bob Seger or Rod Stewart in the first place. I guess The Who released this because several years of $100 list ticket prices warrant something new in thirty years. But the sheer greediness of it all, plus those $100 ticket prices, makes me worry that they still think they're making art as opposed to tour souvenirs. I mean, why would these assholes care? D+


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