When this CD first came out, I heard that 1). It was a total piece of crap; and 2). It was a masterpiece. This intrigued me so much that I couldn't wait to listen for myself, but when I finally got my copy, I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. To me, it didn't sound that much different from what they've always done. Sure, there were more samples and less guitars, but the layering of the sounds seemed pretty close to the same thing, to me. This isn't the worst thing they've put out, and it by no means is the best. I think, though, that tracks like "Optimistic" and "The National Anthem" will become Radiohead classics in time. (RZ)
Reach The Sky
Friends, Lies and the End of the World
Oh shit, Lifetime's back together. Well, not really, but Reach The Sky are the next best thing (tracks four and six, "A Year and A Smile" and "The Truth So Familiar," respectively, are all you need to prove that to yourself). Maybe it's something about that part of the East Coast (RTS hail from Boston) that enables these bands to create passionate, melodic, emo-infused hardcore. With Friends, Lies, and the End of the World, Reach the Sky really stretches out, genre-hopping from hardcore to poppy punk to straight rock and back again with fluidity and ease. Ian Larrabee goes from barking (yet remaining intelligible) and singing, and he's quite good at both. This album definitely showcases what RTS are capable of, especially now that their sound has matured a bit. Who's to say? Perhaps this is what Lifetime would have eventually sounded like had they remained together. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- 346 N. Justine, Suite 504, Chicago, IL. 60607; http://www.victoryrecords.com/; Reach The Sky -- http://www.reachthesky.org/)
Reggie and the Full Effect
One of my biggest pet peeves is not knowing what I'm listening to. It's happened with music playing in public places, songs on the radio (a frustratingly more common situation with each passing year) and, on at least one occasion, a tape made for me two years ago by someone who didn't realize that just giving me band names (but not song titles) would drive me crazy. And so it goes with Reggie & the Full Effect's Promotional Copy, only this time I know who's playing (for the most part) and what the songs are called (probably), and I still don't know what the hell I'm listening to.
Showing up in a myriad of disguises (including, it seems, "Reggie and the Full Effect" itself), this side project from members of Coalesce and the Get Up Kids earns points for their sense of humor (this is an album that starts with, "No, so I was like, 'if you're gonna wear the uniform, you gotta sell the cookies,' right?") and keeps them for their tunefulness. There's a lot of dicking around, to be sure; in addition to a hip-hop instrumental, there's also Scandinavian deathcore ("You are not my friend/You are my foe/You are two feet tall/You have got to go," from the closing "Dwarf Invasion"), grungeish heavy metal and country jazzercize. In between, though, are a bunch of amazing pop songs that keep the whole thing from degenerating into one long joke.
The squiggly bits mean that the first real song pretty much has to be incredible, following as it does the opening sketch/gangsta parody of "Bitches Got Stitches," or the whole album falls apart right at the start. It doesn't. Gutting the Cars and attaching the rhythm section for the Cavedogs, "From Me 2 U" fires up the rest of the album and sets the stage for a collection of hyper-distorted but melodic pop songs that seem to know exactly when to hit a minor chord for maximum impact. And "From Me 2 U" is funny, too; coming as it does after Reggie gets shot in "Bitches," its first line is, "Today's your final day."
And what's happening in between these moments of sublime pop? I have no idea. Not one clue. My deep need to explain that with which I'm faced gets the finger and a swirlie. Instead, I can only mention that precisely when "Good Times, Good Tunes, Good Buds" seems to have run out of ideas, it's immediately replaced by the sounds of a redneck spitting on a skipping CD, which then segues into the astounding "Megan 2K." I can merely point out how incredibly jarring it is to hear Reggie show up in the middle of the metallic "Something I'm Not" (otherwise credited to Sean-O-Tronic), which rapidly devolves into a Casio beat being put through all its paces. But I can't account for one goddamn lick of it. All I know for sure is that anything that credits another band is a goof, but even some of these are more elaborate than others; Wade and Wayne Gentry and Band gets a silly throwaway but Fluxuation gets a full-on song, a faux-'80s style synth pop tune with equally faux British accent.
So, really, when all is said and done (which is sooner than you think: Promotional Copy clocks in at less than 34 minutes), there are only seven actual songs here. Seven glorious, hopped-up, adrenalized pop songs that say stupid things like "Girl, you mean so much to me... The way you're wanting me to be is just as easy as 1-2-3" and are not only unharmed by it but turned into tiny miracles. And that, ultimately, is what's killing me, the fact that these things popped up out of nowhere, existing almost outside the real world, giving no indication of what, if anything, happens next. Since I can't believe anything in the brief yet still incredibly bogus liner notes, including (but not limited to) song titles (I wouldn't set your watch by the listed track lengths, either), I don't even know what's happening now. At least if the songs sucked, I could officially not care and move on with my life. Instead, I'm stuck with needing to hear "Ode To Mannheim Steamroller" again and not knowing why. (MH)
(Heroes & Villains/Vagrant Records -- 2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361, Santa Monica, CA. 90403; http://www.vagrant.net/; Reggie and the Full Effect -- http://www.reggieandthefulleffect.com/)
The Other Side is Mud
Boy...what can I say about my favorite singer-songwriter in the Pacific Northwest? A Boat Called Hope, her first CD, was my introduction, and that album is an emotional powerhouse. Most female singer-songwriters either sound like they still dot their i's with hearts or burn dolls of men at the stake (not that male singer-songwriters are more or less objectionable, just differently objectionable). With that record, Repp somehow managed to work a third path, one with both the disappointments and aspirations of real life rendered in all their emotional nuance, all without the diary-confessional feeling that one often gets from writers who try tell THE truth but end up only telling their truth. And all with a deep powerful voice of quiet confidence (which could, not unfairly, be compared to a less polished Margo Timmins) and stark, tasteful acoustic arrangements. Raymond Carver would be proud.
And now, the new EP. Compared to the last record (or, really, compared to just about anything), this is a lot more lyrically depressing record, with much more focus on failed love and being left alone. The songs are just as emotionally honest, though, even while simultaneously covering a pretty wide stylistic terrain. "Idyllwild & Lost Horse," for instance, has a vaguely poppy setting that belies its sadness; by contrast, "At the End of the Night" has a musical starkness that would thoroughly bum you out even if it were an instrumental, and the words deepen that melancholy even further. The rest of this EP vascillates between these poles (albeit largely on the starker side), ending in the lonesome quietness of "They Sang the Solo."
The odd thing, though, is that ultimately I don't feel depressed listening to this music, even though it could easily be considered depressing. I don't really know quite why, but maybe it's the fact that the music's existence is itself a consolation. We can go through hell, whether by our own doing our by others, but if at the end we can tell our stories and try to come to terms with what has happened, there's still some kind of hope.
A lot of people, I find, don't like listening to music that is about real emotions, often because they'd rather not deal with their own feelings on any substantive level. Those people should skip this record. Everybody else, do yourself a favor and pick up some of the most honest songs you'll hear. (DD)
(Hush Records -- P.O. Box 12713, Portland, OR. 97212; http://www.hushrecords.com/)
Rhythm of Black Lines
Set a Summery Table
Kind of like prog-core, only more laid back and really glossily produced, complete with bad early-'80s drum sound for no evident reason. It's kind of like a weird game of telephone, where prog-core bands took out a lot of the lame stuff from bands like Rush and ELP and Yes and Steely Dan, and Rhythm of Black Lines is working back to figure out what the original would have been like. It ends up sounding to my ears, well, weak and noodly and desperate for attention and self-absorbed all at once. But it doesn't sound that far apart from bands I really do like (such as Pell Mell, or Paul Newman, whose guitarist guests here). If I had more patience I'd figure out why. As it stands, the minute I realized that the song I was listening to at the time sounded like part of a cut-off of Joe Satriani's Flying in a Blue Dream was the last minute I intend to spend ever listening to this record. (DD)
(sixgunlover records -- 3203 Overcup Oak, Austin, TX. 78704; http://www.members.tripod.com/sixgunlover/)