Volume – Guest Reviewer Of The Month: Alex Chalmers

TransWorld SKATEboarding

Volume 24 Number 5

File: Volume

GUEST REVIEWER OF THE MONTH:

A-Trak

Sunglasses Is A Must

*** (3.5 out of 5)

Mitch Hedberg used to tell a joke that went like this, “I was walking down the street with a friend one day, when he turns and says to me, ‘I hear music,’ as though there was any other way you can take it in. So I responded, ‘You’re not special. That is how I receive it too. I tried to taste it once but it did not work.'”

The clever turntablists featured in this DVD are testament to the fact that there are many ways to experience music. The main focus being DJ A-Trak, a young champion battle-DJ hailing from Montreal, Canada, who offers up a home video reminiscing of his climb to the top of the battle-DJ ranks.

You can follow A-Trak over his eight-year journey as he meets and jams with some of the biggest names involved in the turntable game, like DJ Red Alert, Ice-T, Q-Bert of the Scratch Pickles, and DJ Craze. Highlights include footage of A-Trak’s early routines and practice sessions that garnered him a place at the top of battle-DJ heap, as well as some current behind-the-scenes footage on tour with his new boss, Kanye West.

I can’t help but see the parallels between the DJ industry and the skateboard industry in this DVD. You could easily replace the main subject of this film, a young DJ, with any young skate pro experiencing the same kind of success in our industry.-Alex Chalmers

Dilated Peoples

20/20

ABB

***

20/20 is a deceiving title for the new Dilated Peoples album. It

makes you think it’s going to be perfect, as in 20/20 vision, but it

could just have easily been called Who Has My Glasses? or These

Contacts Are Starting To Itch-not completely visionless, but still

in need of some help. The beats all sound like the ones on the radio

and are so complex that they take the focus off the lyrics. But in this case, it’s not so bad. Babu, from the world famous Beat Junkies, is still handling business with Dilated as the resident DJ and demonstrates on “Alarm Clock Music” that he hasn’t lost his touch. If you’re a Dilated fan, you might enjoy 20/20, but if you aren’t already, I suggest moving over in D section, buying the self-titled D.I.T.C. album, and recognizing the genius that is Big L.-Boosh

Ben Harper And The Innocent Criminals

Both Sides Of The Gun

Virgin

****

Ben Harper’s skate roots run deep: He grew up skateboarding in Southern California’s Inland Empire with dudes like vert legend Chris Miller back in the 80s, at spots like the original Upland Pipeline skatepark. “It clears my head. I love to skateboard, but I blatantly suck,” says Harper. “I just skate because I love it.”

Harper’s blazing new album, Both Sides Of The Gun, features some of the best material he’s put down to date. Known for his ability to mix shit up with a wide variety of influences, Harper once again comes through with an album that’s got a little something for everyone.-Jack Spilberg

Bad Wizard

Sky High

Howler

** (2.5 out of 5)

Do you like Deep Purple? If so, you’re gonna be just fine with Bad Wizard’s Sky High. These Brooklyn hair farmers live for 70s cock-rock, which is to say that the radical riffs, candy choruses, loping drumbeats, and boastful odes to sex, drugs, and hangin’ tough all come right out of the hesher handbook circa 1978. Oh, wait, can’t forget the wicked-saturated guitar solos. Yeah, lots of those. On the whole, though, I can handle these kind of boogie jams for all of two songs before the shtick leaves me so ambivalent I just want to lay down (unless it’s Turbonegro-but hey, that’s just me). Provided you’re stoned, a competitive air-guitarist, a sex addict, or a hessian skater, you’ll probably love this.-Arlie Carstens

Irving

Death In The Garden, Blood On The Flowers

Eenie Meenie

****

I don’t know if the guys in Irving work at coffee shops or as telemarketers during the day, but I hope they don’t haveo. Irving is a band that deserves to earn a living by playing their beautiful, fragile indie-pop songs. These guys deserve recognition and acclaim, much more so than the following bands: Slipknot, Hoobastank, Insane Clown Posse, Linkin Park, or Sum 41. While I’m at it, can’t we figure out a way to get those bands on a desert island where they have to fight to the death? How entertaining would that be?

I want Irving to have teenage girls chasing them down the street, just like that one DC commercial with Rob Dyrdek.-Andreas Trolf

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness

Fear Is On Our Side

Secretly Canadian

***

Yet another Austin band with an ironic moniker, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness makes the kind of epic, ambient pop rock that had goth kids cutting themselves all through the 80s. With a faithful nod to the new romantic and shoegazer acts of the 80s and 90s, ILYBICD’s debut album sounds like a cross between late-period Echo And The Bunnymen, Ride, and even Eyeless In Gaza. Listen closely and you may hear a bit of hometown pals And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead in the mix, too. Built largely on dark, spooky chord progressions, minimalist beats, and tsunami-sized washes of reverb, this is for the most part a lovely album, particularly the instrumental tracks. Standouts like “The Ghost” and “If It Was Me” build slowly and elegantly, but be forewarned-Fear Is On Our Side requires a good bit of patience on the listener’s part.-Arlie Carstens

Pink Mountaintops

Axis Of Evol

Jagjaguwar

****

Yet another reason why I love Canada, specifically Vancouver-Pink Mountaintops are sort of the alter ego of Black Mountain, and as you might know, I love Black Mountain. So it seems only fitting that Pink Mountaintops makes the list too. Axis Of Evol is a lovely, stripped-down, spare, and heartfelt album from a band that somehow always manages to get short-shrifted by music journalists in terms of their themes. Everyone loves to tell you how Pink Mountaintops only croons about sex and drugs and urges, but that’s lame.

Can I label myself a self-loathing music journalist? Or even maybe deny that I’m a music journalist entirely? Yeah, people got pissed when I made fun of Daniel Gesmer’s leotards, but I stand by it. I love this album and I stand by that too. Get on the “I Love Canada” bandwagon. Come on.-Andreas Trolf

In Flames

Come Clarity

Ferret Music

***

If you’re into melodic death metal, classic metal, black metal, or any other sub-genre of metal that’s out there, then know it or not, you’ve likely heard at least a few bands from Gothenburg, Sweden. There is no discussion of modern metal without the “Gothenburg Sound.” Within the city’s cacophonous collective of bands past and present (At The Gates, The Haunted, Ceremonial Oath, et al), guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Jesper Stromblad of In Flames have reigned supreme for more than a decade. Inspired equally by Iron Maiden and Slayer, these dudes play the riffs you want to hear. And sure enough, the new album Come Clarity shreds, but man, the vocals blow. Sorry. Blame it on the Linkin Park-ification of metal or too many dates spent on Ozzfest, but goddamn, the weird, whiney, screamo choruses and rap-rock rhythms happening on this disc are just too much to bear.-Arlie Carstens

Oceansize

Everyone Into Position

Beggars Banquet

***(3.5 out of 5)

Oh, to be young and sensitive. Oh, to have a major label and a mixing guy (in this case, Coldplay producer Danton Supple) nudging your songs of heartache and indignation into slick piles of overexcited sonic goo. Following in the footsteps of Elbow, Muse, and even Pablo Honey-era Radiohead, Oceansize is yet another U.K. band hell-bent on expressing the grand pathos of the human condition through loud guitars, classic prog-rock arrangements, and obtuse (but heartfelt!) lyrical musings. On songs like “You Can’t Keep A Bad Man Down” and “Ornament/The Last Wrongs,” it works nicely, but overall the sophomore album, Everyone Into Position, begs the question: Haven’t we been here before? With less production and a lot more dirt, this’d be more engaging, even quite lovely. Clearly these gentlemen are talented, but much of it sounds like a cross between Soundgarden B-sides and an average day at Guitar Center. It’ll be huge.-Arlie Carstens

Years Around The Sun

Introstay

Manaloft

*** (3.5 stars)

I’ve had nothing but awkward experiences after a friend hands me their band’s CD to review. There’s just no easy way to say, “Dear friend, this reeks of dog shit.” So I was a little apprehensive when TW SURF Editor Chris Cotà‡ handed me his band’s new CD. I think Cotà‡ was a little apprehensive himself, because I’ve never seen North County SD’s most popular bro so bashful. Plus, I barely have time to take a shit around here, and there’s C&C Music Factory next door churning out records, DJing the DC Shoes’ 2005 holiday party, and managing a wifey with his spare hours. So how good could Introstay be? Actually, quite good. Sure, it sounds a bit like a Pinback cover band, but that’s nowhere near a bad thing. Cotà‡’s a deft little drummer, the vocals are smart and lush, and overall, this thing has legs. Man, how pissed will Joel be when Years Around The Sun takes off?-Carleton Curtis

Nightmares On Wax

In A Space Outta Sound

Warp

*** (3.5 out of 5)

While for the most part it’d be safe to say I like a lot of ambient, beat-driven music (think Boards Of Canada, Autechre, Black Dice), I’m not too familiar with the down-tempo, “chill out” scene, largely because so much of it sounds like New Age mood music and fake R&B. With that said, Nightmares On Wax (a.k.a. George Evelyn) slays it, primarily by keeping the overall vibe mellow and fun but somehow damn serious. On the new disc In A Space Outta Sound, you’ll find no extraneous synthesizers and corny “party people say yeah!” samples. Instead, “The Sweetest” sounds like a cross between Tokyo pop and The Meters’ hard 70s funk, and “Passion” is so sweet and buoyant, one could easily mistake it for the French group Air. The instrumental track “You Wish” beautifully invokes the spirit of Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” without ever wholesale heisting the original. Solid.-Arlie Carstens

UPCOMING RELEASES:

BECAUSE KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE

April 3

Erasure, Union Street

April 4

Appleseed Cast, Peregrine

Shooter Jennings, Electric Rodeo

April 11

Built To Spill, You In Reverse

Death Cab For Cutie, Directions (DVD)

The Streets, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living

Pretty Girls Make Graves, Elan Vital

April 25

Starlight Mints, Drowaton

May 9

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium (2xCD)

rall the sophomore album, Everyone Into Position, begs the question: Haven’t we been here before? With less production and a lot more dirt, this’d be more engaging, even quite lovely. Clearly these gentlemen are talented, but much of it sounds like a cross between Soundgarden B-sides and an average day at Guitar Center. It’ll be huge.-Arlie Carstens

Years Around The Sun

Introstay

Manaloft

*** (3.5 stars)

I’ve had nothing but awkward experiences after a friend hands me their band’s CD to review. There’s just no easy way to say, “Dear friend, this reeks of dog shit.” So I was a little apprehensive when TW SURF Editor Chris Cotà‡ handed me his band’s new CD. I think Cotà‡ was a little apprehensive himself, because I’ve never seen North County SD’s most popular bro so bashful. Plus, I barely have time to take a shit around here, and there’s C&C Music Factory next door churning out records, DJing the DC Shoes’ 2005 holiday party, and managing a wifey with his spare hours. So how good could Introstay be? Actually, quite good. Sure, it sounds a bit like a Pinback cover band, but that’s nowhere near a bad thing. Cotà‡’s a deft little drummer, the vocals are smart and lush, and overall, this thing has legs. Man, how pissed will Joel be when Years Around The Sun takes off?-Carleton Curtis

Nightmares On Wax

In A Space Outta Sound

Warp

*** (3.5 out of 5)

While for the most part it’d be safe to say I like a lot of ambient, beat-driven music (think Boards Of Canada, Autechre, Black Dice), I’m not too familiar with the down-tempo, “chill out” scene, largely because so much of it sounds like New Age mood music and fake R&B. With that said, Nightmares On Wax (a.k.a. George Evelyn) slays it, primarily by keeping the overall vibe mellow and fun but somehow damn serious. On the new disc In A Space Outta Sound, you’ll find no extraneous synthesizers and corny “party people say yeah!” samples. Instead, “The Sweetest” sounds like a cross between Tokyo pop and The Meters’ hard 70s funk, and “Passion” is so sweet and buoyant, one could easily mistake it for the French group Air. The instrumental track “You Wish” beautifully invokes the spirit of Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” without ever wholesale heisting the original. Solid.-Arlie Carstens

UPCOMING RELEASES:

BECAUSE KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE

April 3

Erasure, Union Street

April 4

Appleseed Cast, Peregrine

Shooter Jennings, Electric Rodeo

April 11

Built To Spill, You In Reverse

Death Cab For Cutie, Directions (DVD)

The Streets, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living

Pretty Girls Make Graves, Elan Vital

April 25

Starlight Mints, Drowaton

May 9

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium (2xCD)