Har Mar Superstar
Har Mar Superstar
The main difference between Har Mar Superstar and *NSync is that Har Mar knows that he's kidding (although *NSync seem to be picking up on it pretty quickly). And *NSync has harmonies, and songs, and fans. Other than that, though, they're the same. Har Mar's just a little more fronky, a bedroom-studio nerd whose sheer Minneapolitan (Pauline, actually) whiteness threatens to keep him perpetually outside the Neptunes' door. Buck up, Har Mar; they don't come any whiter than ultra-Swede Max Martin, and look what he did for teen pop.
For the moment, what Har Mar's got is a knack for itty-bitty tunefulness, a sweet boy-band tenor, a penchant for kinda dumb lyrics that are laugh-once funny (the gag with the most legs is the non-sequitorial "I've even got love for Canada" in the everything's-gonna-be-all-right "Brand New Day"), two fingers of top 40-worthy musical ideas and no concept of how to tie it all together to create even one solid song (although the slam-funk groove of "Cry 4 Help" gets by on sheer drive alone). Even parodies need solid foundations; the reason that Blur's "Girls & Boys" worked once was that it worked twice, if you get me. Once Har Mar gets a firm grip on pop-song structure, his lyrical problems'll likely become invisible. Then we'll finally get a "Girl, You're Stupid" and "Baby, Do You Like My Clothes?" worthy of their titles. (MH)
(Kill Rock Stars -- 120 NE State Ave. #418, Olympia, WA. 98501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.killrockstars.com/; Har Mar Superstar -- http://www.harmarsuperstar.com/)
Reverend Horton Heat
Spend a Night in the Box
This would seem to be the good Reverend's sixth album full of rockabilly madness, if I'm counting correctly, and if you're feeling a bit nostalgic about having left Texas, this may put you on a plane back home. It's chock full of super fast-paced tunes about women, the bottle, and, well, what else is there, anyway? The lyrics are charming, the playing immaculately accomplished. Having said all that, this album definitely lacks the grit of his earlier "punkabilly" sound. For the most part, no psychobilly freakouts or bales of cocaine are to be found here. I don't know if this is designed as an appeal to the swing crowd or due to advancing age or just because they got tired of their eccentricities or what, but, not being a super-huge fan of straight-ahead rockabilly, those are aspects that I definitely miss. Although it lacks that edge, the album still entertains, and I'm sure that live the band is still a sight to behold. (CP)
(Time Bomb Recordings -- email@example.com; http://www.timebombrecordings.com/; Reverend Horton Heat -- http://www.reverendhortonheat.com/)
The Holmes Brothers
Speaking in Tongues
I put this one on and kept listening to it and, it kept not doing any of the things that I didn't want. Even better, it was doing all of these great things that I never would have expected. I don't know if it's a perfect record, but it's definitely brilliant. Gospel combined with lots of rockin' R&B shouldn't be this original, but the way they execute it is totally inspired -- although a more appropriate title would have been Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down, 'cause the whole record is so good it makes you want to just dance around.
All of those "contemporary" and "new music" services should be required to fire their bands and play this instead of their lite-pop-gospel. Their performance of "Jesus is the Way" has way more gospel in it than a thousand of those congregations. The recipe sounds really simple, but it works to a wild degree. Even the more poppy songs ("Speaking in Tongues," for one) have that rave-up gospel side to them. And "I Shall Not Walk Alone," a real slow-burner, would even remind Reverend Gary Davis to head back to church.
Despite the amount of fun they're having on the record, it's obvious that they put a lot of effort into the songs. Their reworking of "Love Train" makes it sound like their song -- they turned it into something different but equally as good as the original. "Jesus Got His Hooks in Me" takes them all the way back to jug bands, especially with the mandolin solo, which is not something you ordinarily associate with gospel. But that's the beauty of the record: you don't expect it, and you're not sure why it works, but it does. (HM)
(Alligator Records -- P.O. Box 60234, Chicago, IL. 60660; WS: http://www.alligator.com/; The Holmes Brothers -- http://www.concertedefforts.com/holmes.htm)
Introductory rant: Why does a label called "Aesthetics" send their review copies on CD-R, with an ugly sticker on it, and a photocopied cover, and then bother to state on it that its "Promo only. Not for sale."? As if there's a large market for CD-R copies in used CD bins... Hell, I could have made a more impressive looking CD-R package.
Anyway. Hood has largely been associated, sonically speaking, with folks like Flying Saucer Attack and Movietone: droney, pastoral, lo-fi quasi-pop, you might call it, if you were the type to desperately hyphenate genres in the vain hope of shedding light. (Since this is the first Hood I've heard, I'm just going on reputation, here.) While some of these elements are present here, there's also some additional elements: electronic beats, glitch-a-tronic backing sounds, and the vocals of Bay Area rappers cLOUDDEAD, to name a few.
The result of throwing all of this at the wall is a record that is all over the map and deeply, deeply muddled, and hasn't really yielded much in terms of pleasure over repeated listens. (For example, the nice, minimal, spacey guitars of "This Is What We Do To Sell Out(s)" clash against the dissonant, grating electronics to produce a result not unlike chocolate sauce and salsa, to mix metaphors a bit.) What it may be, though, is the sort of record that is more important than interesting, ultimately: one that recontextualizes various elements into new formations, and provides inspiration to its listeners to appropriate individual elements into their creative methodology. In other words, I'm glad it exists, I just don't anticipate listening to it again. But then again, in ten years, it may makes substantially more sense. (DD)
(Aesthetics -- P.O. Box 577286, Chicago, IL. 60657; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.aesthetics-usa.com/; Hood -- http://www.hoodmusic.net/)
Hundred Hands' album Little Eyes sounds a lot like The Appleseed Cast, and that's no surprise, considering the band consists of Aaron Pillar (vocals, guitar) and Christopher Crisci (bass, guitar, vocals) of Appleseed Cast, along with engineer/producer Ed Rose (drums, keyboard), who records The Appleseed Cast. The difference, in addition to the presence of Rose on drums, is that here we have Aaron Pillar on vocals.
Little Eyes is an excellent album. It sounds great, with full, shimmery guitars and pounding drums. Vocals blend well with instruments overall, and if anything, Ed Rose's drums are too loud, but they are just so compressed they almost distort and sit right up front in the mix. Creative use of drum machines and keyboards are used to fill out the sound of this trio of musicians. Hundred Hands don't hit many emotional peaks; they just take you on a journey through beautiful scenery. Deep Elm describes this album as "post hardcore," but I don't find many elements to support that claim. This is a dreamy album, good for long drives or lying in bed talking to the one you love.
The men of Appleseed Cast must be having quite the creative period right now. Their latest release, Low Level Owl, has two volumes, each over 50 minutes, while Hundred Hands' Little Eyes is only an EP, but has 6 songs on it, and they're already slated to release a full length in the fall.
My friend Brad tells a second-hand story about The Appleseed Cast, that they were your typical emo band looking for a drummer before another Kansas band, Vostros, broke up. Kori and Jason, the guitar/vocals of the band, split for California to form and find success in Mates of State. The bass player stopped playing music altogether, and drummer Josh "Cobra" Baruth tried out for Appleseed. He heard their music and was completely uninterested in playing with them. The band changed their sound the next day, invited him back, and he joined. I get the feeling that Hundred Hands is what Appleseed Cast might have been if Vostros hadn't broken up, or if Josh had stopped playing music, instead. (KM)
(Deep Elm Records -- P.O. Box 36939, Charlotte, NC 28236; email@example.com; http://www.deepelm.com/)