GUEST REVIEWER OF THE MONTH:

Andrew W.K.

Who Knows DVD

Well, hello there to all you penguins who read this. I was asked to review a record or perhaps a DVD. My first thoughts were, “This is gonna be tits.” And then I figured TWS was gonna snaggle me, and send a crummy rap or emo thing my way. Obviously not anything I wanna go out and buy, or even waste my ears listenin’ to.

Well, I was wrong about that-I received an Andrew W.K. music DVD.

I was in Tampa a few years back, and Andrew W.K. played a free show at The Masquerade. That was the first I had ever heard of the dude, and what not. I wasn’t into the music, but bloody hell, the crowd sure did love the guy. It was definitely awesome watchin’ this guy’s hair flyin’ aroun’ and seein’ him jump like a crazed baboon or some kinda wild thing.

The DVD is a “best of” type thing of live recordings/gigs from 2000 to 2004. It starts out like a real cheesy homemade horror film with his voice dubbed over some crappy filming, talking about some crap I didn’t wanna hear. Then it kicks into a crazy high-jinks rock ‘n’ roll, metal show with merry-go-round-sounding keyboards blasting. There are two crazy lookin’ dudes with intense facial hair and skinheads goin’ nuts, while about four other dudes do some gnarly hair-whips. Basically, I have no idea how they even play with all that swaying hair, but they rock. Andrew W.K. himself wears all white and plays some pretty sissy melodic keyboard with some crazy metal goin’ on. That’s tough! I kept thinking I was over Who Knows, but the more I watched, the more I kept on smiling, and the more I kept hearing Andrew repeat, “Don’t be a f-kin wimp!” Crazy jams for ya ears, but watchin’ ‘em play will make you laugh. I give it five thumbs up, so don’t be a f-kin wimp and watch these crazies go down!-Corey Duffel

Tha Alkaholiks

Firewater

Waxploitation/KOCH

**

If we’re to believe the press accompanying the advance CD for Firewater, this marks last call for Tha Alkaholiks. I’m not all that surprised. For ten years running, J Ro, Tash, and E-Swift have been giving hip-hop party people what they’ve wanted: beats, hangovers, and soured livers. Sure, the shtick’s been funny, but only when they’ve lined up an army of producers and guest MCs. And therein lies the problem with this thing. For an act that’s long built its career on drunked-out collaborations with some of hip-hop’s greatest (Nas, Xzibit, Q-Tip, Kurupt, ODB, and The Neptunes), this-their fifth and supposedly final album-ain’t got no juice. As in, there are zero appearances or production collaborations of note. Apart from “Chaos,” it’s just the boys swinging their dicks and spinning the same old tales.-Arlie Carstens

The Plastic Constellations

Crusades

Frenchkiss

****

You know what’s great right now? Suddenly, guilty pleasures don’t have to be guilty. For instance, I used to be straight edge-Xs on my hands and everything (this was way back in the 90s). But when I stopped being straight edge and started drinking, I felt really guilty about it afterwards-classic post-straight-edge guilt. But no longer! I’m fine with being an alcohol enthusiast. I mean, drinking isn’t that cool, but I’m okay with the fact that I like to have the occasional cocktail. Let’s all be okay with that, m’kay?

Now I feel the need to tie The Plastic Constellations into this somehow. There was a time when I might have considered them a guilty pleasure. I would have said to them, “Dudes, what are you? A pop band? Post-punk? Anthemic semi-hard sing-alongs? You can’t have it all! You must choose!” But I’m not like that anymore. I like what I like. The Plastic Constellations are all those things: melodic and atonal; hard and full of harmonies; ugly and beautiful. I love this album. I don’t care what anybody says. You’re not the boss of me.-Andreas Trolf

Aceyalone

Magnificent City

Project Blowed/Decon

***

Aceyalone first made his mark as an underground MC with the Freestyle llowship way back in the mid 90s. From there, he followed with the acclaimed solo releases All Balls Don’t Bounce and The Book Of Human Language. For Magnificent City, he’s tapped legendary Philly-based producer RJD2, and the results are a mixed bag. “All For U,” “Junior,” and “Cornbread, Eddy And Me” are straight-up awesome street bangers (all raw beats, bold metaphors, and in-your-face braggadocio), whereas tracks like “Fire,” “Here And Now,” and “Supahero” come off as little more than lightweight party jams, morality plays, and smooth-lover B.S. This thing’s all over the map. This is what happens when you’ve been in the hip-hop game for a long time and hope to appeal to as many different listeners as possible (backpackers, gang bangers, stripper-hot secretaries, and party people unite!). Yeah, right. Decent but confused.-Arlie Carstens

Lovedrug

Pretend You’re Alive

Columbia

***

I was watching this movie on the TV recently about eunuchs. Seriously. These were dudes who voluntarily got castrated because they just didn’t want to have balls anymore. It was some sort of fetish, and so these guys all just kind of had them lopped off. The worst, though, was this one dude who, after being castrated, said that he kind of regretted it. Along the lines of, “I wish I hadn’t drank that many beers last night.” Yeah, nice one. Now you’ve just got an empty bag. Ewwww.

So anyhow, Lovedrug. Have you heard of these guys? Four neatly dressed young men from the Midwest playing music about heartbreak and disillusionment? Surprise, surprise, right? Actually, musically this is quite decent-emotional stuff sort of in the vein of Sunny Day Real Estate-it’s just that Michael Shepard sounds exactly like a eunuch. I mean, hey, if that’s your thing, more power to you.-Andreas Trolf

Tarantella

Esqueletos

Alternative Tentacles

****

Tarantella is the occasional welcome surprise-sounding musically like a Tom Waits album, dark and melodic, only with female vocals along the lines of Siouxsie Sioux at her most heartrending and haunting. Although, that’s not entirely it, either. Esqueletos also does an excellent job of leaving the confines of Waits’ whiskey bar and seamlessly entering the Ennio Morricone soundtrack of a spaghetti Western. It’s completely unexpected, but also feels completely natural here.

Kal Cahoone’s vocals are largely in Spanish, which lets you feel a bit smarter and pan-American for having this on your stereo. You could even tell your friends you picked up this little gem on a jaunt to Argentina or Peru. In fact, yes, do tell them that. Play Tarantella sometime and just go, “Do you like this? Some old hunched-over woman gave this to me as I was hiking the trail to Machu Pichu. Oh, it was glorious! You should have been there. Can I get you another glass of wine?”-Andreas Trolf

D.O.A.

War On 45

Sudden Death Records

*****

War On 45 is perhaps the timeliest reissue ever. Originally released in 1982 as an eight-song EP, this new version includes the original album as well as a bunch of the band’s other amazing songs. Along with a handful of others, D.O.A. was there when punk started. Playing shows with the likes of Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, this was the genesis of the North American political punk movement. Too young to be a hippie, frontman Joey Shithead turned to writing protest songs in the late 70s when there was no massive international conflict to protest. But as with all good art, the songs have stood the test of the intervening years and they’re just as vital and necessary today-more so, actually. Do you know any crust punks? Chances are they’ve got either a Crass or a D.O.A. tattoo somewhere. Anyone who’s ever lived in a squat or thrown a brick at riot cops owes these guys a debt of thanks.-Hercules Rockefeller, Jr.

Head Like A Kite

Random Portraits Of The Home Movie

Pattern

***

Does everyone have VH1 Classic yet? It’s seriously one of the only things worth watching on TV aside from Adult Swim. I called my cable company the other day to get every channel shut off except for VH1 Classic and Cartoon Network, but they told me I couldn’t do that. I told the lady that I only wanted those two and she said, “Well, why don’t you just watch those two then?” Jerk.Anyhow, VH1 Classic is great. You just leave it on in the other room and it’s like this great mixtape of random stuff you know you’re going to love. The other day they played Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Zeppelin, and The Cure in a half hour. I was stoked. The thing is, Head Like A Kite would not have been out of place on that day’s soundtrack. This isn’t classic rock or anything, or really all that retro or new-wavey. This is just plain good, weird synth and drums, assorted strings, bizarre effects, and strange samples. If I were going to classify it, I’d call H.L.A.K. neo-post-Krautrock-ambient-Super-8 fuzz. Yeah, that fits perfectly.-Andreas Trolf

ONE ALBUM, TWO REVIEWERS!

Think we’re biased? Well, this oughta shut you the hell up. We’re doing a little experiment with this section, where two different music writers review the same album. Fair and balanced reporting: it’s a journalistic breakthrough!

Beth Orton

Comfort Of Strangers

Astralwerks

**

It’s ironic perhaps only to this reviewer that Orton’s named her new album Comfort Of Strangers. Years ago, a friend called asking if I’d be her guide while in town on tour. Admittedly, though not a big fan of folk-tronica, I appreciated this Brit’s fragile, husky voice. So I said, “Sure.” But between her recreational intake concerns and vegan dietary needs (not that I have anything against vegans or heads, just picky ones), Beth was a bit of a wet blanket. Surmising this stranger/gopher could lend her no comfort, we politely dispensed with our association. And now years later, here we are with this album. Sad to say, much as I want it to be brilliant, it simply isn’t. Though her voice is truly lovely, the lyrics strike a balance of afterthoughts and clichà‡s. Even Jim O’Rourke’s production is abnormally off. Pairing odd, delicate songs of love and loss with steel drums-though inventive-is plainly bad policy.-Arlie Carstens

**

You know what the most interesting thing about this album is? The record company’s logo. Seriously. Astralwerks has a really interesting logo. I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to be, though. Maybe one of those male/female dudes from bathroom doors riding an incredibly fast and aerodynamic motorcycle? This is a very futuristic logo. It looks like movies from the 1950s where everything in the future is metallic and oval. Bravo, Astralwerks.

So yeah, as you can probably tell, I’m not too excited about this album. Comfort Of Strangers sounds incredibly adult. I don’t know, but this might sound good if played at medium volume at an alternative healing center when you’re getting a deep-tissue massage and you want to be soothed. I don’t know, though-I’ve never been to one of those places. This might also work if you were spending a relaxing afternoon shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond. Again, I’ve never been there, so don’t take my word for it.-Andreas Trolf

Swearing At Motorists

Last Night Becomes This Morning

Secretly Canadian

***

Aren’t celebrity magazines the worst? Like People and Us. I mean, I don’t read them, but just knowing that they exist makes me feel as if there’s no hope for humanity at all. What is it with our culture’s ceaseless obsession with actors, models, whatevers? Why can’t people get stoked on scientists or philosophers or something? Just for once, I would like to see a horde of screaming teenage girls chasing someone like Stephen Hawking down the street (imagine them chasing his wheelchair!). That would be great, and I wouldn’t constantly feel like going on a killing spree.

Anyhow, Swearing At Motorists is mellow, intelligent acoustic pop music. No superfluities here-guitar, drums, vocals. Dave Doughman son TV aside from Adult Swim. I called my cable company the other day to get every channel shut off except for VH1 Classic and Cartoon Network, but they told me I couldn’t do that. I told the lady that I only wanted those two and she said, “Well, why don’t you just watch those two then?” Jerk.Anyhow, VH1 Classic is great. You just leave it on in the other room and it’s like this great mixtape of random stuff you know you’re going to love. The other day they played Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Zeppelin, and The Cure in a half hour. I was stoked. The thing is, Head Like A Kite would not have been out of place on that day’s soundtrack. This isn’t classic rock or anything, or really all that retro or new-wavey. This is just plain good, weird synth and drums, assorted strings, bizarre effects, and strange samples. If I were going to classify it, I’d call H.L.A.K. neo-post-Krautrock-ambient-Super-8 fuzz. Yeah, that fits perfectly.-Andreas Trolf

ONE ALBUM, TWO REVIEWERS!

Think we’re biased? Well, this oughta shut you the hell up. We’re doing a little experiment with this section, where two different music writers review the same album. Fair and balanced reporting: it’s a journalistic breakthrough!

Beth Orton

Comfort Of Strangers

Astralwerks

**

It’s ironic perhaps only to this reviewer that Orton’s named her new album Comfort Of Strangers. Years ago, a friend called asking if I’d be her guide while in town on tour. Admittedly, though not a big fan of folk-tronica, I appreciated this Brit’s fragile, husky voice. So I said, “Sure.” But between her recreational intake concerns and vegan dietary needs (not that I have anything against vegans or heads, just picky ones), Beth was a bit of a wet blanket. Surmising this stranger/gopher could lend her no comfort, we politely dispensed with our association. And now years later, here we are with this album. Sad to say, much as I want it to be brilliant, it simply isn’t. Though her voice is truly lovely, the lyrics strike a balance of afterthoughts and clichà‡s. Even Jim O’Rourke’s production is abnormally off. Pairing odd, delicate songs of love and loss with steel drums-though inventive-is plainly bad policy.-Arlie Carstens

**

You know what the most interesting thing about this album is? The record company’s logo. Seriously. Astralwerks has a really interesting logo. I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to be, though. Maybe one of those male/female dudes from bathroom doors riding an incredibly fast and aerodynamic motorcycle? This is a very futuristic logo. It looks like movies from the 1950s where everything in the future is metallic and oval. Bravo, Astralwerks.

So yeah, as you can probably tell, I’m not too excited about this album. Comfort Of Strangers sounds incredibly adult. I don’t know, but this might sound good if played at medium volume at an alternative healing center when you’re getting a deep-tissue massage and you want to be soothed. I don’t know, though-I’ve never been to one of those places. This might also work if you were spending a relaxing afternoon shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond. Again, I’ve never been there, so don’t take my word for it.-Andreas Trolf

Swearing At Motorists

Last Night Becomes This Morning

Secretly Canadian

***

Aren’t celebrity magazines the worst? Like People and Us. I mean, I don’t read them, but just knowing that they exist makes me feel as if there’s no hope for humanity at all. What is it with our culture’s ceaseless obsession with actors, models, whatevers? Why can’t people get stoked on scientists or philosophers or something? Just for once, I would like to see a horde of screaming teenage girls chasing someone like Stephen Hawking down the street (imagine them chasing his wheelchair!). That would be great, and I wouldn’t constantly feel like going on a killing spree.

Anyhow, Swearing At Motorists is mellow, intelligent acoustic pop music. No superfluities here-guitar, drums, vocals. Dave Doughman sounds at times like a stripped down Echo And The Bunnymen, and his vocals will for sure make you want to slit your wrists, but not in that self-pitying way that comes off as cloying and desperate. Also, over the years, Swearing At Motorists has had fifteen drummers. I wonder if they all died like with Spinal Tap.-Andreas Trolf

*****

It isn’t often that an album makes me scream, “YES!” But Last Night Becomes This Morning does just that. Having played over the years with Brainiac, My Morning Jacket, Unwound, Les Savy Fav, Burning Brides, and weirdly, even AC/DC, Swearing at Motorists has long been the consummate band’s band. Yet, for some reason, they’ve perpetually received a fraction of the attention afforded to their peers. Maybe it’s because as a guitar/drums-duo writing songs examining life, love, and all of the good, bad, and ugly consequences in between, they tap a vein rawer than the average indie nerd can handle. On “Suicide On The Installment Plan,” for example, when guitarist/vocalist Dave Doughman sings, “Your way of life is getting in the way of your life,” he sounds like a man who knows the score. Where other bands muck up their most tender/brutal observations with volume and theatrics, these gentlemen put that hollow-eyed, threadbare vibe right in your face. “YES!”-Arlie Carstens

UPCOMING RELEASES:

The Future Sounds Promising.

February 7, 2006

Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Yeah, this is the final title.)

February 21, 2006

Liars, Drum’s Not Dead

March 7, 2006

Mogwai, Mr. Beast

Mudhoney, Under A Billion Suns

March 21, 2006

Morrissey, Ringleader Of The Tormentors

n sounds at times like a stripped down Echo And The Bunnymen, and his vocals will for sure make you want to slit your wrists, but not in that self-pitying way that comes off as cloying and desperate. Also, over the years, Swearing At Motorists has had fifteen drummers. I wonder if they all died like with Spinal Tap.-Andreas Trolf

*****

It isn’t often that an album makes me scream, “YES!” But Last Night Becomes This Morning does just that. Having played over the years with Brainiac, My Morning Jacket, Unwound, Les Savy Fav, Burning Brides, and weirdly, even AC/DC, Swearing at Motorists has long been the consummate band’s band. Yet, for some reason, they’ve perpetually received a fraction of the attention afforded to their peers. Maybe it’s because as a guitar/drums-duo writing songs examining life, love, and all of the good, bad, and ugly consequences in between, they tap a vein rawer than the average indie nerd can handle. On “Suicide On The Installment Plan,” for example, when guitarist/vocalist Dave Doughman sings, “Your way of life is getting in the way of your life,” he sounds like a man who knows the score. Where other bands muck up their most tender/brutal observations with volume and theatrics, these gentlemen put that hollow-eyed, threadbare vibe right in your face. “YES!”-Arlie Carstens

UPCOMING RELEASES:

The Future Sounds Promising.

February 7, 2006

Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Yeah, this is the final title.)

February 21, 2006

Liars, Drum’s Not Dead

March 7, 2006

Mogwai, Mr. Beast

Mudhoney, Under A Billion Suns

March 21, 2006

Morrissey, Ringleader Of The Tormentors