Buzzed Bands Podcast, Ep. 2 w/ Cold Blood Club

Friday, April 27, 2007

Arctic Monkeys, Cold War Kids, Bloc Parties, Modest Mice & Arcade Fires, Oh My!

Tom Says:

1) Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

The Arctic Monkeys have been through this before. In their Northern homeland, the Monkeys found their first LP release, “Whatever People Say About Me That’s What I’m Not”-- released only one year ago!-- preceded by an unprecedented storm of media oggling due to the smashing success of their myspace-and-pub anthem “I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” Fortunately, the group rose to the occasion and the album was every bit the frame for the single; a filler-less, coming-of-age in a post-nuclear age romp-de-triumph. In short, it was great. In fact, People actually speculated out loud as to whether the band had had help composing the material. Now here they are again, faced with the ghost of that very critical coup, back in the eye of the storm of expectations. C’est la vie, indeed. Here’s to hoping that these blokes eventually get to release a record without a colossal burden of artistic proof riding upon it.

As for the results, well, they are more than good. The lads are dealing straight aces again on “Favorite Worst Nightmare” and they don’t sound cowed by pressure whatsoever (despite what you may have already heard from more distinguished news sources who’s names may or may not rhyme with ‘snitch-pork’ or ‘thin’-- outlets that don‘t seem to much care for rock n roll music that doesn‘t feature banjos or key-tars anyway). In fact, “F.W.N.” is every bit the first album and then some. Really. For one thing, it is great for what it isn’t. It isn’t what has become the industry-standard second album. You know, the one where the group recalls tales of excess from ‘the road’ over string/horn sections or call in there new friend Bono for a consult (you decide which is worse). Nor is “F.W.N.” the “oh shit, you know those songs on album ‘1a?’ Well those, were, um, seriously the only 12 tunes we’d ever really finished”-album. Instead, Arctic Monkey’s 2nd is an ideal throwback to second records of the past,* the kind that few groups would consider making anymore. All the lad’s have done here is to turn the screws, polish the brass, and written a new playbook of smart hooks and air-lock-tight rhymes. For this reason, the Arctic’s are likely-- and already beginning-- to catch much of the same brand of flak as the Strokes got for “Room on Fire” ( a record which was also a better, tighter, superior version of the sound on its predecessor). All because they have refused to register an album full of ill-fated jazz odysseys and sonic umma-gumma moments. But fuck…there isn’t a bad song here, and that says a lot for a rock band these days, and you’d be kidding yourself if you argued that the best moments of F.W.N. --“505” and “Do Me a Favor,” specifically-- haven’t approved upon “When the Sun Goes Down” and “I Bet.” So let’s all give the Monkeys a break and a chance at a proper career, eh?

Score: 8/10

2) Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards

On the opposite end of the spectrum of ‘indie’ musical culture and general buzz, I find the Cold War Kids. Who the fuck are these guys?,^ (and don’t answer that, I am only making a point.) I was supposed to have reviewed their album “Robbers and Cowards,” back in the Fall when it was released -- then I lost it the cd when my review was half written, along with the Annuals* record, which it turns out, was really good, you should buy it, only to find them both recently in a stack of cd’s which my roommate, Jesse^ had been hording, prick -- and I got to tell you, it wasn’t pretty. R’s & C’s comes across as a series of almost ludicrously dull chord sequences amalgamated into an almost absurdly dull sequence of tunes, each of which sound flattened into the same vaguely-reverby* drone, sans hooks, often accompanied by a ‘trippy’ or ‘phat’ beat underlying the proceedings. It sucked. There may or may not have been vocals (and lyrics) present, I was rendered too numb to remember.^

And you know what? A lot of other reviewers I read at the time agreed with me. So, good, I thought, that’s that. Hah! Unfortunately, these pretentious, suburbanite, surfers of smugness have, in the course of the last month or so, caught a second wind.* Well, I thought, this is unacceptable! So I repeat, this album still BLOWS. And, after doing some YouTube-related research, I can assure that the live effect is no less boring or, well, boring than it was the first time. Perhaps CWK’s are in fact flexing a measure of stylistic genius that is beyond me -- though I doubt it, I mean how many times can random piano-key hits on the same album be sonically ‘interesting’?-- and therefore, I will keep an open mind towards their further releases. But for now, I wish them ill.

Score: 2/10

3) Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Speaking of me NOT getting something,^ I have an apology to make, humbly, to Modest Mouse. Here’s to you lot. You have changed my mind completely. I still don’t enjoy your first two albums, but I get “it” now, and I was stupid and my shame abounds. Sorry doesn’t cut it, mea culpa. Your new album, I don’t care what they say! It’s brilliant. Mr. Broc, you are a songwriter at the top of your game, steadily progressing in theme and practice, and you had me at the first deviously gobblinish “ahahahA!” of “March into the Sea.” And as for you, Mr. Marr --who’s seminal band’s oeuvre I still dislike, but that is the fault of another English cultural luminary-- your guitar work on that goddamn single is like, solid fucking gold. Oh, and I love the nautical themes and the subtle bluesy undercurrents throughout. Props to the drummer to for recovering his sanity and improving his chops in the process. Stars all around.

Score: 7.5/10

4) Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City

Which brings us back to where we began. The weight of expectations and specifically, the dueling options of progress or collapse into failure. As for Bloc Party. Oh dear. I have been dreading this review, putting it off indefinitely. I should have known what was coming when in early news singer Kele reported that the band was going in a more “gentle”* direction, which for a band who sounded equal parts Mission of Burma, Devo, and the Beatles on their first album, sounded err, like a poor plan. The results speak for themselves. The best parts of “A Weekend in the City” sound like “Silent Alarm” and the lesser parts sound like Genesis, the later years. That said, these guys still have mad skillz^: the lead guitar player dude (with the hair bangs) and drummer (with the geek glasses) are two of the most inventive interesting players in popular music, and if Kele cheers up or just gets mad again in the near future, redemption surely awaits. Go well boys, and good luck.

Score: 4/10

5) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Lastly, and with a big ‘sorry folks’ to the diehards, but the Arcade Fire have also failed to grasp my attention with “Neon Bible.” I know that Q Magazine loves it, gave it 5 damn stars, but I just don’t hear it. I think that a lot of magazines are racing to recognize the group for being what it is, an unqualifiedly fantastic band; one which has one more classic album under their collective belt that most groups will ever have. However the new record is sadly, not aces. It did manage to hold my attention for a week, and then, well, I just haven’t had the urge to listen to it since. Not once. Once again, the best song here, “No Cars Go,” sounds like it could have concluded “Funeral…” and as it turns out, it could have, since it was written in advance of “Funeral.” There is some lovely (and I don’t mean “gentle”) stuff here, “My Body is a Cage” is a winner, “(Antichrist Television Blues)” works for the first three of its five and a half verses, and the “Black Wave” half of the Bad Vibrations/Black Wave suite is both melodically and lyrically compelling. But like Bloc Party with “Silent Alarm,” the Arcade Fire are faced with a task of following a nigh perfect record, and like the London foursome, they chose to try to expand on that blueprint greatly rather than flesh it out. The result explains why “Leave the Car Running,” an almost tuneless meander that wouldn’t have cut muster on “Funeral,” but, due to its jaunty beat, has been featured as a single. Today’s lesson: why rush to remodel your sound when you’ve just barely arrived at it?

Score: 6/10

End Notes:
* See: “Axis/Bold as Love,” “Give ‘em Enough Rope,” “Led Zeppelin II,” “Nevermind”
^See: “Who the Fuck are Arctic Monkeys”
*“Be He Me”
^Reno, Jesse: Rawles’ Balls’ Finest
*No, not a word
^Yes! Upon a re-listen, moments ago, I can confirm that there was, in fact, singing and lyrics which display “social consciouness.” Rather, I blame the utter absence of melody for my memory lapse in this case.
*Credit to them for their persistent touring.
^Like, for instance, I saw the much ballyhooed Tokyo Police Club on “Conan” the other day, and I like, just didn’t get it. It just wasn’t very good. Sorry.
*see also: pussy, shlocky, schmaltzy, lame, dull; also: ‘more gentle’ not a correct phrase, I know.
^also: skills

Matt Says:

Agree on all but Cold War Kids. They're not great but they aren't nearly THAT bad. In fact I kinda like them. The new Arctic Monkeys is top notch. I wasn't sold on the first one but after hearing the latest it's safe to say these kids are legit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yo I dunno if it's just me but the links weren't working. enjoyed the read though

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