Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bob Mould - The Last Dog and Pony Show

Bob Mould's fourth solo album, released in 1998, was supposed to be his farewell to guitar rock, though we now know that didn't turn out to be the case.  It didn't augur well that the opening track was entitled New #1.  However the track is a sort of driving guitar rock anthem, nothing amazing, but not terrible.  A bit like most of the album.  And there lies the problem.  Very few of the tracks are particularly distinctive, Moving Trucks, Taking Everything and First Drag of the Day are just... fine but aren't especially memorable.  The stomping riffs of Skintrade are a distinct improvement on a rocker which wouldn't disgrace his stronger albums.

There are three standouts towards the end of the album, though one is for the wrong reasons.  Megamanic opens with a robotic voice chanting "mega mega, mega mega" and foreshadows Mould's move into dance music.  On the other hand, previous track Sweet Serene rocks harder than anything else here, with big riffs outdoing the likes of the Foo Fighters but not Mould himself.  Final track Along the Way sees Mould sounding more emotional than anything else here and works well for that reason.  But overall, not the Bob Mould album to lend to your friends.  Or indeed pester them about on your favourite streaming service.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Apartments - Apart

The Apartments' fourth album, released in 1997, is introduced by the 30 sec piano of Doll Hospial, giving way to the brooding strings that introduce No Hurry, which is taken over by a late 80s style trip-hoppy beat after the first few bars.  It's a pity as Peter Milton Walsh sings as well as he has ever done, making "the days are getting looonnnger" sound kind of ominous.  But the beats don't suit the track, and so it follows across the album.  The chirpy strings, brass and beats of Breakdown In Vera Cruz are way more upbeat than a song entitled as such has any right to be.

The murky Welcome To Walsh World is a welcome change (down) of pace.  Walsh recites a squalid tale of "infatuation, sadism, lust, avarice possess our souls" over brooding, Tindersticks style music, augmented by strings here and there and (mercifully) no beats!  It doesn't quite work, though it's a distinct improvement on what went before.  File under glorious failure?

The rest of the album is, unfortunately, not helped by its production, Friday Rich/Saturday Poor and Cheerleader being a case in point.  World of Liars is more relaxed, dancing around classic soul tune Walk On By while maintaining its independence.  Final track Everything Is Given To Be Taken Away returns the band to their more natural, effortless state, the sound of waking up in the morning and wishing you hadn't.  

Probably the least essential of the Apartments' albums, something of a misstep.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Minor Victories – Album Review

Review for

Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

In 1994 the music scene was dominated by the dying embers of grunge and the embryonic stirrings of Britpop. Into this climate Pavement released their second album, the one that really established them.  This is probably I'd use to introduce a Malkmus virgin to Pavement. It starts out with rousing anthem Silence Kit, with a melody which evokes about ten other songs yet, like Mercury, you can't quite grasp it.  The guitars on the album are a lot less rough than on Slanted and Enchanted.  The swirling, soaring guitars of Elevate Me Later and Gold Soundz are a joy to behold.  The latter of these is a sort of downbeat anthem that's emblematic of the album.

Stop Breathin' is slower and moodier as Stephen Malkmus implores the unnamed to "stop Breathin', write it on a postcard" over grindingly melodic guitars.  There are two hugely catchy songs on this album: the first is Cut Your Hair, introduced by insatiably addictive 'ooh-oohing'.  It's a sort of jokey call to arms: "did you see your drummer's hair... NO BIG HAIR!". It's a distillation of how judgemental you can be in your early twenties, where people get dismissed forever by virtue of a bad haircut or bad shoes.  The second of these is the countrified-as-f**k Range Life, fobbing off early 90s alt-rock Gods Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots ("elegant bachelors") over a lazily drawled strum

It's not all melodic wonder - 5-4 = Unity is plinky-plonk jazz tedium, while Hit the Plane Down is as annoying as any of the annoying tracks on Slanted.  But elsewhere it's a low key wonder.