Reviews, June 2014

antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0002THE BALLY WHO?
Of all the places for a band to find inspiration for an album, a puppet show is probably down toward the “unlikely” end of the spectrum—but that’s exactly where the Bally Who? found the material for their new album, A Pilferer’s Patience. These ten songs tell the story of Roald Dahl’s hero, the Fantastic Mr. Fox. But the band did not adapt the record from Dahl’s written work or even from the excellent Wes Anderson film from 2009. Rather, they found themselves particularly moved by the adaptation performed with puppets at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center in 2010-11. Brothers Rene and Jacques Duffourc took the story and the ambience created by the puppets and basically wrote a soundtrack to the show. The soundscapes created on this album call to mind Vampire Weekend  covering “Welcome to the Machine.” The brothers’ vocal harmonies are understated and dreamlike, woven into layers of verdant guitars, walls of synths, and cavernous drums. It’s pretty trippy, really, and one can only imagine that hearing this album while watching  the puppet show (while chemically  enhanced, of course) would be a hell of an experience. These songs are pretty and moody on their own though,  and they stand up strong without any strings (because there had to be a puppet joke in this review somewhere). —The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0003BIG, FAT & DELICIOUS
New Orleans punk/ska collective Big, Fat & Delicious dig deep into their punk roots with EP Eureka, a Paul Revere-ian alarm against capitalism, commercialism, war, and the establishment in general. The first two lines of opener “400 Bombs”: “Destruction is knocking on your door today/ the eve of man’s collapse cannot be far away.” The band’s sense of urgency is underscored by the lack of traditional song structure. There are no hooks or choruses to be found; each song is a ranting juggernaut of paranoia and impending doom. These are not campfire protest songs, but rather a soundtrack for buying canned goods and fleeing for Canada. The themes covered on these tunes aren’t breaking  new ground or providing nuanced insight on what’s happening around us. They don’t name any names or offer specific solutions. But before anyone  starts solving any problems, there has to be some sort of siren or gong to let us know that it’s time to do something. With the country in the state it’s in, it would seem that Eureka is Big, Fat & Delicious getting out front and beating that gong. —The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0004THE HONORABLE SOUTH
Charm Taylor, the lead singer of New Orleans quintet The Honorable South, delivers vocals over the electric,  sometimes gyrating soul instrumentals this stellar band lays down with a deceptively girlish ease, swinging a streetwise, tough elegance and demonstrating her greatest versatility yet on the South’s second album, Faithful, Brave, & Honest. The band pulls a bit of an artful bait-and-switch with its first two songs, “Miami” and “Waves” that throw hope’s aspirations and hopes dashed together in a tropical, yearning diptych. But then  the South gets down to business with “Overdue” and “Bye Bye,” songs filled with a great deal of vulnerability and attitude in both Taylor’s and bassist/ co-lyricist Charles Lumar II’s words and in Taylor’s delivery. Guitarists Matthew Rosenbeck and Danny Kartel  contribute most audibly and well on the wonderful title track as well as “St. Charles Parish,” a rocking, dancing ode to new love featuring the Pogues’ Spider Stacy on tin whistle. Soulja Slim lends his rapping skills to “Love Me Or Leave Me Alone,” but the backbone  of the South is in the beats of Jamal Batiste, stretching and embracing it all. Listening to the Honorable South has always been a feast of bracing, moving rock and reeling soul, and Faithful  expands on those musical themes with knowing, playful tunes that won’t let a listener go. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0005KING  BUZZO
For Melvins fans wondering what would possess singer/guitarist, Buzz Osborne (a.k.a., “King Buzzo”) to release a solo acoustic album, maybe you should be asking yourself instead how he went this long without recording one, considering how many acoustic albums the grunge scene spawned. Not a fan of one-man acoustic  performances? Never fear; this isn’t your average open-mic night routine! The Melvins’ songwriter brings you instead a truly original work of audio art that sounds more like, well, The Melvins than anything else. The 17 diverse songs are all fairly succinct,  but all are heavily embedded with Buzzo’s signature style. This album showcases Buzzo’s vocal versatility and poetic lyrics, made more prevalent over the stripped-down guitar. During “Everything ’s Easy for You”, his voice sounds almost snide, yet commanding. Powerful, frenetic strumming of some deliciously dissonant chords is featured in “Useless King of the Punks” and “The Hesitation Twist.” Then, there’s “Instrument of God,” a song with a very driving rhythm which slams on the brakes midway, only to veer off into a more traditional acoustic singer/ songwriter direction. However, songs like “How I Became Offensive” and “Drunken Baby” are even mellower, with “Offensive” lending itself to a moodier, more solemn tone, and “Drunken Baby” plodding in heavily with a dark melody over the top. The album’s first track, “Dark Brown Teeth,” which is also the first single, is a total  grunge throwback, complete with manic riffing and dreamy vocals. Still unsure? “Good and Hostile” and “The Blithering Idiot” are sure to be Melvins fan favorites. Overall, this is a great album for fans of acoustic music that  Melvins fans will still be clamoring to have in their collections. —Jenn Attaway


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0006KING  JAMES & THE SPECIAL MEN
These vinyl 45s recently came to our attention, though (King) James Horn  and his Special Men have been around for a while now, lighting up BJ’s Lounge in the Bywater on Monday nights and garnering “must-sees” from the likes of the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli, among other rock and roll personages. It’s fitting that the Special Men’s throwback sound would get the old-school wax singles treatment at some point (for those not within easy reach of a turntable, the music is also available via iTunes and Soundcloud) and they’ve picked four originals that do their best to sizzle with the same energy they bring to BJ’s. At least two of the tunes  bring it, sounding roughly raucous and ready to burn down the Bywater with the “Special Man Boogie” and “Guitar King,” but the real gem here is “Guitar  King ’s” flip side, “Love My Baby” in which Horn’s J Monqué-D -by-way-of-Josh Homme’s singing gives way to guitar work that takes off like a jet and brings a listener unsteadily back to earth yearning for more, screaming for it along with the saxophones. There  are many other reasons to take in these  tunes––among them Casey McAllister’s piano licks that channel Professor Longhair’s spirit into the Special Men’s midst––but “Love My Baby” ought to get New Orleans’ latest best-kept secret out of the dives and into the beginnings of a rightful place in, if not all of American music, most definitely regional rock. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_34_Image_0007LA SERA
In my mind’s eye, there’s a cherry-red vintage convertible underneath Katy Goodman on the cover of the new La Sera album. A couple years ago, Goodman had enough of winter in New York and decamped for Los Angeles. Until then, she was the only constant in La Sera, and then only when she wasn’t playing bass for Vivian Girls. As her main band wound down, she rebooted her side project, touring with a new lineup and eventually collaborating on Hour of the Dawn. From the start, we hear a La Sera with more confidence and distortion pedals than ever. Lead guitarist Todd Wisenbacker counts X and Minor Threat among his influences, and he brings a fiery edge to “Losing to the Dark,” a vicious send-up of an alcoholic boyfriend. On its heels comes “Summer Love,” an allegory of heartbreak bearing a familiar debt to the Spector era. Beyond that, there’s not a lot of stylistic breadth to explore. “All My Love Is For You” nearly overpowers Goodman’s melancholic lilt with swells of guitar shimmer and self-important shredding. The clouds break over the title track, which is tidily split between wistful pop and a festival-ready instrumental where Wisenbacker’s solo shines and the entire band has a chance to stretch out. It’s undoubtedly the high point.  Restlessness seeps back in on “Kiss This Town Away,” a frustrated memory  of watching friends leave for good. As the album wraps, Goodman appears to find divine solace. “I’ll bow to the sun and salute everyone / Kneel on a knee for I’m reverent of He / He who won’t take my love away,” she sings in the inscrutable “10 Headed Goat Wizard.” It’s a welcome, if vague, depth reference on a record that sounds tough but travels light. —Anna Gaca


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_35_Image_0002LEE BAINS III & THE GLORY FIRES
I thought of a lot of ways I could start  this review. But all of them boiled down to three words: God damn, y’all! This record is essential for anyone who loves any of the following things: punk rock, southern rock, fuzz, feedback, rabble-  rousing, proselytizing, prophesying, rebelling, challenging the status quo, the English language and pure and simple joy. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires have, on their Sub Pop debut,  blown the doors off this thing. My ears and guts are in shambles every time Dereconstructed finishes spinning, and yet I can’t stop myself from starting again at the beginning. Do yourself a favor and grab the lyrics sheet on your first listen, because there is so much heavy, worthwhile stuff being said here, but your ears might not find the words under the avalanche of screaming guitars; this one goes to 12, kids. Once you settle in and find Lee’s vocal groove, you’re in for an emotional trip. Opener “The Company Man” strikes the first blow at human greed, racism and disingenuous bullshit. It won’t be the last time. The title track is a slapdash punk anthem, short, sweet and brimming with sneer in lines like “We were raised on ancient truths and ugly old lies / But I learned how to say a firm “No sir” looking in them old yellow eyes / Looking in them old hateful eyes” The classic throwback rock ‘n’ roll chug of “Burnpiles, Swimming Holes” is impossible to resist with its rolling percussive open and stabbing distorted guitars. “The Weeds Downtown” could easily be in the repertoire of Mike Cooley or Jason Isbell––an ode to the kind of screwed up love you can only have for the place that made you. The three-track stretch of “What’s Good and Gone,” “We Dare Defend Our Rights!” and “Flags” is a merciless gut check. Dark subject matter collides with powerful, poison-tipped words in the first; the second turns the cries of bigots on their head and spits in the faces of those who would stand in the doorway of progress; the last is a searing gospel-tinged send up of so-called modern patriotism bathed  in self-righteous hate. In no time at all, you’ll arrive on the red clay edge of the album’s closer, “Dirt Track.” It is positively effortless in its cool, “squeezing glory out of three rusty  chords.” The bottom-heavy, deeply rooted guitar lick drives the track to a breakdown and drags it back up again, all the while daring you to stand still. —Erin Hall


antigravity_vol11_issue8_Page_35_Image_0003MULE SKINNER
Talk about a blast from the past––I haven’t heard anything from these  locals since the late ‘90s. They’re back with new vocalist Ryan Ashmore (ex Omean) and holy shit, this new ep is crushing! It seems the pace is slowed down slightly to match Ryan’s guttural vocals, kind of like a cross between Shaun Emmons (Gristnam) and Ben Falgoust (Goatwhore). Lyrics included (yes!) dealing with hopelessness, evil, depravity, loss, despair and death. I really like sections of the title track: “Cursed to walk among your deeds roaming barren fields / Underneath a sky of crimson rain and tears.” This is only a ten minute teaser of pure  brutality. Hopefully there will be more to come. —Carl Elvers


Hattiesburg, Mississippi has once again surprised and thrilled me with another great band. Stellatone’s debut  album, Wide Open World, just rocks. However, to simply slap the rock ‘n’ roll label on it somehow does it an injustice, and fails to properly illustrate to the reader what you have to look forward to. Stephen Curley’s guitar  work is impressive at times throughout the album, and often he manages to conjure just a hint of Hendrix during his solos. The music flows easily back and forth from ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic rock, to the alternative radio/garage rock in the early 2000’s (Jet/The Strokes/Hives/Vines/etc.), and even manages to throw back a little  to Jane’s Addiction. The best example  of how the band harnesses all of these  elements is epitomized in “She’s Got,” a great tune that showcases the bass playing of singer/bassist, Dylan Kern. The song rocks along, then settles into a nice, not-too-heavy groove. This flows nicely into “Danksgiving,” a plodding stoner rock song with more soulful guitar flying over the top of the melody. Stellatone quietly wraps up the album with the title track, a sweet, hopeful-sounding acoustic tune. The whole album is a fun listen that features enough diversity and timelessness to keep it interesting and fresh throughout several repeats. These guys are very young, which makes me hope they stick with it for decades to come, and I can’t wait to see where the road takes them. There’s a lot of talent in this outfit, and it will be exciting to see what they do with it in the future. Stellatone is already back in the studio, hoping to release a 10” on vinyl later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that. —Jenn Attaway

Verified by MonsterInsights