Various Artists- A Tribute To Weezer, Rock Music (Deaddroid Records)

Various Artists- A Tribute To Weezer - Rock Music Various Artists- A Tribute To Weezer
Rock Music
Deaddroid Records
By: Eric Greenwood

In a preemptive strike against the inevitable balking at a Weezer tribute this early in the game, the biography accompanying Deaddroid Records" wholly unnecessary Weezer tribute claims that "if you name your current favorite indie rock/punk/emo band, you"ll probably also be naming a group of unabashed Weezer fans." That"s very likely true if you take the pronoun "you" to mean "typical emo fans." However, the statement becomes less accurate when you cast a net wide enough to include indie rock and punk fans as well, but let"s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Apart from the fact that, yes, it is indeed far too early to be paying tribute to a band that has barely released three records and done little more for the music community than, well, become popular, the bands featured here don"t even bother to venture onto the third Weezer album at all- a wise idea, perhaps, as the songs on the Green Album don"t hold up as well, but still… So, every song covered here is off either Weezer"s self-titled debut or Pinkerton, making the purpose of this homage even more frivolous. Oh, but the biography cleverly deflects the indulgence of reminding us of the "genius that is Weezer" as an excuse to introduce "some of the indie scene"s best and brightest."

"Hardcore" band Affinity obliterate any semblance of the charm of "My Name Is Jonas." It"s one thing when you"re a hardcore band and you scream your angry songs; it"s quite another when you scream your happy songs, too. The screaming becomes limp and ineffective, if not altogether comical. This follows simple logic, as the emotional impact of shrieking is innately associated with rage. Affinity is apparently a one-trick pony. Why do hardcore emo bands ever sing sensitively and scream simultaneously? This NEVER sounds good. Death metal and hardcore emo sometimes cross paths when they both sound so absurd that you can"t help but laugh.

Piebald, is more faithful to Weezer in its rendition of "No One Else", which makes the song completely useless. It"s too close to the original yet clearly not as good. So why bother? Glasseater metal-izes "Holiday", which would probably sate Rivers Cuomo"s penchant for metal, but it"s also rather pointless. The finger-snap breakdown builds into an embarrassing emo screamfest that is absolutely awful. Grade interprets "Surf Wax America" through the voice of Ian Mackaye. The singer sounds like a blockhead, growling through what was a perfectly happy pop song before Grade got a hold of it. Further Seems Forever shows an ounce of originality with a piano introduction to "Say It Ain"t So", but sadly the song falls into the typical trap of mimicry.

Christopher John (AKA Elliott) out-emo"s itself/himself by turning the chug-along rocker "The World Has Turned" into a drippy, drab, crybaby ballad, complete with liquid-honey male vocals spread like mayonnaise across a foundation of piano twinkling. Ack. Dashboard Confessional continues the gooey emo slime with a cover of the b-side, "Jamie", so by the time Mycomplex kicks in with its extra-rocking version of "Tired Of Sex" it sounds like a refreshing change of pace. But The Ataris drag it all back down to reality with the "perhaps I"ve said too much" intimacy of Cuomo"s acoustic "Butterfly." Boring. Cuomo can pull it off because he"s got panache. In The Ataris" hands it sounds like a typical singer-songwriter piece of acoustic trash.

I don"t mean to sound like a killjoy- I just think tribute albums are a colossal waste of time. With that in mind, this one is an even bigger waste than most. A cleverer tribute would have featured a more diverse collection of bands that played varying styles of music. Who wants to hear pop punk bands pay tribute to a pop punk band? I guess pop punk fans would" Regardless of whether you appreciate Weezer"s quirky, introspective rock, you would have to admit that any kind of tribute to Weezer is grossly premature at this point. Even the band itself would cede that much.

Mates Of State, Our Constant Concern (Polyvinyl)

Mates Of State - Our Constant Concern Mates Of State
Our Constant Concern
Polyvinyl
By: Japanese Correspondent, Patrick Doherty

The latest release from San Francisco"s Mates Of State evokes many of the same aspects of its debut from two years ago: slightly bizarre vocal harmonies, poppy organ melodies, and somewhat obscure lyrics about the advantages of long-term relationships. Reviewers of the band constantly draw comparisons to the Northwest"s answer to dysfunctional-relationship-as-musical-partnership, Quasi. The reason is fairly simple: both bands cling to the same modern indie rock aesthetic, meaning that they play with a strong pop sensibility but are never indulgent with complex production techniques or whacked-out studio effects. And also, maybe, because they both feature organ/drum combinations prominently. Beyond these superficialities, the comparisons between the two become unfair for a number of reasons. Foremost among them is the fact that Mates Of State has not abrogated its pop roots on its latest release the way Quasi did with Sword Of God (a regrettable experiment of an album for a band that had just reached its apex).

But what irks Mates Of State and its fans the most is the blind indifference that some reviewers show toward the diametric lyrical styles of each band. Sure, the organs sound similar, and the musical niche is generally the same, but Mates Of State tends to glorify the meaningfulness of monogamy and commitment, whereas, Quasi is more inclined to sing about the boredom of it all. There are exceptions to this generalization with regard to both bands, of course, and Mates Of State has been known to deviate from its themes every now and again (much to the consternation of baby-carriage-toting indie rockers in the Bay Area), but the differences far outweigh the similarities.

Our Constant Concern, Mates Of State"s second full-length release, is much more polished than its debut, My Solo Project. This is not to say that there are lots of cheesy effects, but the rough edginess, which originally made them such darlings of the San Francisco music scene, is noticeably absent here. For a dyed-in-the-wool Mates Of State fan, this could pose a problem. No more vodorecorded ramblings of siblings. No more miss-matched notes or melodies. Not as much ridiculousness, and, consequently, not as much raw experimentation. Our Constant Concern turns out to be exactly what you might expect a sophomore release by a band trying to broaden its fan base to be: a smoother ride into fairly complicated lyrical filigree.

As a result, this record will prove to be more accessible for the uninitiated. The music is pretty straightforward. Delicate pop melodies surf among organ and drum mixes with a surprisingly successful detour into the much-maligned arena of emo-core (it is on Polyvinyl, after all). But this isn"t going to be enough to hold your interest. For this, the band employs its peculiar vocal harmonies, which are, at times, difficult to figure out, making you wonder if harmonizing is even the goal. Is the band simply yelling at each other in a recording studio? Who knows? On repeated listenings, the disparate vocal tones play out pretty well, and they are as intriguing as they are jarring. The organ is still the powerhouse of the band"s instrumentation, though. There"s a bit more focus on arrangement this time around, which is reflected in the more polished nature of the execution of the songs. The downside here is that there are fewer organ solos, but the overall consistency of Our Constant Concern makes up for such minor defects. Arguably, the tradeoff will be acceptable to the intended audience.

Musical talent notwithstanding, the ultimate selling point of this band must be the unique niche that it fills lyrically. As a "couple", the members of Mates Of State (Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel) don"t seem to mind writing about their relationship, or at least a semi-fictionalized representation of it. What sets their writing apart is the emotional complexity. You will find no gag-worthy "Ooh, baby I love you" cliches in Mates Of States" lyrics, thankfully. Instead, you can bend your head around curious lines like: "Clean out your eyes/I never meant to be your disguise/so, clean out your eyes/covering is all just the same." Or maybe you can make more sense out of "Without small leads, you"re about as good as done/you"re never around/I do nothing to provoke you and I just hope that you still notice me/we"re no longer than a ten-year-old." Bands that are fearless enough to write about the complexity of love rather than the emotive simplicity of its beginnings and ends should get more credit than Mates Of State does. It must be challenging as a songwriter to develop these kinds of ideas on paper, not to mention marrying them to music; and that becomes Mates Of States" greatest appeal as a band. The fact that it has retained – and even broadened – its ability to weave obtuse lyrics into equally off-kilter melodies from its debut release is a good sign.

By strengthening the best aspects of its songwriting and distinctive vocal harmonizing, Mates of State is likely to win over more supporters. But without the raw energy that permeated its first album, there will undoubtedly be something lacking in Our Constant Concern for some older fans. While a good album from a good band, Our Constant Concern may go down as a testament to the increasing professional pressures in what is ostensibly an "independent" music scene, and how much that pressure to broaden the appeal " even at that level – takes the fun out of it all.

Sorry About Dresden, The Convenience Of Indecision (Saddle Creek)

Sorry About Dresden - The Convenience Of Indecision Sorry About Dresden
The Convenience Of Indecision
Saddle Creek
By: Eric Greenwood

There"s no real shame in being an average band. The members of Sorry About Dresden must just be interested in other things besides becoming a good band, and that"s cool. Bands aren"t for everyone. I just hope they pick out their new careers quickly, so that I don"t have to listen to an album like The Convenience Of Indecision again any time soon. Actually, "average" might be on the charitable side in SAD"s case. (SAD, by the way. Ha ha. Hey, emo). Lots of influences permeate this Chapel Hill-by-way-of-Nebraska quartet"s debut full-length. These influences do not, however, provide any insight into what makes this band tick, nor do they suggest much hope for the future. Average-ness breeds laziness and laziness in the competitive indie rock underground is a guaranteed death-knell.

Vocalist Matt Oberst is Conor Oberst"s brother. I have to assume "big brother" because it"s hard to imagine being the little brother of that shivering freak in Bright Eyes. Anyway, Matt"s voice isn"t nearly as annoying or contrived as Conor"s. That"s the good news. The bad news is that Matt"s voice is blah. Indiscriminate, could be twenty different people, blah. The music suffers the same dilemma. Rooted in a predictably lo-fi aesthetic, Sorry About Dresden straddles the line of emo, punk, and jangly indie rock. None of it pegs the interest meter. You"ve heard it all before. Labelmates Cursive deserve some hearty thanks, for sure. If you"re going to mimic a band- try one that"s not already on your label.

The other thing about being average is that you"re equal parts bad and good. So, a few compliments then: "A Losing Season" reveals a fairly explosive dynamic, climbing from acoustic arpeggios to piercing electric crescendos. Matt"s voice isn"t so bad when he uses multiple tracks. But who"s isn"t, right? He"s got that affectation, where any time he reaches for a high note his voice cracks into a half scream. Like Elvis Costello without the pugnaciousness. "On Contradiction" is a good song with fluid changes and melodic vocals. "One Version Of Events" sounds like 1970"s AOR rock. This comes out of nowhere but rocks all the same, despite the horrible faux-British accent.

By "A Brilliant Ally" things start to fall apart. Matt chokes back the tears as he delivers his emo ammo: "are you ever going to talk to me?" Cursive"s Tim Kasher probably thinks this is a song by his other band, The Good Life. The ballad "It"s Morning In America" is wholly unnecessary. Number one- it"s a ballad. Number two- if you"re going to crank out a slow burner, at least make it interesting. The Chapel Hill influence rubs off on "Hosanna In The Highest", which sounds like the mellow direction that Superchunk has taken recently. The inconsistencies and shortcomings bog down this debut, and in a genre that"s cluttered with countless bands vying for the same audience, you can"t afford to miss.

Printed Circuit, Reprints (Catmobile)

Printed Circuit - Reprints Printed Circuit
Reprints
Catmobile
By: Eric Greenwood

Printed Circuit"s retro-electro pop is memorable simply because of the dichotomy of unsophisticated melodies and complicated beats. She marries her Kraftwerkian melodies to computer-generated stutters and pulses with a childlike sense of awe and innocence. Such groundwork creates quite a playground for disparate remixers, and Reprints showcases such a scenario. Printed Circuit asked a diverse collection of her peers and friends to interpret some previously released and unreleased material and the results are stunning.

Frederick Schikowski"s remix of "Diatomy" sounds like, well, a Frederick Schikowski song when it"s all said and done. The percussion scuttles like a crab beneath his moody pop atmospherics. Sustained keyboard lines reminiscent of Gary Numan"s machine-world remain constant while the beats ebb and flow. Sequenced rhythms add a level of joviality to the fairly downbeat tone. It"s very hypnotic stuff. Random Number"s deconstruction of "Oh, To Be A Mechanical Man" evokes a more palatable version of an Autechre song. Watery beats clash with electronic rips and imperfections. What it lacks in melody it makes up for in intriguing noise effects and broken pulses.

Without a trace of Depeche Mode"s Speak And Spell looming over him, James Figurine (from electro-pop band Figurine) delivers an uncharacteristic mix of Printed Circuit"s forthcoming "Super-Jockey." Throbbing beats replace the expected synth-riffs, and repetitive bass loops and sequences build into a pulsating headache. One of the few disappointments here. French duo GNG tackles "Gimmie Aibo" from an extremely hard to find Printed Circuit 7" on the Spanish label, Elefant Records. Splicing the original melody into a wash of robotic vocal samples, GNG renders the song unrecognizable from its original form but creates a disturbingly potent remix in the meantime.

The highlight of the record is The Mathematics" remix of "Chevron." This is no coincidence as The Mathematics consists of Claire from Printed Circuit and Andy from Big Eyes. The happy-go-lucky electro-pop is darkened by the presence of an heavily affected vocoder. Tiny new wave keyboard lines abound. It"s analog, digital-style. The syncopated, tinker toy effects on I Am Robot And Proud"s remix of "Things To Be Ashamed Of" create an auditory dreamscape not unlike a busier Boards Of Canada track. Music to make you stare off in the distance aimlessly.

Also noteworthy is Transistor Six"s version of "A.I." Adding gloomy, songbird vocals as well as real bird noises and soft abbreviated beats, Transister Six practically writes her own song, using Printed Circuit"s original as a distant archetype. Remix albums tend to be hit or miss, usually falling on the side of the latter due to the temptation to be self-indulgent, but since Reprints enlists such a diverse crew of talented remixers, it succeeds in sounding edgy and innovative on practically every track.

Echo And The Bunnymen, Flowers (Spin Art/Cooking Vinyl)

Echo And The Bunnymen - Flowers Echo And The Bunnymen
Flowers
Spin Art/Cooking Vinyl
By: Eric Greenwood

Flowers is the third respectable installment in the resurrected Echo And The Bunnymen"s second act. The band ended the 1980"s with a whimper, having besmirched its reputation somewhat with a lackluster self-titled album in 1987. A decade later the three original Bunnymen picked up where 1984"s glorious Ocean Rain left off. Older, wiser, and conspicuously mellower, Evergreen saw Ian McCulloch singing the usual trenchcoated blues in a set of solid-though-not-groundbreaking pop songs. The full reunion was short-lived as bassist Les Pattison departed (original drummer Pet DeFreitas died in a motorcycle accident in 1989), leaving the duo of McCulloch and Will Sergeant to carry the once legendary name.

1999"s What Are You Going To Do With Your Life? sounded like a McCulloch solo album with slow, acoustic-driven ballads that allowed Mac to wax middle age. But despite the absence of Pattison"s patented beguiling bass lines and Sergeant"s psychedelic guitar work, What Are You Going To Do With Your Life? was beautifully arranged and executed. It held its own as the brash Brit-pop of the 1990"s came to a close, proving that the Bunnymen still had the magic even if the public didn"t roll out the red carpet for them. Relegated to the respectable indie label, Cooking Vinyl, after a dispute with London Records, The Bunnymen have stepped up the tempo a bit on Flowers but still fail to fill the gap left by their masterworks of the early 1980"s.

Don"t go writing them off as has-beens just yet. It"s true that Flowers is a pale imitation of a truly great band, but it"s exactly what you"d want your 1980"s idols to sound like twenty years on. No embarrassing attempts to sound modern. No back up singers. No daft lyrics. Flowers is a laid back paean to the glory days- reflective and nostalgic but not overly sentimental. Tight, punchy choruses that make you sing along have always been a trademark for the band, and Flowers delivers them in droves. McCulloch"s just got a voice that never gets old- like Bono"s lower register without all the histrionics. The man smokes like a freak but still sounds fantastic. His arrogance has not wavered a bit even though it must be humbling to be faced with the mid-priced section of the record bin.

"King Of Kings" is a low-key opener, but it re-introduces Will Sergeant"s sixties-obsessed guitar lines, which underscore McCulloch"s dark, raspy vocals perfectly. The band has also re-instated Pattison"s pulsing bass style in his absence. Unlike What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?, Sergeant"s guitar is the star here. He shades tones so sparingly, using catchy melodic runs in place of typical chords. He"s always been a master of underplaying, and his less-is-more style has never sounded so accomplished. McCulloch feeds off the resulting empty space and fills it with his resonating voice. It"s an amazing partnership where glimpses of former greatness abound.

The fiery passion that made albums like Crocodiles and Porcupine stand out so uniquely against the new wave fluff in the early 1980"s has morphed into a muted serenity, where melodies and hooks rule the day. The Doors influence that has trailed the band since its inception looms large here. "Hide & Seek" hints at spooky sixties psychedelia with organs and noisy effects before it launches into a playful yet rocking chorus. "Make Me Shine" is just pure pop, as it briefly shakes off the band"s post-punk core and gloomy exterior. McCulloch"s voice soars over top Sergeant"s Byrd"s-esque picking. Chalk up another infectious, although, uncharacteristically upbeat chorus.

Sergeant"s lofty, textured guitar melody on "Buried Alive" shimmers amidst the dingy Velvet Underground foundation. At times too bogged down in retro effects, Flowers sounds like an album caught in a time capsule. Insular and blissfully ignorant of current trends, The Bunnymen march forward doing what they do best: creating moody, atmospheric pop. The haunting keyboards in the title track recall the eerie spaciousness of "The Killing Moon" while "Everybody Knows" sounds like a throwback to the band"s punk origins. Flowers may not inspire McCulloch to proclaim his band the "greatest on Earth" anymore, but it should instill enough confidence in the fact that he and Sergeant are living up to the Bunnymen legend.

Gosford Park, Directed By Robert Altman (Usa)

Gosford Park - Directed By Robert Altman Gosford Park
Directed By Robert Altman
Usa
By: Eric Greenwood

Robert Altman goes period piece in his latest offering, Gosford Park- a comedic murder/mystery set in the 1930"s and featuring some of England"s A-list actors (Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, Helen Mirren). The last decade was shaky at best for Altman, who churned out some of his most cynical and bitter work- Pret-a-Porter being a particular low. Cookie"s Fortune showed a return to filmmaking as a labor of love (despite the presence of the nefarious Liv Tyler), but Dr T. And The Women blew the momentum with a boring script and Richard Gere"s squinty-eyed non-acting.

In Gosford Park Altman seems like he"s actually having fun again. The setting is an enormous castle of a home in the English countryside of Sussex, and the cast of characters is gathering for a dinner with an absurdly wealthy, crabby patriarch (Michael Gambon) to whom everyone is tied, either by blood or finance or both; thus, creating the perfect scene for a Clue-style murder. The direction plays its own role, as the camera glides throughout the house, capturing every last glance and awkward stare.

The sound, too, is showcased innovatively through the use of an inordinate amount of microphones. Altman doesn"t differentiate between the sounds in the room. Everyone"s voice is at the same level, so you could conceivably pick up bits of different conversations in subsequent viewings, but more often than not you miss key phrases. It"s disconcerting at first, especially because there are so many characters, but you will adapt quickly. Getting their names straight is another story"

Like a good Agatha Christie novel (specifically, Ten Little Indians), everyone is a suspect. The relationships are all inextricably bound to one another. Affairs are rampant. Husbands trade wives. Servants bed down with the upper crust, destroying snobbish hierarchies with sexual deviance. Seedy finances are at stake. The house is a den of sin and debauchery. Even the servants have various and sundry motives to kill. By the time actor/author Steven Fry"s inspector character arrives, the film is straddling the line of farce. Fry is a caricature- a goofy, eccentric inspector a la Clouseau, but his charm balances the disturbingly blas" attitude, which permeates the mansion after Sir William"s death.

There are so many intriguing sub-plots and side-stories and darkly comedic intricacies that there"s not a dull moment in the film. The two-and-a-half hours fly by unnoticed. Altman succeeds on every level here thanks in part to Julian Fellowes" crisp, quick-witted, and detailed screenplay but even more because of the standout performances by Emily Watson and Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting). Unlike the recent trend for films like Fight Club and Vanilla Sky to cop out with some sort of half-assed "dream sequence" ending, the murder/mystery resolution is satisfying. Altman and Fellowes cleverly establish proper clues, so that you can figure out who the murderer is without having your intelligence insulted.

Gosford Park is far and away Robert Altman"s best film since The Player and should even rank among his best work.

Brazen And Kevlar, Split Double 3-inch Mcd (Snuff)

Brazen And Kevlar - Split Double 3-inch Mcd Brazen And Kevlar
Split Double 3-inch Mcd
Snuff
By: Eric Greenwood

Beautiful packaging goes a long way these days. How can you sift through piles of anonymous CD"s without discerning the good artwork from the bad? Appeal to the eye and then to the ears. This split EP certainly appeals to the eye. It"s a double mini-CD packaged in a duo-tone gatefold. Remember the old three-inch mini-CD"s that major labels toyed with back in the eighties when they were trying to replace the seven-inch record? Well, the idea flopped, of course, just like the far superior Betamax fell to VHS (apparently, Americans only like big things; thus, the five-inch CD-single), but Snuff Records has briefly brought it back to life here in glorious form.

The two mini-CD"s contain two songs apiece by Brazen and Kevlar, respectively. Both bands are from Sweden, and both play variations on American post-rock/punk. Brazen"s brand will appeal more to the Slint-inspired emo crowd while Kevlar"s will probably rope in more Dischord fans.

Brazen"s emo is the respectable kind. Seriously. Don"t go scoffing just yet. You know what I mean- the kind of emotional hardcore that actually is frantic and intense, which is not to be confused with all the sappy Saves The Day(s) bastardizing the already malignant term into a poppy mess. Brazen rocks. Think Art Monk Construction bands from the mid-nineties like Lincoln. Screaming vocals with disharmonic guitars, surging percussion, and spastic changes. "Statues And Waifs" is amazing. Very tight. Very angry. Very well done.

Kevlar is more restrained vocally and musically, but it counters with memorable melodies. The music is slightly more dynamic than Brazen"s but it lacks the intensity. The intricate guitar interplay builds into explosive and impressive choruses. It"s all kind of anticlimactic after listening to Brazen"s fiery wrath for ten minutes, though. Perhaps, if you listen to Kevlar"s songs first, then everything pans out emotionally. The instrumental "1888" is a powerhouse of moody, distorted guitars and mountainous rhythms. This is a marked improvement from the band"s Let Me Worry Some More album in 1999. The shadow of Jawbox has diminished to allow Kevlar some room to breathe.

As an introduction to these two fine Swedish bands, you"d be hard-pressed to top this split mini-CD set. The packaging alone will improve your collection aesthetically, and the tunes more than live up to the presentation.