Music Reviews by Jason Fierstein, Jon Roig, Andrew Berenson, Greg D'Avis and Eben Gering
Machines of Loving Grace
Maybe it was the sheer innovation and groundbreaking vigor of the Machines of Loving Grace that kept attracting more and more crowds unfamiliar with their experimental sounds. Or, maybe it was never-ending creativity in response to fear of falling into the bland "industrial" pool that has been, in recent years, milked dry by bands eager to capitalize on that musical frontier.
Whatever may be the case, Tucson's own Machines of Loving Grace continue to better themselves with each successive album, and "Gilt", the Machines' third and latest release off of the Mammoth Records label, is the fruit of their labor. The album welds old Machines sound, characterized by a more electrically-produced keyboard sound, with a newer sound which captures the quintessence of the band - the quintessential live sound of the Machines of Loving Grace.
"Gilt" boasts creative and intelligent song writing, crunching live instruments over programmed pyrotechnics and a worthy album production courtesy of Sylvia Massy (Tool, the former Prince, Luscious Jackson). Tracks from "Gilt" originally were recorded at Indigo Ranch in Malibu using prehistoric analog gear dated back to the 60's and 70's and then laid under more complex technological sounds from the Machines' Tucson studio, Sensory Deprivation Labs. The resulting sounds: highly defined industrial/rock that follows no lead (e.g. Nine Inch Nails) and leaves no trail for imitators looking to cash in on a quick industrial buck. The album's clarity goes to the edge without succumbing to sounding "too good" and too commercial-friendly.
From the get-go, "Gilt" starts off with a "Richest Junkie Still Alive", a track dealing with someone dealing with dependency and addiction due to the free-flowing amount of disposable cash available to him. "Animal Mass" has a very Nails-like approach to it, although it doesn't redundantly drag through the murky sludge. It's a Danzig-meets-Ministry's Al Jorgensen for a drum beat-off kind of track. "The Soft Collision" is the Machine's version of a ballad; Scott Benzel's vocals lure listeners into a gradual descent from the beginning. Each song has depth, from the subjective gloom of the lyrics to the haunting lyrics that linger in back of the fuzz and feedback layers, both synthesized and instrument-driven.
"Gilt" pulls together the band members in a more unified and coherent fashion. It lacks the inconsistent feel left in the past when the Machines would conglomerate with keyboards and work less as a functional band. The best part about this album is that the Machines have successfully integrated the live instrumental sound into "Gilt" but still maintain their trademarked electro-innovation via keyboards and computers and their integrity. For those still unaware of the fact that Tucson does have a blossoming music scene, try out the Machines of Loving Grace's "Gilt" and stake your claim in a band who's bordering on breakthrough. J.F.
Maynard Ferguson & BIG BOP NOUVEAU
These Cats Can Swing!
AHhhggg (that's onomonopia(SP?) for me screaming)... From out of the Lawrence Welk show and into my living room, comes the big band horror of Maynard Ferguson. This is absolutely the worst thing I've ever heard. Worse than Nelson, worse than Bruce Willis, and worse than the Electric Moog Orchestra performing the music of "Star Wars" because at least all that stuff is funny. As good as the title is, there's just nothing amusing about the white-boy R&B of "I Don't Want To Be A Hoochi Coochie Man No Mo'." And, please believe me when I tell you that you don't want to hear Maynard Ferguson, whoever he is, performing Indian mediation music on "Sweet Baba Suite." I'm just going to pretend I never heard this and go on with my life... and I hope that I never encounter Maynard in a dark alley.J.R.
Washing Machine is a fresh-scented, well-cleansed album proving Sonic Youth's ability to expand the frontier they began. The title of the album may be a reference to Sonic Youth's last venture, Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star - the dirty laundry of an almost flawless musical career.
For those of you who feared that Sonic Youth had fallen into the ruts of the GenX-rocker track, rest assured. Sonic have resurfaced with an album that is simultaneously looser and equally powerful to their earlier projects like Dirty and Daydream Nation. They seem to be calmly reassuring fans that in a world of dying rock demi-gods they will not be moved.
The album begins with "Becuz" - a catchy, ready-for-radio-song featuring Kim Gordon's captivating vocals and a feedback solo that will leave even fans familiar with Sonic's feedback frenzies breathless.
Other songs to watch out for are "Washing Machine", an internal exploration of the band's own sound, and "Unwind" - an enchanting and mellow hymn to the art of relaxation.
"Trouble Girl" features Breeders artist (former Pixie) Kim Deal and will induce either laughter, sorrow or confusion but is authentically original and empathetic to a young girl's dilemma. "Panty Lies" continues Kim Gordon's exploration of female adolescence with equally moving innovation.
What truly sets this album apart from previous ones is "The Diamond Sea." Those who had the misfortune of being at Lollapalooza will remember this twenty minute beauty as the most innovative and energetic part of the show. Band member Thurston Moore describes the song as "An incredible multi-part journey through the dark heart of the faux alternative universe." Initially, the 15 minutes of feedback seems a bit self-indulgent, but as the "journey" continues harmonies flower amid distortion to reveal a carefully planned chaos. The chorus of the song will ricochet through a listener's head for days; so too will the eerie, resurrected band we've waited so long to hear more of. E.G.
I Heard They Suck Live
Fat Wreck Chords
NOFX, a punk band that has walked the longest line, been punk in drublic, as well as drunk in public, have released a live album for our listening pleasure.
After inspiring about 1/2 of the California punk scene, it seems fitting that such a great band would release a killer live album that puts other live albums to shame. Recorded in Hollywood in January of this year in a three gig stint (well actually two...the first night they were too drunk to play well), this is a compilation of the last two nights of manic mayhem as only NOFX can pull off.
From the opening song, "Linoleum" with its hellacious intro to the last song, "Buggly Eyes" a tribute to Louis Armstrong NOFX grabs you by the neck and never lets go. I mean, if you actually turn up your stereo loud enough, you can actually feel as if you are right there in the crowd getting insulted by Fat Mike (bassist, lead whiner) or listening to El Hefe (guitarist, impersonator extraordinaire) talk about what parts of his body he's going to get pierced after the show.
Other highlights are "Moron Brothers," a song about two guys who will go down on anyone, including your mother and your sister; "Bob," an outcast of society who shaves his head, rides his scooter, and never walks the line; and "The Brew," which celebrates the Jewish religion, and orthodox Jews in general. Besides playing a lot of their classics, NOFX also digs deep into their past by pulling out two songs "Beer Bong" which states that drinking beer is too slow, beer bong is the way to go, and "Six Pack Girls" which appeared on their first album, Maximum Rock and Roll. Both of these tracks show how NOFX has grown out of obscurity to be the kings of the punk underground.
Also, before I said that this album blows any other live album away, for it has guts and balls, something not too many bands have (The Ramones Loco Live is excluded here). On many other live albums, bands tend to drift off into space playing five hour solos that leave at least this listener bored and tired. And many times if someone in the crowd insults the band, they will get ridiculed or possibly beaten up by that band, but NOFX do the opposite. Not only do they expect people to ridicule them, but they encourage the whole crowd to do it.
So, finally, to sum up this review, buy this album (it rocks), see NOFX live as much as possible (believe me, they don't suck live), and give Fat Mike the finger for me.A.B.
Damn! This is a fine album! It seems that everyone, including I, was a little suspicious about Boss Hog's first major label release, ans was quick to call it "selling out." But, after just one listen to Boss Hog, it was obvious Boss Hog's sound is as true and raw as ever.
It's pretty much a given that anything Jon Spencer has to do with is going to be great, but after hearing Boss Hog had signed on to DGC, I became a little doubtful. In an interview I read with Spencer, he said the decision had been pretty much Cristina's (Spencer's wife and lead singer of Boss Hog). Spencer said Cristina wanted to be a rock star, and with this new album, it seems as though she might be closer than she thinks.
A little of Pussy Galore, Blues Explosion, and a lot of Boss Hog, this album has too many fine tracks to list, beginning with "Winn Coma." "Stand back, let me suck your belly dry," Cristina snarls, while Spencer's shouts and rants back her up.
I'm inclined to declare "Ski Bunny" the best track off the album, but it really does have too many good songs. "Fuck school!" Cristina yells, in what seems like a fun teen anthem. "Ski bunny, suicide," Spencer sings.
"I dig your groovy hips," he sings to Cristina in "I Dig You," while Cristina answers "I dig your barbecue lips!" At first I thought this song was a little silly, but with Spencer's knee melting vocals and Cristina's crooning, it quickly became one of the most fun songs on the album and one of my favorites. Who besides Jon Spencer could make lyrics like "I ate scum off the street, ate raw macaroni," sound tough? And I like it when he spits.
The only real flaw in the album is "Texas," which I hope has some purpose that I'm just not aware of. I have to admit that this song literally hurt my ears. With predominant violins, a dramatic Cristina produces a song that sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of some gothic vampire movie. It was quite confusing to discover it in the midst of such good music.
However, Boss Hog quickly makes up for it by ending the album with one of the best songs, "Sam," in which Cristina properly calls out "It feels good!"
Full of attitude and groove, Boss Hog's major label debut is by far some of the best shit I've heard in a long time. F.H.
Read Next Article