Jeni Fleming Acoustic Trio
Once Around the Sun

Jeni Fleming strikes me in the same way Eden Atwood does: diva in self-imposed exile. There’s no regional bias to native talent, of course, and we should feel lucky to have them. But the very idea that two such hugely talented singers would choose to live in Montana, far from anything approaching a real jazz scene—it’s just a little weird. Atwood regularly commutes to gigs in places as far-flung as Hong Kong and Japan. Since setting up their musical export business in Bozeman, the Jeni Fleming Acoustic Trio has toured a few weeks here and there but, as Fleming puts it in her press release, “[A]s much as we love Bozeman, we think maybe we should get out a little more.”

And they will, no doubt, if Fleming’s voice is to be their passport. Though Fleming is as much a classical pianist by training as a vocalist, you’ll barely even notice there’s no piano on Once Around the Sun. But you will certainly notice Fleming. Her vocals on the album’s 11 tracks breathe jazz almost independent of Chad Langford’s woody stand-up bass and Jake Fleming’s plainspoken bossa nova guitar. By turns warm, cool and (on “Lush Life”) kinda gaspy, it’s a voice to call you back to this album many times. (Andy Smetanka)

The Jeni Fleming Acoustic Trio will perform at UM’s Masquer Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 7 PM. See calendar in this issue for details.

Camper Van Beethoven
New Roman Times

During the band’s ’80s heyday, CVB was always a bit too goofy for my taste. After a 15-year hiatus and other musical pursuits, though, David Lowery and crew have showed up on each other’s doorsteps and pounded out a rock opera of sorts—a reflection on the current political atmosphere, though seeped in outrageousness (California has a civil war and Texas has gone neo-fascist). New Roman Times follows a soldier from the Fundamentalist Christian Republic of Texas and the end result is incredible in every sense of the word. CVB hoists up many a traditional genre (country, Tex-Mex, Balkan) and molds them with style and a bit more maturity (considering the content) than shown on efforts past, though the band’s humor is never lacking. There’s a lot to listen to here, from the sweet melancholy stuff to the beer-swilling bounces, and it all adds up—thankfully, after all these years—to a truly excellent album. Old CVB fans will be beside themselves and after one listen, new fans ought to gain in numbers. (Bryan Ramirez)

Swell Maps
A Trip to Marineville
Secretly Canadian

The more belated exposure mid-’70s to mid-’80s Australian punk receives, the more irrelevant the ’77 U.K. punk scene seems: The Aussie stuff has nowhere near as much posturing, and loads of not really giving two shits about what the public wants. And now it’s time to get on your knees and thank Secretly Canadian for reissuing the Swell Maps catalog. Marineville has forever been a back-burner classic, and now you have a third chance to catch on. Marineville owes a little to the U.K. hype factor, yet the band also tampers with the Beefheartian side of the dial—a kind of “screw you” to the complacent listener. Loose renditions, beaten-to-a-pulp arrangements, careless deadpan vocals from Nikki Sudden—it all translates to blistering punk rock that, happily, doesn’t take itself too damned seriously.

And that’s the fun. You feel like you’re just listening in on a practice session, then they win you over with the killer tunes. Swell Maps is on par with Aussie greats like The Saints and Radio Birdman; one listen to “Midget Submarines” or “Full Moon/Blam!” and you’ll be pogoing through the walls. (Bryan Ramirez)

The Thrills
Let’s Bottle Bohemia

It’s probably my own fault for getting too attached to their first record, So Much for the City, but this eagerly awaited follow-up finds my ardor rather lacking. That’s what you get for falling for an ideal, an idyll even: So Much for the City was a perfect collection of songs, recorded during this Irish band’s self-imposed exile on the beaches of San Diego. As a listener perfectly content to nurse a single snifter of what-might-have-been for a whole evening, I would have considered it a big favor to me, personally, if the band had broken up right after the record came out.

Where So Much for the City was an effortless seducer, Let’s Bottle Bohemia sounds too much like an aggressive suitor, confident of conquest and insistent on undivided attention. In place of the dreamy waltzes and sea-breeze harmonies, there’s just rattle and clang, grabby hands and fewer standout songs overall. So Much for the City is to Gram Parsons and Brian Wilson as Let’s Bottle Bohemia is to Neil Diamond and Elton John.

Let’s Bottle Bohemia seems forced, like an uncomfortable holiday reunion staged for a romance that should have ended with the summer. But that’s summer lovin’ for you: happened so fast, had me a blast. For the Thrills and me, it just wasn’t meant to last more than one album. (Andy Smetanka)

Add a comment