The folks at Koolarrow Records (owned and operated by Faith No More's Billy Gould, by the by) now bring you the debut solo CD, Sanctuary, of Alexander Hacke, formerly a member of Einstürzende Neubauten. Hacke's reputation has seemingly attracted tons of collaborative musicians whom you may have heard in another context -- J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus), Algis Kizys (Swans), Don Bolles (Germs, Celebrity Skin), and David Yow (The Jesus Lizard), for a few. On this album, Hacke seems set on displaying the effects of location on the process of writing music. This formula is evident throughout the album, as it takes on classical music structures where the songs sound more like movements than individual entities. The first half of the album is decidedly more hip-hop influenced, and as his work moves westward geographically, it takes on a more guitar-oriented tone.
All the songs on this album are decent but not great. This collection of music displays a decent ear for music and an even better ear for organizing these progressively unique stylings into a coherent format. Basically, this renders the album more impressive when viewed from a studio project perspective than as a solo artist's album. The production is great, the hooks are good, the arrangements are borderline genius, and yet the songs remain average. What you'll hear at first listen is the beginnings of an experimental album that got the rawness sucked out of it in the studio and then became marketed as a concept album. You'll also hear some glimpses of genius production/arranging work, where on one song he meshes a nu-metal guitar riff with plucked violins that sort of mock the guitar's simplicity. Hacke doesn't fall short of Neubauten's ballsy disregard for convention, and that in itself is worth a listen. If you're expecting something amazing from the songs other than arranging and/or production value, however, you could be disappointed. I'd give this album a six on the scale of one to ten. (SR)
(Koolarrow Records -- 740A-14th Street #415, San Francisco, CA. 94114; http://www.koolarrow.com/)
Dare I Say
Hermano's new album, Dare I Say, is a good example of a decent bunch of musicians with somewhat decent musical tastes. Personally, I don't appreciate metal and bad punk rock. Somehow I believe that metal/punk musicians felt like, even to themselves, these genres were losing their freshness...and then along came Nu-Metal to rape and pillage what was left over. It seems as though a lot of these "metal" bands started thinking that you can pull off being a metal band who do punk covers and that somehow that would lead to a new audience. I'm not sure any musician would want an audience filled with members who like Limp Bizkit, but then again, I'm proven wrong time and time again, as America's youth populace repeatedly waste their collective resources on bands out of the same mold. Hermano sounds like a band that may not have intentionally tried to follow the mainstream formula, but because of a lack of musicianship or bad management/production, they end up sounding this way.
The first song on this album somewhat resembles a Mötörhead guitar vibe but never acheives their authenticity. Scattered throughout the rest of the album is a veritable showcase of how not to mix punk sensibilities with metal. Just because you listen and like both genres doesn't mean it would be cool to chop up the listener's experience, people. I also notice that at times the structures of the songs become just flat-out masturbatory in nature; what I'm saying here is there are gratuitous portions that don't need to be where they are or could be deleted altogether. You don't make a seven minute song just because you can, you write a seven minute song because that is what you need to make the song complete.
I think these guys would collectively tell me to fuck off after reading this, but hey, that's my opinion. What I can say about these guys is that they are all decent musicians, and by the influences you hear, you would also think they have good taste. The drummer is a maniac and is rhythmically spot-on throughout the album. The production quality of the album is fair, but I think that you can still hear the care they took to record this album -- that's something that's indicative of a band pushing themselves. I don't think I would buy this album if my life depended on it, though, even if it was a genre I liked. These guys need to expose themselves to different styles of music and draw from their collective subconscious something more meaningful and challenging than this. Best of luck, Hermano -- thanks for the Mötörhead flashback; I'm off to re-visit Lemmy and the boys. (SR)
(MeteorCity Records -- P.O. Box 40322, Albuquerque, NM. 87196; http://www.meteorcity.com/; Hermano -- http://www.hermanorocks.com/)
Hi Red Center
Architectural Failures is the first full-length album from Hi Red Center, a band formed in 2003 in New York but with members hailing from all over the United States. Much like New York itself, the music Hi Red Center creates is frenetic, noisy, and chaotic. Their music is a blend of cultures -- sudden shifts, asymmetrical rhythms, and buzzy textures. At times it's hard to believe that this band is just four guys combining their voices, drums, vibraphone, synthesizers, trombone, guitar, and bass together. In this way, songs often feel like a cut-and-paste collage rather than a musical composition. Many are hard to grasp with your head, and it must be felt with your heart. If you like noisy post-rock, Architectural Failures will be right up your alley. (KM)
(self-released; Hi Red Center -- http://www.hiredcenter.com/)
Shoot Me, Shoot Me, Heaven
Okay. I've read what other people have said about Taylor Hollingsworth's album, Shoot Me, Shoot Me, Heaven, and I think their opinions are straight-up lame. Some folk compare Hollingsworth to The Heartbreakers, The MC5, and trashy Rolling Stones, but personally, I think these folks lack the imagination, let alone the musical ear, to encapsulate a musician such as Taylor Hollingsworth as being anything other than a "garage band". Labeling Hollingsworth as such does him a huge injustice. I will admit that it is somewhat accurate to talk about Hollingsworth with mild references to the influences previously mentioned; however, one listen and it's clear that Hollingsworth is taking steps towards something simultaneously different and yet, ironically, the same. His music's different in that I can't remember any of these bands attempting to structure an entire song around a symphonic arrangement of rock solos that comprise the harmony, melody, and vocal backbone with little or no reference to a underlying chord progression. But then, it's the same in that he's reaching for that ever-elusive musical frontier where only the great survive and fewer still live to tell about it. Hollingsworth also gives us some unexpected moments, like when he abandons the whole rock paradigm in favor of an acoustic tribute to what I would call a Memphis 1950s-era, post-Elvis sound.
All of this comes down to what I would call a great guitarist with an, ahem, unique voice (we'll get to that). So my criticisms here are directed, instead, at the really sub-par drums. I'm not saying the drummer is horrible or that he can't keep a beat, but you rarely hear him enough to even form an opinion. At times all you hear is a snare and, if you strain really, really hard, a wimpy click-track version of a bass drum. Though Hollingsworth's guitars sound awesome overall, he too offers a few hints of lazy guitar sounds here and there -- you know that sound you hear while at a local musical instrument store where a bunch of unlearned thirteen-year-old punks are jamming the latest Matchbox Twenty song over and over on a Fender Squier through a Crate half-stack? You get the idea. Hollingsworth's more polished work tends to cover it up a bit, thankfully.
Finally, I just wish I could get over Hollingsworth's voice. It's like Dennis Rodman's basketball skills, except that Hollingsworth can't rebound or fit into a wedding dress. In the end, the listener's left with some really good music that gets trashed with crappy, utterly forgettable vocals. Hope you guys feel differently. (SR)
(Brash Music -- 658 11th Street NW, Atlanta, GA. 30318; http://www.brashmusic.com/; Taylor Hollingsworth -- http://www.taylorhollingsworth.com/)