The Living Blue
Fire, Blood, Water
Minty Fresh Records
It’s the fake British accent that gives The Living Blue’s musical lineage away. If the howling guitar distortions, raw pop-punk cacophony and electric energy on their third album Fire, Blood, Water isn’t enough to reveal that frontman Steve Uncherek grew up with a mix of Echo and the Bunnymen, Sex Pistols and early Cure running through his head, the Brit-pop lilt at the end of Uncherek’s breathless wails should send the soundalike detector into overdrive.
But if the four-piece band from Champaign, Ill., is a late-’70s garage rock-meets early-’80s alt rock throwback, they’re a damn good one. From the first insistent drumstick countdown into the catchy riffs of “State of Affairs,” Fire, Blood, Water rarely lets up on its high-speed, back-to-the-post-punk-future ride.
The band pulls off both tempo-driven radio-ready tunes like “Serrated Friend” and the experimental dueling guitars of “Secrets” without committing the sin of sameness. “Murderous Youth,” an electric whirlwind of a tune, for instance, is different from anything else on the album—and catchier than most of what’s on the radio today.
Toeing the line between brash psychedelic noise and addictive melody, Fire, Blood, Water is retro rock that would make Robert Smith proud. (Alyssa Work)
The Living Blue plays The Raven Cafe Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 10 PM. The Apples of Discord and Volumen open. $5.
The gloaming of Missoula’s summers has a certain lonely feeling, especially when a hotter-than-hell afternoon is followed by dark clouds gathering in the sky. If we needed a soundtrack for such a moment, the role could easily be filled by local duo Thurniture and its new album, Angle Iron.
Nick DeCesare’s layered vocals seem pitched like a bow across strings. The minor chords rebound brightly off shadowy power riffs, which sound, if not for being played on an acoustic guitar, like something more in the realm of heavy metal. The standout instrumental “Bullfighter” couples black-metal mysticism with Spanish guitar; it’s by far the most compelling track because it showcases Thurniture’s ability as a two-piece to create textured soundscapes with just drums, guitar and what sounds like a Casio. “Save the Knee,” with its playfully ambiguous lyrics, and the smart war tune “Punch Me in the Face” (wherein DeCesare sings “’cause I got my Uncle Sam’s back” before slyly mumbling “I’ll be in Canada”) are also keepers.
When you add up the twangs and mutated riffs, the silken vocals and resonating key strokes, Angle Iron is a surprisingly satisfying debut. The band may be only a duo, but Thurniture’s sound is full of subtle grandeur. (Erika Fredrickson)
Thurniture plays a CD-release show for Angel Iron at The Loft Thursday, Aug. 3, at 9 PM. Desertless and The Apples of Discord open.
Chicago-based MC Psalm One delivers such an addictive, versatile and quick-witted style of rapping on The Death of Frequent Flyer that calling it one of the best releases of the year isn’t presumptuous or overblown. What makes Psalm One’s latest so intoxicating is her fluctuating rhyming schemes—they can be unhurried and enunciated, as on “The Nine,” or pick up into faster and more complex barrages of “Beat the Drum.”
Like her varied delivery, Psalm One’s lyrics cover a surprising—and amusing—range of topics. In “Rapper Girls” she lets loose a funny criticism of uninspired female MCs who flaunt their sexuality in order to gain notoriety, and on “The Living” she takes a more serious tone in explaining how hard life was as a professional chemist by day and a rapper at night before getting her big break.
Much like fellow female rapper Jean Grae, Psalm One wants her skills—not her sex—to carry her reputation in a genre dominated by men. This is not an album for belittling with “good for a girl” reviews—The Death of Frequent Flyer is better than good, regardless of gender. Coming from a former chemist, it’s excellent. (Ira Sather-Olson)
Historically, a song titled “Crazy” evokes Patsy Cline, but as every man, woman and child in America hears Gnarls Barkley’s debut album—and its breakout single with the same name as Cline’s famous song—chances are that’s gonna change. The new song isn’t a version of the country hit, it’s a brand-new composition with the theme that life, not just love, makes people crazy. It’s so catchy, so Al Green-smooth, it makes you want to slink back on a velvet couch and light a fancy cigarette.
Regrettably, the rest of St. Elsewhere doesn’t cast such an alluring spell. The band, consisting of former Goodie Mob member Thomas Callaway (aka “Cee-Lo”) and Brian Burton (aka “DJ Danger Mouse”), assembles slick beats and addictive melodies, but the record wilts after “Crazy” fades away. Songs like “Transformer” and “Boogie Monster” are comical in a third-grade sort of way, whereas “Necromancer” is R-rated comedy; they’re not aimed at the same audience, and the result is grossly imbalanced. And though the cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” is curious, it too falls flat due to Cee-Lo’s insistence on merely replicating the original’s vocals.
St. Elsewhere has its hot R&B moments, and when those erupt it’s a scorcher. Tinkering with styles beyond sultry soul and rap, however, just makes the album seem sloppy. (Erika Fredrickson)