CD Reviews: A Static Lullaby, Tori Amos, The Robot Ate Me

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 3, 2005

Faso Latido by A Static Lullaby

You know that one rock-singer guy that sounds like all the rest of the rock-singer guys out there? A Static Lullaby's vocalist Joe Brown doesn't sound like that guy, he sounds like he's impersonating that guy.

There's nothing vocally original on Faso Latido; it all sounds very safe. The album features lots of screaming though, so you know they're passionately trying to express their pent-up rage and sorrow. So, I suppose they get a few points for trying.

The instruments play essentially the same game as the vocals, not attempting to veer too much from the accepted norm, lest they be considered "radical" or "interesting." The guitarist's melodies are simply uninspired and uninteresting and the drummer's beats are monotonous, at best.

In fact, because of this, it's difficult to distinguish where one track ends and another begins. Every new track sounds so damn much like the previous one that it's hard to tell, or care, that the song has changed.

"Faso Latido" does feature some semi-catchy songs with "Smooth Modulator" and "Stand Up." These songs have a few decently crafted hooks in their choruses that might perk you up, but then the rest of the album plays out and you realize what a fool you've been to get your hopes up.

"Half Man, Half Shark; Equals One Complete Gentleman" (yes, that's a song title...) starts off like it won't be traditional hard rock, but quickly corrects itself to sound just like the rest of the songs. It's like they were trying to make a different-sounding song and then thought, "Oops! Woah, we almost got dangerously original, there. Let's cut the bullshit and get back to what we do best: imitation!"

There's a 90 percent chance that if you went into a music store blindfolded you'd leave with a band that sounds like this. I recommend that course of action over buying this album on purpose.

Shawn Patrick Green

Trademark Tori weirdness can't redeem 'Beekeeper'

The biggest problem with Tori Amos' new album, The Beekeeper, is that it sounds like every other Tori Amos album - if every other album were mixed together, muted a bit and the piano was replaced with a Bösendorfer organ. That's not to say that The Beekeeper isn't a good album; it just doesn't add anything to Amos' catalog of already similar sounding songs. It's just a little (dare I say it?) boring.

Amos' fans will be disappointed to find that her newest musical endeavor is virtually bereft of her infamously melodic, siren-like shrieking. In fact, the album is so toned down compared to albums like Boys For Pele and From the Choirgirl Hotel, that it sounds more like an adult contemporary compilation than it does an album of feminist anthems.

The Beekeeper is a conceptual album, on which Amos attempts to explore religion, female roles and sexuality, all under the guise of walking through six separate gardens. The problem, however, with anything conceptual, is that it's hardly ever practical, and The Beekeeper is no exception. The songs are arranged in an arbitrary order, which has nothing to do with the "gardens" to which they are assigned. The only way in which one would know how they were supposed to be grouped together would be to read the CD insert, which, thankfully, I did. I'd hate to think I missed the artist's conception.

In typical Tori fashion, The Beekeeper features songs about sex ("Hoochie Woman," "Sleeps With Butterflies" and the lackluster duet "The Power of Orange Knickers" featuring Damien Rice), as well as songs that make you want to have sex. Amos' sultry vocals are at their finest on "Sweet the Sting," which is arguably the album's sexiest track, featuring a pseudo-samba rhythm.

There's a Catch-22 involved with being a critically acclaimed musician. On the one hand, you're expected to retain your trademark sound, lest fans call you a sellout. On the other hand, you're supposed to grow and evolve as an artist to prevent those same fans from becoming bored. Someone should let Ms. Amos know that she is in no danger of becoming a sellout. Until that happens, Tori may find herself popular with the soccer-mom set. They're much too busy to notice that they're bored.

Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Robot Ate Me takes long strange 'Vacation'

Music that aims to be weird and strange often, sadly, just comes off as annoying. The same could be said about double albums, whose tremendous lengths are often unnecessary. This would, in theory, place The Robot Ate Me's new, strange double album, On Vacation, in some bad company.

Luckily, mastermind Ryland Bouchard has enough sense to avoid many of the pitfalls committed by his peers.

Bouchard's On Vacation (broken into Vol. I and Vol. II) is a treat to listen to despite stretching out over two discs and being, well, weird.

Vol. I starts the strange parade off with the aged dance number "The Genocide Ball." The track uses an old big band recording as its backing while Bouchard croons a fantastical tune about, duh, genocide.

"Come put your shoes on/ Let's go out tonight/ There's a genocide ball to attend."

The rest of Vol. I tackles everything from the creepy noir electronics of "Jesus and Hitler" to the twisted nursery rhymes of "Crispy Christian Tea Time" with rarely a misstep in the mix.

The track "The Republican Army" highlights Vol. I with its strange waltz conducted amidst a drum machine's death. Meanwhile, Bouchard woozily bemoans the state of things, keeping in line with the rest of Vol. I.

"Why did they make us alive in a world/ Where all we can do is say 'it's fucked up.'"

Vol. II, in stark contrast, starts out on a decidedly happy note with the electronic bounce of "On Vacation." The song is a perfect slice of indie-pop that maintains the band's strangeness while presenting a markedly more upbeat message.

"Lets hold hands/ When we take off today/ I think I miss the way we used to be."

In fact, the whole of Vol. II nicely counteracts Vol. I's pessimistic crawl with its optimistic sprint. "The Red-Haired Girl" stands as its crown gem, adding a nice rocky kick to the generally slow, yet melodic mix.

Bourchard's voice, however, keeps its eerie and whispery tremble throughout both albums, highlighting his delicate singing as an instrument in its own right.

On Vacation's only real flaw is its ability, particularly on Vol. II, to blend into one dreamy, pop sound. Strangely, it is a flaw that grows less bothersome with each listen, and with both discs adding to just over 40 minutes of music it lends itself well to repeat listens.

While the subject matter may be a bit heavy, the music never is. On Vacation manages to remain a surprisingly simple listen despite forcing Jesus and Hitler to get it on in the back of a taxi.

Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat