the similarly anatomically obsessed band Elbow, who aside from
providing this review with its obligatory opening joke have nothing
to do with anything, Albuquerque’s unsung heroes The Shins
have opted to choose a career path bereft of obvious references
to the lower leg.
I mean, seriously folks, the new Elbow album is called Cast of
Thousands. You know, like the cast in a play or a movie, only
also like the kind of cast you would wear over your (drum roll)
elbow! Get it? Nudge, nudge. (I am nudging you with my elbow.)
Seriously though, the members of The Shins have truly taken the
high road this time around. Not that their previous effort, 2001’s
sunny Oh! Inverted World, left all that much to be desired. Though
I can certainly say that had the new album Chutes Too Narrow come
first, I would have been a little disappointed.
No, friends, this is the real deal. Though, like most great things,
the new album requires multiple listens to fully appreciate the
intricacy of its lyrics, the depth of its songcraft and the meticulousness
of its production, in the end it is a much more fulfilling listen
than its predecessor, and indeed, than most other albums to released
this year. (Oh, you better believe it’s making my top 20.)
Chutes begins with one of its best songs, “Kissing the Lipless.”
A rather bitter tale of a friendship that has worn thin, Olympic
lyricist James Mercer shows his compassion (“I called to
see if your back was still aligned”), but ultimately admits
that “secretly I want to bury in the yard/The great remains
of a friendship scarred.” And he does so with a vocal range
that soothes even at its most strained.
Other standouts include the infectiously poppy single “So
Says I,” the alt-country “Gone for Good,” and
the cheerily spooky “Saint Simon,” a track so sublime
as to prompt my friend Heidi to give birth fortuitously one year
ago to the day of Chutes’ release date.
Ladies and gentlemen, if it is not already clear to you that Mercer
is some kind of a genius, then I assure you that it is by some
fault of my own in conveying it, and not that of The Shins. No,
not The Shins. Anything but The Shins. In the kneecaps, or in
my Achilles’ heel if you must, but please not my lovely
shins—I need them to watch soccer. Now, if you’ll
excuse me, I’ve got some Elbow to go listen to.—BS
right, I’m just going to come out and say it—I’m
a little bitter that I’m at home writing this review right
now instead of rocking out where I was born to rock out—at
the Aerosmith/KISS concert at the Delta Center. But I’m
not going to lash out on you, the reader. I have only myself to
Though I do find a little consolation in knowing that a little
band called Broadcast will give me another chance to get my groove
on (albeit decidedly less crotchety) when they come all the way
from Birmingham, England to Liquid Joe’s, Utah on…oh,
Monday! Monday! Monday! Do you have your tickets yet?
I just ordered my own from Smith’sTix the other day, and
they were GA seats 3 and 4, so I’m guessing you don’t.
Come on people, what do I have to do? Write you a review?
All right, then.]
we last left Broadcast, it was the year 2000. The album was The
Noise Made by People.
And the noise was applause. Lots of it. From me.
Obsessively inspired by the ’60s cult band The United States
of America, and sounding more than just a little like a more jaded,
evil Stereolab, Noise was the perfect blend of sweet melodies
and off-putting ambience, and it was one of the best albums of
Here, three years later, Broadcast has returned with Haha Sound,
preceded some months earlier by the teaser, the Pendulum EP. Pendulum
was a thrilling collage of sounds to come for those who have been
waiting earnestly for a new full-length. It showcased the band
as both darker and bouncier than before, but still with their
soul intact. Yet Pendulum was still something of a mixed bag,
leaving many of us (read: me) wondering which direction the full-length
Well now, friends, it is here, and I can tell you that though
Haha Sound may not live up to the standard of Noise, or to a lesser
extent, even to that of Pendulum, it is still very much worth
In fact, Haha Sound begins with one of the better album openers
I have heard in some time, the sing-songy “Colour Me In,”
in which Trish Keenan’s lilting voice makes us all lunge
for our crayon boxes when she sings: “I am grey/Still on
the page/Colour me in.” Yes, it is annoying when British
people spell words wrong, but thankfully this doesn’t come
through when you’re just listening. (Note to British people:
I am just joking around.)
The potency of the next track, “Pendulum,” is only
lessened by the fact that it had already made an appearance on
the EP of the same name. And other standouts like “Valerie,”
“Ominous Cloud” and the droning finale “Hawk”
allow Broadcast to break away from the Stereolab comparisons and
forge out a much more mature sound of their own.
Unfortunately, not all of the album lives up to these high points.
It doesn’t flow nearly as well as Noise did, and a few of
the tracks, “Lunch Hour Pops” and “Oh How I
Miss You” in particular, seem like castoffs on the band’s
part. Still, you could do a lot worse.
Like, for example—oh, who am I kidding, anyway? I wanna
rock and roll all night, and party everyday! See you kids Monday
at the show.—BS
Broadcast is playing Liquid Joe’s at 1249 E 3300 South,
Monday, Oct. 27 at 8:30 P.M. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10
the day of, and are available through Smith’sTix or
It’s easy to compare
Brody Dalle to Courtney Love. The disheveled frontwoman for LA
punk band The Distillers wears her smeared makeup and anger with
as much intensity as the widow of Kurt Cobain. However, reducing
Dalle to a crass stereotype would be doing her music an injustice.
It would also overshadow the rest of the band—a tragic mistake,
for it is Dalle’s supporting cast that makes Coral Fang
a solid album.
The Distillers’ original lineup included Armstrong, bassist
Kim Chi, guitarist Rose Casper and drummer Matt (just Matt). Eventually
Chi and Matt left to join Exene Cervenka of X fame, and Casper
dropped out shortly thereafter. Consider the departures a blessing.
Although clearly adept musicians, the three former members did
not mesh well with their aggressive leader. The group’s
self-titled debut was rough, choppy and unfocused. 2002’s
Sing Sing Death House wasn’t much better. Both albums emote
a sense of intra-band competition, as if everyone is trying to
play harder than the rest.
On Coral Fang, the tension is gone. Of course, that’s not
to say that the passion has diminished. Dalle has clearly matured—in
both her personal and professional lives. She’s endured
the trauma of divorce (from Rancid’s Tim Armstrong) and
learned to channel her emotions into more coherent songs. All
11 tracks are fully developed and take the risk of experimenting
(if ever so slightly) with traditional punk hooks and choruses.
“Drain the Blood,” “Die on a Rope” and
“Love is Paranoid” showcase Dalle’s rage in
gruff vocals while “Beat Your Heart Out” and “For
Tonight Only” almost fall into sweetness. But don’t
worry about the slip. Dalle might have fine-tuned her intentions,
but she’s still mad as hell—and clear enough for all