Quick Hits 2 | 03.06

More Quick Hits for you to chew on, in nice-sized bites.

 

BIG CITY ROCK | BIG CITY ROCK (ATLANTIC)

Front the Killers with “I Will Follow”–era Bono and you’ve entered the city limits—and all-too-familiar skyline—of Big City Rock. But while the over-emoted, my-heart-is-on-fire-when-it’s-not-bleeding-for-you vocals of frontman Nate Bott can sound a bit ridiculous when relating lyrics as hackneyed as these (uninspired tracks like “I Believe in You” and “Touch the Horizon” sound painfully familiar, as in “familiar in a aurally painful way”), energetic performances and assured production by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger keep Big City Rock surprisingly listenable. And the hook-tastic power they pile behind obvious single “All of the Above”’s oldest of old-school lyrics—“Do you wanna rock? Do you wanna roll?/Do you wanna get down, get down, get down?”—just might be enough to give BCR’s debut some legs. | Brian McClelland

RIYL: The Killers, U2, Honeymoon Suite, singers that gasp and moan to let the chicks know that “Yeah, sometimes I cry and shit.”

CADENCE | SONGS OF VICE & VIRTUE (PAPER WEIGHT)

Why do all white rappers have to be compared to Eminem? This unfortunate association often deters listeners from really giving up-and-coming artists their just dues, even if they do happen do be white and rapping. That aside, Cadence is a refreshing turn in hip-hop because it’s optimistic and pleasant to listen to. His attempts at politically charged songs, like “Untitled 7/12/05,” fall a bit short of Marvin Gaye or Jurassic 5. Other tracks like “Coming Back” at the beginning of the record are obviously where Cadence’s strengths lie, because it highlights a heavy base with quick and conscience lyrics. | Janelle Greenwood

CORDERO | EN ESTO MOMENTO (BLOODSHOT)

Moody, sultry, spicy—these and similar adjectives pepper the journalistic praises in the flack sheet accompanying En Este Momento, the latest CD from the Brooklyn quartet Cordero. They apply, sad to say, solely to the extent that one disregards the vocals of the band’s namesake, guitarist/percussionist Ani Cordero. Whether in English or Spanish, she sings only tolerably (if not incompetently) on too much of this 11-track Bloodshot disc. Generally, her voice neither blazes nor smolders, in contrast to the musical fire of Ms. Cordero’s bandmates: bassist Eric Eble, trumpeter Omar Little, and drummer Chris Verene (her spouse). The unexpected funk of the title cut, Little’s brassy splendor on “Heart in Me,” and the opening groove to “María Elisa” all make enjoyable listening. In large part, though, only on the Spanish closer, “Don Julio,” do Cordero’s vocals leap in concert with the instrumentation. Otherwise, she sounds as flat as a tortilla. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

RIYL: Calexico, Patricia Vonne

THE ESSEX GREEN | CANNIBAL SEA (MERGE)

The buoyant and spirited sounds of the Essex Green are as colorful as ever on their third release, Cannibal Sea. This euphoric little gem of record continues the Brooklyn trio’s musical meanderings like some forgotten corner of the radio dial where the band’s principals, Chris Ziter, Sasha Bell, and Jeff Baron, implode their ’60s folk-pop in a pithy fury of pastoral melody and neo-psychedelia. Recorded over the course of a year in places like New York and Ohio, the album organically marries a rust belt restraint with big city awareness. Bell and Baron effortlessly share vocal duties throughout, and lyrically rich songs like “Don’t Know Why (You Stay)” spark wanderlust with their imagery: “Stepping along the hum of the sidewalk/A marionette, a slave/Your legs are wood and tied to the city/Who has final say?” Cannibal Sea is a closed-eye jaunt through the Northern California seaside, the kind likely to make you forget being bogged down in the bustle of the concrete jungle. | Shandy Casteel

RIYL: Magnetic Fields, Nick Drake, The Shins

 

MERCURY RADIO THEATER: THE BLUE EYED MODEL (FRICTION/LUJO)

 

On The Blue Eyed Model, Philadelphia’s Mercury Radio Theater continues its combination of splitting up their musical tracks—which its Man.or Astroman–inspired surf—with narrative tracks that slowly piece together a story. Mercury Radio has chosen to tell “the story of Gregor, a young collegiate with a penchant for making his own coed out of the leftovers of his blind dates.” In addition, the disc also comes with a 24-page booklet filled with artwork that illustrates the story. Suffice to say, this is not your typical record. Foregoing the status quo in favor of experimentation is wonderful when it works. However, in this case, the experiment is a miserable failure.

If judged solely by the musical tracks, this release would fall in positive territory. However, when you break the music up with self-indulgent narratives, the record transforms into an unmitigated disaster. The concept is bad enough, but the voice of the narrator, speaking with an accent straight out of the Renaissance Festival, pushes the disc down the basement steps. Simply put, The Blue Eyed Model is an ostentatious, laughable mess. | David Lichius

RIYL: Man or Astroman, Phantom Surfers

MICHAEL SHAPIRO | SOMEHOW/SOMEWAY (ROCKVIEW)
Michael Shapiro’s gravelly voice gives his brand of pop/rock music an interesting texture—if only his music had been as appealing. The 12 tracks on the rocker’s album seem to be a string of ordinary, unremarkable rock numbers that lose focus from the first track. As Shapiro drones on from track to track, I got the feeling that he was as bored singing the tepid songs as I was listening to them. After listening to the entire album, I was unable to recall one memorable lyric, one inspired riff, or for that matter one interesting song. Somehow, someway, Shapiro needs to find his way back to the rock roots he once had. | Jim Campbell

RIYL: I wouldn’t recommend this album.

THE MINUS 5: THE MINUS 5 (YEP ROC)

This collective’s seventh release is likely to become known as The Gun Album, since the cover is all black save for a handgun illustration. One of the better tracks is also called “With a Gun,” so clearly firearms have some sort of symbolic meaning here. The multi-talented Scott McCaughey heads the large varying membership of this group, which also includes R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin, John Ranberg, the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow, and loads of guest stars; two tracks this time were also recorded with Wilco. Shucks, I can tell that this is a pretty good record; it sounds just fine, but I don’t find myself affected much by it. McCaughey’s vocals are a little bland, and there’s more safe smoothness than interesting edge in the 13 songs overall. But there are pretty cool tunes like the rousing rocker “Aw Shit Man” (“I found another girl that I had to love/Aw shit man/She’s the kind of woman I’ve been so scared of/Aw shit man” is a nice straightforward lyric), the folksy “With a Gun,” the country song with a non-country vocal “Cigarettes Coffee and Booze,” and the two excellent closing tracks “All Worn Out” (best song on the disc, IMO, with a little Beatles-ish vibe) and “Original Luke.” It has its moments, but I wish there were more “plusses” to make this Minus 5 outing a clear winner. | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Wilco, Young Fresh Fellows, The Shins

MUDHONEY: UNDER A BILLION SUNS (SUB POP)

I have always found Mudhoney to be a pretty good band. They hail from a place called Seattle where it rains all the time; naturally, they named their new CD Under a Billion Suns. Their music has always been quite heavy and gloomy as well, with a strong guitar sound and the great rock-star voice of Mark Arm, both of which are still present on the latest release. Grunge is still alive as far as this band is concerned, and the great hooks are still present, as well. “I Saw the Light” is a perfect example, a great song to listen to when it rains. Also a highlight is “In Search of,” which finds guitarist Steve Turner contributing neat guitar parts to the track. One can almost feel the wet weather of Seattle as the disc spins. | John Kujawski

RIYL: Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Blue Öyster Cult

TONE: SOLIDARITY (NEUROT RECORDINGS)

To love Tone is to love repetition. This Washington, D.C. eight-piece grabs a hook and rides it for all it’s worth. This post-punk, instrumental outfit has followed up 2003’s Ambient Metals with Solidarity that turns the tempo down a bit, but is no less compelling. On paper, the concept of playing a single melody with the occasional curve ball thrown in may not sound all that interesting. However, this octet pulls it off with relative ease. With five guitarists at their disposal, Tone layers their tracks creating a much fuller and thicker sound. As with their previous records, the songs on Solidarity are on the longer side—seven tracks in 54 minutes. Thankfully, they have a firm grip on building a composition to a fitting crescendo as evidenced by post–ten-minute tracks “The Willing” and closer “Texas.” On the other hand, “Sketch” does not spend time winding up, as it is full throttle from the start. It just so happens to be the shortest song on Solidarity.

Good, but not great, Solidarity isn’t the best record they’ve recorded—Ambient Metals holds that distinction—yet it is a worthy and solid return after a three-year absence. | David Lichius

RIYL: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Trans Am, Fugazi

VARIOUS ARTISTS | GLORY ROAD (HOLLYWOOD)
On the soundtrack for Glory Road —which tells the story of the first all African-American NCAA championship team from Texas Western—producer Jerry Bruckheimer made sure to assemble an all-star lineup to commemorate the film’s achievement. Classic R&B hits like Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and the Contours’ “Can You Do It” help give the movie a nice sense of nostalgia. To make the collection more appealing, Bruckheimer recruited pop diva Alicia Keys to record the classic tune, “People Get Ready.” The collection of songs on the soundtrack was a highlight of the movie and should prove to be a highlight of your CD collection. | Jim Campbell

RIYL: Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Motown Sound

WALK THE EARTH | FLOOD OF CREATION (SELF-RELEASED)

Walk the Earth, a great trio from Union, Mo., has finally released a CD and I feel so strongly about wanting to do it justice, I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start by saying this: Walk the Earth is an excellent band that is truly unique in what they do. Lead singer/guitarist Tim Johnson does a great job experimenting with different guitar tunings and provides a low, gloomy sound for the band that is brutally effective. There are plenty of great guitar parts on this CD, ranging from the painfully heavy to the clean and melodic. Every song has a haunting feel, and the vocals are certainly up to par with the music. This is one of the few cases where a band with all the angst of Black Sabbath could simultaneously please fans of the Cure, as well.

Though there are several good tracks on this recording, “The Fifth (Flood of Creation)” and “The Long Road Home” stand out as the best. The great thing about hearing these songs on the recording is that they have the same dramatic effect that they do at one of Walk the Earth’s gigs. Simply put, Flood of Creation is a great creation indeed. | John Kujawski

RIYL: The Cure, Black Sabbath, Stone Temple Pilots

WATERDOWN | ALL RIOT (VICTORY)

The third LP from Germany’s Waterdown is, well, it’s exactly what bass player Christian Kruse says it is: “This album is much more in-your-face than the old stuff. It’s aggressive, melodic, powerful and heavy music!” Rooted in a trans-Atlantic and utter disdain for the hopelessness of society, All Riot packs a one-two punch—at times hardcore, at times melodic. Kruse’s description could just as easily fit any number of other groups right now and Waterdown may not be all that different from other bands under the melodic-hardcore umbrella, but they feel sincere and you have to give them points for being über pissed off. | Daniel O’Malley

RIYL: Thursday, Thrice

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