Originally published in Arthur No. 11 (July 2004)
REVIEWS BY C and D
D: [extremely puzzled] Is this the Residents?!?
C: It’s Fiery Furnaces. Second album in one year. Usually when you say “difficult second album,” you mean it was hard for the artist. But this is actually hard on the audience!
D: [grimacing] I am not sure if I like this much.
C: It’s… it’s… it’s completely nuts. But: interesting nuts.
D: I remember them now! They were interviewed in Arthur. Brother and sister. But I thought they were blues-rocking New York people? What is all this synthesizer-ragtime stuff?!?
C: It’s like low-key prog. [looking at CD player] We’re in the ninth minute of the first song here… 13 songs, 75 minutes… The whole thing is a wigged-out concept album, man. I dig it.
D: [irritated] I do not have time for concepts! I am a ramblin’ man, that’s what I am.
C: Don’t spill your Dr. Pepper, Popeye. There’s a lot of good stuff on here, it’s just sorta tucked away in pockets within pockets in a large spangled coat of many prog colors.
D: This is too wacky and too wordy. [Brightens, listening to riff midway through second song] I like that, though. I think these guys may be too smart for their own good.
C: A singles-only edit of this album would be nice for the Short Attention Spanners out there…
Comets On Fire
C: The new one from Comets On Fire, full-on super-rock five-piece from the Bay Area. They keep the demons at bay.
D: Yes! Big super-blaster balls-nailed-to-the-wall heavy power rock from a space cannon!
C: Amazing, visionary wizardstuff. And they give you a break in the middle of songs—there’s these lighter sections, they’re even choogling here and there, mellowing the crunchy harsh.
D: [listening to keyboard-heavy “Pussy Footin’ the Duke.”] There is a taste of the prog here, too! But I don’t mind because the riffs are deep canyons and the singer is a yowler and the drums are mighty!
C: It’s like the best of Japanese power-rock plus Quicksilver Messenger Serivce or Meddle-era Pink Floyd plus Kiss. Album-of-the-year contender.
D: I am going to make a pilgrimage to this Blue Cathedral.
C: Which is right next door to the Acid Mothers Temple, no doubt.
The Reigning Sound
Too Much Guitar!
(In the Red)
D: The Reigning Sound! Mister Greg Cartwright! Long may he reign. I doff my beer in his general direction. Heartfelt thrashing songs with a zest for life!
C: [nodding head] The is one of those records that gives garage rock a good name. Which is pretty hard, considering there’s like 45,000 bands out there who are trying to do the same thing over the last three decades.
D: I am getting old. But I will get out my leather jacket for these guys. And stitch their name on it, as is my duty.
C: They’ve got actual songs, it’s not just the two-chord mono-grind smear. And listen to this ballad [“Funny Thing”]. If you’re not a connoiseur of this sort of stuff, it sound like something between the Stones and the Hives. And the Hives are taking them on the tour, so there you go.
D: Giving them that big Swedish stamp of approval!
C: Speaking of the Swedes. A girl band…
D: They have the big Spector beat. A little Mazzy Star, don’t you think? [the chorus comes in on “Say Something New”] The Ronnettes! It cannot be! I am 9 years old again…
C: Yeah. A little Cardigans, perhaps: she doesn’t have the most unique voice, she’s not the greatest singer. But it’s pretty. A lot of this is pleasant music for cleaning house or driving with no traffic and the windows open on warm summer nights… And by coincidence “Warm Night” is my favorite song. It has a waltz rhythm and all these harmonies…
D: [listening] It has a sea chanty quality. Beautiful and SUPER-romantic. Ah, what goes on in the Swedish woods…
C: If there had been an ecstasy scene in the The Muppets Movie this is what it would have sounded like, and I mean that with all respect and seriousness.
C: This reminds me of Morcheeba, and I know that isn’t fair, cuz Martina was with Tricky and they were first, but… Lady can sing okay, a hint of blues pain, acoustic guitars, brushed drums, ‘70s keyboard, lush strings. Yep, this is ad agency music.
C: Totally! I see the car commercial now. Volkswagen?
D: BMW, maybe.
C: Okay, let’s skip to the track with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan.
D: [listening] Eh. It’s Okay.
C: Well, at least this song has more energy…
D: [thinking deeply] I must say, I always preferred Portishead.
C: The texture of trip-hop stuff is just…worn out. Do we need another record of this stuff? Even Beth Gibbons has moved on.
D: That album she did last year was the most…
C: Yes! Out of Season, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, on Sanctuary. Arthur readers, just buy that instead. I weep openly when I listen to that record. But here…
D: I yawn openly.
D: [Looking at High Volume track listing] Stoner rock, but no Kyuss…? Hmm…
D: Gas Giant are gaseous. Hello, Monster Magnet?
C: They’re not on here either. But Clutch and Orange Goblin and Nebula are, and a ton of other longhaired stoner rock lifers.
D: [looking at the sleeve] Hidden Hand and High On Fire are on here!!! Let’s skip to those. High On Fire march on like warrior kings of peace!
C: Some of it’s like speedmetal but then there’s these weird chord sequences and that six-limbed drumming the dude does. Everything they do smokes. [smugly] And where there’s smoke, there’s High On Fire, ha ha.
D: You make yourself laugh. Now for Hidden Hand, “Falcon Stone.”
C: Your basic Hidden Handiwork. Solid riffage, a firm construction.
D: Wino’s new band, bringing the master pummeller once again! [opening record sleeve, with picture of girl with clothes falling off] Hmm, I like this centerfold, I mean record sleeve.
C: There’s some cool stuff on here, like the Suplecs track, but…
listen: Stoner rock lyrics are like the male versions of girls’ bad high school poetry. It would be cool if they’d trade lyric sheets. Then we’d get stoner rock with lyrics by Jewel. And adult contemporary with lyrics by Bad Wizard.
D: [distracted, gazing longingly at record sleeve] I really like this centerfold. I’ll be right back, I’ve got to to take care of something. [leaves room, taking sleeve with him]
C: Oh geez. I don’t believe this. Anyways… If Arthur readers want some classic heavy rock, the kind of stuff that begot this High Times comp, check out Incarnate, the new Obsessed archive job that compiles a gobload of ‘90s Wino & Company stuff that went lost or mal-released. Music for driving a bulldozer down Main Street to. Heavy is as heavy does…
“Stabbed in the Face/Rat Floods” 12-inch
C: [to tape recorder] Well, we’ve lost D to…um… Let’s just say… Um… Pornography claims another victim. Erotic imagery. [yelling] Tits ‘n’ Buds, bro! Whatever. Fortunately I am prepared to solider on alone. Arthur readers will recognize Wolf Eyes as a Bull Tongue perennial—well, they’ve somehow made it on to Sub Pop despite being pretty brutal and weird and just generally artfuck. For some reason I am reminded of Killdozer. Anyways “Stabbed in the Face” is angry vampire rock on a disco tape loop. Forget the Dead, this is the real skullfuckery. Beware! There’s blood in the grooves of this 45rpm record, which is why on Side 2 the thing locks into a repeater groove, sending the listener down the Wolfhole into a negatory dimension where one is bed-fed codeine by the leering nurse-corpse of Ronald Reagan.
The Real New Fall LP…Formerly Country on the Click
C: There’s little to be said here besides: the Fall are on a full-forward-rock mission again and your surrender is imminent. The guitars are propulsing, broken hip priest Mark E. Smith sounds wonderfully surly and declamatory, almost drifting into dreamtalk sometimes, the other cats in the band are singing some refrains and choruses and this is very important: you can dance to almost every song. It’s full of WFMU-world hits! You people know what I mean. If this were a young band, rather than one that’s been around since 1848, this would be the now-shit of rockcrit and fashion magazines and art schools across the planet. This is as much a return-to-form as Wire or Mission of Burma have done in the last few years: these original post-punk artniks are back on the trail, it can’t be rationally explained. [listening to “Sparta 2”] Shit’s positively magestic! [sighing] We are Fallstruck, once again.
C: Never really dug these guys and their electro-spazz-randomonica-epic trip before for some reason, although it sounded good in theory. This, though, I dig. I am a digger. I mean, “Cloud Pleaser” is a great title. People who dig early Tangerine Dream, and I mean very early, will dig this. Also some of the more out-there Popul Vuh stuff. It’s a strange mix of electronic stuff and abstracted organic noises with forward motion, enough rhythm for you to keep it on while you’re doing dishes, but enough weird noises and soundfloods and collagework for you to pay attention to it. Kinda meditative, actually… [To D, who has re-appeared] So, everything work out okay?
D: Yes, yes. [irritated, listening to “Treetops”] Do people get paid to do this?
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
C: Mostly instrumental compositions with occasional sighs. Big and grand and emotional and beautiful. Sounds like it was fabricated by Tokyo-made cyborgs with tearducts, on vacation in France.
D: Like a darker Air… Dark Air should be their name!
C: Reminds me a bit of Casino Versus Japan, and Spiritualized too. Really lovely, hugely evocative, cinematic stuff.
D: Somebody alert Sofia Coppola!
Legendary Pink Dots
The Whispering Wall
D: Hmm. Creepy creepy! Music for creepy crawling in dismal English towns.
C: Sort of a psychedelic haunted disco thing, yeah. Very stylish, but melodic too. They’ve been around forever but somehow I’ve never cottoned to them until now.
D: [listening to “A Distant Summer”] I like this. Such a strange, dislocated feel.
C: It’s ominous, sinister pop. Again, something that very much has its own feel. Crushed velvet, light rain, spooky carnivals…
D: A new record for all the pale people.
C: [reading the sleeve] It says here, “Maximum volume yields maximum results.” We better turn it up.
D: [smiling] Ahh. You can always count on SUNN 0)) for that maximum slow throb ambient guitar doom. They are the legendary black dots.
C: The first track is 14 minutes long! No drums, no vocals… Sonic qualudes. It’s so slow it isn’t even there. Totally enveloping.
D: It’s doom-bliss for your needy skull!
Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label
C: 19 tracks from an an obscure Columbus, Ohio soul record label who put out a dozen 45s, one album and had a few regional hits during the early ‘70s. Normally I wouldn’t care, there’s got to be a zillion compilations like this out there, right? But…
D: [listening to Bill Moss’s “Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother”] This is really something. This is as good as the JB’s!
C: When you hear stuff like this, it makes you realize how much luck plays a role in what songs make it into general public’s consciousnsess. Some of this stuff, you can tell why it didn’t go beyond being a regional hit—the voice isn’t unique enough, or the lyrics are prosaic, or whatever. But there’s no reason that most of these songs weren’t big hits, other than that they were recorded and released in Ohio rather than Detroit or New York or L.A. It’s tragic that this is all we’ll ever hear from these folks, because of an accident of geography and timing. Just listen to this: Ronnie Taylor’s “Without Love” is a stone cold church-organ classic from the opening second. What a riff, what a voice.
D: [listening to “Hot Grits!!!” by Elijah & the Ebonites] Incredible! Instant dance floor groove sensation! [very seriously] Listen to me when I tell you this: This is the best soul compilation I’ve heard in 20 years.
C: [dancing] I know what you mean. Damn!