Who's the funkiest, blue-eyed soulful-est, rump shakin'-est white boy out there these days? No, not that Timberlake guy (even with Phil Fisher's help on drums -- it's okay, Fish, I understand that it's for the $$$). Nope, not the Har Mar dude either...too much of the "Hey, look at me being ironic!" gimmick for my tastes. Brace yourselves...it's Nathan Larson. Yes, that Nathan Larson, previously of Shudder To Think and various movie soundtracks (Boys Don't Cry being among them). With Jealous God, Larson has up and made one of the best soul records of the last ten years. If you were a die-hard Shudder fan, you'll find little of that band's sound here, as Larson has now stepped up as vocalist, and his trademark angular guitar histrionics aren't really present. What is present, however, is some damn fine songwriting by Larson, fleshed out with help from members of Madness, Soul 2 Soul (remember them -- "back to life...back to reality"?), and his wife, Nina Persson (ex-Cardigans chanteuse), among others. And yes, the songs are delivered with just the right touch of irony (the synthesized horn section being the best example of this), but don't mistake this for irreverence. Jealous God is the album Al Green would have made had he been burned white by those grits and then, rather than finding religion, played guitar in a seminal alternative rock band before making another soul album. (MHo)
(Artemis Records -- 130 Fifth Avenue, Seventh Floor, New York, NY. 10011; http://www.artemisrecords.com/; Nathan Larson -- http://www.nathanlarson.com/)
The Lawrence Arms/The Chinkees
Present Day Memories
Armed with a faux-British accent, a punk attack that sounds like Good Charlotte with a sense of history and an irrelevant but funny Simpsons sample, The Lawrence Arms burst through "Quincentuple Your Money" with spunk enough to fill their own non-split EP. There's not a whole lot going on in the song department, but for their half of Present Day Memories, The Lawrence Arms get their foot in the door, which might buy them enough time to think up a convincing sales pitch for their next go-round. The Chinkees see that punk mania and add one brilliant conceit -- hey, why not play an organ like a rhythm guitar instead of, you know, like an organ? -- to create a frenzy on "Clouding Up My Storm" and "1980's Drowning Me" that's brief enough that nobody need care that nothing much just happened. That organ is put back in its place by the ska tune that soon follows, but it's ultimately the title track that's pretty much the only thing I'd really like to hear more of from the Chinkees. It's a live, solo-acoustic song that sounds, compositionally and vocally, like Squeeze if Glenn Tillbrook were a depressive. It's as driven and unsettling as the Mountain Goats, and it makes the rest of the songs on Present Day Memories sound like scraps. (MH)
(Asian Man Records -- P.O. Box 35585, Monte Sereno, CA. 95030-5585; http://www.asianmanrecords.com/; The Lawrence Arms -- http://www.thelawrencearms.net/; The Chinkees -- http://www.thechinkees.com/)
No News Is Good News
Liars Academy is another one of those indie-rock supergroups -- here we find Ryan Shelkett and Evan Tanner from Cross My Heart teaming up with Matt Smith of Strike Anywhere, and I find the results...most impressive. Liars Academy delivers hook-laden, driving, melodic rock in the vein of Samiam, The Promise Ring, and The Get Up Kids -- just rocking enough to not be wimpy, yet nerdy enough for you to not feel like a jock-sympathizing jackass for listening to it. After I gave this CD its initial spin, I found nearly every single song on it sticking in my head, bouncing around so incessantly that I had to listen to it again immediately. "Disappearing Act," "Kamizaze," and "Sell Me A Minute" found me pressing the repeat button a time or two. And lo and behold, "This Is Your Life, Get Used To It," features a stacatto, galloping riff that would make Dave Murray and Jaanick Gers proud. Definitely worth a listen. (MHo)
(Equal Vision Records -- P.O. Box 14, Hudson, NY. 12534; http://www.equalvision.com/; Liars Academy -- http://www.liarsacademy.com/)
I tend to be rather fickle when it comes to hip-hop. Some I can relate to, some I can't, and sometimes it just depends on the day of the week whether I like it or not. But once in a great while a hip-hop CD will come along that I absolutely understand and relate to on any given day. Living Legends' Almost Famous LP is one of those. Yes, they use that "almost famous" phrase in just about every song (it's some kind of gimmick to stop people from stealing the CD) and, yes, some of the tracks run together, but there are some tracks interspersed throughout the album that make this CD truly enjoyable.
The fifth track, "Rabbit Hole," is my favorite. The Living Legends take Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," add a back beat, change the lyrics, and come out with a remarkable sound. It even fit when I sang the Airplane's lyrics along with the track.
Great production, great tunes with sultry overtones...yep, this is a CD to hear. (CPl)
(Living Legends -- http://www.llcrew.com/)
Filling the Frame
Ska-flavored pop rock, heavy on the skank, please. This music hits all the right ska-rock buttons, from the guitar skank to the breakdowns to the slurry spew of the vocals. This CD flows very nicely from song to song; well-constructed overall, with excellent production values.
Having left its origins somewhere in the hallways of London flats, ska has been "Americanized," and this is a perfect example of that transformation. Gone are the confusion, anger, politics, and frustration of punk rockers living next door to rastas, hearing their music through the walls, and incorporating it into their punk. American ska, with a few exceptions, is about relationships, and primarily about that one that broke my freaking heart. This CD is full of broken promises, hearts, vows, and dreams -- it's all about "broken." The beauty of American ska is that it can tell you all about the breaks with a slashing guitar and a sly grin. Logan's Loss is American ska.
Hailing from the Chicago area, these four guys have got the combination down. That is the good news as well as the bad, I suppose. There is nothing here that is terribly adventurous or "new," but then who the hell said you had to have an adventure every time you turn on the player? The fun here is that these guys do it all so damn well. They have done their homework, fashioned their sound, and produced their music in a very stylized manner that happens to be consistent with the market trends -- and can you blame them? Well, you'd better not. It seems that Logans's Loss plans to invade the scene from within and then change it according to their own evil plan. Hooray for them. (BW)
(Note To Self Records -- P.O. Box 68055, Schaumburg, IL. 60168-0055; email@example.com; http://www.notetoselfrecords.com/; Logan's Loss -- http://www.logansloss.com/)
I can't remember the name of the band from Austin...they were pretty big, but their biggest claim to fame became the fact that nouveau-Austinite Sandra Bullock was dating their lead singer. If anyone in Austin or the surrounding areas remembers the band that I'm talking about...then Lorenzo's Music sounds a lot like that band to me (which is a good thing, trust me). For those of you that aren't Texan, or don't give a crap about Bullock's throwaways, Lorenzo's Music can also sound like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a poppier Morphine, or the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (when they do swing, not punk). Basically, Lorenzo's Music is a really fun-sounding lounge band with some killer hooks, slyly funny lyricism and a bunch of energy. All of that comes across well on Schematic, with standout tracks like "Straight to Hell" and "All I Want" making you want to get up and shake that ass, shake that ass. A breath of fresh air in a time of misspelled band names and DJs in rock bands. (MHo)
(Crustacean Records -- P.O. Box 370156, Milwaukee, WI. 53237; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.crustaceanrecords.com/)
Whip It Baby!
Lovewhip plays all Juju music, which is really cool when it's done well, and really annoying when it's done badly. If nothing else, it pretty much delivers what it promises: thoughtless entertainment. Which is probably the best way to view it, because the people in the band don't seem to be thinking too much about it, either. This was a tactic that worked very well for John Lennon, but these people aren't John Lennon, and let's face it -- it also worked really badly for John Lennon, too. The horn players seem to be having all the fun, perhaps because they know they don't have to sing any of the lyrics to any of the songs; the rhythm section sounds like they're having a reasonable amount of fun (though they're not completely thrilled), which is due in part to the guitar playing, which is more or less completely uninspired, except that it's enjoying itself, which is something that almost makes it work (the theory seeming to be that if you have a high opinion of yourself, you know that at least one person likes you). With this kind of band, they'd at least be entertaining enough at a street fair or festival -- pretty much anywhere, really, as long as you don't risk being trapped in the same room with them. (HM)
(Juicy Juju Records; Lovewhip -- http://www.lovewhip.net/)
Live on KXLU 2-12-2001
This is an hour long recording from a live performance at Los Angeles area college radio station KXLU, released on a CD-R -- rock music with two guitars, bass, drums, vocals, and saxophone. Lucid Nation displays a distinct Stooges influence, which is especially apparent when the saxophone squeals, evoking memories of life in the "Fun House". Unfortunately, the hoarse off-key female vocal rantings annoy much more frequently than impress. The jams sometimes rock, but more often meander aimlessly. There are a few nice moments, but overall I'd have to recommend giving this one a big fat miss. (CP)
(Brain Floss Records -- 8409 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90069; http://www.brainfloss.com/)