God Doesn't Care
Wow, a real, live, unabashed, "rock" album! Produced by Bob Ezrin, even! I thought things like this had gone the way of cassette tapes and denim jackets with back patches. Instruction brings back capital-R rock with a vengeance, which is basically what you would expect from a group that features ex-members of Errortype:11 and Quicksand. Fans of Errortype will find much to like here, albeit with a harder edge, with some songs even leaning on the metal side of the spectrum (gasp!). Frontman Arty Shepherd's songwriting skills are still top-notch, and his grungy scream has gotten better with age, much like a fine wine. Tom Capone busts out his trademark textured metallurgy on every track, so if you dug Quicksand, you're taken care of, as well. To be sure, there's lots of choice rockery to be had on God Doesn't Care, but Instruction is nice enough to even throw in a mid-tempo ballad ("I'm Dead"), and an Indian-style raga, complete with Stephen Perkins on percussion ("Feed The Culture"). How f**%king cool is that? Instruction kicks ass, this album kicks ass, and denim jackets with back patches kick ass. Therefore, sport a denim jacket with an "Instruction: God Doesn't Care" patch on the back and kick heretofore untold amounts of ass. (MHo)
(Geffen Records -- http://www.geffen.com/; Instruction -- http://www.instruction-music.com/)
The Invincible Czars
Okay, I really had no idea what to make of this at first. As near as I can tell, the Invincible Czars are a bunch of Austin music folks who banded together to play, um, Russian folk music. Now, to me that initially sounded like a recipe for disaster -- I mean, isn't it a little arrogant for a bunch of goofy Americans to blithely attempt to co-opt a culture's folk music? It's one thing if you're Paul Simon or something, but...I dunno. Musicians or other artists aping somebody else's culture bugs me, in nearly every instance I can come up with. This kind of thing just has the potential to come off as being extremely disrespectful, trite, or fakey.
Luckily, the Invincible Czars' self-titled CD (which isn't listed on their Website, for some reason) is none of those things. I can't claim to be any kind of authority on Eastern European music, but after hearing the band do their thing, I don't think that really matters that much. These folks aren't any kind of purists or voyeurs intent on igniting a Russian folk revival here in the states. Rather, it's just a part of the stew (albeit a big part), thrown in along with country, polka, jazz, and a few dozen other influences.
The five instrumental tracks on the CD cover all kinds of territory -- "Bar Mitzvah in Ghost town" incorporates some ska-ish rhythms, bringing to mind Houston's own odd, genre-destroying Sprawl, while "Mursketine" is a stomping, sometimes distorted, horn-filled march. "Iron Fist of Stalin" (which is included both as a studio track and a live recording) is faster, more frantic and desperate-sounding, but still trawls through lots of different sounds while never sounding derivative or forced. "Fanfare of the Imbeciles" is the other live track, and it sounds like a bumping, jumping, countrified New Orleans funeral march for a posse of Ukrainian cowboys (or something like that, anyway).
The whole thing comes off like theme music for a bizarre Toy Story remake set in post-WWII Romania, and amazingly, it works. Don't ask me how, but it does. (JH)
(The Invincible Czars -- http://www.invincibleczars.com/)