WBEZ | #albumreviews http://www.wbez.org/tags/albumreviews Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Album review: Kid Cudi, “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-kid-cudi-%E2%80%9Cman-moon-ii-legend-mr-rager%E2%80%9D <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Cudi.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 451px; height: 451px;" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-16/Cudi.jpg" /></p><p>With his invigorating hit single &ldquo;Day &rsquo;n&rsquo; Nite&rdquo; and the ambitious debut concept album &ldquo;Man on the Moon: The End of Day,&rdquo; Cleveland-born, Brooklyn-based rapper Kid Cudi, known to his mom as Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, instantly marked himself as one of the most important and creative voices in hip-hop today. But his is a restless talent, as well as an ample one, and in the months preceding his sophomore release, he was talking a lot about how the sequel would be &ldquo;a lot more rock,&rdquo; as well as more dense and downbeat in tone.</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;Man On The Moon II&rsquo; is dark by nature, and instead of bringing you into my dreams like my first album, I&rsquo;m bringing you into my reality, good and bad,&rdquo; Cudi has said. &ldquo;It will explain more of who I am, as well as pushing the envelope musically.&rdquo;</p> <p>There isn&rsquo;t a whole lot of evidence of the aforementioned rock in the end result; the sounds are much closer to the Spartan but moving dark-night-of-the-soul electronic nightmares of the 2008 stunner &ldquo;808s &amp; Heartbreak&rdquo; by Cudi&rsquo;s mentor Kanye West. The 17 tracks are divided into five &ldquo;acts&rdquo; (&ldquo;The World I Am Ruling&rdquo;; &ldquo;A Stronger Trip&rdquo;; &ldquo;Party On&rdquo;; &ldquo;The Transformation,&rdquo; and &ldquo;You Live &amp; You Learn&rdquo;), and like precious few hip-hop albums since the fertile &ldquo;alternative rap&rdquo; heyday of De La Soul and &ldquo;Paul&rsquo;s Boutique,&rdquo; they take you on a gripping journey.</p> <p>Cudi, who runs off at the mount nearly as much as his pal &rsquo;Ye, has also said the disc was inspired by his cocaine addiction, and that makes sense: We get the sense of anxious anticipation, a sudden intoxicating rush, and a very harsh crash, as well as an increasingly desperate panic about being trapped within that cycle and unable to escape. The diversity and invention of the sounds are breathtaking&mdash;there&rsquo;s hardly a genre that the artist leaves untouched&mdash;but so is the consistency of the moods they evoke; as Jon Caramancia observed in The New York Times, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s closer to Radiohead than to most hip-hop.&quot;</p> <p>Yet just as Cudi never is overshadowed by the stellar roster of guests&mdash;including West, Mary J. Blige, and St. Vincent (via the well-chosen sample in &ldquo;Maniac&rdquo;)&mdash;the lyrics never take a back seat to the musical settings, and the story of a man desperate for redemption who fears that he may have lost his soul for good is riveting. And the accomplishment is all the more impressive when you take into account that the rapper also was busy playing a key role in the new HBO series &ldquo;How to Make It in America&rdquo; while crafting this thoroughly realized musical vision.</p><p><strong>Kid Cudi, &ldquo;Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager&rdquo; (Dream On/GOOD Music/Universal Motown) </strong></p><p><strong>3 1/2 stars (out of 4) </strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Nov 2010 11:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-kid-cudi-%E2%80%9Cman-moon-ii-legend-mr-rager%E2%80%9D Album reviews: Scott Lucas has been a busy boy http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-reviews-scott-lucas-has-been-busy-boy-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2010-October/2010-10-26/Married-MEn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 430px; height: 430px;" src="http://wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-26/Married-MEn.jpg" alt="" />&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 367px; height: 367px;" src="http://wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-26/Local-H.jpg" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">No one ever will be able to fault that underrated local treasure <strong>Scott Lucas</strong> for a lack of ambition. Last year, during a bit of downtime with <a href="http://www.localh.com/">Local H</a>, his long-running, melodic hard-rock duo with drummer Brian St. Clair, Lucas started another project with a group called <a href="http://scottlucasandthemarriedmen.com/">the Married Men</a> that debuted with a more lush, rootsy, and heartfelt album called &ldquo;George Lassos the Moon&rdquo; and live shows that, in one of his typically perverse twists, presented a &ldquo;solo&rdquo; project wherein the number of musicians onstage actually outnumbered those in Local H by more than three to one.</p> <p>Now come not only two new offerings from Scott Lucas and the Married Men&mdash;&ldquo;The Absolute Beginners EP,&rdquo; which is accompanied by a bonus digital live album called &ldquo;Who Listens To Radio Anymore?: Live Sessions&rdquo; for anyone who buys the vinyl pressing&mdash;but a new EP of covers from his other band entitled&nbsp;&ldquo;Local H&rsquo;s Awesome Mix Tape #1.&rdquo; And the quantity of new sounds by no means belittles the quality control.</p> <p>In addition to his ability to craft indelible melodies, even when they&rsquo;re delivered amid a wall of fuzz and thundering drums, one of Lucas&rsquo; strengths as a songwriter always has been a razor-sharp wit as a lyricist, coupled with a novelist&rsquo;s eye for telling details. The Married Men showcase the latter in a different setting, amid sawing violins, sweeping piano lines, wheezing accordion and organ, and seductive acoustic guitar that welcome comparisons to the likes of American Music Club and Tindersticks. Just as importantly, they&rsquo;re presented minus the alt-era sarcasm and ironic distance of his other group: When Lucas sings about love here, it&rsquo;s with earnest longing and soulful yearning, as opposed to the anger, self-deprecation, and humorous despair of, say, Local H&rsquo;s brilliant 2008 breakup album, &ldquo;12 Angry Months.&rdquo;</p> <p>Named for a well-chosen cover of the song David Bowie wrote as the theme for Julien Temple&rsquo;s proto-mod cult film &ldquo;Absolute Beginners,&rdquo; the key tune actually is the Married Men&rsquo;s inspired reworking of the Local H song &ldquo;Hey, Rita,&rdquo; which makes apparent not only the well-defined differences between its author&rsquo;s two musical vehicles, but the strengths of the songs at the heart of both projects, and their ability to transcend genre. (It would be great to hear Lucas release an acoustic album spanning his career at some point.)</p> <p>Reinterpretation obviously is on the artist&rsquo;s mind, as Local H&rsquo;s latest tackles the same goal from a different direction. The duo long has been celebrated for its (sometimes spontaneous) live covers, but &ldquo;Local H&rsquo;s Awesome Mix Tape #1&rdquo; is the first time it&rsquo;s concentrated on other artists&rsquo; work in the studio, and the track list and fun quotient vary far and wide, from surprisingly successful versions of &ldquo;Time&rdquo; by Pink Floyd, &ldquo;Puss&rdquo; by the Jesus Lizard, and a furious &ldquo;Wolf Like Me&rdquo; by TV on the Radio, to a significantly less impressive &ldquo;Joey&rdquo; by Concrete Blonde (which sucks in the original and isn&rsquo;t much better here).</p> <p>Neither of these new studio efforts rank with the handful of desert-island discs Lucas has given us in the past. But both are essential for fans, strong introductions for the uninitiated, and welcome appetizers for the next full album from each group.</p> <p><strong>Scott Lucas and the Married Men, &ldquo;The Absolute Beginners EP&rdquo; (G&amp;P Records) </strong><strong><strong>Rating:</strong> <img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="☆" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/blankstar.png" /></strong><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>Local H, &ldquo;Local H&rsquo;s Awesome Mix Tape #1&rdquo; (G&amp;P Records) <strong>Rating:</strong> <img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="★" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/star.png" /><img alt="☆" src="http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-content/plugins/star-rating-for-reviews/images/blankstar.png" /></strong></p> <p><strong><em>Scott Lucas and the Married Men perform at <a href="http://emptybottle.com/calendar.php">the Empty Bottle</a> tonight after opening sets by Kevin Tihista&rsquo;s Red Terror and Moxie Motive starting at 10 p.m. Local H performs at <a href="http://www.sharkcity.com/">Shark City</a> in Glendale Heights on Nov. 26 and at <a href="http://www.115bourbonstreet.com/">115 Bourbon St.</a> in Merrionette Park on Nov. 27.</em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 26 Oct 2010 19:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-reviews-scott-lucas-has-been-busy-boy-0 Album review: “Belle and Sebastian Write About Love” http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-%E2%80%9Cbelle-and-sebastian-write-about-love%E2%80%9D <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2010-October/2010-10-25/belle-and-sebastian-write-about-love-1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="367" width="367" src="http://wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-25/belle-and-sebastian-write-about-love-1.jpg" title="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-25/belle-and-sebastian-write-about-love-1.jpg" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">Los Angeles really seems to agree with Stuart Murdoch and the Belle and Sebastian gang. Long champions of the musical evocation of a sad, gray, and rainy Tuesday afternoon spent staring out a tear-stained window in their native Glasgow, the indie-favorite Scots took an unexpected turn on their last album &ldquo;The Life Pursuit&rdquo; (2006), heading to sunny California to work with Tony Hoffer (whose production credits include Beck, Air, Phoenix, and Supergrass), shedding quite a bit of the twee that previously had been so off-putting to some, and unexpectedly beefing things up with stronger glam-rock and funkier disco rhythms.</p><p>Although the band once again recorded with Hoffer in L.A., it dials back the dance quotient a bit on its eighth studio album, its first in five years. Instead, Murdoch and his cohorts return to the more familiar mod-inflected pre-Beatles café pop of earlier favorites such as &ldquo;The Boy with the Arab Strap&rdquo; (1998). But they haven&rsquo;t forgotten what they learned the last time out, and Murdoch has matured as a songwriter: He&rsquo;s no longer content to build an entire song around one precious Morrissey-like lyrical quip or the irresistible urge to trot out some horns or strings. For anyone willing to set aside their preconceptions about the band, pro or con, they&rsquo;ll find some of the strongest tunes the group&rsquo;s ever delivered.</p> <p>The up-tempo songs connect first, and if rollicking standouts such as &ldquo;I Didn&rsquo;t See It Coming,&rdquo; &ldquo;I Want the World to Stop,&rdquo; &ldquo;I Can See Your Future,&rdquo; and the title track never are quite as brilliant as the last disc&rsquo;s &ldquo;Sukie in the Graveyard,&rdquo; they&rsquo;re still pretty darn swell. But the mellower sleepers prove to be just as effective, nicely balancing the jauntier moments, and growing on each listen.</p> <p>Murdoch&rsquo;s lyrical sketches are as sharp as they&rsquo;ve ever been&mdash;&ldquo;If someone else is near me/You scuttle up the pavement&hellip; You calculating bimbo/I wish you&rsquo;d let the past go,&rdquo; he sings, succinctly sketching someone we&rsquo;ve all met and simultaneously loved and loathed&mdash;and the more subtle moments prove to be so rewarding that even the over-hyped and under-caffeinated Norah Jones sounds seductive and alluring during her unlikely cameo in &ldquo;Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Belle and Sebastian, &ldquo;Belle and Sebastian Write About Love&rdquo; (Rough Trade) <strong>Rating:</strong> 3.5/4</strong></p></p> Mon, 25 Oct 2010 20:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-%E2%80%9Cbelle-and-sebastian-write-about-love%E2%80%9D Album review: Kings of Leon, “Come Around Sundown” http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis-music/album-review-kings-leon-%E2%80%9Ccome-around-sundown%E2%80%9D <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2010-October/2010-10-20/kings-of-leon-come-around-sundown-.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="325" width="325" alt="" src="http://wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-26/Kings%20of%20Leon.jpg" /></p><p>A decade into the new millennium, could there possibly be a hoarier concept in all of popular music than the rafters-rattling, lighters-inspiring arena-rock band?<!--more--></p><p>Though Bono, Mick Jagger, and their $350-a-ticket ilk will be the last ones in the tar pit to admit it, the music world has become a more intimate place, with any hero or heroine worth following a mere Tweet or Facebook update away. The idea of tunes crafted to be heard from the furthest heights of the stadium a city block away from the stage is a bizarre curiosity at best. Yet on their fifth album, the nepotistic Tennessee-bred former Pentecostals who comprise the Kings of Leon are more determined than ever to rock the enormodome like it&rsquo;s 1972.</p><p>Sad to say, the group&rsquo;s devotion to bigger-is-better bombast has paid off. Since their post-Nirvana origins as &ldquo;the Southern Strokes,&rdquo; the three Followill brothers plus cousin Matthew have consistently moved toward the mainstream and away from their never-all-that-edgy-to-begin-with postmodern take on Southern rock and soul, and they&rsquo;ve been amply rewarded with platinum album sales at a time when that&rsquo;s a rarity, Victoria&rsquo;s Secret model fiancées, and arenas filled with Baby Boomers thinking that they&rsquo;re hip for being there and Gen Y offspring so clueless they actually can listen to &ldquo;Sex on Fire&rdquo; with a straight face.</p><p>Distasteful thoughts, all of those, but to date, nothing has been as bad as the sub-Creed, 100-percent soul-and-subtlety-free chicken-fried <em>sturm und drang</em> of the 13 tracks and more than 47 minutes of &ldquo;Come Around Sundown.&rdquo; Good god, are there really people who think it&rsquo;s a good idea to mix the very worst impulses of Lynyrd Skynyrd with the most miserable, self-parodying over-indulgences of U2? I mean, besides the Followill family accountants?</p><p>Apparently there are, and I don&rsquo;t really don&rsquo;t mean to scoff at them. They&rsquo;re welcome to the grating vocals that somehow manage to be simultaneously growling and whiney, the guitars that leave no <em>fonky </em>soul or blues cliché unpunished, the thundering drums and whomping bass, and a production designed to GRAB YOU BY THE THROAT AND SHAKE YOU, as if that can somehow compensate for the complete lack of anything genuinely exciting in anthems-by-numbers such as &ldquo;The End,&rdquo; &ldquo;Mary,&rdquo; and &ldquo;The Immortals.&rdquo;</p><p>And the lyrics&mdash;lord, the lyrics! &ldquo;All the black inside me is slowly seeping from the bone/Everything I cherished is slowly dying or is gone,&rdquo; goes a typical prognostication from &ldquo;Pyro.&rdquo; (Rarely has a band so soggy so often invoked the flaming images.) &ldquo;Little shaking babies and drunkards seem to all agree/Once the show gets started its bound to be a sight to see.&rdquo;</p><p>Well, it&rsquo;s a sight you&rsquo;re welcome to if this really is your thing, but I won&rsquo;t be joining you. Me, <a href="../jderogatis/2010/07/rimshots-dead-nation%E2%80%99s-pigeongate-kid-sister%E2%80%99s-new-video-and-neu-is-coming-to-chicago/31316#more-31316">I agree with those pigeons in St. Louis.</a></p><p><strong>Kings of Leon, &ldquo;Come Around Sundown&rdquo; (RCA) Rating:.5/4</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 20 Oct 2010 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis-music/album-review-kings-leon-%E2%80%9Ccome-around-sundown%E2%80%9D Album review: Black Mountain, "Wilderness Heart" http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-black-mountain-wilderness-heart <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2010-October/2010-10-26/black-mountain-wilderness-heart-cover-art.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><a rel="attachment wp-att-38919" href="/jderogatis/2010/10/album-review-black-mountain-%e2%80%9cwilderness-heart%e2%80%9d/38918 /black-mountain-wilderness-heart-cover-art"><img height="500" width="500" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-38919" title="black-mountain-wilderness-heart-cover-art" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//black-mountain-wilderness-heart-cover-art.jpg" alt="" /></a></p><div>For rock fans who cut their teeth in a certain era of Black Sabbath/Deep Purple <em>sturm und drang</em>&mdash;and even more so for rock critics&mdash;fawning over the third album by Canadian stoner/psychedelic/heavy-metal mavens Black Mountain almost qualifies as a sad cliché. Of course we&rsquo;re gonna love it; how could we not? It pushes all the right buttons! (As well as passing the virtual bong in the process, thank you very much.)</div> <p>The group breaks no ground on &ldquo;Wilderness Heart,&rdquo; but that&rsquo;s not what it&rsquo;s about. These 10 tracks are a loving homage to a dazed and confused era of massive fuzz and feedback, thundering drums, a mood of ponderous, portentious doom and gloom bordering on the near-apocalyptic, and riffs, man, riffs. But the factor that elevates this quintet above the many others stomping on similar turf is the quality of those riffs, the urgency and immediacy of that noise, and the wonderful contrast that Amber Webber&rsquo;s ethereal, seductive, and otherworldly vocals provide to auteur Stephen McBean&rsquo;s much more fearsome growls.</p> <p>So yeah, I&rsquo;m a sucker for it. Can ya blame me?</p> <p><strong>Black Mountain, &ldquo;Wilderness Heart&rdquo; (Jagjaguwar) <strong>Rating:</strong> 3.5/4</strong></p></p> Tue, 12 Oct 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-black-mountain-wilderness-heart Album review: Neil Young, "Le Noise" http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-neil-young-le-noise <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/jderogatis/2010/10/album-review-neil-young-%e2%80%9cle-noise%e2%80%9d/38624 /young-album-cover" rel="attachment wp-att-38625"><img style="width: 485px; height: 438px;" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-11/young-album-cover.jpg" alt="" title="" /><br /></a><code> </code></p><p>Aside from the vast back catalog, which remains one of the richest in rock history, and his astounding energy as a live performer, which persists even as he approaches his 65<sup>th</sup> birthday next month, the most inspiring thing about Neil Young is that he differs from so many of the other legends of his generation by his refusing to rest on his laurels, consistently challenging himself and his audience by pushing to innovate five decades on.<!--break--></p><p>Sometimes, his experiments fail (the rockabilly exercise of &quot;Everybody's Rockin'&quot; in 1983), sometimes they succeed (the underrated rock opera &quot;Greendale&quot; in 2003), and sometimes they're so odd that they just leave you scratching your head (the synth-rock of &quot;Trans&quot; in 1982, or the metal machine music of &quot;Arc/Weld&quot; in 1991). But the experimental &quot;Le Noise&quot; is one of the unqualified successes.</p><p>Working with renowned producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan), second only to his mentor Brian Eno as the master of mysterious ambience, Young set out to make a true solo album, one where he &quot;didn't have to teach anybody the songs,&quot; and his voice and electric or acoustic guitar combine with the swirling background ambience created by Lanois as the only sounds on eight tracks clocking in at just under 40 minutes.</p><p>Yet despite the minimalist arrangements and Spartan musical settings, the album that Ol' Shakey named after the sonic monster that he claims inhabits Lanois' Los Angeles mansion where the two recorded is as ferocious as Crazy Horse at its most fierce, with sometimes overwhelming walls of six-string attitude and a sonic assault he calls &quot;folk-metal.&quot; All that's missing is the rhythm section.</p><p>Young is not really exploring new lyrical turf. The rare acoustic tune &quot;Peaceful Valley Boulevard&quot; is another of those songs pondering the effects of imperialist expansion on native peoples, like &quot;Pocahontas&quot; or &quot;Cortez the Killer.&quot; &quot;Love and War&quot; (which the songwriter cites as the two topics he's most often addressed) and &quot;Angry World&quot; are vintage hippie Neil, railing at the way things are and longing for a better universe. (&quot;Some see life as a broken promise/Some see life as an endless fight,&quot; he sings at the start of the latter. &quot;They think they live in the age of darkness/They think they live in the age of light&quot;). There also are two tunes paying tribute to his beloved and &quot;faithful wife,&quot; Pegi.</p><p>Only the longtime concert rarity of the previously unrecorded &quot;Hitchhiker&quot; offers a new glimpse of this familiar presence, chronicling his early days as a young rocker and confessing first-hand experience with the sort of druggy excess we always suspected that he had to know first-hand in order to write a song as painful and poignant as &quot;The Needle and the Damage Done.&quot;</p><p>The surprise in &quot;Le Noise,&quot; then, is partly sonic: Wow, this guy can still kick ass even when he's all by his lonesome self! But even more, it's a joy to hear Young tell well-known stories and work familiar sounds in such a way that it feels as if we're hearing them for the very first time, and hanging on every note to discover what the next will bring. </p><p><strong>Neil Young, &quot;Le Noise&quot; (Reprise) Rating: 3.5/4</strong></p></p> Thu, 07 Oct 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/album-review-neil-young-le-noise Album review: Teenage Fanclub, "Shadows" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/10/album-review-teenage-fanclub-shadows/38912 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><code><img title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-11/teenage-fanclub-shadows-cover-art.jpg" style="width: 452px; height: 452px;" /></code></p><p style="text-align: left;">Nine studio albums into a career that began in Glasgow, Scotland, way back at the dawn of the '90s, and which provided one of the enduring masterpieces of that decade with the timeless, endlessly chiming, Big Star-inspired power-pop of &quot;Bandwagonesque,&quot; it is all too easily to take Teenage Fanclub for granted. (Are they, like, even still around, man?)<!--break--></p><p style="text-align: left;">Indeed, this blogger is way late in getting around to &quot;Shadows,&quot; the group's first new album in five years, released by that venerated indie Merge last June. And that seriously is my loss, because the disc is as slyly seductive and wonderfully enchanting an example of the often underrated genre as I've heard in the new millennium.</p><p style="text-align: left;">The powerhouse songwriting trio of Gerard Love, Norman Blake, and Raymond McGinley don't significantly alter the formula they established in the Year Punk Broke; there is, perhaps, a little less vintage Alex Chilton here and a little more post-&quot;Pet Sounds,&quot; &quot;Friends&quot;-era Beach Boys. But they capture that sweetly melancholic, borderline brooding, alternately sunny/cloudy vibe of a love on the verge of either taking off or falling apart as well as any of the heroes they so lovingly reference. And &quot;Baby Lee&quot; and &quot;When I Still Have Thee&quot; honestly are as fine as any tune they've ever given us.</p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Teenage Fanclub, &quot;Shadows&quot; (Merge) Rating: 3.5/4</strong></p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong><em>Following last night's performance, Teenage Fanclub plays a second show at <a href="http://www.lincolnhallchicago.com/">Lincoln Hall</a> tonight at 9 p.m. after an opening set by Radar Brothers. Tickets are $20.</em></strong></p></p> Wed, 06 Oct 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/10/album-review-teenage-fanclub-shadows/38912 Album review: Robyn, "Body Talk Pt. 2" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-robyn-body-talk-pt-2/37762 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><code>&nbsp;</code><img height="406" width="411" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-11/Robyn-Body-Talk-Pt-2-album-cover-500x495.jpg" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">The <a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=popist">&quot;popist&quot;</a> fondness for Lady Gaga aside, there are reasons why the Swedish dance-pop diva <strong>Robyn </strong>is a favorite in the hipster indie underground (and why she was one of the headliners at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, and <a href="../jderogatis/2010/07/pitchfork-day-1-robyn-broken-social-scene-and-modest-mouse/30151#more-30151">a highlight of that shindig</a> at that).<!--break--> </p><p style="text-align: left;">As Rolling Stone put it in an unusually insightful review of her new eight-song EP/mini-album, &quot;She's as feisty as Pink, as beat-savvy as M.I.A., [and] does Eurodisco better than Gaga.&quot; Plus, she more seamlessly and artfully incorporates elements of underground electronic experimentation and pure mainstream sugar-rush pop appeal better that anyone else on the current scene, hooking in everyone from giggly grade-schoolers to unself-conscious beard-rockers to aerobicizing soccer moms without even breaking a sweat. </p><p style="text-align: left;">How good is Stockholm-born Robyn Carlsson? So good that even the obligatory Snoop Dogg cameo (in the simultaneously angry and exuberant, buoyant and bitchy &quot;U Should Know Better&quot;) can't derail things on the second installment of her &quot;Body Talk&quot; trilogy. In fact, it's as fine as every other track here, with the exception of the one misstep, the soggy strings-laden ditty &quot;Indestructible.&quot;<strong> </strong> </p><p style="text-align: left;">Of course, as with most dance-pop divas, you need to not be bothered by the fact that, you know, Robyn can't really sing. But there's an underlying power beneath her particular chirpy warble, due partly to her age and experience (at age 31, she's been groomed for pop stardom since 13, and she's learned how to make the machine work for her instead of the other way around) and partly to a personality that is plenty sexy and seductive without taking so much as the hint of crap from anyone, thank you very much. </p><p style="text-align: left;">And I just dare you to give this disc one listen and then try to shake the earworm hooks of &quot;Criminal Intent,&quot; &quot;U Should Know Better,&quot; &quot;Hang with Me,&quot; or &quot;In My Eyes out of your head. </p><p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>(Robyn performs a sold-out show at <a href="http://metrochicago.com/shows">Metro</a> on Nov. 13.)</strong></em> </p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Robyn, &quot;<em>Body Talk Pt. 2&quot; (Cherrytree/Interscope)&nbsp; </em>Rating: 3.5/4</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 28 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-robyn-body-talk-pt-2/37762 Album review: Superchunk, "Majesty Shredding" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-superchunk-majesty-shredding/37592 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><code><img style="width: 427px; height: 427px;" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-11/superchunk-majesty-shreddin.jpg" alt="" title="" /></code></p><p>&quot;Here is a song for the kids down on the corner,&quot; Mac McCaughan sings in that famously trembling and tenuous tenor in &quot;My Gap Feels Weird,&quot; one of the most instantly lovable tracks on the eagerly awaited new album from Chapel Hill, North Carolina's veteran indie-rock institution Superchunk. &quot;With a look that tells you you don't even know them/ And you never will.&quot;<!--break--> </p><p>McCaughan and his bandmates are older and wiser these days: The guitarist and vocalist is 43, and his right-hand woman, bassist Laura Ballance, with whom he co-founded and continues to run the Merge Records label rightly revered by the Pitchfork generation that followed, is 42. But Superchunk isn't bemoaning its alienation from &quot;these kids today&quot; in that couplet or anywhere else on &quot;Majesty Shredding.&quot; Rather, I hear the group issuing a challenge: <em>&quot;We're back, we're excited to be here, we're making a joyful noise, and we want all of you -- especially you taciturn emo mopes and twee indie over-thinkers -- to lose yourselves in it. Come on!&quot;</em> </p><p>Though the quartet never officially broke up -- it continued to sporadically pop up here and there with the odd compilation track or one-off celebratory gig -- it's been nine long years since its last album. Coming on the heels of Merge's <a href="http://www.mergerecords.com/xxmerge/">20<sup>th</sup> anniversary celebration</a> last year and an engaging book commemorating and charting its accomplishments (<em><a href="http://www.ournoisethebook.com/">Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, The Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small</a></em>), it's no surprise that the new disc, the ninth full album of its career, is being greeted as &quot;a return to form.&quot; Indeed, it's my favorite Superchunk record since the enduring &quot;No Pocky for Kitty&quot; back in 1991. </p><p>Not that the group ever really let us down; it's just that its last few releases before the unofficial break grew increasingly baroque. As the indie patrons of the much-lauded Elephant 6 bands (especially Neutral Milk Hotel) and the Arcade Fire, it must have been hard to resist adding some strings and a little more elaborate orchestration, though that simply put another layer or two between the listener and the factor that always has been the band's biggest charm: The sheer exuberance pouring out of the speakers from four people who genuinely love making music together. </p><p>That may be an intangible X factor, but it's real, it's irresistible, and it's present in spades in short, simple, straightforward and relatively pared-down indie guitar-pop gems such as &quot;Rosemarie,&quot; &quot;Crossed Wires,&quot; &quot;Learned to Surf,&quot; and&quot;&brvbar; well, pretty much every one of these 11 tracks. Whether or not you missed the Superchunk folks over the last decade, one listen will convince you it's good to have them back.</p><p><strong>Superchunk, &quot;Majesty Shredding&quot; (Merge) Rating: 3.5/4</strong></p></p> Mon, 27 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-superchunk-majesty-shredding/37592 Album review: "Grinderman 2" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-grinderman-2/37500 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a href="/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-%e2%80%9cgrinderman-2%e2%80%9d/37500 /grinderman2" rel="attachment wp-att-37501"><img height="452" width="452" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//grinderman2.jpg" title="grinderman2" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-37501" /></a> </strong><code> </code></p><p style="text-align: left;">Given the lavish praise heaped upon <a href="http://jimdero.com/News2007">the self-titled debut by Grinderman</a> in 2007 -- it was my choice for the best album of that year, and its intensity has diminished not a whit since -- let's get this out of the way right up top: The second album from Nick Cave's extra-Bad Seeds side project with violinist and guitarist Warren Ellis, bassist Martyn Casey, and drummer Jim Slavunos is not quite as great as the undeniable garage-blues eruption of that explosive introduction.<!--break--></p><p style="text-align: left;">That, however, is a relative criticism. Can we really measure the brilliance of one four-star album against that of another? Could we honestly debate which is the &quot;better&quot; masterpiece, the Velvet Underground's &quot;White Light/White Heat&quot;<em> </em>or the Stooges' &quot;Funhouse&quot;? Both are essential listening, and the world would be a worse place without either of them. And so it is with Grinderman 1 and 2.</p><p style="text-align: left;">With the Bad Seeds and with this stripped-down, more guitar-heavy ensemble, the 52-year-old Cave is in the midst of a nearly unprecedented third-act career surge that could be due to his new life as a happy family man (though you'd think it would go the other way), an existence now free of heroin, or a pact made with the devil at the crossroads. His bitingly sarcastic, wickedly funny lyrical eye never has been more focused, and his ability to craft musical settings that are both Gothic and direct, steeped in decades of musical history but utterly fresh-sounding and unique &sbquo;&nbsp;never has been sharper.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Grinderman is the looser, sloppier group, hence the more immediate, often the funnier, and arguably the more shear-off-the-top-of-your-head powerful. The big surprise of &quot;Grinderman 2,&quot; however, is that there's more to this group than raw power. It stretches out and experiments more here, and not always with good results: The quiet, plodding horror-movie soundscape of &quot;What I Know&quot; is effective as far as that goes, but only if you're in the mood for that sort of thing.</p><p style="text-align: left;">That's the only pseudo-misstep, though. The other songs grab you by the neck and <em>put </em>you in the mood, with more stylistic diversity than the first time around, from the howling, hellish incantations of &quot;Evil!&quot; to the bad-trip psychedelic epic of &quot;Bellringer Blues,&quot; and from the nasty come-ons of the bluesy come-on &quot;Kitchenette&quot; to the shockingly melodic anthem &quot;Palaces of Montezuma.&quot; And I didn't even mention that it all kicks off with a song called &quot;Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man,&quot; and that the tune actually does justice to that title.</p><p style="text-align: left;">So, no, there is no &quot;No P---y Blues&quot; on &quot;Grinderman 2.&quot; But &quot;Grinderman 2&quot; is so good, that doesn't even matter.</p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong><em>(Grinderman performs at the Riviera Theatre on Nov. 22, an eerily appropriate date, given Cave's love offering of &quot;the spinal chord of JFK wrapped in Monroe's negligee in &quot;Palaces of Montezuma.&quot; <a href="http://event.etix.com/ticket/online/frontDoor.jsp?performance_id=1314408&amp;cobrand=jamusa">Tickets are $28.</a>)</em></strong></p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Grinderman, &quot;Grinderman 2&quot; (Anti-) Rating:4/4</strong></p></p> Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-grinderman-2/37500