Pitch Black Dream
Never Going Home
I'm having difficulty writing this review of Pitch Black Dream's Never Going Home. I try to be fair, and I try to find something constructive to say about every band, but unfortunately, this band offers me few options. I'm not saying that this band is bad. If you like to frequent the Richmond Strip in Houston, then I could probably market this to you, but I don't really associate with anything on that street, save a fast food joint or two. This album sounds like some early- to mid- '90s pop/R&B concoction, similar to Madonna's Bedtime Stories sans Madonna and the Babyface production. Pitch Black Dream does offer a few new synthesizer updates but falls short of every thing that Everything but the Girl succeeded at (if you consider them a success, anyway). The lyrical content is trite and lacks anything that would normally elicit an emotional response. The musicianship is hard to critique, since it's so synthesizer-laden you can't tell if it was a product of talent or the result of competent cutting and pasting. But that, I guess, is a strength of this band; Never Going Home is seamless. There are no surprises in terms of choppy production, and the songs flow together like they were meant to be arranged this way. Bernadette McCallion's voice is not bad, although she seems to be pushing her own Dido envelope. On top of all the rest, the quality of the CD, from a marketing standpoint, seems rather juvenile. The layout looks like it was done at home (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) on some outdated version of Photoshop (which is). Of course, these are just my lame-arsed opinions; like I said earlier, if you frequent the Richmond Strip, then you'll probably enjoy this album, and all my criticisms probably won't mean squat to you. Up to you. (SR)
(self-released; Pitch Black Dream -- http://www.pitchblackdream.com/)
Funny story about this CD: when I first heard about this band Plane, I was curious, so I went to their Website to download a couple of tracks from their latest album, Hello More. I found a few MP3s (can't remember which ones at this point, sorry), downloaded 'em, and popped 'em over to the iPod to listen to. A few days later, then, when I was listening to the ol' 'pod at the office, one of the Plane tracks came up on the shuffled playlist...and promptly blew out my eardrums. It seems that whoever mastered the MP3s (or whatever it is you do with MP3s when you encode them) did so at an extremely high volume, one that nearly killed my best damn pair of headphones. After that, I had to toss the MP3 files, since even though I could listen to the tracks at very low volume, I didn't want to stumble across one while shuffling through the gigantic mess of songs I've got on there and kill my headphones for good.
Okay, so that story's not "funny ha-ha," I'll admit, but the part that makes it "funny strange" is that the near-destruction of my treasured headphones didn't make me want to hear the band less, but instead made me more determined to track down a listenable version of Hello More. And then, lo and behold, it shows up in my mailbox. (Naturally, I tried also wishing hard for a check for a million dollars and a really good set of power tools, but to no avail.)
So, now that I've finally heard Hello More, I can say that, well, I'm still intrigued. Plane's imagery and overall sound, which draws heavily from New Wave pop and morose British people like the Smiths and New Order, seems to pigeonhole the band as another bunch of Interpol wannabes (who, admittedly, are themselves New Wave revisionists), but there's more substance here than that. That's good. At the same time, though, Hello More is absolutely maddening, because there are only about six actual songs on this CD, out of a total of 12 tracks: "Western Avenue"; "Heart & Soul"; "Please Save My Body From the Modern World"; "Rope"; "Broken Woods"; and "Hello More," the title track. The rest are a pile of half-formed bits of deedleboopery ("Party Train"), answering machine messages ("Mr. Edgars"), guitar-and-a-4-track lo-fi blips ("It's What I Like, Dear"), and atmospheric electronics ("Compass Tape"). Even the "real" songs on here suffer from a bit of a "kitchen sink" mentality, where it seems almost like the band had too much damn time to work on the album and so got carried away with the goofy stuff that probably seemed very clever at 2AM in the studio.
"Western Avenue," the album's real opener, also happens to be probably the best song on here. It's got that very retro-New Wave sound to it at first, with an insistent beat and whispery, echoey vocals, but then it transmutes into more of a pop song, with vocals and a '70s-ish feel that make me think of The Push Kings. "Heart & Soul" offers more straight-up New Wave-y-ness, with a nice driving rhythm behind it, but then "Party Train" blows the Britpop ship out of the water with samples of a guy speaking German that eventually build and mesh into an actual rhythm; it comes off a bit like Can remade by those Anticon pranksters. It's an interesting track, but it's unfortunately also pretty much a throwaway, with little going for it other than the novelty factor.
Unfortunately, "Train" signals the start of a downward spiral that Hello More doesn't pull out of for way too long (with one exception, but I'll get to that). "Please Save My Body From the Modern World" is okay, with its bumping electronics and skronking, disjointed, bluesy guitars -- it's strange and all over the place, in the same way that Welsh weirdo-pop heroes Super Furry Animals tend to be, but it's not nearly as catchy as, say, "The Man Don't Give a Fuck." Then there's a recorded call from a 911 operator ("Mr. Edgars"), the unfinished GbV-wannabe pop of "It's What I Like, Dear" and "Adams" (which repeats the same damn line over and over again for a full minute), and the nothing track "The Sound of Everything Falling Apart" (which is just overblown, distorted vocals speaking the song title a couple of times).
The lone standout in the middle part of the album is "Rope," a glam-y bit of rock that jumps out of the mess and onto the dancefloor like Morrissey leaving the melancholia behind for a while and raving like a schoolkid on E. After that, the band screws around some more 'til the end of the album (as detailed above), where they dive headlong into "Broken Woods," an odd bit of sung-spoken tone poetry with dueling vocal lines that sounds a heck of a lot like a Beta Band outtake. In fact, there's a strong resemblance to The Beta Band's sound throughout Hello More, partly in the flat nonchalance of Edgars Legzdins' vocals and partly in the jumbled, stuff-piled-on-stuff production style. Unfortunately, Plane don't seem to have the editing sense that the Beta guys do, because they either give up on an idea before it can go anywhere or throw it out half-done when it needs more work. Finally, the closer of the album, title track "Hello More," brings things back down to earth a bit, with delicate, droning guitars that eventually morph into a majestic roar that at times nears Sun Kil Moon's glorious triumphalism and a distant-sounding, thumping beat. They end it on a high note, at least.
In spite of it all, I do still like Plane -- I just wish they'd cut out the filler next time and stick with the actual songs. Cut Hello More in half, and you'd have a darned decent EP. (JH)
(Dirigeable Records -- Portland, OR. 97124; http://www.dirigeablerecords.com/; Future Farmer Recordings -- P.O. Box 225128, San Francisco, CA. 94122; http://www.futurefarmer.com/; Plane -- http://www.planeband.com/)
The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower
Love In The Fascist Brothel
Titles like "Exile On Vain Street," "Love In The Sex Prison," and "SLC Hunks" sum up The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower's latest effort, Love In The Fascist Brothel. The band's mixture of hardcore punk and metal experimentation might have a home with the disenchanted and musically challenged, but true hardcore fans know it's been done better. That's not to say Love is without merit -- far from it, actually. The San Diego group is dedicated to their craft, and songs like "Vulture Kontrol" and "Drake The Fake" show not only the band's talent but their willingness to do what a lot of punk bands refuse to do -- experiment.
Listeners must decide for themselves if The Plot...'s experiments are successful -- but as before, it's been done better. And it's been done much worse. (DAC)
(Revelation Records -- P.O. Box 5232, Huntington Beach, CA. 92615-5232; http://www.revelationrecords.com/; The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower -- http://www.blowuptheeiffeltower.com/)
Elvis By The Presleys
Yes, this release is yet another in a long line of repackaged songs made famous by the King. But then again, can you get too much Elvis? This 32-song collection is a tie-in to a TV special, but even that can be forgiven, since included among such classics as "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Suspicious Minds" are great tracks like "In The Ghetto," "Always On My Mind," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The second disc (or, bonus disc, as it's being advertised), though, is the more appealing of the two. Fans -- and let's face it, there are better collections out there than this, and fans and collectors will make up the majority of the buyers of this collection -- will be pleased with the rarities. Among the eight included tracks is a demo of "It Wouldn't Be the Same Without You," recorded before Elvis signed with Sun, and home recordings of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Baby What You Want Me to Do." "Jailhouse Rock" shines here, as well -- it's a stripped-down version unique enough to appeal to even the most jaded Elvis fan.
Unfortunately, the "rare" photos included in the liner notes are nowhere as interesting as they could be, and a lot of fans will undoubtedly feel a bit ripped-off at shelling out another $20 for basically eight "new" songs. There are much worse things to blow a twenty on, though -- and hey, it's the King. (DAC)
(Sony/BMG Strategic Marketing Group -- 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY. 10022; http://www.sonybmg.com/; Elvis Presley -- http://www.elvis.com/)
"Rain Feigns"/"Nasty Candy"
Instrumental rock bands are an interesting lot. Some, like Tortoise and The Mercury Program, go for minimalistic sounds with old school jazz overtones, while others, like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, create bombastic sheets of noise interspersed with low-key beautiful melodies. And then there are the other bands, like Prospekt and Kalypso Lipstich, who lie somewhere in the middle.
Prospekt's "Rain Feigns" and Kalypso Lipstich's "Nasty Kandy" both suckle at the same post-rock teat, yet neither band -- actually, both bands include musicians Harlan Campbell and Jay Murphy; Prospekt also includes guitarist Andrew Danser -- takes the music to the same extremes as the aforementioned groups. "Rain Feigns" add shoegaze-y guitars, while "Nasty Kandy" is more atmospheric and electronic, with samples and keyboards; both of the songs are incredible, however, and this 7-inch is a must-have for fans of this type of low-key, atmospheric instrumental rock. (DAC)
(Moment Before Impact Records -- P.O. Box 447, Chapel Hill, NC. 27514)