Reviews, March 2014


antigravity-march-2014_Page_25_Image_0005MIKE KENNEDY
Filmmaker Mike Kennedy is a case study of local guy made good; but at one time in his life, he was over $400,000 in the hole financially. Kennedy’s Knockout details how he did it while showing how you the reader can do it, too. Peppered with inspirational quotes from the likes of Joe Strummer and Malcolm Gladwell and anecdotes about other hardworking people who made good doing what they loved (and some who didn’t), Kennedy’s self-help memoir is full of common sense that ought to be much more common  than it is. Knockout delves into three tiers to success—fitness, money, and relationships—and elaborates on those tiers in a straight talking manner that more books of this sort ought to take on. Fitness doesn’t just pertain to physical fitness, but mental as well; working towards one’s goals begins with the small things such as getting organized and cleaning your room, your house, and your car. Money is exhaustively dealt with as Kennedy goes through everything possible on how to make it and how to keep making it. Relationships? Even the simplest-seeming things, such as remembering the names of everyone  you come in contact with, are important in the scheme of meeting your goals for success. Pick up Knockout and get two things: confirmation of what you already know deep down, and the confidence to put it to work for yourself. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity-march-2014_Page_25_Image_0006MICHAEL ALLEN ZELL, LOUVIERE + VANESSA
Swathed in warm sepia tones and sized larger than the average collection of short stories, The Oblivion Atlas is anything but average. Author Michael Allen Zell and photography artists Louviere + Vanessa collaborated on this book, interweaving the illustrations, diagrams, and writings within in a way that makes Atlas feel somehow old and new, timeless, yet very much of this time. Inspiration for the stories occasionally comes from New Orleans  itself, but above all else, the life of the mind is the true source. Some of Zell’s most poignant Atlas tales are concerned with the stories we create about ourselves, those that can take on a reality that holds the potential to be every bit as devastating as the known world. Particular standouts in that regard are “Port Saints” and “Glissando,” though nearly all the stories and the art serve that overarching purpose in some way. Louviere + Vanessa’s accompanying drawings, photographs, and diagrams  both illustrate Zell’s work and take on lives of their own. Rarely has such a dance between writer and artist come together in this way, and with such incredible results. To take in the Atlas is to take on how simultaneously weighty and flighty imagination can truly be. —Leigh Checkman



antigravity-march-2014_Page_24_Image_0002DIE RÖTZZ
If you didn’t know any better and you heard this record, you’d think  Die Rötzz were a bunch of angry youngsters rather than the old coots they are in real life (at least in punk years). 11 songs from Die Rötzz’s decade of putrid existence cram this 12” (played at 45 rpm), their first “album” as a band. In all that time they haven’t fucked with the formula,  either: snotty, ripping 3 piece punk that could give a fuck about your feelings. Songs like “Livin on Trash” and “Tombstone Bullets” make me want to skate the A&P on Vets and throw old Taco Bell out of a car window at passing joggers. The best part of this LP is the banter captured between drummer Paul Artigues and guitarist Andy Goceljak; if you’ve ever been to a Die Rötzz show, you know that’s where the flavor happens. —Dan Fox


antigravity-march-2014_Page_24_Image_0005THE CASKET GIRLS
My vices: horoscopes, The Virgin Suicides, Wuthering Heights, cake, and the Casket Girls. Elsa and Phaedra Greene are singers  of dreamy pop with their eyes blindfolded and their hearts in the grave. Their composer and accompanist is Ryan Graveface, of Black Moth Super Rainbow and his eponymous record label. A band creation myth tells that Graveface found the Greenes singing beneath a tree in their native Savannah, and so loved the sisters’ harmonies he recruited them on the spot. The Greenes also claim to have written this album on an acid trip, but that I entirely believe. Song structures are simple and repetitive, a mash of superstitious intonations, romantic clichés, and chorus hooks. Elsa and Phaedra muse on celestial bodies and the mind-body connection, on madness and reality, never troubling to nail anything down. Graveface sets their words into Mobius-strip melodies and sweetly heartbreaking walls of sound. It’s intensely, naïvely inward, yet so populist that the band asked Facebook fans to choose between two sets of lyrics to what became “Holding You Back”—cake, meet frosting. True Love Kills the Fairy Tale chugs along on the slow pace and gossamer charm of the Southern gothic, even if the waters  run no deeper. —Anna Gaca


antigravity-march-2014_Page_24_Image_0003DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
The Drive-By Truckers are approaching their 20 year anniversary quite soon. And while time has gifted the group with some amazing co-conspirators (still holding out for a reunion tour with Jason Isbell) the creative  brotherhood that bonds the group together exists between primary songwriters/guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. They have always occupied two distinct roles, but with significant thematic overlap. It’s been said that you write what you know. And these men know grit. They know life with all its ugliness, its nooks and crannies—from the roaring highs to the smallest joys. From factory workers to corrupt politicians, strippers, race car drivers, and convicts, they’ve written them all. On their 12th studio album, the tennis match continues, though this time the material is split more evenly. Cooley had taken somewhat of a back seat on the band’s last two releases, The Big To Do and Go Go Boots. But English Oceans has him front and center and, frankly, he steals the show. Opener “Shit Shots Count”  kicks the door down, all effortless  swagger and sharp tongued barbs. It could stand alongside with the best of the Stones’ honky-tonk period  and I’m not convinced that Cooley wouldn’t out-cool Keith Richards if put to the challenge. Hood comes to bat next, dragging the sound down to a gritty, dark place on “When He’s Gone,” a tale of hating to love. The dance continues for eleven more tracks, each its own universe with layers to plumb. Hood’s selections on this record just don’t have the gut impact of his best work. They feel somewhat unfocused and wandering in spots (see: “The Part of Him”) but his strengths come to play in the tunes “When Walter Went Crazy” and “Grand Canyon.” The former  illustrating the point that nobody writes a mental breakdown quite like Hood and the latter a beautiful, poignant waltz dedicated to a longtime DBT crew member who passed last year. Cooley knocks it clear out of the stadium on “Made Up English Oceans,” which pulses with urgency, and “Natural Light,” a classic country burner with the most infectious, jaunty cadence  bathed in a waterfall of keys. It’s been a while since they matched the stomp and sneer of older tunes like “Zip City” and “Puttin’ People on the Moon,” but this incarnation of the band feels as fresh as it has been in a long time. Settled into their roles and comfortable in the knowledge  that the Hood-Cooley partnership works, I no longer worry if DBT will be around in ten years’ time. I just hope they keep pushing each other to write about common life in such an uncommon fashion. —Erin Hall


Finally, the mighty Giuda (from Rome, Italy) grace us with their long- awaited second LP. It picks up right where their first album (Racey Roller, released in 2010) left off. They still have their T. Rex-meets-Bay City Rollers style, but I hear so many more influences this time: Rose Tattoo, the Ramones, AC/DC. Lyrics are pretty simplistic and every song sounds like a sing-a-long, which is kind of the point. These guys make music that makes me want to get up and shake my ass (and believe me, I can’t dance worth a shit!) and it’s undeniable. Tons of groove and Gary Glitter-  esque stomp classics. They even have a soccer anthem for all their hooligan  fans. Giuda are experts at creating a good time vibe. Put this (or their first LP) on whenever you feel depressed––it works better than prozac. ––Carl Elvers


antigravity-march-2014_Page_24_Image_0004JUAN WAUTERS
Juan Wauters has had plenty of practice as a member of garage- psych band the Beets, yet he comes across precocious, as if he shouldn’t be so good without seeming to try much harder. His debut solo album expresses a wonder and humility at the simple fact of existence that will warm your ears and heart. North American Poetry collects recordings made between 2010 and 2012 at Marlborough Farms Studios in Brooklyn, where Wauters immigrated from Uruguay as a young man. He sings about self-awareness, self- discovery, and uncertainty: “Who’s that in my skin? Has he done much for me? What is it that he says? Does he talk about me?” Wauters asks in “Water,” with the DIY immediacy and endearing simplicity of an anti-folk Nick Drake. “Breathing,” featuring Carmelle Safdie of the Beachniks, unwinds over the spastic  clattering of metal on glass. It’s a Velvet Underground trick, scaled to Wauters’ unassuming attitude towards downtown cool. Dissonant, arresting, and a little noisy, “Ay Ay Ay” seals the record with passionate, anxious energy. Colorful comic illustration throughout the album comes from fellow Beets member Matthew Volz, the perfectly  complement to the creativity, inclusiveness, and sincerity of the music. —Anna Gaca


antigravity-march-2014_Page_25_Image_0002SLOUGH FEG
Slough Feg (aka The Lord Weird Slough Feg) hails from San Francisco and has been cranking out quality music since 1990. Sounding like a mix between Iron Maiden and Manowar  (with touches of Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol thrown in), their Celtic and almost operatic style makes them more famous in Europe than  here in their own country (their Live in Poland double LP released three  years ago is proof of that). I thought it was weird that the title of their  newest release is Digital Resistance, yet I’m staring at the CD version of it (vinyl version is soon to be released). Upon further research, the lyrics deal with modern technology and the inevitable theory that Big Brother is becoming more of a reality each day. “The Luddite” really explains  this message: “Programmed children stare with vacant minds / Pixilated landscapes fill their eyes / Interfacing clouds, binary brains / Grotesque applications numb the brain.” Mike Scalzi (who also did time in Hammers of Misfortune) belts out his signature raspy vocals to great effect and the lineup delivers the songs like pros. Another worthy release by this fantastic (yet sadly underrated) rock band. —Carl Elvers


antigravity-march-2014_Page_25_Image_0003ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES
Observe the sextet of St. Paul & the Broken Bones live and you’ll be hit between the eyes with a heavy dose of born-again blue-eyed soul straight from Birmingham. Vocalist Paul Janeway takes to the stage like Capote channeling Otis Redding and James Brown, backed by Ben Griner and Allen Brandstetter’s humongous-sounding yet elegant horns, Browan Lollar’s guitar work, and the expert  timekeeping of bassist Jesse Phillips  and drummer Andrew Lee. If you caught them opening for the New Orleans-based Dragon Smoke at Tipitina’s last December, you got a taste of how capable Janeway et. al. are of taking an audience to church,  Broken Bones style. Half The City aims to spread that energy far and wide, and it almost gets there. The slow build of “I’m Torn Up” kicks it off, folding into the emphatic brush-off of “Don’t Mean A Thing,” as one by one, many established ‘60s soul tropes get reinterpreted and refreshed. The standouts on City combine those tropes with great musicianship and wordplay, as in “Like A Mighty River” and the crazy- making whirlwind of “Sugar Dyed,” while many others stand out due to the sheer power of Janeway’s vocals or Lollar’s guitar. It’ll take far more than the Broken Bones’ collective talent to transcend the mighty soul redux they have going, but Half The City is a crucial testament that holds up well on repeated listening, which, sometimes, is all a weary soul needs. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity-march-2014_Page_26_Image_0004DA MAFIA 6IX
Mista DJ Paul is back to what he does best: making music to send you on a midnight robbing and killing spree. It’s been a while since a Three 6 Mafia- related release was worth getting excited over. The group’s loss of Lord Infamous around 2003 due to heart attacks, strokes, and jail time, may have led them astray. Lord was the originator of an often occult-themed, mystic style of tongue twisting—imitated by many. “I didn’t wanna do that gangbang type of thing… I’m gonna do something dark. What’s worse than a gangbanger? Evil. Satan itself.” Paul took that and ran with it… establishing a dark form of Memphis Rap with focus on hard bass beats, horror movie themes, and slowed down Triggermans, mixed with Juicy J’s repetitive sampling and “Get Buck” breakdowns. They gained notoriety for frequently ripping a verse or two from folks inside and outside the posse, and using them as hooks for future songs. Not to mention jacking beats/samples from other Memphis  small-time producers (DJ Squeeky and DJ Zirk more than anyone) and making some real crazy shit out of it. The 30+ albums, EPs, and mixtapes produced by DJ Paul/Juicy J in the ‘92 through ’98 heyday stand as the real deal and influenced many, later tagged as crunk, trap, horrorcore.

Triple Six Mafia’s assemblage of rappers in those days were more evil and menacing/ disturbing than the pale imitations. And the music, so much more BAD ASS than most gangsta rap, black metal, punk rock, whatever… with devil worship as the excuse for all kinds of mayhem. This CD (what was supposed to be a mixtape but feels like a real album) updates this take for the 2000-teens nicely. The only real low point: One wack ass verse from Alabama rapper Yelawolf. With Juicy on leave, busy selling out hard with some cornball fratboy raps and a newfound Soulja Boy-type flow, the real goons—Lord Infamous (who passed away just before Christmas), Crunchy  Black, and Koopsta Knicca—are back in the mix, with dark as hell, violent, demonic thug rap/drug rap lyrics. Lord and Koopsta are in top form. Crunchy is better than ever after being shot in the face a couple years ago. Even Gangsta  Boo is back to her original, unemotional style and not trying to sound all sexy. New versions of the serial classics “Break da Law” and “Body Parts” (Pt. 4? 5?) are here. “Murder on My Mind” (featuring young ’un Spaceghostpurrp, plus former rivals BONE Thugz N Harmony) and “Yean High” (featuring Eightball & MJG) are full of throwback samples recycled from DJ Paul’s early ‘90s productions and mixes. Even Memphis legend Skinny Pimp (who clicked up with the Triple Six back in ‘92 to ‘96) surprises us on “Body Parts”  along with Juicy J and his cuz Project  Pat, Houston/Southpark Coalition  rapper Point Blank, Lil’ Wyte and many more. Playa Fly remains the big hold-out, never to return. But you can check him out as Lil’ Fly on the brand  new re-master of DJ Paul’s Volume 16 – Summer of ‘94 mixtape. DJ Paul & Lord Infamous’ ‘93 underground album Come with Me to Hell is up next for re- release.

Da Mafia 6ix’s Triple 6ix Sinners Tour passes through New Orleans on Sunday, March 23rd at the Hangar. DJ Paul, Koopsta, Crunchy, Boo & Lord Infamous’ casket corpse will also be appearing at the Alabama Music Box in Mobile on Thursday, March 20th, with the Gary Wrong Group and Twisted Insane. More to come next month (and beyond): reports from these shows and a chronology of ‘90s Memphis  underground rap tapes. —Michael G. Bateman


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