Volume 92, Issue 91
Friday, March 19, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Dubtribe too systematic; April's showers too cute
DUBTRIBE SOUND SYSTEM
Dubtribe Sound System is a small collective of people devoted to promoting "positivity, peace, love and good vibes."
In addition to their frequent live stints across North America, they also maintain a booking agency and a successful independent label. Founded by visionaries Sunshine and Moonbeam Jones, the Dubtribe Sound System has quickly become one of dance music's most positive success stories.
Although Dubtribe has released a considerable amount of music in the last six years, Bryant Street stands as only their second full length album. The majority of the material on this release is culled from a multitude of live appearances over the years and it shows. The tracks flow together with a sense of confidence, which likely came as a result of the band's numerous shows on the road.
Unfortunately, the album suffers for that same reason. Something about Bryant Street feels a tad too rehearsed and calculated. It's almost as if the studio atmosphere somehow stifled the band's renowned live energy. While certain tracks shine, notably the barnstorming opener "Hasta Luego Mi Hermano," there is a bit too much tedium on Bryant Street.
There's a little blurb about April March in the liner notes to her debut album, Chrominance Decoder. Excerpt: "a young American girl with a smile that would have bowled Errol Flynn over goes barefootin' in a Parisian street, buys a second-hand polka-dot dress and sings about a boyfriend about to melt like an ice-cube in her Mint Julep." Mmm hmm... very cute.
Turns out April March (whose real name is Elinor Blake) is actually an American with a serious French fixation. Thus, the majority of her songs are sung in French and most of them have titles so sugary it's hard not to get a toothache after scanning the back cover. There's "Mon Petit Ami," "Mon Petit Cowboy" and "Knee Socks." Again, very cute.
Not surprisingly, the album sounds a lot like it looks. Chrominance Decoder seems largely inspired by fru-fru French film soundtracks from the '60s. Synths gurgle, guitars chime and March's airy vocals are just as twee and gentle as one might imagine them.
The problem is there's no actual content. Listening to Chrominance Decoder is not unlike taking a boat tour of the Ottawa River; it's a pleasant experience, but it's not something you would want to do again. March's biggest problem is the fact she has absolutely nothing to back up her cuteness with and cute for the sake of cute gets old really fast.
Anyone thinking of picking this up should grab the Air album instead.
In the past, music critics and fans alike have had mixed feelings about Sebadoh. Some call their brand of lo-fi indie rock genius, while others argue the music lacks focus. With their eighth LP The Sebadoh the band attempts to silence those who have criticized their focus, or lack thereof, over the past decade.
The result is their strongest and most cohesive album to date. It has been much publicized that the trio of Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and new drummer Russ Pollard spent a lot of time working together with this album. The increased amount of time spent as a group has produced a solid album featuring 15 tracks of focused indie rock.
Barlow and Loewenstein still split the songwriting and vocal duties in half, but instead of sounding like two different bands as they have in the past they manage to gel together as one. Throughout the entire album, Loewenstein's short, upbeat, pop-rock songs complement Barlow's folk-rock tracks perfectly.
Despite this new found partnership, the songs penned by Barlow emerge as the strongest. The first single "Flame" and the gentle ballad "Love is Stronger" are the best songs on the record. Other good Barlow songs include "Weird" and "Thrive." Standout tracks from Loewenstein include the album's opener, "It's All You," "Decide" and "Drag Down."
Hopefully, Sebadoh will continue to make albums like this in the future. If they do, it will ensure the kings of lo-fi will continue their reign over the indie world.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999