Souls to Deny
Death metal is one of those genres I’m glad isn’t extinct, but I wish were more endangered. It seems like five really good bands could represent the style with more dignity than, like, five hundred. Too much of it really does sound the same.
Specifically, too much of it sounds like Suffocation, only nowhere near as good. The quintessential Long Island death-metal garage band’s most active period was the early ’90s, but the handful of LPs and EPs the band released was influential enough to stock Suffocation’s eventual absence from the metal scene with countless imitators. Now, almost 10 years after the group’s last full-length record (in which time death metal has been shittified to smithereens by said unworthy imitators), the original gangstas come roaring back into town like Odysseus with a Warlock bass, slaying the suitors and would-be usurpers.
It’s all here: the galloping double-bass drum, Cookie Monster vocals, the seizure-inducing blast beats and withering bursts of sick (not “cool” sick—sick sick) guitar. And it all sounds surprisingly vital, considering both the style and the band have been on the shoals for years. Death metal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you think it’s all noisy garbage you’re insensible to the sheer brutal technicality of the bands that do it best. If you’re a recovering death metal fan, trade in the last five crappy records you’ve bought and bring this one home. It sure feels like a homecoming. (Andy Smetanka)
The Living Road
At long last, Lhasa has followed up her 1997 debut, La Llorona. The Living Road is a stellar collection of songs produced by Yves Desrosiers and Francois Lalonde, the same team that worked on her first release. It’s albums like this that make one skeptical of the current music industry trend of foregoing complete albums in favor of singles. The move to MP3s and digital music is allowing people to buy just the songs they like and making it less cost-efficient to produce an entire album. This might seem like a good idea, but something will be lost, and it is evident in this collection what that loss would be.
The album from beginning to end is a haunting journey through a strange and magical world—a whole work of art made up of pieces. “Each song is a small film,” says Lhasa. “My vision is deeply influenced by directors like Pedro Almodovar.” Lhasa grew up in a bus on the U.S-Mexican border, where she started a circus with her two sisters. These songs, sung in French, Spanish and English, have a taste of that surreal past. Leaves falling, strings moaning in a Tim Burtonesque walk down a deserted road. Fall is the perfect season for it. (Colin Ruggiero)
The World Provider
Do you ever get that sinking feeling when you hear (or see) a band with a conspicuously, perhaps even self-consciously clever approach to making music, and the music just doesn’t—sometimes can’t possibly—measure up to the novelty? To give but one example: Captured! By Robots. Everything but the music is amazing; the music itself is worse than awful.
No such disappointment awaits the adventurous soul who picks up this record. The World Provider is Montreal’s Malcolm Fraser, who writes and performs his music on a battery of cheap keyboards, sings in a variety of strange voices and, on Enabler, ultimately has one of the weirdest, catchiest records of the year to show for his efforts. The opening track, “The Future of Our Kind,” somehow manages to sound like Roxy Music’s “Let’s Stay Together” and the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” at the same time—as performed by a bunch of kids hopped up on Pixie Stix.
It’s not some half-assed joke, as might be expected from a guy trying to cobble together stock beats (you remember the old Casio options: bossa nova, waltz, two kinds of “rock” that weren’t very rockin’ at all) and cheesy electronic mid-’80s approximations of real instruments into something transcendent. Enabler lets you forget its peculiar provenance even as you’re listening to it (maybe it’s because Fraser never stoops to the barking dog sample!); what stands out is Fraser’s knack for a mind-sticking melody.
The sucky part is that 11 songs fly past in under 20 minutes. Hope there’s an extended dance remix in the works. (Andy Smetanka)
Seems like there are two sorts of Los Lobos fans: the rootsy ones who think the band peaked early with Just Another Band From East L.A. or, at the latest, Will the Wolf Survive?, and who can’t fathom the later, noisier experiments of, say, Colossal Head. On the other hand, you’ve got the noise freaks for whom Colossal Head’s abrasive skronk is about as rootsy as they care to hear the band; this latter sort would almost be happier listening to the moody Lobos offshoot Latin Playboys, an out-there outfit no longer tied by expectation to anything even resembling traditional song structures.
Lately, it seems Los Lobos has been splitting the difference with outings like The Ride, which paired the band with old-school influences like Tom Waits for some mutual celebration. And now Ride This: The Covers EP, wherein Los Lobos returns the favor, sort of, with nice but less-than-necessary takes on tunes by Waits, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson and Dave Alvin, among others.
The standouts here—and they stand out quietly—are the soulful Bobby Womack and Ruben Blades covers, and even then the significance is more historical than urgent.
Must have been fun to record, and not bad to listen to, but still, in the final analysis, for completists only. (Brad Tyer)