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Music reviews - 1-17-07

Untitled Document


Cryptic Revelations

Like a gang of mohawk- and bullet-belt-wearing undead just arisen from a moist plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Blüdwülf is too busy raising hell to have time for things like production values. Of course, the ratty recording style exemplified on the band’s debut full-length is exactly what bandleader Jimmi Sinn is aiming for. Sinn hits his target spot-on, reviving the punk and hardcore of Discharge, GBH, and The Exploited like he performed one of Aleister Crowley’s incantations so that Satan would place the true sound of 1981 in his bandmembers’ hands. What separates Sinn’s effort, however, is his underlying love for pre-eminent thrash trend-setters like Voivod and Celtic Frost (with a little of Venom’s trashiness and Priest/Maiden/King Diamond-inspired operatic melody thrown in for good measure). Just as Sinn envisioned it, Blüdwülf sounds like a punk band beginning to come apart from attempting the precision and endurance of metal. Sinn has that ultra-rare knack for being able to tailor his band’s presentation from head to toe and still come off sincere. But Blüdwülf doesn’t convince on novelty value alone -- guitarist Dave of the Dead burns the fretboard with chug-chug riffing that shows he’s a thrasher at heart just letting his inner metal demon emerge. Thanks largely to him, Cryptic Revelations provides a righteous, playfully nihilistic soundtrack for the long, shrieking trip to hell --- or just to the grocery store.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni



The Shins
Wincing the Night Away
Sub Pop

It’s still coming: the critical backlash from the 2004 movie Garden State, which employed two tracks from The Shins’ 2001 debut. No doubt critics are hungry to attack the band’s innocuous non-edge in light of its new mainstream popularity.

But success is a good fit. The band does intelligent, poetic pop music better than most, and on this record --- the band’s newest since cinematic fame --- the production takes a step up. The album is substantially dreamier, the songwriting a little more diverse.

But for some reason I’ve never been all that blown away by The Shins. The singles are poppy, but not poppy enough to get stuck on repeat. The lyrics tend to get buried in jangling guitars, and singer James Mercer’s image-rich lines always seem to elude clear interpretation --- that doesn’t help a band already caught between subcultures. Sure, “New Slang is catchy (and its lyrics read like a jigsaw puzzle). But was anyone’s life really changed by it?

More of the same done well. Though, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

--- Andrew Frisicano






Diehard fans onboard from the beginning may still insist that Pavement’s first album, Slanted and Enchanted, has had the most sustained impact of any album in the band’s catalog, but Wowee Zowee, the group’s third full-length, is arguably where Pavement showed once and for all that it meant business. Even if “business” meant a literal double-dose of wise-ass irony, on Wowee Zowee, Pavement’s lo-fi, fuck-all approach to production intersected as perfectly as it ever would with the band’s increasingly ambitious songwriting. A wildly varied masterpiece dropped head-first into the sweaty furor of grunge/alternative that had dominated the American musical landscape up until the time of its release (1995), the original 18-song program plays so seamlessly that it’s hard to justify adding anything else. But fans familiar with Matador’s lavish re-vamping of the entire Pavement catalog know the drill by now and will want to eat up the oodles of extra tracks, particularly the dozen or so live/radio session recordings --- especially as a Pavement reunion looks ever more unlikely as we approach the 10th anniversary of the band’s premature and unfortunately anti-climactic demise.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni



Of Montreal
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer

Think of pop hooks where untangling the melody warrants wading through the maze of dance beats and synth noise. Ziggy Stardust transfused with the self consciousness of 2006, prematurely aware of the pitfalls of fame and success. Of Montreal’s lyrics, usually focused on surreal narratives, aim at the personal and the autobiographical. Isolation, emotional instability, and middle-age insecurity dropped onto the disco floor.

The band, whose songs have been recently featured on commercials for NASDAQ and Outback Steakhouse, is promising a stage show with all the make-up, costumes and effects their new marketability can buy. But even with some Grade-A pageantry, this album might be too personal (and depressing) for audiences to turn off their brains and dance to.

--- Andrew Frisicano




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