Reviews, March 2016


There’s an expression—”don’t sit too close at the ballet”—that’s sometimes used to describe the feeling of learning too much about something you took pleasure in, but now can’t help but feel differently towards after being exposed to too many off-putting details. This authorized biography is a perfect example of that. Reading chapter after chapter detailing the rise and eventual self-implosion of The Replacements won’t make you like their music any less, but it might make you wish you’d left closed doors closed. Written by award-winning music critic Bob Mehr, Trouble Boys tells the story of Minneapolis’ band that coulda if only they woulda, using direct stories from the members themselves, the people that loved them, and the people that got in their way by being foolish enough to attempt to help them become successful. Story after story about Westerberg, the Stinson brothers, Chris Mars, and Slim Dunlap (who replaced original guitarist Bob Stinson) smashing guitars, gutting tour buses, hotel rooms, and practice spaces with their own hands, and literally burning their daily allowance while on the road could come off as cool, and perhaps even inspirational for up-and-coming bands looking to get an insider peek at what it’s like to be a touring punk/indie band, but really it’s just sad. If anything, as interesting and well written as it is, this book drives home the point that if you shit where you eat long enough, you’ll eventually just end up eating shit. The Replacements were an undeniably once-in-a-lifetime kind of band but, unfortunately, they blew almost every once-in-a- lifetime opportunity they were given, and reading almost 500 pages of examples of that is an uncomfortable experience. —Kelly McClure


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_32_Image_0006Z.W. MOHR
The imagination of children is something everyone can appreciate. Whether it’s the untethered passion or the freedom to eat dirt without being judged, everyone can recount a time when all things were fresh and astounding. Desdemona’s Dreams is a fairytale of an 11 year-old girl who has the ability to bring the dream world into the real word. Desdemona fights to recapture her Dream of Dancing, in the form of a ballerina, from an evil Maestro who looks like a combination of Beethoven and Labyrinth-era David Bowie. Z.W. Mohr whimsically captures the imaginative possibilities of children uninhibited by the struggles of adulthood. Mohr’s use of both prose and poetry helps establish a change in tone as we follow Desdemona between the physical and dream worlds. Aaron Porter’s illustrations depict suspenseful collages of the menacing Maestro holding Desdemona’s ballerina by puppet strings. A vibrant use of color is present throughout the story; from Desdemona’s deep purple house to her teacher’s striking green eyes, Porter illustrates Desdemona’s travels through her dreams and back into the real world. Yes, this is a children’s story, but it is a coming-of-age tale about a little girl refusing to abandon her imagination to a gray, drab world. So if adulthood is bringing you down, pick up a copy and read it aloud to loved ones big and small. —Nathan Tucker



antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_32_Image_0007VANESSA R. CENTENO
Vanessa Centeno’s exhibition, Fully Loaded, lends multimedia sculptures— crafted from canvas, string, and slimy- looking objects I would be hard-pressed to identify—an indelible sense of the psychological. Her brightly colored palette reflects what is, in her words, the “sleek appeal of commodities and plastic objects,” wherein lurking details come at the viewer’s cheek like a fishhook. The Fast Lane (canvas painted like an orange and purple windbreaker from the ‘80s) is embellished with string and painted rods that jut out at odd angles. It’s motion, it’s color, it’s fun. Peeking from beneath this tent, however, is a bulbous, tumor-esque mass that resembles Jabba the Hutt’s butt cheek, complete with a leering set of plastic teeth. What does The Fast Lane represent? Assuredly, it’s nothing that exists in the material world. And yet, somehow, it conveys a surprisingly specific combination of disgust and anxiety to the viewer. Mix one part aforementioned revulsion with two parts Centeno’s fascination for brightly colored, disposable goods, and I’d say you have a pretty succinct metaphor for the e psychological ramifications of consumerism. —Brooke Schueller



antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_30_Image_0003SETH BOGART
Seth Bogart has been in some of the most hysterically (as in actual hysterics, not LOLs) pleasurable bands: Hunx and His Punx and Gravy Train. Somehow, he maintains that same level of delirious energy all by himself. His first self-titled solo album will make you want to give yourself a glitter mask facial, then mainline liquid eyeliner before putting yourself to bed with a white wine spritzer on your side table, just in case. It’ll make you wish you owned cooler pants. It’ll make you wish you had a creepy mustache. And above all—let’s settle down for a bit—it’ll make you dance. “Eating Makeup,” which features Kathleen Hanna, is the obvious choice for favorite song, but “Nina Hagen – Daaz” challenges to be the track you’ll hit repeat on. If you want to feel better about your life, or just give yourself a sassy ‘tude before you leave the house, press play on this and suck it all in like a dirty sponge. —Kelly McClure


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_30_Image_0004KEVIN GATES
Kevin Gates has released a total of 14 mixtapes since his emergence into the Louisiana rap scene in 2006, so it feels strange to call Islah his debut. Over time, the Baton Rouge rapper has become something of a regional hero off the strength of projects like The Luca Brasi Story and Stranger Than Fiction. But he has also become a controversial figure: a video of Gates kicking a female fan in the chest during a concert in Florida this past summer went viral and led to criminal charges being filed (Gates claims he was sexually assaulted by the woman while on stage). He addresses the incident on the album in a track titled “The Truth,” singing in the refrain, “You don’t have to like me, go love someone else.” Gates is nothing if not brutally honest about his emotions, and he makes no secret of the fact that he is far from a model of morality. But he is a gifted lyricist and songwriter. And Islah serves as a near-perfect showcase of his skills: “2 Phones” and “Kno One” prove his pop sensibilities, while deeper cuts like “Time For That” reward loyal fans with Gates’ signature combo of vulnerability and gruff precision. —Ben DL


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_30_Image_0005HELLO NOMAD
Put your ear to the ground in clubs beyond Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets and you’ll hear the sounds of rock’n’roll banging its head when it’s not swaying to some hypnotic beats. Among those who have been making this music in venues like the Circle Bar and Gasa Gasa are the members of Hello Nomad, led by former Roky Erickson touring guitarist Trent Pruitt, who spin out relentless riffs merging metal stylings with a vision so dark it seems as though the only things holding the crush of it back are the guitar work and vocals, reminiscent of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The band’s self-titled EP kicks things off with “Spit It Out (Pickydoodle),” a song of deep regret swathed in brushing drums and a gorgeously plucked melody. Hello Nomad packs a lot into its near 20-minute offering, reveling in the repetitive to a fairly foregone conclusion, title-wise. A track called “Drone” that revisits the atmosphere of “Spit It Out,” turns that feeling into an existential musing that would likely be a piteous, ponderous exercise in a lesser band’s hands. The Nomad, however, walks that fine line expertly. —Leigh Checkman


Leave Me Alone, the debut album from Madrid-based band Hinds, is an astonishingly fresh take on the disjointed, fuzzed-out lo-fi that’s run the roost of rock music for almost a decade. While that label may be an unfair description of their sound, the Spanish ladies cut their chops opening on European tours for such lo-fi resurgence godfathers as the Black Lips and the Vaccines. The group’s instrumentation features trademark reverb, the production is designed to sound like shit, and Carlotta Cosials and Ana Garcia Perrote’s vocals are deliberately strained, but together they weave layered, complex songs about broken love and quirky fun. Cosials and Perrote trade lines and pick up each other’s thoughts, only singing together for emphasis. Softer songs like “Bamboo” and “And I Will Send Your Flowers Back” make the most of this round-like composition, while raucous barn burners like “San Diego” keep the album from weaving too far into folk territory. Leave me Alone is both quirky and fun, showcasing a distinguished ear while Hinds throw ideas at a wall to see what sticks. —Andrew Mullins, III


Hiss, comprised of members from Communion of Thieves, XSM, and Krigblast, was first conceptualized 3 years ago in Austin. The band is an El Paso/Austin two-piece maelstrom of d-beat noise punk bellowing like a cacophonous morass emanating from deep inside a desolate strip mine. Barking vocals mix later-era Anti Cimex with a noticeable smattering of Bay Area power violence ridiculousness à la Spazz, Burbank’s Lack of Disinterest, or even recent Houston crushers Battle Rifle. Distortion siphoned through ultra- fuzzed out guitar channels saturates and inundates the sometimes tribalistic drumming. Hiss’ racket conjures a nihilistic mission following two psychotics just having escaped from a haunted asylum, vomiting all over themselves and their instruments at a dilapidated playground on the grounds of the abandoned NOLA Six Flags amusement park. You’ll get the picture after listening to this demo tape. —Dan McCoy


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_30_Image_0008MILK TEETH
Anachronistic albums are suppose to be derivative and a little kitsch. They’re suppose to go all-in on recreating a sound and look, build up a gimmick, and see it past its logical conclusion like bands such as The Darkness. They might be fun, but after a while the novelty and the sugary enjoyment make you sick like so many snowballs. Not so much with Vile Child by Milk Teeth. The English group draws heavily from the popular trend/music of ‘90s grunge. The album is no parody, nor is it asking the question, “hey, remember how awesome this was?” Still, it’s a delicious casserole of all the best ‘90s rock tropes in sound, song structure, and disaffected attitude. Songs like “Swear Jar (again)” and “Get A Clue” draw from Weezer, the Breeders, Fugazi, and other titans of the 20th century’s twilight decade, giving us the best of both worlds: personal introspection and raging against one’s peers. “Kabuki” evokes familiar minor progressions from Kurt Cobain’s acoustic navel-gazing on songs like “Something in the Way.” To call it retro might be a tad unfair. Despite the thick ‘90s influence, the album doesn’t sound like the musical equivalent of a floppy disk. The excitement of listening to this album comes from realizing that this English group may have pumped some life into a style of music that was either dead or retired to a farm in Oregon. —Andrew Mullins, III


This is Yoko Ono’s follow up to 2007’s Yes, I’m a Witch and it has her collaborating with different artists whose work she admires, like Death Cab For Cutie, tUnE-yArDs, Moby, and Cibo Matto, among others. One “among others” that’s especially special is “Dogtown,” a talky, emotional track that she worked on with her son Sean. “Catman,” which she does with Miike Snow, is where the musical drugs kick in—especially if you’re listening on headphones throwing each electronic “ooo, ooo, ooo” from ear to ear. As respectfully and openly strange Yoko’s music is, and always has been, listening to it is an immersive experience that can’t be equalled or compared to anything else. She’s earned her right to be weird, and if you forget for one second just how fancy this lady is, both in life as well as in creative endeavors… her album cover image was shot by famous German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. Not even Kanye can touch that. —Kelly McClure


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_31_Image_0004PRINCE RAMA
The theme of this latest Prince Rama release is “extreme sports” which is so fun, clever, and unexpected that I feel like I should just sit and stare at those two words for a moment longer. Maybe you should too. EXTREME (full stop) SPORTS. Okay, we can move on now. Taraka and Nimai Larson are hyper- creative sisters who’ve been making music as Prince Rama since 2008’s Threshold Dances, which was released on Cosmos Records in the UK. Xtreme Now is their first on Carpark Records, a label that’s also put out records by Toro Y Moi and Speedy Ortiz. Opener “Bahia” gives off some early Peter Gabriel situations while “Slip into Nevermore” channels Kate Bush on a happier day. “Would You Die To Be Adored,” brings the theme of the album (EXTREME. SPORTS.) full-circle and, though it’s a fairly upbeat and dance-y track, you may find your mind filling with images of professional football players who literally break their bodies, all for a little bit of money and fame. This album is complex and it takes a few plays to pick up on everything it’s putting down, which is great, seeing as though most other bands taking on EXTREME SPORTS would most likely have songs called “kick the ball into someone’s face” or something along those very literal lines. This is a surprise from beginning to end, and surprises are hard to come by in records these days. —Kelly McClure


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_31_Image_0005PROFESSOR LONGHAIR
Live At The University of Chicago Folk Festival is a 40 year-old recording that sounds as if it were made yesterday, by a man whose magic on the keyboards was itself under wraps for nearly a decade before resurfacing along with him, on mostly New Orleans stages in the early ‘70s. This live album is a compelling listen not only because of the star attraction—and yes, Henry Roeland “Professor Longhair” Byrd’s chops are well in evidence—but because of the band he assembled, which, in this performance, prominently features one Billy Gregory, New Orleans guitarist and keeper of the copy of this show. When Fess calls out “Billy!” in the intro, the responses from Gregory are rockin’, keeping the entire band on its toes. The band rolls and tears through Longhair standards like “Big Chief,” “Every Day I Have The Blues,” and “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” with style, but the songs that really bring the house down in Chicago are Fess’ take on the Ray Charles tune, “Mess Around” and the glorious frenzy the band works itself into on “Got My Mojo Workin’.” Live proves to be the best—albeit too brief— snapshot of a musician in his prime. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_32_Image_0003THE SUFFERS
There is no rule that says a soul band must have six players or more, but some of the best ones boast good-sized horn and rhythm sections, and up ‘til now, have used all hands on deck to create heavy muscular sounds, even when the tempos are slow and demand a gentler touch. The Suffers are a rarity in that they can deliver the muscle, but they also know how to turn it down, which is initially startling. When one is more accustomed to, say, the work of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Suffers’ opening track “Make Some Room” sounds at first listen deceptively lightweight, with vocalist Kam Franklin singing of love and sandwiches. Listen closer and other details emerge: the horns don’t blare and battle with Franklin, a versatile singer who takes most closely after Gladys Knight and Ann Peebles, but instead playfully bolster her words and attitude in a manner that takes cues from conjunto and mariachi music. Dig fully into this album debut, and songs like the hopeful “Better,” the reggae-tinged “Good Day,” and “Peanuts” showcase the Suffers turning the everyday into fodder for soulful musing and strutting. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol14_issue3_Page_32_Image_0004KANYE WEST
Amidst the scrapped tracklists, Twitter dramatics, and fashion shows doubling as album release parties, the actual music featured on Kanye West’s seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo, was almost eclipsed in the frenzy. When it finally became available for public consumption—exclusively via Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal—the album’s messy rollout seemed to reflect a larger trend in the creative process of Kanye West. Over the course of 18 tracks, he brings us from church altar to Chicago warehouse rave, from family cookout to Hollywood cocaine party. TLOP is Kanye’s least cohesive effort to date, but the album does have its high points. These moments come from vacillations between ego-driven flippancy and intense nostalgia: the Arthur Russell-sampling “30 Hours” finds Kanye reminiscing with some humor about jealous mistakes in a past relationship, and the Ty Dolla Sign duet “Real Friends” is a look at the tensions that go along with fame and familial ties. There are also cinematic flashes of brilliance like “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” that work because of Kanye’s skill as a conductor. But where Yeezus benefitted from its skeletal production, TLOP often suffers from its rushed maximalism. Time will tell if the antics outweigh the anthems. —Ben DL


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