It’s Wednesday again, and aside from being hump day, it means Drake has brought us another review of this week’s new releases.
The theme of this weeks releases is a (slight) return to form, with new releases from Ryan Adams, Adam Franklin of Swervedriver, Bad Brains, Nick Lowe and Bryan Ferry. I already wrote a bit about Ryan and Bryan yesterday, so we’ll concentrate on the rest (and throw in the new one from The Sharp Things for good measure.)
Playlist: New Releases 06.26.07
From the first driving chords from Adam Franklin’s Fender Jazzmaster on the opening track “Seize the Day,” Swervedriver fans (and that includes me) everywhere rejoice. Franklin is back after a shoegazing hiatus with his ambient pop Toshack Highway project, and the swirling sounds of his Jazzmaster + effects is a welcome sound to my ears after all this time. Bolts of Melody is not as driving a record as past Swervedriver efforts (see: Mescal Head,) as the only other upbeat song is the rocking “Shining Somewhere.” Instead, it’s like Swervedriver matured and reigned in their guitar acrobatics for more melodic introspection, channeling some Elliott Smith (“Birdsong (Moonshiner Version)”) along with My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. While it’s tempting to call it a 90’s nostalgia ride, Franklin has far more to offer here then just the desires of a Swervedriver fan, which is why I guess it’s his name on the billing and not SD.
I have to admit, though, that it has me going back and listening to old SD and remembering just how awe-inspiring they could be (check out some amazing live recordings available for download here.) But this 90’s nostalgia trip is all on me, and I admit it happens more these days than I care to admit.
Album: Bad Brains – Build a Nation
When Beastie Boy Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch used to mosh in the front row of Bad Brains concerts back in 1980, he’d probably sh*t himself thinking he’d one day produce one of the band’s albums. A quarter century has passed and Yauch as done just that, with the band’s first album with the original lineup in a decade. Build a Nation is a sort of return for the the band to their early strengths of hardcore muscle and attitude. If it weren’t for the weakened voice of H.R., this could’ve been their best album since I Against I, but as anyone who’s seen the band live lately knows, the range and dynamics of H.R.’s vocals aren’t even a shadow of what they once were. Yauch is able to work around it somewhat with delays and effects, but you can’t help but notice H.R. singing an octave lower then he normally would on hardcore standouts “Let There Be Angels (Just Like You)” and “Universal Peace,” and it loses something as a result. H.R. had sort of sworn off hardcore, favoring straight reggae, and it’s taken a lot of edge off his energy in the songs, and the visualization of the lead singer is one of him sitting in a chair sipping tea instead of thrashing about like their legendary performances. Cue nostalgic reference (CBGB’s 1979.)
Album: Nick Lowe – At This Age
Much like Ryan Adams’ release today, Nick Lowe’s title, At My Age, is both a knowing wink, and a realization of his current strengths. It’s been six years since his last release, and he’s mellowed even more, with the heart of the album not unlike a Charley Rich release, a country-tinged jazz shuffle with elements of rock which suits his age 58 voice very well. “I was sure that I could find a way to use this to my advantage,” says Lowe (AP.) “Luckily, all of my influences, all of the things I liked musically, were all rather old for my age.” The success of Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up On Me might have edged Lowe to this realization as well. Lowe has his own take here on “Two Sides of the Coin,” which he originally contributed to Burke’s album. Just because he’s mellowed musically, that don’t mean his lyrical bite isn’t still snapping. Take “I Trained Her To Love Me,” which follows a misogynistic old fart who can’t help but take advantage of young women. Lowe knows that he’d be fooling himself to try an appeal to a younger market, and unlike another aging left-handed bass player I could name, Lowe could care less if his fans adored him or not. And that somehow makes him even more endearing.
With their third album, NYC’s The Sharp Things have stripped away some of their trad-rock elements and focused more on scribing off-broadway symphonic rock, which suits the vocal vibrato of Perry Serpa much better. While in the past it sounded like he was auditioning for the chorus to Camelot, now he sort of is, with the the New York Symphonic Ensemble backing him up. The album starts out alright, and just when it seems to falter (the mistep “Storm King”) along comes the soulful “Cruel Thing” with it’s fine background vocals and counter-melodies. While the album’s production feels a little flat at times (apparently recorded on a laptop,) it’s dynamic enough that the theatrical element of the songs shines through.
Also contributing is Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay, who fills in the ends of side 1 and side 2 (for you vinyl fans out there) with his instrumental magic.
Download: “An Ocean Part Deux” (thesharpthings.com)
More going (or already in) the Sansa
Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
Bryan Ferry- Dylanesque (Free album stream from AOL)
Beastie Boys – The Mix-Up (Free album stream from AOL)
Hem – Home Again, Home Again
Kelly Clarkson – My December
Sinead O’Connor – Golden Pollen
The Conformists – Three Hundred
Deleted Waveform Gatherings – Complicated View
Gore Gore Girls – Get The Gore
King Wilkie- Low country Suite
Marc Almond – Stardom Road
Rasputina – Oh Perilous World
Slaraffenland- Private Cinema
Kelly Willis – Translated From Love (Free album stream from AOL)
Pharoahe Monch – Desire