Reviews, October 2013

antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_30_Image_0002BANTAM  FOXES
To pigeonhole the music of Bantam Foxes into a niche known as ‘90s rock is to miss how far brothers Sam and Collin McCabe, in league with hard-hitting drummer Jared Marcell, have brought their fuzzed-out rock in just a few short years––and how high they’re aiming with their sounds. Kicking off their first full-length album, Triumph, with the powerful pastiche of “Charade” is truly throwing down a gauntlet: the Foxes are here and ready to roll. The first track is so strong that it seems to call on the band to keep up with its greatness, and they prove to be more than up to the task, responding with infectious riffs on songs like “Temperature’s Dropping;” attitude that evokes a punk sensibility mixed with ‘80s hard rock (“Better Off ” being a perfect example); and heavy beats that nearly explode as the album hits its stride. The songs from the previously released EP Fascination are here as well, fitting in with the rest of Triumph as though they’ve always belonged, all of it sounding down and dirty and just on the edge of dangerous. Triumph is a debut one can’t help but turn all the way up, and that’s the way the Foxes like it. ––Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_30_Image_0003BEFORE I HANG
The scumpunk veterans of the Hattiesburg scene are back with a vengeance. Before I Hang brings their biting trademark blend of cynical wit and rude hostility to their latest 12” LP, Rock-n-Roll Deathwish. Appropriately titled, this album is blistering hardcore punk with a rock’n’roll heart. Guitarist Walt Wheat and bassist Rev. Dixie Pig are a remarkable team, shredding their way through 12 unrelenting tracks. Drummer John Littlejohn nails it down while Lee Hurst leads the charge on the mic. “Hang Up and Drive” angrily seeks to solve the problem of cell phone use at the wheel. There’s a little bit of honesty and a whole lot of insults packed into “She’s a Whore (But Who Cares).” “Hot for Pupil” gives a nod to the legendary Van Halen tune “Hot for Teacher,” while tackling the controversy of teachers getting involved with their students. The title track wraps up the disc with good, old-fashioned hardcore punk. The album is fast, but it never loses a stylistic flair for showcasing each member’s musicianship without being gratuitously self-indulgent. The songwriting is great and the lyrics are often very funny. Overall, it’s a great album from start to finish. ––Jenn Attaway

antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_30_Image_0004DAVID  LYNCH
Director David Lynch released his second full-length solo album The Big Dream this past July in the US, offering a bonus single “I’m Waiting Here” (featuring Swedish indie artist Lykke Li) for free with a pre-order. Arguably the best track on the album, Lykke Li’s airy vocals combined with Lynch’s down- tempo guitar playing and minimalist, enigmatic lyrics make for a track that sounds as if it was plucked from an episode of Twin Peaks. While Lynch keeps the setup pretty much the same on his second album—auto-tuning his unmistakable voice, playing his Parker Fly electric guitar laid across his lap, employing sound engineer and musician Dean Hurley on drums—he has traded the futuristic, electronically saturated elements that dominated his 2011 debut album Crazy Clown Time for a dreamier, more nostalgic sound. Lynch describes the album’s style as “modern blues,” and in fact applies a heavy bass and a simple synth beat to a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1964 blues tune “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” The Big Dream has received some harsh criticism, but it’s hard to deny that Lynch manages the same feat in his music as he does in his films—the creation of a surreal and pleasantly freaky alternate world. ––Christie Sentner

antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_30_Image_0005THE JULIE RUIN
Anyone following Kathleen Hanna’s storied career as a musician, activist and punk feminist icon ought to know by now that Hanna is not one to rest on her past. Though the band she’s formed shares a name with the first solo album made after the demise of Bikini Kill, the songs of Run Fast speak far more to pop music art than to activism. The energy and attitude of “Oh Come On,” with Hanna fuzzily screaming her way around “knife embraces” and resisting those who would try to form her is only the beginning. She’s been there, done that, can do the riot grrrl well, but that’s not all she is. The members of The Ruin help her show off some great versatility in more heartfelt, melodic tunes like the loving “Just My Style” and the stripped-down pop of “Goodnight Goodbye.” There are some instrumental moments that stand out as well, such as the peripatetic guitar solo Sara Landeau lays down in “Lookout,” and Kenny Mellman’s keyboards-gone-wild in the crazy fun of “Cookie Road.” Part of the fun of taking in Run Fast is seeing where these arty all-stars will go next. Whether it’s Hanna (and Mellman in a Fred Schneider-esque turn) narrating the effects of rising rents on the grittiest of neighborhoods in “Kids In NY” or the whole band channeling ‘80s synth pop (sung by Hanna in a still-on-Saturday Night Live Victoria Jackson voice) in “Girls Like Us.” Run Fast is a running start for the ages; one hopes The Julie Ruin’s follow-up recordings can keep up. ––Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_30_Image_0006KING  KHAN  AND  THE SHRINES
If the name of Berlin garage punk band King Khan and the Shrines’ eighth album rings a bell, it’s because frontman King Khan a.k.a Arish Ahmad Khan borrowed the name from the indigenous Canadian sovereignty and environmental rights movement. Khan, who is originally from Montreal, has told interviewers that as an adolescent he spent time on an American Indian reservation in his hometown and is trying to get the word out about the movement. However, the lyrics on the album seem to steer clear of political messages for the most part. Like some of the group’s previous albums, Idle No More features mostly fun, high energy, ‘60s flower power/psychedelic rock and Motown-influenced tracks, complete with gospel style call-and-responses between Khan and his backup singers. The stand out songs on the album are the slower ones: “Darkness,” “Pray for Lil” and “Of Madness I Dream,” the last of which is particularly interesting as the blaring horn section present on the rest of the tracks is absent and replaced by violin and xylophone. “So Wild” is the best song to yell along with on Idle No More—a fitting tribute to Khan’s late friend and fellow musician Jay Reatard. ––Christie Sentner

Minks frontman Sonny Kilfoyle was at a loss for ideas (the story goes) when he took to wandering the Long Island beachfront. He happened across a bankruptcy sale at an old-money mansion called Tides End. He bought a portrait of a woman identified as “Margot.” Inspiration struck. He returned to New York City and wrote Tides End, a sophomore album with the glitz of an advertising campaign and the soul of ‘80s night. For engineering help he turned to Mark Verbos, a producer with a long list of credits in techno as well as with Fischerspooner and VHS or Beta. “Margot” became an insistent slice of dance-pop with silkily processed vocals and a synthesizer glaze. The decadence and ennui of the fire sale became “Playboys of the Western World,” and the live-fast-die-beautiful mentality of wealth became “Doomed and Cool.” During recording, Verbos forced Kilfoyle towards new ideas with early house music and cards from Brian Eno’s deck of Oblique Strategies. The end result is bright, customer-friendly, guilt-free synth pop with its mind in higher places. ––Anna Gaca


antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_31_Image_0002NEKO CASE
As some musicians achieve a certain level of success or popularity, the plateau of their relevance and willingness to grow against expectation seems inevitable and, well… expected. That’s simply not the case with Neko. On her sixth studio album, it appears Ms. Case has penned the most honest and well-rounded piece of work in her catalogue. Joined by longtime collaborators Craig Schumacher, Joey Burns and John Convertino (Calexico), the once queen of “alt-country” (whatever that is) is putting on her rock’n’roll shoes while unraveling the threads of gender roles and genre. The first single, “Man,” is an unexpectedly poppy rock tune whose lyrics (“A woman’s heart/ is the watermark/  to which I measure everything”) prove that words are still some of the sharpest tools at her disposal. The haunting “Where Did I Leave That Fire” and the acapella “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” reinforce the weight of Neko’s Judy Garland-esque voice, while “Calling Cards” revisits the unflinching intimacy on which she built her reputation and loyal fanbase. Those fans should recognize this album as the mark of an ever-growing artist, still perfecting what she does best—it just happens to be everything. —Kevin Comarda


antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_31_Image_0003NINE  INCH  NAILS
Hesitation Marks is exactly the Nine Inch Nails record I had always wanted––I just didn’t know it. Throughout Mr. Reznor’s diversions through live rock bands, screechy electro and Oscars, underneath it all I was secretly yearning for the Trent that dropped bits of house into the industrial din or who ripped off Prince licks and stapled them to hissing, percussive beats. Hesitation Marks feels like the culmination of everything that NIN has been to this point. At times it pays reverence to the acid house and early electro that birthed industrial and at others it embraces Reznor’s own mix of deeply layered sound and pop hooks. The robotic momentum of “Copy of A” builds up bit by digital bit until it’s cruising down the Autobahn. It’s good to hear Reznor letting even more hip- hop beats back into NIN. “Satellite” is slinky and bounces harder than anything else on the record and “All Time Low” is like a funkier “Closer,” where the angst of the original is replaced with enough confidence to let the whole thing evaporate into a psychedelic crescendo of glittering synths. There are similarities between this record and the last Knife album in the PVC percussion and insistent tempo of “Running,” while “I Would for You” could have been culled from The Fragile. Hesitation Marks is more confident, less brooding than anything yet released under the NIN banner, but it’s not all as sunny as a surface listen might suggest. Nothing on the album is as exemplary of this dynamic as “Everything.” On its face, “Everything” is a distressingly poppy stab at power punk, but the jangling guitar sounds more like the Cure than American Idiot, and that minor key shift to a chorus referencing crumbling facades and shaking hands gives the game away. Hesitation Marks is a record made by an artist with a full toolbox and the confidence to let them take him wherever they want. ––Mike Rodgers


Ossacrux is quite possibly the most brutal new band to arise from the New Orleans underground within the last year or so. The sonic assault coming from this three-piece presents a wall of sound composed of crust and grindcore influences. Their four-song EP, Orgy of Atrocities, captures all the dark aggression you would expect from a band whose name means “cross of bones.” Jason Smith’s vocals command attention like a sergeant barking orders on the killing fields. This is especially appropriate for songs with titles like “Destroyer,” “Less Than Nothing,” “Gas Bath” and “Enenra.” Enenra is a Japanese demon made of smoke and dust. The song is about the atomic bombing of Japan and features a sampled quote by Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” himself. The songs are well-written; despite their frenetic pace, they take time to execute a few changes and breakdowns without missing a beat. This is an impressive debut, with a follow-up already in the works for release later this year. ––Jenn Attaway


antigravity_vol10_issue12_Page_31_Image_0005TOM MCDERMOTT
Tom McDermott, possibly the most well-known keyboardist-about-New Orleans since Professor Longhair, has always been far more than that. The release of Bamboula finally shows off his skills as a bandleader, composer and performer to a far greater extent than ever before. The vocal duets of previous McDermott collaborations have been dispensed of––it’s all instrumental work, and not only are local music scene regulars like Rick Trolsen, Aurora Nealand and Evan Christopher along for the ride, legendary composer and arranger Van Dyke Parks has curated the album and contributed liner notes lauding McDermott’s artistry as only he could. McDermott’s latest takes 19th century composer (and New Orleanian) Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s composition “Bamboula” as its starting point and goes on  from there, as though it is unraveling all the New World influences Gottschalk infused into his music and laying them bare for all to see. The classical music that results is both a throwback to a time before jazz and a look at a new future that reaches even further south to the rhythms and sounds of Brazil. Bamboula is a celebration of the musical waters that run through New Orleans, and it’s clear that McDermott has taken a mighty drink. ––Leigh Checkman

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