WBEZ | Album reviews http://www.wbez.org/tags/album-reviews Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Album review: John Legend and the Roots, "Wake Up!" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-john-legend-and-the-roots-wake-up/36906 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-john-legend-and-the-roots-%e2%80%9cwake-up%e2%80%9d/36906 /john-legend-the-roots-%e2%80%93-wake-up-cover" rel="attachment wp-att-36907"><img height="450" width="450" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-12/2010-09-20 wake up.jpg" /></a><code> </code></p><p>Since his promising debut with &quot;Get Lifted&quot; (2004) as a new kind of old-school soul man, singer and songwriter John Legend has been busy moving to the toothless center, content to churn out ever more generic and lightweight easy-listening fluff. Apparently, some time after performing &quot;If You're Out There&quot; at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and watching Barack Obama move into the White House, he decided it was time to get heavy again, working with one of the best live bands in hip-hop or R&amp;B, and covering a set of socially conscious protest songs from the '60s and '70s, with one new original (the disc-closing &quot;Shine&quot;) thrown in for good measure.<!--break--> </p><p>On his last two albums, &quot;Once Again&quot; (2006) and &quot;Evolver&quot; (2008), the problems were Legend's increasingly featherweight material and uninspired productions. Yet while a number of the tracks here are associated with some of the all-time R&amp;B greats -- Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Bill Withers among them -- Legend manages to declaw these, too, over-emphasizing the more dated sunshine utopianism (especially in the cover of Hathaway's &quot;Little Ghetto Boy&quot; and the reggae-inflected &quot;Love the Way It Should Be&quot;), playing light with other songs that call for the opposite approach (&quot;Hang On In There&quot; by Johnny Bristol), and generally coming off as much more Bobby McFerrin than Curtis Mayfield -- by no means a good thing. </p><p>It doesn't help that the Roots sound as if they're phoning it in, showing no hint of the inspired intensity on their extraordinary recent release, <a href="../jderogatis/2010/07/album-review-the-roots-%E2%80%9Chow-i-got-over%E2%80%9D/28905">&quot;How I Got Over.&quot;</a> But it's doubtful that even Questlove and company could have saved this soggy, self-important mess, or sparked a fire that Legend doesn't seem capable of stoking. </p><p><strong>John Legend and the Roots, &quot;Wake Up!&quot; (Columbia) Rating:1/4</strong></p></p> Mon, 20 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-john-legend-and-the-roots-wake-up/36906 Album review: Richard Thompson, "Dream Attic" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-richard-thompson-dream-attic/36676 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-richard-thompson-%e2%80%9cdream-attic%e2%80%9d/36676 /thompson" rel="attachment wp-att-36677"><img height="300" width="300" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-12/2010-09-14 thompson.jpg" /></a><code> </code></p><p>Throughout his long and distinguished discography -- five studio albums with British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, six extraordinary efforts with his then-wife Linda, a strong five-album solo run on Capitol from 1988 through 2001, and several consistently rewarding indie efforts since -- Richard Thompson has been the rare '60s musical legend whose powers have never diminished: not as a songwriter with a novelist's eye for social observation, not as a rich baritone vocalist who can move you to tears with the homely beauty of his voice, and not as one of the most melodic and inventive guitarists the British Isles ever have produced.<!--break--> </p><p>Even by his own high standards, however, the 62-year-old musical treasure surprises longtime fans with the new &quot;Dream Attic,&quot; as powerful a solo set as he's given us since either of his previous bests, &quot;Henry the Human Fly&quot; (1972) or &quot;Rumor and Sigh&quot; (1991). The only legitimate knock that anyone ever has been able to make on Thompson is that his studio efforts haven't always matched the intensity of his live performances: The six-string epic &quot;The Cavalry Cross&quot; merely is incredible on Richard and Linda's 1974 album &quot;I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.&quot; Onstage, it is nothing short of mind-blowing and transcendent. </p><p>Here, Thompson hit upon an idea that's so simple, it seems as if it should have been obvious decades ago. Armed with a set of 13 impressive new songs (including a devastating attack on Bernie Madoff-like money men called &quot;The Money Shuffle,&quot; a Jim Thompson noir novel in song called &quot;Crimescene,&quot; the emotional epic &quot;Among the Gorse, Among the Grey,&quot; and a digital-age murder ballad called &quot;Sidney Wells&quot;) and one of the most accomplished and empathetic bands of his career (including Pete Zorn on guitar and sax, Joel Zifkin on violin and mandolin, Michael Jerome on drums, and Taras Prodaniuk on bass), he recorded each of a seven-night run of shows on the West Coast early this year, then picked the best live recordings of all of the new tunes to comprise this disc. </p><p>Aside from the occasional snippet of applause, &quot;Dream Attic&quot; doesn't play like a live album. Nor does it come off as a gimmicky way to release a new set of material. It simply sounds like Thompson at his very best, which is saying a heck of a lot. If you're familiar with his rich catalog, you'll know what I mean. And if you aren't, this is as great a place to start as any. </p><p><strong>Richard Thompson, &quot;Dream Attic&quot; (Shout Factory) Rating:4/4</strong></p></p> Tue, 14 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-richard-thompson-dream-attic/36676 Album review: Weezer, "Hurley" http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-weezer-hurley/36671 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-weezer-%e2%80%9churley%e2%80%9d/36671 /weezer-hurley" rel="attachment wp-att-36672"><img height="404" width="404" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-12/2010-09-13 hurley.jpg" /></a><code> </code></p><p>I was late getting to the &quot;Lost&quot; party --gotta confess, being strung along week after week by smoke monsters, time shifts, and glorified soap opera romantic triangles never have been my things -- but like many people, I eventually got sucked in by reruns when there was nothing else to watch, and after that I was eager to visit the island for every new episode through the last two years of the show's celebrated run. Also like many viewers, I found that a primary joy of watching was Hurley's &quot;Dude&quot; count: keeping tally of how many times in each episode the character portrayed by that incredibly sexy actor Jorge Garcia would utter his catchphrase. (<a href="http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Dude">This chart</a> of Hurley's DPE -- Dudes Per Episode -- puts his all-time high at 17 in episode 10 of season 3, and his grand total throughout the show at 328.)<!--break--> </p><p>Granted, as many people probably hated Hurley's dude-ing as got a kick out of it, and here's the connection I see with Weezer in the new millennium. The band that gave us the classic and timeless debut in 1994 and the enduring proto-emo cult favorite &quot;Pinkerton&quot; in 1996 is long gone, and Rivers Cuomo is never going back to either incarnation. Get over it. For the last decade, Cuomo instead has been an ever-curious, ever-evolving, ever-playful pop songwriter, one of the best of his generation, and instead of the musically and thematically satisfying wholes of those first two albums, he and Weezer have given us collections of pop songs -- some of them hits, some of them misses; some instant classics, and some failed experiments so bad you'd swear they must be parodies. Because the highs have been so high -- &quot;Can't Stop Partying,&quot; &quot;Heart Songs,&quot; &quot;The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)&quot; -- the lows really haven't bothered me, or at least have been easily ignored (and here I'm thinking of &quot;Hash Pipe,&quot; &quot;Beverly Hills,&quot; and other made-for-MTV toss-offs). That's what iPod playlists are for, right? </p><p>On Weezer's eighth studio album, I find another welcome batch of prime Cuomo postmodern pop gems, chief among them &quot;Memories,&quot; the latest installment of his autobiographical account of falling in love with music; &quot;Where's My Sex?,&quot; which actually is an indelibly catchy song about socks (and, I believe, a goof on all those fans who pine for him to return to the painful plumbing of his sexual confusions on &quot;Pinkerton&quot;); &quot;Smart Girls&quot; a tune the Beach Boys could have written if they'd thought that being brainy was cooler than being a surfer, and &quot;Trainwrecks,&quot; which, believe it or not, is the perfect communion of Weezer and KISS and Bon Jovi tunesmith Desmond Childs, with whom Cuomo wrote the song. </p><p>Yes, there also are some stinkers -- &quot;Hang On&quot; and &quot;Unspoken&quot; top that list -- and you knew there would be. But really, dude, why let those spoil the moments that <em>do</em> work? Put those together with your favorites from the preceding five albums, and you'll finally have another collection as good as &quot;The Blue Album&quot; or &quot;Pinkerton.&quot; </p><p><strong>Weezer, &quot;Hurley&quot; (Epitaph) Rating: 3/4</strong></p></p> Mon, 13 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-weezer-hurley/36671 Album review: Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-mavis-staples-and-jeff-tweedy/35169 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a rel="attachment wp-att-35170" href="/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-mavis-staples-and-jeff-tweedy/35169 /mavis-staples-you-are-not-alone"><img height="300" width="300" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-35170" title="Mavis-Staples-You-Are-Not-Alone" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//Mavis-Staples-You-Are-Not-Alone-300x300.jpg" alt="" /></a><code> </code></p><p><strong>Album review: Mavis Staples, &quot;You Are Not Alone&quot; (Anti-) Rating: 3/4</strong><strong> </strong></p><p>At age 71, gospel and soul legend Mavis Staples is nothing short of an American treasure, and she long has been overdue for the late-career commercial and cultural resurgence -- renewed album sales, a basketful of Grammys, a new presence on television and movie soundtracks, and all the rest -- that we've often seen awarded to far lesser legacy talents. Yet while Staples has made a fine string of albums in the new millennium, including &quot;Have a Little Faith&quot; (which was released by the blues label Alligator in 2004), &quot;We'll Never Turn Back&quot; (the start of her association with the ever-hip Anti- label in 2007), and &quot;Live: Hope at the Hideout&quot; (2008), they've all lacked that certain indefinable &quot;something&quot; required to wake up a music world that's been taking her indomitable spirit and inspiring voice for granted.<!--break--></p><p>Like many fans of these two stellar Chicago talents, I had high hopes for the new collaboration between Staples and Jeff Tweedy, who produced &quot;You Are Not Alone&quot; at Wilco's North Side loft; added guitar, bass, and vocals; brought in several of his musical pals (among them Patrick Sansone and Mark Greenberg on keyboards and Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor on backing vocals), and contributed two original tunes. Yet though I hate to say it, &quot;You Are Not Alone&quot; falls short of the marks required to distinguish it as a masterpiece.</p><p>Lord knows, the problem isn't Staples' singing: Her voice remains as subtle but powerful and husky but ringing as it was when she started out as the 12-year-old star of the Staples Singers. Nor is it entirely the fault of the production or the musical backing (most of which comes from Staples' regular touring band); the former is straightforward and unobtrusive, while the latter veers from gloriously fiery (witness the searing guitar solo in &quot;Creep Along, Moses&quot;) to bland but inoffensive.&sbquo;&nbsp; True, these hardly are the ingredients of unqualified brilliance, but after living with these 13 tracks through repeated listenings and trying hard to figure out why they just weren't making me more excited, my conclusion is that the material is where this collection really falls short.</p><p>Several of the covers aren't particularly powerful or especially well-suited to Staples -- &quot;Losing You&quot; by Randy Newman, &quot;Wrote a Song for Everyone&quot; by John Fogerty, and &quot;Last Train&quot; by Allen Toussaint are no great shakes -- and she never makes them her own. Nor are Tweedy's two tracks, the title song and &quot;Only the Lord Knows,&quot; anything special. There are some strong moments, among them &quot;You Don't Knock&quot; and &quot;Downward Road,&quot; both by Pops Staples, and the traditionals &quot;In Christ There is No East and West,&quot; &quot;Creep Along, Moses,&quot; and &quot;Wonderful Savior,&quot; which is rendered a cappella. (I am not the biggest fan of super-religious gospel music -- Jesus is just alright with me -- but Staples' performances are strong enough to make me a believer.) Still, these high points all are within the artist's comfort zone, and therein lies the problem.</p><p>Intimidated perhaps by her towering talent and formidable presence -- after all, Mavis once so entranced a young Bob Dylan that he told Pops he wanted to marry her -- Tweedy pulls his punches and worries more about the weight of Staples' past than the possibilities of her present. What would this album have sounded like if she'd been backed by Wilco throughout, pouring her heart into traditional material that was reinterpreted in the manner of what Wilco did with Woody Guthrie on the two &quot;Mermaid Avenue&quot; albums? Or what if the song choices had been more unconventional, in the model of the Rick Rubin/Johnny Cash collaborations?</p><p>Unfortunately, &quot;You Are Not Alone&quot; plays it way too safe, and that makes for a fine record, but not the extraordinary one that we could have gotten and which Staples deserves.</p></p> Tue, 07 Sep 2010 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/09/album-review-mavis-staples-and-jeff-tweedy/35169