September 18, 2013

REVIEW: "AM" by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys walk past midnight on subdued AM

Arctic Monkeys newest, fifth album, AM, may be the best collection of songs to hear while walking in a big city after midnight. It's filled with an attitude of cool nonchalance and a tempo that remains mid-level throughout.
Out only a few weeks, AM has already been nominated for the Mercury Prize, the UK's gift for their home-bred favorites, and hit number 1 on the UK Albums Chart. These guys are definitely the best thing to come from England since Radiohead, but they lost themselves in the California desert while recording this one.
The songs are sparse and direct, each held down by a clopping, barely-there rattle of drum and bass from Matt Helders and Nick O'Malley. The first track, "Do I Wanna Know?," burns slow like one of those fat lavender candles. A sinister stomp marches in, while a dark foreboding guitar peels around the corner. Leader Alex Turner, now sporting a hard glint of tenacity in his eye, wonders if the one he sees romantically sees him the same, but, does he even want to know?
The catchiest and most familiar-sounding chorus is on a song released months in advance, "R U Mine?" Helders adds a pile of drums and his rising falsetto, something they explore at great volumes here. The vocals get real high, especially on "One For The Road," which feature Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age (he's on "Knee Socks," too).
"Arabella" is a weird mix of crunchy Seventies-era butt-rock with a guitar solo caught on meteoric fumes and a bass line like ice melting in a glass of lukewarm water. The best song, "Fireside," moves brusquely and steady like a locomotive through a tide of twinkling organ and rising guitar.
On "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" Turner really needs to drink a cup of water and get some sleep. It's a raw piece of smoking blues that walks right over your face. Turner still expertly weaves delicately worded phrases between his prudent guitar licks like he's always done. "I wanna pull your hair in deep devotion," he swoons on "I Wanna Be Yours." Slick as ever, but crumpled in a loveless gutter. Will somebody please love this guy?
The sweet chasm, "Mad Sounds," is a very dull hit single for mid-90's lite rock radio. Every band should find a place somewhere on a new record to tip-toe outside their comfort zone, but the ooh-la-la-las and the treading organs on this one just don't work. Similarly, "No. 1 Party Anthem," is the sappiest of Arctic Monkeys songs. The tempo cuts in half and in the background a piano hides, while Turner goes milky with the lyrics. It's certainly not terrible, but if any other millennial rock band released it, it would briskly be forgotten.
The closer, "I Wanna Be Yours," is a beautiful ode to a love deep as the Pacific Ocean and moves like a wave lapping toward the shore. It's a simple song that swells with a longing for desire but fades without alarm, leaving the listener wondering where the hell the new Arctic Monkeys album went. 
AM is not the tough, stoner-sludge rock record one might've hoped for with all the supposed Black Sabbath inspiration and Homme hand-lending, but it's definitely a mark worth celebrating for the Monkeys. The songs mirror the emotions of an endless night of loneliness and dread and intoxicated contemplation. They're waving goodbye to their early snotty selves and waking in a new disheveled morning.

Key Tracks: "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", "Arabella", "Do I Wanna Know?", "R U Mine?"

from: Independent Music Promotions

September 14, 2013

Gender Infinity / Viking Moses / Roses at The Silent Barn

Gender Infinity, with Hunter (l.), at The Silent Barn. Photo by Eli Jace.
     Appropriately for a band called Gender Infinity, lead dude, Redding Hunter, traipsed around in the darkness of The Silent Barn in various states of drag. First came the wigs, then the fishnets, followed by mascara crayoned on thick. The necks of the boys in the room kept craning mistakenly, but it’s alright because it was Hunter’s birthday and he’ll scream, croak, and try to fire his bassist repeatedly if he wants to.
    Monday night, The Silent Barn hosted three bands. Hunter’s newest musical incarnation, Gender Infinity, [Read about his previous project Peter & The Wolf here] were at the tail end of a short East coast tour with Viking Moses. Roses, a band from Providence, RI, also supported the Brooklyn stop.
     The Silent Barn, which is run by an assortment of creatives who live upstairs, has been active since 2006. The venue has been held at its current space, at 603 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, since January. They welcome all types of artistic excursions, even once holding a kindergarten class for six weeks. Walk through the corrugated metal door into a gravel pit and you’ll see a junkyard of discarded art installations. The giant half skull/half head of a Brooklyn Dodgers player greets you a few steps in the door. Inside is a smattering collage that, under the right circumstances, would have one feeling like a Looney Tune.
Three steps into The Silent Barn and this head is staring you down. Photo by Eli Jace.
     Viking Moses have been around since 2003 in alternating forms, with songwriter Brendon Massei always at the helm. Currently a three-piece band, they played powerfully and catatonic. Their walking mudslide blues shook the room. Massei’s voice was thrown in, slipping languidly off the trampling drum and bass. Their most recent release is last year’s The Conquest Night.
     The main act, Gender Infinity from Austin, TX, fell into position when they finally took the stage, just minutes before the lead dude’s birthday ended. Sound issues hobbled the first song, “Mr. Popular,” but they soldiered through it matching the disrupted tones with their rickshaw performance. Their sound is straight forward and sweetly marauding, held together by thread. Things at a Gender Infinity show are clearly not meant to be polished, or even well-rehearsed.
     Everyone wore a wig. Hunter went further, with the black fishnets and an intruding dick bulge of confusion, proving first and foremost that a man in drag can rock out with his cock (almost) out. When he performs, he’s barely there, in a stupor of his own faltering will. “I’m going to die tonight,” he slurred into the microphone at one point. His carelessness is a virtue and the rest of the group blended in properly.
Gender Infinity.  Photo by Eli Jace.
     Their songs are sloshed, end-of-the-night rock & roll tales, steeped in the scene they’re playing in. Hunter spills a mouthful of words on “Trainwreck Baby,” a humorous insight into the underworld of playing dark rock clubs. “International Calls (Written By Clemens Poole)” is about the gut-stricting discovery of loneliness in the big city, while “I Can’t Make Rent” gives details of the song’s title. They were as grimy as the floor they stomped on and rocked until their mascara ran and their wigs fell off.
     Gender Infinity’s 9 Lives EP is available for download at their Bandcamp site, or on a disc between two slices of white bread in the back of one of their shows.