Kill Rock Stars
Oh man, this is one of those albums that you fall asleep listening to and dream about wrestling snakes and getting your eyes pecked out by flocks of big black birds. You’ll either trip your musical face off to Milk Man or shun it like a leper.
The title track introduces the milkman protagonist of this concept album-cum-song cycle with an all but impenetrable storyline and arrangements full of hairpin turns. Subsequent songs keep returning to musical and lyrical leitmotifs introduced in “Milk Man,” many of which involve the ingredients of a strawberry sundae or banana parfait. Satomi’s vocals are childlike and eerie, charming but on some level disturbing, the lyrics revealing absurdities from the lips of a little girl trying to hold up all five conversational sides of a stuffed-animal tea party. Deerhoof can be cloying—“Dog on the Sidewalk”sounds like something you’d put on a mix tape for a crush to reveal both your Shonen Knife-loving and Beefheartian-musics-grasping sides—but they’re always fractious and contrary and they always challenge your expectations. There’s nothing else quite like them. (Andy Smetanka)
A very trim 28 minutes of nervous jitters, here. Members of this Seattle band have been playing together in some form or another since youth in central Washington, and the result on this album is 10 lean, wiry tunes. The Lights must not be especially prolific songwriters—it seems like they’ve been playing some of these songs in concert for three or four years, now—but far from sounding stale, what you get here is as finely and intricately engraved as a medieval woodcut.
Beautiful Bird, at first listen, is pleasantly reminiscent of another great band from the same neck of the woods: The Kent 3. Same jagged mod edge, only here with a little more Anglophile melancholy smoothed in. Members Craig, Jeff and P.J. have inherited some moody Malkmus genes—but then again, so did Steven Malkmus. Just say Slanted and Enchanted, and Mark E. Smith of The Fall comes jumping out of the bushes yelling, “Oi! Come back here with that sound!”
Being well-influenced is hardly a crime, but The Lights make it all their own on Beautiful Bird. From the post-punk headrush of “I’m a Dangerous Snake” to the claustrophobic bossa nouveau of the incomparable “Hawaii,” some of you might just be hearing your new favorite band for the first time. (Andy Smetanka)
The Lights play at Aerea 5 on Friday, April 2 at 10:30 PM, and again on Saturday night at The Other Side with The Turn Ons and The Capitol Years.
Six Organs of Admittance
In addition to this, his mostly solo project, Ben Chasny is also a co-conspirator in Comets on Fire, plummeting space rock of a space-rock band whose sustained, splattered and screechingly high-end assault leaves you pulverized after one eight-minute song-collision. Six Organs of Admittance accomplishes its ends through subtler but no less discomfiting means. Compathía could almost be a field recording, if only Alan Lomax had wandered into an enclave of folk-music squatters shooting rats with zipguns in a Tenderloin warehouse instead of the Ozark foothills or the Mississippi Delta. Fans of weird, dark, free-form folk will sniff out their preferred sepulchral sonic psychedelics in songs like “Somewhere Between,” with its feathery falsettos and eerie deadpans. Layered tracks of handclaps, sitar and ready-deteriorated electronics grinding away in the background enhance the overall effect considerably. Compathía will take you someplace. Someplace kind of dark and scary. Don’t count on getting a ride back, either. (Andy Smetanka)
Six Organs of Admittance play at the Roxy on Friday, April 2, at 8:30 PM, with local support from Ex-Cocaine.
The Frederico Brothers
I’ve always had a soft spot for songs with too many or just too unwieldy lyrics to fit comfortably. On the other hand, I also admire lyricists who can smuggle shaggy-dog stories and topical concerns into their songs while retaining a certain laconic quality, and traditional-sounding groups like the Frederico Brothers that can update musical morality tales and Appalachian gothic for downtown and suburbia without turning the whole thing into a dog’s breakfast of vintage sounds and lyrics.
Rails is a treat for people who wish that country music hadn’t turned into a handsome boy modeling school, and that the Squirrel Nut Zippers hadn’t made ’20s popular music quite so accessible a few years back. It doesn’t owe an oppressive debt to any style, really, but a good half of it sounds removed from the current century. It’s chock full of sweet harmonies, ballads of lost love and runaway trains, and some top-notch but laid-back playing. Paul Kelly, Bruce Carlson and Phil Hamilton have been playing together since the early ’70s (Peter Walther fell in with them in 1994), and it shows. It takes old friends to write new songs that sound as lived-in as these. (Andy Smetanka)
The Frederico Brothers play at the Crystal Theater on Saturday, April 3 at 8 PM.