Wire Post to Wire
One great thing about this great tail-devouring Ourobouros of an era we live in: With nostalgia cycles growing ever shorter, if you don’t like the genre currently being revived, just wait 10 minutes and it will be something else.
I dig new records that recall the rain-streaked bleakness of post-punk Manchester and the heyday of spiky-haired bands playing heavy-coat rock (my friend Rick’s own coinage for the genre—you know, the British and Irish bands usually hunched against the cold in their videos) a la Echo and the Bunnymen and early U2, and latter-day Ultravox.
Bunnymen fans will recognize a kindred spirit to Ian McCulloch in The Standard’s Tim Putnam. But where Liverpool’s second-finest tended to keep their songs on the short side, everything on Wire Post to Wire just keeps on sprawling. And sprawling. The Standard keeps it in hand instrumentally, but if you can’t get next to Putnam’s goat-like vibrato touches, Wire Post to Wire is like being snowed in at a remote cabin with company you can’t escape. (Andy Smetanka)
The Standard plays The Other Side on Monday, May 31.
Liquor and Poker
The problem with “stoner rock,” the label with which Nebula so often gets saddled, is that it’s usually so intentional. Real stoner rock is when you notice there’s been a Bonzo Dog Band CD in the five-disc changer for two months because you’ve been too pasted to take it out.
Nebula is an interesting case because two-thirds of the band used to be in Fu Manchu. But while the latter keep trudging through the same dumb riffage (and dumber than dumb lyrics—have you ever actually read along with them?) with diminishing returns, Nebula has at least proven itself willing to try a few new things. Nothing rocket science, but at least mixing the tempo up a bit and not being afraid to play the occasional chord that isn’t superfuzz-bigmuffed to within an inch of its life. And singing about something besides it being 1978 all the time in their world, Kurt Vonnegut and Aleister Crowley. The clincher for me is that Eddie Glass’ vocals don’t have that cloying, one-pitch Scott Hill thing going.
Not spectacular, but pretty good. Atomic Ritual would sound much better at a 3 a.m. after-hours blowout. One thing, though—wasn’t the last Nebula album called Atomic Ritual? Now that would be a stoner move! (Andy Smetanka)
Nebula plays The Other Side this Thursday, June 3, with special guests Lazerwolfs.
Houston’s Jolie Holland was once one-third of No Depression darlings The Be Good Tanyas, splitting before their debut release. Since starting her solo career, Holland has had high-profile fans like Nick Cave and Will Oldham stumbling over themselves for her chanteuserie. One listen to Escondida and you’ll understand why.
The disc is a pleasant soft punch or lazy-afternoon soundtrack, but not too sleepy in its approach to the stranger side of Americana music. Incorporating musical saws and ukeleles to the pokey jazz/blues fold, this is something Tom Waits might have done back in the ’70s (and he happens to be a contemporary fan as well). Holland has the smoky voice that seems to be the thing at the moment, but not in a jazz club or coffee shop way—-think of it as being from an eccentric odds ’n’ ends store in the middle of some dry county.
Great songs like “Black Stars” and the traditional “Mad Tom of Bedlam” will make you want to drop and kiss Holland’s feet. The arrangements are simple, allowing her adventurous vocals to carry the weight and give it timeless charm. This could be a shoe-in for Next Big Thing. Sweet as honey, and pretty soon everybody will want some. (Bryan Ramirez)
I’ll send you a postcard from the eye of the storm. Thus “Evoe,” the first track on Antique Porn, gets things off to a promising start on what I figured just might be the low-bagger Missoula album of the year. It’s almost Nick Cave-like in its melancholic balladry; you half-know what he’s alluding to. Is he reciting Latin (“Evoe” is an ecstatic interjection usually associated with drunkenness), or is Evoe the name of a girl he knows? There’s a little pause at the end of the song that makes you think the acoustic strumming that follows is the intro to the next song. First it sounds like the Oblio Joes, then it sounds like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Track two, “Weather/Rain,” is a little less arresting, because an abrupt tape edit cuts one half-formed song off at the knees and grafts on a pretty but misplaced guitar instrumental. “Children’s Song” immediately brings the album back to center with three soothing, familiar chords that Daniels uses to build a life-lesson kid’s song (“It’s like going down your own little river on your own little rowboat”) that’s actually for adults (“Life is an illusion, but an illusion that must be handled carefully just the same”).
Antique Porn might be a bit uneven, but what’s good is good in a way that really starts to grow on you. Even the underripe stuff is better for Daniels’ rusty baritone. It could still be the low-bagger Missoula album of the year. (Andy Smetanka)