CD reviews that will have you spinning
Be Here Now
In case you have forgotten, Oasis wants to make it very clear that Aug. 26, 1997 was the date the group's new album, Be Here Now, was released. In fact, this date was plastered very clearly on the inside and outside of the new disc's liner notes like it was the date of Armageddon.
For just about any other band in the world, this would seem an awfully bold and audacious move, but hey, this is Oasis. Oasis is a big band with big attitude and that is precisely what makes it so much fun. Some North Americans find the band's piss-and-vinegar approach to music a bit disheartening, but Oasis are just simply here to remind us what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be about.
Once one gets past all the hoopla surrounding this new album, the question to be answered is, "Is it any good?" Actually, it is. On this album Oasis's songwriter/guitarist Noel Gallagher has turned up the guitars and the attitudes on some songs and has created sweet-styled ballads on others. For the most part, Noel writes fairly basic but exceptionally good pop songs and Liam just provides some punk rock attitude. While in the past Oasis has been criticized for sounding too much like bands such as The Beatles, on this album they are starting to sound more like just Oasis.
On the seven-minute opener "Do ya' Know What I Mean" they create the perfect loud and powerful opener that such an album requires. On "My Big Mouth," which is probably the album's strongest track, Liam boldly declares that "...into my big mouth, you could fly a plane" while Noel swirls in a fury of perfect guitar noise. On "Don't Go Away," which is certain to be a huge hit single, Liam probably reaches his vocal career highlight thus far. The song makes wonderfully smooth transitions from verse to bridge to chorus and the strings help give the song an added warmness. While a few songs, perhaps, should not have made the album cut, overall it is a very strong collection of mostly catchy pop songs.
The only problem is Noel's constant drive to make his band the biggest in the business as he tries too hard to turn each one of these songs into rock anthems. Noel is more than capable of writing sparse arrangements that are as equally effective as the over-the-top styling so prevalent on this album. When the album is played from start to finish, one tends to long for a little more of a mix that would have taken the songs to these different levels. Regardless, Be Here Now is still fine piece of work that will take this band to its next plateau.
It has been a long four years since The Devlins released their debut Drift and those waiting for an encore will soon be rewarded mid-October with this sophomore effort.
The album, appropriately titled Waiting, is a change of pace from the band's louder debut. It is a slo-fi, acoustic flow of flat rhythms and monotonous vocals, melancholic to the point of tears but it would be inaccurate to say without talent.
The title track is the best on the album and epitomizes the message The Devlins are trying to get across with lines like "if you ever change your mind, you know I'm not hard to find," basically saying the band has been dumped or dumped-on too many times. But therein lies the rub. This particular brand of droning acoustic riffs and emotional outpouring strikes a certain chord that the listener can understand and relate to. The group scratches on the surface of the frail emotions that bind us all as humans. In Heaven's Wall they have succeeded in straining the band's emotional cargo into a dark, vocally-distorted groove that seems to rest at that last minute of night before the first signs of dawn awaken.
In "World Outside and Surrender," the classical piano is the vehicle for The Devlin's outpouring of feeling which at times seems like a search for something better than the two-dimensional people and relationships they are very familiar with.
Apart from the aforementioned songs and the sad, but (for The Devlins) relatively fun "Disappear," the rest of the album is a drag. We have all experienced these loved and lost emotions but the album fails to do anything really new and occasionally comes off limp. The songs suggest bitterness before sympathy and the music, repetition before creation.
What saves this album, besides the emotional insight, is that ultimately it is quite catchy, the songs are simple and lyrics clear. So, if you are hungry for something slow, sad and acoustic than wait no more. The Devlins are your recipe.
Adam and Eve
With an increasing number of one-hit wonder, modern rock bands tainting the airwaves these days, it is refreshing to see a group of artists who really care about making music. Adam and Eve, the fifth full-length album from Catherine Wheel, continues the band's tradition of good, quality music.
Based on the themes of lust, temptation and nostalgia, Adam and Eve feels much like a symphony and less like a mismatched collection of pop rock radio hits. The central feeling is vocalized beautifully in the lines of the song "For Dreaming," in which they sing: "I won't sentimentalize/The new taste of open lips/The last hope in trembling hips/And we swallowed." Catherine Wheel has proven its musical intelligence once again, creating a discourse with its listeners rather than spoon-feeding them pop nonsense.
The album is bookended by two untitled tracks which act as an intro/conclusion to the storybook of songs. The title of the album suggests that these two songs could be titled Adam and Eve respectively, with the songs in between exploring and evalutaing these themes. The band spent a long time connecting the 12 tracks, using similar themes, chords and instrumentation to allow the songs to blend into one another.
Adam and Eve serves as a coming of age for a band with many brilliant albums and singles in its history. It combines the soulful, spine-tingling moments of Ferment and Chrome with the energy of Happy Days to reflect the purest elements of Catherine Wheel like Adam and Eve, this album represents the essence of its musical life.
It's been said that the Velvet Underground only sold around 10,000 albums in their day, but that everyone who bought one formed a band. That pop culture truism can be amended to include Uncle Tupelo and its enduring legacy.
Take Whiskeytown and its major label debut Strangers Almanac. At its best it apes the slashing guitar-pedal steel dissonance of late-period Tupelo. What makes one's head snap to attention, however, is what else Whiskeytown brings to Strangers Almanac. Next to the Tupelo albums in the band's record rack is a complete Replacements collection. The inspired pairing of Tupelo melancholy with Westerburg's ramshackle arrangements make songs like "Sixteen Days", "Yesterday's News" and "Losering" second-generation no depression gems.
It doesn't all work although there aren't any outright smell-o-ramas here. It's simply a matter of perhaps expanding the musical palette a tad. For now, however, Strangers Almanac is like manna from heaven for those waiting for the next Wilco omnibus.
Whiskeytown are to be reckoned with. File under 'subject for future research.'
The Double Album
Sick Wid'It Records
In the last five years or so, with the escalation of the East and West coast rap conflict, a number of coalitions have formed including rap artists proud of their heritage. On the East, there are the likes of Bad Boy Entertainment and the WU-Tang-Clan. On the West there's Death Row Records, Westside Connection and now the Southwest Riders. The difference, however, is that while the other rap coalitions produce essentially good, hard-hitting and effective tracks, the Southwest Riders do not to put it mildly.
The Southwest Riders, produced by Sick Wid' It Records, is the collaboration of many rap artists, led mainly by E-40 and B-Legit. Most of the tracks are in typical E-40 style, which means choppy lyrics, lots of base and scratchy mixing. What he has yet to realize, is that one; his style does not work, and two; it does not sound good.
The album, hurt by its style, is only made worse by its content. How much can you really talk about gold chains, money, gold chains, cars and money? (You can also add a little guns, robbery, killing and bravado.)
There are a couple of notable exceptions; "Walk with me" by W.C. (of W.C. and the Mad Circle) and "Capable" by The Luniz. While these tracks are pretty good in comparison to others on the album, they are much more superficial and bland compared to their previous albums. The beat is there, but the lyrics are missing.
The fact that this is a double album only made it that much worse and since most of the songs sound so much the same, one wonders why they bothered adding another CD. In the end The Southwest Riders: don't bother.