Happiness in Magazines
America had Nirvana. Britain had Oasis. Someone in Nirvana had the good sense to force a quit while they were still ahead. Oasis, without one brain to share among them, linger on like the stench of scorched beans.
Britain also had Oasis archrivals Blur, but even Blur members had begun name-checking American indie rock by the time the Britpop craze had cooled a bit, guitarist Graham Coxon somewhat earlier than singer Damon Albarn. And while Albarn was off on his drum-pounding sabbatical in Mali, Coxon was releasing very lo-fi, very American-indie-sounding solo albums—three before leaving the band in 2002, and two since. His most recent effort, Happiness in Magazines, is probably his best so far: imaginative, catchy and rockin’ enough to satisfy. “Spectacular,” with its snarling lead and thuggish two-chord crunch, gets things off to a galloping start. “Girl Done Gone” is an electrified blues plodder that somehow—against all odds—sounds better than you’d expect from yet another lily-white public school nonce plundering the Delta for authenticity. “Bittersweet Bundle of Misery” hearkens back to Blur’s bouncy Britpop heyday, and no bad thing, that.
The only downer is Coxon’s voice—not awful, just your standard flat, wafer-thin indie whimper. And he sure as hell ain’t Cockney, so he should knock it off with the affected glottal stops. Happily, Coxon’s imagination, not intonation, does most of the work here. (Andy Smetanka)
Ignore The Orange Hand
At 24 years of age, singer/songwriter David Boone is fast becoming one of Missoula’s most prodigious musical talents. Not to mention prolific: Ignore The Orange Hand is his third album in less than two years, and that’s not counting the other three records he recorded with his band, Open To Closure.
In his advancing age, Boone has gotten philosophical. The orange hand we are told to ignore is a metaphor for a “system of thoughts that we are to simply adhere to and follow because someone else has stated their significance.” Like this metaphor, the album strives for a depth it is able to plumb only occasionally before coming up for air.
The subject matter ranges from fanciful love to drug addiction and the war in Iraq; Boone’s heart is always on his sleeve, sometimes rolled up like a pack of smokes. His vocal styling is soft and passionate, if somewhat adrift between imitations of Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows. Mandolin and lovely back-up vocals add understated texture to many tracks, like “Tennessee Rain.” In its duller moments, Ignore the Orange Hand succumbs to the recycled sentiments and innocuous personal insights that characterize a lot of other solo acoustic pop. More often, though, Boone’s lyrics are poetic and his melodies are simple and infectious. (Yogesh Simpson)
Mary Had A Little Amp
When you first read the list of artists contributing music to Mary Had A Little Amp, a new compilation of children’s songs, you might expect a hard-rock affair, with musicians like Dave Matthews, R.E.M. and Lou Reed lending their talents. But this is hardly the case. Even the title suggests that maybe the album is a collection of children’s songs sprinkled with an added touch of amp-screeching musical high jinks, intended more for adults than for children. Again, this is not the case. Mary Had a Little Amp really is a children’s album, with new renditions of classic children’s songs like “The Rainbow Connection” by the Dixie Chicks, Joe Henry’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” and a rare version of Graham Nash singing “Teach Your Children.”
But you don’t need to be a child to enjoy the album—any music lover would find Maroon 5’s “Pure Imagination,” for example, Bowie-ish, melodic and refreshing. “Gentle Breeze,” a collaboration between Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, stands out for its good-natured coarseness. Even Madonna’s contribution, “Little Star,” rises above the merely nebulous pop you’d expect.
Mary Had A Little Amp is a competent compilation, and all proceeds from the album benefit People For the American Way’s programs for preschool education. (Diego Bejarano)
Any band that saddles itself with a name as silly as Los Mocosos ought to make sure it fulfills two criteria. One, it had better live up to its name; and two, it had better overcome the name. Los Mocosos, a six-piece barrio-style rock band from San Francisco’s Mission district, fulfills both requirements comfortably. “Los mocosos” literally means “the boogery ones” or the “snot-nosed kids,” and is a term that certain Latin mothers use to describe their mischievous children. The term is more aptly translated as “the rascals.”
Los Mocosos’ music is a soupy blend of rock, Latin, funk and Jamaican ska cooked in a melting pot of horns, sneering guitars and funky grooves. And American Us is as tasty as such pot-liquor can get. Los Mocosos live up to their name by offering social criticism from the barrio; they don’t back down and they’re not afraid to get political. One of the album’s best songs, “Señor Presidente,” is a seething indictment of George Bush and his policies, sung entirely in Spanish. The rest of the album is just as mischievous and cheerfully rambunctious. (Diego Bejarano)