say your piece
 
ISSUE NO.154 23 OCT. 2003
 
 
theBeat
RED Reviews
By Brent Sallay, Craig Froehlich, and Jamie Gadette
 

Chutes Too Narrow
The Shins
Sub Pop

(out of 5)

Unlike 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


 

Haha Sound
Broadcast

Warp

(out of 5)

 

Pendulum EP
Broadcast
Warp

(out of 5)

[All 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 blame.

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, what’s this?

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.]

When 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 that year.

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 would take.

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 your time.

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 www.smithstix.com.


The Distillers
Coral Fang
Sire

(out of 5)

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 to hear.—JG


Supagroup
Supagroup
Foodchain Records

(out of 5)

A 15-minute listen to Supagroup conjures many a ghost from the era of ’70s stadium rock. You get a strong whiff of Aerosmith (rarely a good thing), some AC/DC served straight, without a lemon, and even a little Thin Lizzy in the aftertaste. Clearly, these are boys who don’t think Foghat is something you wear when visiting the coast. Unfortunately, it seems that the bravado of youth and some media savvy is all that separates these poster-boy rockers from bands that play weekend bar gigs and wow their 13-year-old brothers’ friends with blazing solos when all of the cars are at work.

They probably rock harder than what’s left of the forbearers still playing state fairs and being paid tribute to at award shows. Supagroup would be an homage if they used the word. These blokes still say “totally rockin’-out” with their tongues nowhere near their cheeks and like to pose for album photos with whiskey bottles and dangling cigarettes. Rock comes from the groin and not necessarily from the space between the ears, but I sense Supagroup would get a low score in the originality category. But what of the songs, you ask? Well, they start with “Rock and Roll Tried to Ruin My Life.” Clearly, Supagroup wants to share the experience.
You can check out the group’s live show if the album doesn’t impress. Maybe such bands need a stage and the clink of beer bottles. Chances are, they wag their tongues around during the kick-ass guitar solos.

Supagroup will perform live at the Zephyr Club (301 S. West Temple) tonight, Oct. 23.
CF
brent@red-mag.com
craig@red-mag.com
jamie@red-mag.com

 
     
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