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Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero April 22, 2007

Posted by Walt in mini-review.
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I have never purchased a NIN album before. Never saw much need to. I thought I’d be in for a whole lot of angry noise, and not much else. After listening to the Sound Opinions review of “Year Zero”, I thought I might as well give it a try. After all, that is what codgermusic is supposed to be about, right? Just because I am over 50 (and loving it), that doesn’t mean that I can’t listen to something I might not be comfortable with.

Well, “Year Zero” is a whole lot angry noise BUT with great beats and outstanding melodies.

“HYPERPOWER!”, the first track on “Year Zero”, clocks in at only 1:41, but wow! A simple drum beat is joined by a complementary electronic theme after 11 seconds. Every 22 seconds a new element is added ending in raucous noise and screams. Great.

Next is “The Beginning of the End”. Again, very intense sonically, but a great melody.

My favorite track is “Capital G”. Lyrically, it is a sledgehammer to the current state of the country. I don’t generally favor political tracts, but this one is so simple that it proves to be devestating. “I pushed the button and elected him to office and, he pushed the button and he dropped the bomb.”

Trent Reznor needs to make albums faster if this is an example of what happens when he picks up his pace. This is a desperately urgent noise that needs to be heard.

9 out of 10.

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Neko Case – Live at First Avenue, Minneapolis April 10, 2007

Posted by Walt in mini-review.
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After an enjoyable opening set by guitarist Jon Rauhouse (obviously talented, but not much stage presence), fans at First Avenue were treated to a wonderful performance by Neko Case.

Neko performed virtually all of “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” starting with “A Widow’s Toast” and a nice variety of older favorites. Outstanding!

My favorite moment was the end of the 1st encore where she performed “John Saw That Number”. I love that song. The lyrics include:

God told the angel “Go see about John!”
So he flew from the pit with the moon ’round his waist
Gathered wind in his fists, and the stars ’round his wrists

“Gathered wind in his fists” is so evocative, but where does it come from? “John Saw That Number” is the one song on the album that is not entirely original. Allmusic.com credits it as “Case, Traditional”. A web page with lyrics for spirituals lists one as:

Ole John de Baptist, ole John Divine
Frogs an’ de snakes gonna eat ole John so bad
God tole de angel: “Go down see ’bout John”
Angel flew frum de bottom uv de pit
Gathered de wind all in his fist
Gathered de stars all ’bout his wrist
Gathered de moon all ’round his waist
Cryin’ “Holy,” cryin’ “Holy,” cryin’ “Holy, my Lord,” cryin’ “Holy”

But further, that specific line comes from the Bible’s Proverbs 30:4 which in part reads, “Who has gathered the wind in His fists?” What terrific sources for a song, and the song did its sources proud. The concert audience responded enthusiastically.

My least favorite moment was listening to the woman in the audience who annoyingly shouted her request for “Mood to Burn Bridges” at every opportunity.

My only quibble with the concert itself is that I wish that some of the songs were given more of a fresh twist for the live show, but that is minor when the performances were so great.

8 out of 10

Field Music – Tones Of Town March 26, 2007

Posted by Walt in mini-review.
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Let me admit that I haven’t heard Field Music’s first album. Maybe, that is why listening to “Tones Of Town” leaves me scratching my head. It has a rating of 80 on metacritic.com, which is quite good. Why am I not so unimpressed?

Field Music is a trio from Sunderland, England consisting of brothers David and Peter Brewis, and Andrew Moore. Together they craft simple, engaging pop songs that are pleasant, if not earth shattering.

“Sit Tight” and “A House is Not a Home” sound like Supertramp tunes. Catchy, but ??? “Sit Tight” ends in a beat-box mess.

I like the rhythms in “Kingston”. Almost like a Broadway show tune, which I mean in a good way.

“Working to Work” is hard to get out of your head. A Steely Dan influence seems evident.

This is an interesting album for me. It’s a case where the total seems to be less than the sum of its parts. A lot of 80’s references don’t necessarily work for me, though I like a lot of the referenced artists. It’s hard for me to see how anyone can get very passionate about Field Music, though I can see how a lot of people would like them.

6 out of 10

Tokyo Police Club – Smith (EP) March 15, 2007

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Tokyo Police Club has just released Smith, a 3-song, 8-minute EP.

“Box” takes 22 seconds of “ba-ba-ba” to get started, but then steps up with an excellent hook-filled, high-energy song with their seeming trademark overlapping vocals. Nice keyboard work, too.

“Cut Cut Paste”  lasts not quite 2 minutes. Rapid-fire drumming sets the mood. Shouted background vocals. Distortion. Not bad. Not great.

 “A Lesson in Crime” starts with a lovely piano intro on an apparently crappy instrument that sounds like it has done long, hard service in a church basement. The song is very quirky down to the throat clearing done about a minute in. I like it. It’s nice to see a departure from their normal style.

“Smith” sounds like it was recorded one afternoon when the band had nothing else to do. But I like the rawness paired with the tight playing. I like Dave Monks voice. I like the whole feel. I’m really loooking forward to a full-length album.

7 out of 10

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible March 6, 2007

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Montreal-based Arcade Fire is the music world’s anti-Polyphonic Spree. It’s not a happy-happy world for Win Butler and his bandmates (however many there are today). The septet’s 2nd album which arrived today is the follow-up to the much-beloved “Funeral” from 2004.

I love the ambition of this album. I don’t think these folks would ever just phone it in. Does it always work? No, not quite. Is it thrilling when it does? Yes.

As it turns out, I particularly like the even numbered tracks. #2 – “Keep the Car Running” starts with strings and a great beat, almost a swing dance sound. #4 – “Intervention”: I’ll bet you’ve never before heard a pipe organ and glockenspiel on a rock track. Now you have. And of course lyrics like “Working for the church while your family dies”. Great track. #6 – “Ocean of Noise”, #8 – “(Antichrist Television Blues)” is apparently about father of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, #10 – “No Cars Go” is a cover of an Arcade Fire song from their 2003 EP.

I’m not as fond of “Neon Bible” and the first half of “Black Wave / Black Vibrations”. I’m not too fond of Regine Chassagne’s voice as a lead.

Even when a song is not entirely satisfying, the band is. They are taking chances. I just hope they take more, and don’t take another 3 years to record another album. 

9 out of 10

Explosions in the Sky – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone March 1, 2007

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OK, how about a 43-minute, 6-song instrumental album, where the songs have names like “The Birth And Death Of The Day” and “Catastrophe And The Cure”?

Is it just me or do song names like that on instrumental tracks seem pretentious? I would be just as happy if the songs were named “A”, “B”, “C”,…

The good news is that the album is very strong. The first track opens with distorted guitars that reminded me of Yes for some reason. Soon the song resolves into a more straight-forward melody, with a nice little reverb and a very insistent drum backing.

The whole album works together like a classical suite.

7 out of 10

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away February 10, 2007

Posted by Walt in mini-review.
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The third CD from the “life-changing” band is a triumph. I am always concerned about albums that are 4 years in the making. Sometimes it seems like taking too much time to make an album can be as bad or worse than taking too little. In the case of the Shins, 4 years was juuuusssssttttt right. Cryptic lyrics, spectacular settings and lush production add up to a wonderful listening experience.

Highlights: “Phantom Limb”: the first single, is an infectious riff on small-town lesbian angst. I don’t hear that in the lyrics myself, but who cares. It’s a great song. “Australia”: you’ve got to love a song that uses the word conundrum – twice. But seriously, it’s a power-pop marvel. A upbeat tune matched with lyrics that could be read as desperate. “Turn On Me”: How is James Mercer able to come up with so many wonderful pop melodies? I don’t know what the song means, but who cares?

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

> Walt <

Lily Allen – Alright, Still February 8, 2007

Posted by Walt in mini-review.
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Sweetly subversive. Hip-skaish. Slightly crude. Very fun. It’s the first release by Lily Allen.

Lily’s been done wrong by some (or many) men, and she’s out for a little payback. She does the deed so charmingly, however, that a guy who identifies himself in the lyrics might be inclined to say, “Oi! It’s a fair cop.”

Highlights: “Smile”: it takes 25 seconds for Lily to drop the f-bomb, but the lacerating lyrics are great. “Alfie”: a riff on a fairly hopeless, helpless brother to a polka beat. “Everything’s Just Wonderful”: sounds like a Sergio Mendes / Brasil ’66 tune updated for England ’07 .

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

> Walt <