Bendy Straw Brain Massage and Spiritual Dry Cleaning
Austin's Keg Vultures are apparently determined to annoy all listeners into submission with their garage-meets-fingernails on a blackboard approach. The merry pranksters of this unit wield their smart-ass bombast like a samurai sword. Bendy Straw Brain... is their second effort for Propeller Records, and I'm guessing it delivers more of the same as the first this time out.
The Vultures manage an interesting start to this recording with "Paranoi-a-Go-Go," which features a winding, psychedelic guitar solo that runs in and out of a pretty standard garage rock number. Unfortunately for the listener, the entire affair begins to sink rapidly from this point on. In fact, the next few songs sound like drunken fraternity brothers taking turns on a karaoke machine between swigs off the beer bong. All is not lost, though, if you can make it to the seventh track, "Never Understand," where the Vultures borrow a little from the Butthole Surfers and Zappa for a slow and trippy rocker. Once again, sadly, things begin to circle the drain soon after.
I think the Keg Vultures' "I don't give a crap" attitude will be embraced by a specific audience. There are those that prefer this brand of anti-establishment screech over conventional radio oatmeal any day of the week. So with that said, I admire the boys for making this album and I believe that there is a place for it. Think about it -- if bands didn't record and release music like this, what the hell would freshman college radio DJs play on their shows at 2 AM on Tuesday mornings? (RD)
(Propeller Records -- P.O. Box 3010, Austin, TX. 78764-3010; http://www.propellerrecords.com/)
The Kidnap Soundtrack
Beauty is the Other Dancer
This five-song CD from Houstonians The Kidnap Soundtrack is for those lovers of the heavy side of life. Its mellow beginning provides a relaxing mood until it leads into a rainstorm sound...where henceforth, the death metal singing (otherwise known as screaming) begins. I enjoy metal, but I'm not thrilled with the vocals on this CD; I feel certain, however, that some of the more hardcore metal fans out there would totally dig the vocals. Steady, simple, pounding rhythms poured out by the drums hit the listener before the enjoyable guitar parts take over. The second song, another standout, is chaotic, but in a good way. This CD is a very skillful compilation, with good transition from the smooth beginning through to the chaotic middle, which then turns startling, and finally into the rocking '80s-type guitar piece which begins the final song.
This CD is definitely capable of taking you to a place that many other CDs would not. Overall, I'd say it's a great CD with potential to greatly please those many metalheads still flourishing out there, unbeknownst to the mass pop climate. (AC)
(Moshmellow Records -- 1860 FM 359 #105, Richmond, TX. 77469; http://www.moshmellowrecords.com/; The Kidnap Soundtrack -- http://www.thekidnapsoundtrack.com/)
Though on Lesson 1.5, Maggie Kim claims artistic geniuses like Missy Elliott, Prince, Beck and PJ Harvey as her heroes, her actual closest analogue is more likely Christina Aguilera: a marginally talented also-ran who is more famous for her outlandish fashion sense than her music, although it's much less likely that even Kim's fashion sense will make much of a difference.
It's not that Kim's music is poorly made; it's that the scope of it is so sadly limited that it cannot possibly make any impression other than faceless professionalism. So, far from attempting to find a novel, meaningful way to say anything at all, she wears her brazen desire for fame like a badge, so much that her own press materials describe her music as "formulaic" and "commercial."
They fail to mention creatively sterile -- Lesson 1.5's best song is unequivocally a cover of Prince's silly "Raspberry Beret"; "2 Drinks In" extensively quotes the Ukrainian Bell Carol for no apparent reason; "White Girl," which boasts the record's only moments of innovation (a direct address to Missy Elliott and Dr. Dre) and restraint (the fact that this address is thankfully not delivered as a rap), is marred by a chorus that shamelessly rips off "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio; and finally, Kim for some reason has decided that the world needs another song entitled "Stay." Hmmm...on closer examination, I see that the song in question is actually entitled "Just Stay." I suppose I stand corrected.
When Kim claims that "her ultimate goal is to change what pop music looks and sounds like," the irony is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Unbeknownst to her, the latter is clearly an impossibility, since her pandering nondescriptness is exactly the problem with popular music today. The former, as reference to her Asian heritage, is a lot more likely, I suppose, Kim having made inroads to success both commercial, by winning Jane Magazine's music contest, and independent, by performing at South By Southwest. Should she become the first Asian star, though, she will have done it by being as much like everyone else as possible. (DM)
(self-released; Maggie Kim -- http://www.maggiekim.com/)
Alpine Static, the fourth composed full-length studio album from mostly-instrumental Seattle drone-rock quartet Kinski, marks another step in the band's continued evolution. There seems to be a conscious effort here to make things a bit more concise, an eschewing of previous albums' method of long build-ups to cathartic grand entrances. Something is lost in this process, but much is also gained, and in general the tracks seem to rock harder on this album, without losing the textured drone qualities you no doubt have/will come to love.
The first track, "Hot Stenographer," begins the album in promising fashion, with an initial solo statement followed by a sudden ramp up into full-on group rock action. The track continually builds, seemingly about to achieve lift-off. Disappointingly, however, that never seems to happen, and the track instead descends into a near-prog repetition that seems ascetic rather than ecstatic, although sometimes I wonder if it instead is meant to convey an extremely dry sense of self-aware humor. "The Wives of Artie Shaw" follows hot on the heels of the preceding track, and features full-fledged rock riffing whose repetition better serves the aims of the song. The rocking aims of the album seem to fully come to fruition on the next track, "Hiding Drugs in the Temple (part 2)," whose precision counter-intuitively imparts the giddy feeling of harnessing guitar noise for peaceful purposes.
"The Party Which You Know Will Be Heavy" marks a slight return to the classic Kinski technique of juxtaposition of beautiful quiet clean sounds with distorto-rock-a-thon, albeit here in more restrained fashion. In a somewhat ill-advised move, however, the first rocking section is followed for a time by near silence. All is forgiven, though, when the rock returns, followed by another pretty section. Perhaps indicating the results of the aforementioned heavy party, "Passed out on Your Lawn" begins forebodingly, prior to some good old hypnotic rock repetition, then dissolves into pure guitar noise textures. The song seems to come out of it by fading in the rock that had disappeared, but then dissolves once more into texture and eventually to creepy reverbed voices spinning in your head. The guy on the lawn finally wakes up to pastoral hallucinations in which "All Your Kids have Turned to Static," quiet and beautiful, with flutes, so as not to hurt the aching head. After being taken to the loony bin in "The Snowy Parts of Scandinavia," our man on the lawn's mind veers between the prettiness of the last track and hellacious noise, before finally getting the cure, Kinski style. "Edge Set" provides enough room for Kinski to stretch out a bit, and "Waka Nusa" quietly brings this excellent album to a close. (CP)
(Sub Pop Records -- P.O. Box 20367, Seattle, WA. 98102; http://www.subpop.com/; Kinski -- http://www.kinski.net/)