Grab Bag: August 2007

By: Chris Pacifico

Back again to let you know about the most savory and eclectic albums that may have slipped under your radar in the past few months. If you've heard these artists or albums then be sure to add your voice to the comments below. Let us know whether you like it, love it or hate it, and what in particular you dig or loathe about it.

Album of the Month:
The Molecules: Friends (Ra Sounds)
Try shoving Frank Zappa, An Albatross, many handfuls of large caliber bullets, a couple of cinderblocks and a bull in a china shop on PCP into a standard household garbage compacter and you're only halfway close to the feel of The Molecules. With the gritty ass, half buried vocals of multi instrumentalist Ron Anderson, Friends erupts in a panic filled frenzy of burly basslines, bi-polar jazz and math punk, which starts out like a score to some really hectic cartoon violence ala Tom and Jerry before getting pretty maniacal like Itchy and Scratchy. The vicious keyboard throwdown on "Turn Up Your Hair" is like being in the slot machine section of a casino built over a fault line as a massive earthquake sends the walls crumbling around you. Worth mentioning that Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat Trio) took the time to drop some violin on the record, so therefore you know the album is going to rule.

Runner Up:
Disrupt: Unrest (Relapse)
As with all genres and sub genres of rock & roll, there are many bands whose influence is clearly etched in sound for the generations that followed but never got their due in their own time, bands like Boston cult heroes Disrupt, whom many heralded with sparking the "crust punk" movement. While most of their fans in their day got to know them through their endless series of 7-inches, 1994's Unrest was their only official album. A mix of grinding hardcore and thrash metal, Disrupt defined a culture of alienated kids who pissed off their parents and peers, singing with rabid, mongrel vocals. Even though the album is 13 years old, Disrupt threw up a huge "fuck you" to all of society's fixtures of conformity, police brutality, racism, human right abuses and animal testing, as well as the connection between greed and the pillaging of the Earth. Hmm, sound familiar?

Grails: Burning Off Impurities (Temporary Residence)
Hailing from Portland by way of somewhere in the middle of a sunbaked Carlos Castaneda novel, Burning off Impurities slowly ignites a trail for a brave new world post-rock should head towards in the 21st century. Dashes of what sounds like ritual music from the indigenous people of Central America join feathery percussion patterns that still boom. Even the reverb is cryptic and intricate. Moments remind one of Massive Attack's darkest hours circa Protection. Mantras fed by the jungle and desert-like isolation generates the most chilling drone slabs. In a nutshell, you need to go and get this album right now!

The National Lights: The Dead Will Walk, Dear (Bloodshake Records)
So dark yet so winsome and cryptic, the National Lights are an enchanted folk and Americana laced journey through a shadowy and sometimes phantasmal road. With rootsy, soft banjo plucking and feathery acoustic songs built with a somewhat chilling palette, the cotton soft vocals and harmonies distil an almost unnerving sensibility in the softness of the tone with country sadness. Imagine a Cormac McCarthy novel dealing with the tragic aftermath of a Tennessee Williams play with the background music funneled through Ray LaMontagne's most reserved songs and Richard and Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.

Blitzen Trapper: Wild Mountain Nation (Lidkercow Ltd)
Blitzen Trapper is the most mysterious extra terrestrial/cyborg glob of kooky, country fried, electro laced, rambunctious "whattehfuck" that ever fell from space and landed in the wilds of Portland, nourished by milk from the teats of Clinic, Badfinger and the Flaming Lips, just as Romulus and Remus suckled on the she wolf. But things turn out a bit nicer for Blitzen Trapper than the twins. The stoner metal funk on "Miss Spiritual Tramps" remains the staple on this flawless disc. The robots and their indentured alien servants have taken over…and they just happen to be throwing a hootenanny.

Maps: We Can Create (Mute)
Covered by a toothsome blanket of fuzz, the brainchild of UK James Chapman is spun together with a cold blizzard of tidbits filtered through the atmospheres of Spiritualized, Galaxie 500, early Mercury Rev and the ethereal feel of Air. We Can Create gently pulsates with electronic beats and ennui laced shoegazer pop projectiles, but with more of an emphasis on intricately woven electronica that can be synthetically orchestral, epic, reflective and solitary. "It Will Find You" is easily one of 2007's best songs.

Oxbow: The Narcotic Story (Hydra Head)
The Narcotic Story is for those who fancy their avant garde rock on the more disturbing side. Singer Eugene Robinson sings likes he suffers from multiple personality disorder with a few vicious egos fighting for supreme control. He whimpers and tries to retain sanity while on the hot seat with his shrink, teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Sludge metal and neo-classical garnishes vamp the band's post-hardcore tendencies, which are sophisticated and lush but at the same time the listener can almost smell the dark insulation of a state psychiatric institution.

Justice: "Cross" (Ed Banger Records)
Frenchies have always incorporated disco cache and decadence in most of their native electronic music. It's taken until the 21st century for "Cross" to drop from this duo and form the quintessential triad with Daft Punk's Homework and Les Rythmes Digitales' Darkdancer of Gallic dance albums. The long anticipated arrival of Justice's proper full-length is a rocking, throbbing electro compendium of checkered light dance floor beats and funky suave breakdowns. Film buffs will be brought in by a scene with Vincent Cassell (the Johnny Depp of France who is ten times the actor that Depp is, Yeah, you heard me right.) dealing with noirish turmoil at a discothèque. Be it the revving, big beat laced "Genesis" or the ghetto ass hopscotch/double dutch canticle "D.A.N.C.E.", "Cross" est un massif jalon pour danse musique.

The Rosebuds: Night of the Furies (Merge)
Listening to The Rosebuds' new album is like one of those evenings where you've stepped out for a night on the town with your boy/girlfriend and another couple who are just too much in love. But, hubby Ivan Howard and wife Kelly Crisp don't quite make it seem revolting as they express their mutual feelings. On their third album, they've tossed out almost any notion of the cuddly and twangy Americana pop of their previous release (2005's fabulous Birds Make Good Neighbors) and have traded it in for a more sugar spun disco electro pop dynamic fresh from an '80s mix tape from Larry Levan.

Jerry Granelli: The Sonic Temple (Songlines)
This double disc set was recorded last year over two nights at the Atlantic Jazz Fest and features the master percussionist sifting through a chiming world of meandering be-bop and post rock, though the improvs can get a bit humdrum. This is no reason to brush off Granelli, who has been a shamefully underrated figure in jazz for almost 50 years. However, this release is recommended for longtime fans only. New listeners should start with the drum work that he contributed on Denny Zeitlin's 1965 release Live at the Trident and Granelli's 1992 solo release, A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing, which is laced with themes that touch on the life of Buddy Bolden, one of the fathers of jazz who never got to record his music.

The Fucking Champs: VI (Drag City)
Break out the kegs and have your friends hold you by the ankles as you suck in the suds upside down. San Fran's The Fucking Champs' instru-metal goes through riffs and riffs of shifting sharps and flats in a time machine that's run out of gas in the vortex that runs from late '70s New Wave of British Heavy Metal all the way to the '80s Bay Area thrash movement and more contemporary doom metal. These are paladins with just a mist of hair metal gusto sprayed on like Aquanet. Cali heads should let their older brothers listen to this in order to be taken back days of skating on a Powell Peralta while sporting Airwalks and blaring Exodus from a boombox.

All Smiles: Ten Readings of a Warning (Dangerbird)
Yes, we all knew that parting was such sweet sorrow last year when doted on California band Grandaddy parted ways with a final album that was, well, uh, just okay. Band member Jim Fairchild has found his own path, recording under the alias of All Smiles. Ten Readings of a Warning was made almost entirely on an 8-track recorder in various living rooms with help from Joe Plummer of the Black Heart Procession, Danny Seim of Menomena and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, who doesn't shred the shit out of the skins here. Ten Readings is a rather scanty and feathery array of delicate folk pop that makes one warm inside with a melancholy that evokes Wilco's most somber moments as well as parts of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

Pissed Jeans: Hope for Men (Sub Pop)
Raining down a musky golden shower of post hardcore that labels like Dischord and, to some degree, Touch and Go were founded on, Pissed Jeans are pandemic with rigid, jagged riffs and tempos. Among the highlights is "Scrapbooking," where singer Matt Korvette is screaming, talking shit about someone while trying to pick himself up out of the gutter. Hope for Men will piss some people off, and that's a good thing when it comes to this Allentown foursome. The flow is oh-so-sloppy but still kicks ass. It's a like a binge fueled night of crashing into every party in sight with a shamelessly rabid punk fortitude that's grimy, greasy and intense enough to make the listener wet their pants.

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[Published on: 8/21/07]

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aquariumdrunk Thu 8/23/2007 07:50AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The title track on the Blitzen Trapper album is my motherfucking jam, man. Don't get me wrong, the rest is really cool in it's own right, but "Wild Mountain Nation" is the FUCKING JAM.