Okay, so I love that somebody finally used the word "Caddywhompus" for a band name (I mean, how can you not like a word that evokes both pimp-daddy Cadillacs and whupping up on somebody?), and am therefore predisposed to like this New Orleans-based (currently, anyway, but I'll get to that) duo; shallow, yes, but I can't help it, sorry. Not that it should really matter, mind you, because by all rights I ought to love these guys based on band pedigree alone. See, they may live in The Big Easy these days (for college, I'm told), but guitarist/vocalist Chris Rehm and drummer/vocalist Sean Hart also happen to be half of acclaimed Houston psych-shoegazers the Riff Tiffs.
Where the Riff Tiffs are all about the stand-and-sway, however, on their debut EP Caddywhompus are all about rocking you to the floor and kicking you to keep you there, smiling all the while. Opener "This is Where We Blaze the Nuggz" starts off a lie, lulling you in with softly atmospheric, shimmery guitars before punching you in the face with alternately heavy and fuzzed-out and jangly/noodly guitars. Throw in Rehm's warbly, off-in-the-distance, Wolf Parade-esque vocals, and it starts looking like something special. And then, when the song transmutes into some kind of postmodern gypsy hoedown, with Rehm's fingers literally dancing up and down the strings, it morphs from "hey, this is pretty neat" to "holy fuck, I need to hear that again."
"Fun Times at Whiskey Bay" ups the ante, incorporating electronic screwing-around into a stuttering, chaotic, strange composition that trips blithely from crushing, pounding prog to light-hearted folk-pop (and back, naturally), sounding sinister and pretty as it goes. Closer "Untitled #7408" veers sweetly northward to Canada, mining an Arcade Fire-ish feel for some roaring, gorgeous, meandering-yet-driving drone-rock, and it works well enough to make you forget that, um, these folks are in some other band I like already, aren't they?
With "Absinthesizer," though... Here, ladies and gentlemen, comes The Crowning Moment. God damn, I love the way that guitar sounds. Zeppelin stomp + Queens of the Stone Age-esque riff + Hart's thundering John Bonham drums + Rehm's warbly vocals + random jaunty melody + reprise of the stomp = total fucking badness. And they do it all in a minute and twenty seconds.
And hey, you want to hear the best part? You don't need to take my word for any of the above -- you can download the four-song EP yourself, for absolute-freakin' free
, from the band's Website
(heck, it's pretty much the only thing on
their Website). Go there, right-click, and save; trust me, you won't be sorry.
[Caddywhompus is playing 11/26/08 at Walter's on Washington, with Zach Hill of Hella, Golden Axe, and sIngs.]
Vida La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
Coldplay is a band that listeners either love or hate -- there's rarely any middle ground. Thankfully, Viva La Vida... -- with obvious help from über-producer Brian Eno -- is enough of a departure for the band that it shows they still care about growing their music more than selling albums. Instead of sticking rigidly to the mostly piano-based formula they tend to fall back on in times of creative drought (as on X&Y), Chris Martin and company employ a more experimental feel in their latest songs.
Sure, there's still plenty of piano, but the band tends to use it more to enhance their songs rather than as to form the basis of them. "Viva La Vida" incorporates heavy strings and keyboards, which makes it an odd choice for a single -- but it is one of the album's catchiest songs -- and lead single "Violet Hill" finds the band tackling heavier riffs than in the past (it only slightly smacks of trying too hard). The excellent "42" starts off slowly with Martin's warbling vocals and softly played piano and morphs into an electronic-tinged masterpiece like nothing the band has tried before; Eno's ability to push the band past their comfort zone obviously works in spots.
As expected, Martin still mostly writes sappy, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and unfortunately also dabbles in religion and politics -- again, the requisite moody, piano-based songs -- that could easily venture into overly trite territory if you didn't get the impression he's actually sincere. While there's nothing on Viva La Vida... to convert long-time haters (overexposed bands will always have them), Coldplay should be proud of the fact they've expanded their sound on their own terms. Those that insist they've sold out should give Parachutes another listen.
[Coldplay is playing 11/18/08 at Toyota Center, with Sleepercar.]
Parts & Labor
So, let's say you're a member of this noisy (yet majestic), ear-destroyingly loud, static-soaked, sorta conspiracy-minded noise-rock band. You put out two albums' worth of anthemic noise bombast...and then what? Change is inevitable, obviously, but which way do you go? Do you surrender yourself to the noise, diving headlong into nearly unlistenable avant-garde noise muckery? Or do you embrace the melodies you've had drifting through your music all along like a subtle pop undercurrent and drag them to the surface?
With Receivers, NYC's Parts & Labor have (thankfully) opted for the latter. The noise, the static, it's still there, to be sure, but unlike past releases, it feels more like just another piece in the sonic toolbox. It's the gorgeous, uplifting melodies that take center stage here, right up there alongside the fists-to-the-sky vocals of head P&L men Dan Friel and BJ Warshaw. The band's always had an anthemic quality to its compositions, but with Receivers the band takes that to a whole new level, overloading the album with soaring, roaring calls to arms so that you can't help but want to pump your fist and crow along.
Honestly, this scarcely feels like noise-rock anymore -- what Receivers reminds me of more than anything else is space-rockers The Secret Machines. Both bands drive the music along with relentless, near-robotic drums, both bands craft music that sounds like it'd be perfect to launch into hyperspace to, and both bands cover their songs with layers of lush, planet-sized guitars. There's a dreampop-y thing going on, too, especially on "Nowheres Nigh," which is a bona fide shoegaze masterpiece, with an unrelenting, unwavering drumbeat that cranks along like a bullet train, droning/pretty guitars, and low-key, almost Sebadoh-esque vocals at the start. It's pretty much the poster child for Receivers, and if you squint a bit it sounds like it could even be a Jesus & Mary Chain cover.
On "Satellites," on the other hand, there's a bit of a Beta Band feel to it, with the flat vocals and the busy, layered, quasi-electronic sound. The weirdest part, though, is the gospel and country moments that peek past the still-thick blanket of sound. "Little Ones" is, I shit you not, a full-on gospel track, like one of Jason Pierce's most ecstatic space-dreams made real (if it were set to a merciless Grant Hart beat, that is), and "The Ceasing Now" comes close, too, with a spiritual, uplifting sound in spite of the strange noisiness it starts off with. Then there's "Wedding In A Wasteland," which has this oddly country-hoedown rhythm that beckons you to get up and start stomping the floor, Hee Haw style. I really can't explain it, but trust me, it's in there.
Spacerock, gospel, country, whatever the heck the band's incorporating these days, though, it's definitely shoved the more grating, abrasive elements of the Parts & Labor sound to the side. Hell, look at album closer "Solemn Show World" -- it's got an honest-to-God rawk riff in the break, and an oddly glam-y, Killers-ish one, at that.
The overall tone of the album's shifted somewhat, matching the new musical direction. Where before Parts & Labor made jagged, noisy chunks of anthemic rock that came off sounding paranoiac, menacing, and foreboding with shards of sunlight leaking through, the vibe here is decidedly laidback, mellow, and friendly, at least musically. While the lyrics are still dystopian and dark quite a bit of time, the sweet, relative gentility of the band's new sound belies the words. And the juxtaposition works amazingly well.
I should note, by the way, that I had some serious, serious misgivings about this disc, mostly based on the fact that drummer Christopher Weingarten apparently bowed out of the band for this release, relinquishing his kit to go be a writer full-time. I can't fault him for the move (he's a heck of a writer, actually), but on both Stay Afraid and Mapmaker, Weingarten's frantic, neck-snapping drumming literally propelled the rest of the instrumentation forward, pell-mell, towards what always sounded like the music's inevitable collapse. With him gone, I was afraid the new incarnation of P&L would feel weak and anemic, not the force of nature I'd heard/known and loved.
With Receivers in hand and headphones, I really needn't have worried. New drummer Joseph Wong may not be as controlled-spastic a drummer as Weingarten, but he never misses a freakin' beat, nailing the whole thing to the floor with cool precision. And if he and fellow new member Sarah Lipstate (guitarist and "noise artist," according to the band's PR) are truly responsible for the band's shifting of gears, well, I've got to applaud them for pulling it off. On the outside, Parts & Labor may be a very different animal than it was, but the same heart's still beating, fierce as ever.
[Parts & Labor is playing 11/7/08 at Walter's on Washington, with UME & Black Congress.]