Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I haven't forgotten

Ok, How about a slightly longer take on three CDs I gave short shrift to?
David Bowie's "The Next Day". Now, on the "David Bowie scale", which is to say, in relation to his other albums, it ranks somewhere around "Heathen" for me- which is to say not all that high, but certainly listenable. On a plain, ordinary scale, that's still pretty high- call it a 3 star rating on the Zagat scale- but not perfect. Songs like I'd rather Be High, and You feel so lonely You could Die are barely disguised retreads of ideas, and melodies already explored. However, tracks like "Where are we now?" and "Heat" have the avante garde goods that Bowie used to deliver with regularity. Still, most of the tracks are good, putting out pop-rock with a pinch of eclectic artiness, like What would happen if a crooner like Perry Como, or Burt Bacharach were forced to interpret My Bloody Valentine, Scott Walker and Sonic Youth for a Vegas routine. If that interests you, as it should, then you'll probably like it. If you're new to David Bowie, this isn't the place to start, and if you're still awaiting the return of the 1980's Pop Ziggaurat that David Bowie used to be, you'll think he's gotten old and boring. But, if you liked the Berlin albums, but have aged to mellow complacency, then this may be exactly what you want.
Clutch are local boys for me, but they are on tour so often that I rarely see them. I even missed out on getting tickets to their magnificent show due on 4/20. However, because I have beer making friends, I was able to score an advance copy of the new CD, and, for me, this is the best Clutch  record since Blast Tyrant. Please don't misunderstand, I enjoyed stuff they've done since 2004, but I'm not fully prepared to follow them all the way down into some of the bloozrawk cul-de-sacs they have ventured into. Unlike many of their fans, I'm also not all aboard with Neil's lyrics, which I think are sometimes Bull for shit's sake. So, Earth Rocker has mercifully (for me) tightened up on the music, and eased off from Neil's meanderings. Tracks like "Crucial Velocity" ,'Mr Freedom" 'DC Sound Attack" and 'Book Saddle & Go" make their points with the tempo and the tune long before Neil can tell me what he means. Yes, there's Heavy, heavy blues involved, but this is a pure rock LP, more than it is anything else. In fact, they have mentioned Judas Priest in some of the interviews, and that's not completely misplaced. So, even for a heavy rock band, you could almost say that this is their 'Heavy Metal" record. For them, I think that's a great thing. Tim Sult needs to rock his P-90 suited Junior more often. The P-90 bridge position into a Marshall half stack is literally the most "rocknroll" tone possible, whether you're talking punk, glam or metal,  and it's obvious he's using that, probably with a JCM900 . Also, it's like an old vinyl LP- about 45 minutes long- 4 or 5  songs to a "side"- each about 4 to 5 minutes long- like a classic hard rock or metal LP. Oh, and the Beard thing? That's a Maryland/ mid-Atlantic in joke that went international.
Finally, Swingin Utters ( or $wingin utter$, if you prefer) have come back ( we won't mention "Here, Under Protest" because I definitely have a minority viewpoint on that one) and aren't the same band they were in 2000- both literally, and metaphorically. I really like this one because of the difference. See, they'd gone from a generic plaid mohawk retropunk band to a Celtic folkpunknroll band- like Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly, but with a more So-cal Rocknroll vibe, a la Social Distortion. Now, there's an emphasis on clean, or nearly clean rapidly downstroked guitars, like early new wave- and it has that same spastic energy, like a Rezillos, Spizzengergi, Pylon or (more recently) the Briefs. I'm sure this has something to do with Jack Dalrymple- as he'd be the new element. The end result approaches classic postpunk- like the early Pixies, or Strokes, but with a manic garage thrill, like The Hives. The distorted telephone vocals definitely helps to give it the proper "lo fi" setting. It's hard to pick out "standout" tracks, because it all goes rushing by, like a bike messenger with a bad case of assquake. But, Brains and Poorly Formed made it on to my Mp3 player first.  

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