Conference, Transfer (Fake Chapter)
influences like Sonic Youth and Superchunk aside, the Sixfifteens
could establish themselves as an indie-rock force in their
own right with this first full-length deal. Why? Because unlike
last year’s somewhat fragmented Let’s Not Think About It
EP, on this album the band’s strengths have congealed, each
song a coherent part of the whole sack of screws. Here is
a band who want to kill but not hurt, who proudly deliver
a kind of lost, lunar lamentation, looting the emotions, shooting
high and sleeping in the streets. Yet the effect serves to
uplift. They leave you with grace and sore ears. These souls
aren’t tortured (nor do they pretend to be), just a bit strident
The guitars of Bob Carlton and Jeff Fox compliment each other
with a reverence that creates a surprising amount of muscle.
“The Rapture” is a tremendous example, as is the audio tsunami
of “Tex Watson,” which is compounded tenfold by drummer Joel
Lilley’s kick as it mimics Sharon Tate’s terrified and possibly
visible-by-then heart during a particularly haunting pause.
Here is music that swells and recedes like an uncompromising
tide, and it is during the well-timed crescendos that the
work is at its most powerful, making the almost hesitant quieter
melodies that much more iridescent. And Carlton’s hilarious
auctioneering during “I’m a Shit” and exasperated cantos of
“The Xerox Machine” add that wink of an eye that is so sorely
missing from so much of everything these days.
I’ve never really learned where to put this kind of music—in
my house, in my head, in my heart. But I taste the shattered
glass of the halfway house; I suddenly long to drunk-dial
old friends whose trust I betrayed. It’s another swing of
the axe, a wet kiss. A fast-forward city drive, a flume of
deleterious, hopeful but truculent scrunge, like the smell
of some strange foreign city that delivers total recall when
you return years later. And that feels ridiculously decent.
Hunger Mountain Boys
Ribbon Waltz (Old-Fi)
In the 1930s, singing brother duos accompanying themselves
on acoustic guitar and usually mandolin were among country
music’s biggest stars. Bill and Charlie Monroe, the Louvin
Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and others laid the cornerstone
of bluegrass, and, via the Everly Brothers, even influenced
the Beatles’ vocals. The Hunger Mountain Boys—Teddy Weber
and Kip Beacco of Great Barrington, Mass.—have reached back
to the Depression era to revive this rich duet sound with
their second record, Blue Ribbon Waltz. Although it
doesn’t top the pinnacle of the style, superpickers Tony Rice
and Ricky Skaggs’ 1980 collaboration Skaggs and Rice,
acoustic music fans will love the disc nonetheless.
As with their first CD, Fashioned in the Old Way, Weber
plays guitar and dobro and sings tenor, and Beacco handles
baritone vocals, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. Both are polished
pickers, although the guitar is too low in the mix at times.
Accurate harmony singing as well as strong instrumental chops
also is crucial in this genre, and with the exception of a
few flat notes at the top of Weber’s range in a couple of
cuts, they’re dead on pitch.
The 13 songs on the record range from hard-driving uptempo
tunes to slower weepers. Eight are originals that could pass
for chestnuts from the heyday of the country brother acts,
which is just fine. Highlights include “Dreaming,” in which
the pair switch between call-and-response singing and their
usual two-part harmony, and “Cry Away the Years,” a waltz-time
original about divorce with a memorable line in the chorus:
“For way too long, we’ve gone on snipping each other’s wings.”
Weber plays dobro once on “Cold Feet,” and Beacco’s smooth
fiddling also gets a single cameo on “I’ve Had a Big Time
Today.” The title cut, “Blue Ribbon Waltz,” a sweet, restrained
instrumental, concludes the disc.
Kudos to the Hunger Mountain Boys for revisiting a neglected
corner of American music and getting it right.
and Creation in the Back Yard (Capitol)
Like McCartney, his 1970 solo album, Paul McCartney’s
first studio album in nearly four years is largely self-created—except
it’s produced by Nigel Godrich, who has polished the likes
of Radiohead, Travis and Beck. Counter to its title, Chaos
and Creation is casual and comforting and goes down smooth;
there are echoes of “Blackbird” and “Julia,” latter-day Beatles
tunes. There is remarkable versatility, but in precious few
tracks are there chaos and creation, the forces McCartney
suggests shaped this disc.
The best is “Riding to Vanity Fair,” a dreamy, intoxicating
track about the false steps one might take in forming a friendship.
McCartney says he had trouble fitting “Vanity Fair” onto the
album, and it’s an anomaly, indeed, surfacing between the
skeletal faux-Brasiliana of “A Certain Softness” and the gentle
strum of “Follow Me.” Lyrics have never been McCartney’s forte;
melody is, and it largely serves him well here. Such tunes
as “Fine Line” and the “Let It Be”-like “Anyway” are very
pretty, and production touches like the overdubbed chorus
on “Anyway” and the strings that spice otherwise overly laid-back
But overall, McCartney sounds a mite too comfortable here.
The rocker who last surfaced on Run Devil Run, a stunningly
slick and hard collection of covers McCartney released in
1999, is nowhere to be heard.