June 18, 2014

REVIEW: "Lazaretto" by Jack White

Lazaretto Finds Jack White
Bruised and Seeing Blue
     When Jack White accuses The Black Keys of ripping off his sound, I have to agree with the man. The White Stripes–and only The White Stripes–are responsible for bringing back the rawness to some seriously over-cooked rock-and-roll at the turn of the century and every band after only followed suit.
     Unfortunately, the distinction today is hardly relevant. On White’s second solo album, Lazaretto, he continues to inch away from the iconic, slapdash rock formations the Stripes made so cool over a decade ago. His charm is still in rock-and-roll, but seeping in are the sounds of instruments discovered in a Nashville garage sale: fiddles, mandolins, a pedal steel guitar, old Synthesizers, a harp–even a bass guitar. Slathered on top all that is White’s own contemplations of age and abandoned love.
     Lazaretto opens with the Blind Willie McTell song, “Three Women,” a salute to the artists whose sound White has borrowed from. The organ pumps and the piano pounds as White divides his time between a redhead, a blonde and brunette. The album’s title track exhibits a classic Jack White guitar sound. Sludge slides down the fretboard and a piercing solo releases goosebumps up and down the body.
     By the third track, “Temporary Ground,” all memories of White’s signature sound start to dither. The song, a duet with Lillie Mae Rische, who plays fiddle and mandolin on the record and is part of White’s touring band, hearkens back to the time of Cold Mountain. In the Civil War-era movie White plays Georgia, a poor wandering musician with a high-pitched down south whine. White remains in time and character for the regular ol’ country tune and darnit if it ain’t the catchiest melody on Lazaretto.
     When The White Stripes disbanded in 2011 it was sad news for fans, and even more so for White, who worked so efficiently under their self-assigned limitations. For his first solo album, the fair, but forgettable Blunderbuss, White enlisted the help of neighboring musicians and two full bands to fill the void.
     During the recording of Lazaretto, the doors to Third Man Studios never closed. We hear White laboring over each transition, time change and layered track. It’s a new frontier for the man who made every effort to make music on the fly, from the gut and with little back-tracking. The songs are all carefully constructed, sometimes with excellent results, sometimes with an over-attentiveness that bloats the sound.
     Nothing can replace the excitement of records done in one take with everyone playing right there in the room and a bit of fuzz invading the corners. Jack White understands this, but on Lazaretto, which he worked on for over a year, he allowed the new songs to simmer. Mostly, he benefits, but White, who also plays in The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, seems to be searching in the dark for a sound to call his own.
     Dusty piano notes flutter from the old saloon on “Alone In My Home.” “Lost feelings of love that hover above me,” White repeats with a steady Nashville twang pinching each last note. “That Black Bat Licorice” has the knee-jerk puncture of The White Stripes and on “Would You Fight For My Love?” White rips into an operatic crunch. The song creeps through the forests of jilted love along a thumping piano. “I’m getting better at becoming a ghost,” White sings with crackling despair, before the chorus blows up.
     One of Lazaretto‘s best songs is the one without vocals, “High Ball Stepper.” A lucid arrangement quells around thorny stabs of guitar and the nervous hooting of some luckless owl. It’s the most psychedelic song White has done and one hopes there’s more of this to go around.

Key Tracks: "Lazaretto," "Would You Fight For My Love?," "High Ball Stepper," "Three Women"

source: http://imp

June 09, 2014

REVIEW: "Do to the Beast" by The Afghan Whigs

Do to the Beast Revives the Muscle
of The Afghan Whigs
     I know you by now, Greg Dulli. I do.
     In 2006 The Twilight Singers--Dulli's main post-Afghan Whigs group--were playing Paradise Rock Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dulli, dressed in all black, mopped the stage with the sweat of his movements, sneering at the audience and lumbering to the edge of the stage with every song's moment of impact.
     When an older woman heckled Dulli, he relished the exchange, sensing an opportunity to break the glass between performer and spectator. His grinned was soaked. He shot back at the woman with venom, on a level nearing flirtation--a sequence the man, in life and song, is no stranger of. The moment was borderline worrisome, the tension raw. Dulli seemed close to walking off stage to buy the woman a drink and disappear down the dark hallways of the club with her. Each song was more exacerbated as he continued to bark back. The performance is marked as one of my favorites.
     Dulli is a man who does not apologize for who he is and the music he has been involved with, first with the Afghan Whigs, then The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins, reflects that. Do to the Beast is The Afghan Whigs' return album. And this one is for real. Their last, 1965, was released 16 years ago in 1998.
     Their seventh album comes appropriately in line of the The Whigs' discography. Sound comes out thick as a steak, guitars of raunch rip and rumble, and somewhere along the way you'll think to yourself, "I should make a drink for this."
     The perfectly titled, "Parked Outside," starts the album off with a mudflap drumbeat and dirty guitars that gird and goad. Dulli sneers and rasps and whines as Dulli most skillfully does. "Matamoros" has a palm-muted guitar that warns then slithers into a snake-charmer trance. Dulli smokes a cigar and puts an old love firmly in the past.
     Dulli aches all over Do to the Beast. "It kills to watch you love another," he laments over the piano-driven burner, "It Kills." On "Lost in the Woods" he slumps over two hard slabs of piano that rock back and forth. The trees pass until he arrives at a lake. "Sitting outside in the cold, I can see that you're not alone," he sings, unable to pull himself away.
     The album is saturated with lonesome regret. On "Algiers" Dulli gives the ultimatum: "Dream your sins away, sin your dreams away."
     On most Afghan Whigs' and Twilight Singer's records there is one recurrent comfort: The Car. "Can Rova" finds Dulli strapped in for a slow drive out of town, away from the haunted past. "I can't see you anymore," he gulps down. The sinewy song takes off wistfully into a burst of hyper drum beat, then ends.
     Do to the Beast is a strong return album for The Afghan Whigs. The darkness of the night comes in swinging and never lets up. If they're looking to make up for the 16-year hole, I'll be listening.

Key Tracks: "Parked Outside," "Algiers," "Matamoros," "Can Rova"

source: http://imp

June 06, 2014

REVIEW: "Midnight Sun" by The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Sean Lennon Eats His Father's Ghost
and Shines On Midnight Sun
     What better relationship to have but one where music is the constant center? Sean Lennon and his girlfriend, model Charlotte Kemp Muhl, have been creating music together in their New York apartment since 2008 under the guise of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.
     Midnight Sun, not their first release, does feel like the one where everything finally links into place. It is their first to go speaker-to-speaker with instrumental bombardment. In 2010 they released a collaboration with Mark Ronson titled Jardin Du Luxembourg, their own home-recorded Acoustic Sessions, then La Carotte Bleue, a limited release of reworked songs from the previous two.
     For a guy with arguably the world’s most famous and inspirational musicians as parents–John and Yoko–Lennon, at 38, has maintained a scattershot musical career. He’s lend his expertise to the work of his friends in Cibo Matto, Albert Hammond Jr., and others, and released two solo albums eight years apart. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, then, is his main fling.
     As a personal mode of literary expansion, I will try not to overuse the most obvious, and accurate, descriptors for Midnight Sun: psychedelic, sunshine pop. On it you’ll hear tremolo, ghost-like vocals, a crescendo of guitars thick with echo, everything thick with echo, walls of unplaced instruments that build-up, then slowly crumble. Hopefully there is a wide comfortable carpet to lay back on as the songs morph and take over the room.
     Lennon and Muhl equally share duties on the album. They wrote every song together except for “Golden Earrings.” Muhl sings on “Johannesburg” in a tone soft as dandelion hairs falling on your face. The song opens wide in a field of sunshine with a wubby drum beat and something, somewhere dripping. The album’s title track thrives on a groovy acid-house romp with Lennon’s muttered vocals at the center. Both trade lines back and fourth on the bouncy cloud pop of “Last Call.”
     On “Animals” the couple barrel down Fifth Avenue with a surging parade of big clashing drums, wound-up guitars and a rumbling bass. “Golden Earrings” begins calmly with a hide-out organ crawling up the spine. Lennon’s voice sails the Seven Seas and never returns. “Poor Paul Getty” sounds like a White Album outtake rediscovered in a time-vault left on the Moon. Midnight Sun ends with the loopy “Moth to a Flame” as it tunnels out from the Hadron Collider for a brain-charring finale.
     Hopefully would-be listeners don’t get stuck on the fact that it’s “only the project of John Lennon’s son.” Make no mistake about it: Sean Lennon is his father’s son. There is no denying it when you hear the voice–the flat range of emotion, the coarse English drawl pulled deep from the throat, but pitched a bit higher. The comparison is undeniable, but let’s face it, just about every English singer to come around since the Beatles has had hints of John Lennon in their vocals, lyrics, style and experimentation.
     On Midnight Sun, we’re hearing what the former Beatle would’ve made in this generation, with all precepts of song structure slashed, resold and lacking of fun. Lennon takes us down the choppy rivers of psychedelia his father’s band helped to create and restores it for a final product worthy to stand on it’s own, here, in 2014.

Key Tracks: "Animals," "Poor Paul Getty," "Too Deep," "Last Call," "Johannesburg"

source: http://imp