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Tires in a Jiffy

By Bill Ketzer

Every Time I Die

Gutter Phenomenon (Ferret Music)

Listening to Every Time I Die is exhausting, like watching a woman give birth. They’re doing all the work, but somehow your tongue is dry and thick, too. Let’s face it: This is interesting stuff. It catches the attention right away, and lyrically it is the progeny of a dubious imagination (especially the perhaps prophetic “L’astronaut”). But after 45 minutes, the stoner riffs—exacerbated by nonsense chords and fetid, corrosive metal—just rub you raw. There’s not much you can do while listening to this high-end screamo but chop wood, or maybe have dangerous monkey sex where open wounds occur that can only be closed by surgical staples. Not necessarily a bad thing on a Friday night.

When he’s not screaming at the top of his lungs, singer Keith Buckley sounds, at times, like a beefcaked Robin Zander, but for the most part the coordinates are set on wail-to-the-heavens, which is too bad, because the poetry (not that you can make it out) is compelling and astute. One could almost make the argument that Gutter Phenomenon’s felonious musical assault is a poor vehicle for such rhythmic prose. Not that I’m looking for Joni Mitchell here, but it complicates the matter of whether this is just another destruction of musical theory or the reanimation of its old and gaseous soul.

John Baldry

Boogie Woogie: The Warner Recordings (Rhino Handmade)

Long John Baldry’s two Warner Bros. releases, while not big sellers 35 years ago, were familiar albums on college campuses and in the orange bins of some of the era’s newly adult. It Ain’t Easy, from 1971, and the following year’s Everything Stops for Tea, were perfect distillations of the strengths of the then-30-year-old, 6-foot-7-inch singer. A stalwart of the British blues scene, Baldry discovered Rod Stewart singing on a train platform, and inducted him into his Hoochie Coochie Men. A little while later, Reg Dwight became his piano player in Bluesology. Laying the groundwork for a career at stage center, Mr. Dwight changed his name to Elton John, taking the surname from his erstwhile boss. Stewart and John each produced one side of each of the two albums, using their then- blossoming clout to draw some attention to their mentor.

Hearing the title track to the 1971 album, along with the opening “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll,” makes one wonder why Baldry didn’t make more of an impact in the marketplace. This is lasting and resonant stuff indeed. It’s all aged very well, with perhaps only the era’s propensity for gospel-derived backup singing sounding a bit dated. Sadly, Baldry didn’t live to see this thoughtfully rendered reissue (with additional outtakes, alternate versions and radio spots). Not only did he die last year, but in a peculiar coincidence, so did British saxophonist Elton Dean, from whom Reg Dwight took his new first name.

—David Greenberger

Band of Horses

Everything All the Time (Sub Pop)

We tend to like the familiar, and maybe that explains the buzz surrounding the debut album by the Seattle-based Band of Horses.

Veterans of bands in the Northwest indie-music circuit, singer-guitarists Ben Bridwell and Matt Brooke write anthemic, occasionally catchy songs that fit firmly in the vein of what now passes for college rock. The problem with Everything All the Time is that it sounds uncannily like its competition, and its choice of record producer (Phil Ek, man behind the definitive Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and Shins albums) compounds the issue. The best bands bring their own identity and sound out of the mixture of their influences and their own talents and sensibilities. The sleek, sublunar groove of “Our Swords” is the standout track on a CD that otherwise adheres to the indie-rock playbook. While the first two tracks are the best Shins songs since Oh, Inverted World, “Weed Party” is a bloodless attempt at a My Morning Jacket stomp, replete with a shameless “Yee-Hah!” at the top; next up, there’s an imaginary candlelit meeting with Jim James and Sam Beam on “I Go to the Barn Because I Like the”(sic). When the banjo shows up on the next to last track, “Monsters,” it’s hard not to imagine Ek with checklist in hand saying, “OK, boys, we got the Sufjan reference in. That’s a wrap!”

If you like any of the aforementioned groups, you may love this album. As a casual fan, there’s also a chance you’ll feel you’ve been had. Sub Pop—from the Label That Cobain Built to the Sound of Zach Braff’s Young America—it’s been quite a ride. If it weren’t for Comets on Fire, I’d say they lost their balls in a bargain with the devil.

—Mike Hotter


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