International Playboys’ First Album
As bruising as this record is, it’s got to be kind of a drag for new Playboys drummer Moneyshot that First Album was recorded with his predecessor on tubs, and it would have been even better if he’d been on the throne himself. But what can you do? Even Cher wishes she could turn back time.
And by nearly every other measure, the Playboys have improved drastically since the band’s earlier EP release. Vocalist/ringleader Monty Carlo has probably come the farthest—he’s now a certified-nasty garage-rock bawler instead of just a charmingly tuneless frontman combing lingerie out of his hair. And guitarists Cap’n Sextastic and El Tigre Blanco have welded themselves into a crude (in a good way, you understand) apparatus for condensing both the grittiest and greasiest ’70s rock riffage out of the ionosphere.
Best of all is that the Playboys have gotten better at paring their songs down to fighting weight, and gone is the nagging feeling that the average Playboys song would be better if it was shorter by a third. First Album is how garage rock should be—hit and run. I’m already looking forward to their next studio visit, now that (as my dad says) they’ve got all five feet under the table.
Hot Hot Heat/
The Red Light Sting
Hot Hot Heat is a band you can dissect from a dozen different angles and find an unusual cross-section almost every time. Poodle hair and Gang of Four-y guitar tension? Catholic-church organ in a song about Victoria, B.C., city pride? Geh?
The Hot Hot Heat half of this split is kind of a sneaky package: a “new” release, but consisting of material recorded by an old line-up, before keyboardist Steve Bays made the move to vocals, too. It’s important to know the chronology, here. If you didn’t know this was three years old, you might be amazed at how willingly (and competently) the Canadian quartet appears to have backslid from nervous New Wave to yelpy post-hardcore. A fairly shocking regression, really!
Read it backwards, though, knowing that these songs came before a Sub Pop deal and two nifty releases on that label, and what you’re hearing is a talented bunch of post-hardcore kids on the eve of an enormous change. Fascinating stuff, the most obvious link between the before-and-after Hot Hot Heat clearly being Bays’ amazing keyboards. The Red Light Sting side is pretty intriguing, too, although the four guys on the flip are probably the only people in North America who won’t find the (affected?) British accents a little tedious.
Fatal Flying Guilloteens
Mother, this stuff smokes. Great name (from the kung-fu movie, or maybe indirectly inspired by the Wu Tang lyric, “Like Richard Dawson/Survey says “You’re dead”/ Fatal flying guilloteens/Chop off your f——ing head!”), and explosive music, like a completely unhinged mix of Captain Beefheart and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with knobs twiddled all the way to “pulverize.” Completely lunatic vocals to boot!
Just when you think you know what to expect from Estrus, along comes something like this to really trip you up—wound-up tight, red-raw dirty rock with a certain “art-damaged” weirdness to it. Never liked that phrase “art-damaged” much—it evaporates before your eyes if you stare at it long enough—but sometimes it just seems to fit.
My Morning Jacket
It Still Moves
RCA seems to be banking on an imminent Southern-rock resurgence, and with My Morning Jacket the label has invested in something with a longer shelf-life than, say, “the Southern Strokes.” Just the fact that no one’s tagged them “the Southern” anything is fairly encouraging. And My Morning Jacket records can lead to dangerous dependencies. 2001’s At Dawn grew on me very slowly at first (and when I say slowly, I mean it was at least a week before I noticed an extra briskness to my stride as I walked home with a lunchtime listen in mind), but now it’s like oxygen. I tense up when I don’t know right where it is.
The opening track of It Still Moves finds the Louisville, Ky., five-piece gently breaking the news to At Dawn addicts that this outing’s going to be a smidge more rockin’ than the last one, a little more Little Feat and a lot less daydreamy. It’s still a gorgeous record,though. Singer/songwriter Jim James’ high’n’shaky vocals will make Neil Young fans think they’ve been wormholed into a parallel universe drenched in reverb, and maybe even win over a few Wilco fans in the bargain.
I really think My Morning Jacket has got something amazing by the shirttails. It’s probably just a matter of time before some PR jackass (not me) starts calling them a “Bible Belt Radiohead.”