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Crestfallen

Interpol

Our Love to Admire (capitol)

Capitol Records, the new major-label home of Interpol, did the band a great disservice when they released the group’s new album, Our Love to Admire, in July. Interpol just aren’t a summertime band. They ain’t no sunshine-loving, arena-anthem-creating, summer-sing-along act. Hell, you shouldn’t even put an Interpol CD into your player if the sun is still in the sky. Like Depeche Mode and Joy Division, Interpol’s songs just don’t properly resonate until their weighty gloom can be supported by darkness. (Snow and/or rain also help.) Interpol know this; Paul Banks even croons it on one of the album’s stand-out tracks, “Scale”: “You think they know us now?/Wait ’til the stars come out.”

Our Love to Admire finds the band stripping themselves of most of their friendlier traits. In most cases, the punk-disco beats that drove their last two albums are gone, replaced by steady, funeral-march drumming. Album opener “Pioneer to the Falls” is relatable to “Untitled” or “NYC” from the band’s debut, but rather than being propelled by throbbing bass lines and echoing drums, the song snakes along with spiky guitar leads and twinkling piano, until a cascading guitar break sends the song spiraling to its trumpet-dominated end.

The upbeat numbers pay off quickly. “The Heinrich Maneuver,” “No I in Threesome” and “Who Do You Think?” are playful and propulsive, featuring Interpol’s classic swagger and knowing wink. “All Fired Up” is an album highlight that gives off a Talking-Heads-meets-Mogwai vibe, and could easily earn the band a radio hit; it stomps like no Interpol track has stomped before.

Other tracks make you work for the reward, like the Pixies-inspired “Rest My Chemistry,” which rather humorously details Banks’ cocaine troubles. That song and “Mammoth,” a freight train of a song that finds Banks repeating “Spare me the suspense,” announce that the party is over, and real life has set in for the notorious NYC socialites. Gone are the dance beats, along with the hope that rock & roll is going to fix everything. As it turns out, it just makes everything worse: drugs, Hollywood girlfriends, hangers-on, forgotten family, hangovers and excess, excess, excess.

So welcome to the new, extra-depressed world of Interpol. It may not be so much fun right now, but wait until that next breakup, ’til the leaves fall off the trees and it’s too cold to go outside. Or, as Banks says, just wait ’til the stars come out.

—David King

Rufus Harley

Courage: The Atlantic Recordings (Rhino Handmade)

On Nov. 25, 1963, jazz saxophonist Rufus Harley had an epiphany. All activities across the country were at a standstill for President Kennedy’s funeral. As Harley watched the procession on television, nine bagpipers played as they solemnly strode in the procession, and he knew instantly how to achieve the sounds that had thus far been only in his head. An accomplished player on tenor and soprano sax, as well as flute, he was to set them all aside, devoting himself to becoming a piper inside a jazz setting.

Courage is an apt title, for Harley was seen by some as a novelty act, by others as a sonic visionary. With his four Atlantic albums now nearing 40 years old, they sound as bracing as ever. He dealt with the inherent range and key limitations of the bagpipes by never pushing them into contexts where they would fail. Producer Joel Dorn, who also worked with such ’60s jazz iconoclasts as Yusef Lateef and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, helped find contemporary material from the pop canon that sounds absolutely riveting—all the more so now that the original hits (including “Windy,” “Sunny,” and “Love Is Blue”) are fading away. Sadly, Harley succumbed to cancer at the age of 70 just months before this set was released. He was abreast of the preparations though, delightedly announcing, “It’s bagpipe time!”

—David Greenberger

Moby Grape

Listen My Friends! The Best of Moby Grape (Columbia/Legacy)

Largely confined to the dustbin of rock history, the San Francisco-based band Moby Grape have long been tagged as one of rock’s more crestfallen contenders for musical glory. Coming on like Buffalo Springfield’s punkier younger brothers, Moby Grape, on their 1967 debut, made an album treasured by psych-rock fans as a high-water mark: an abundance of hook-filled rock, soul and country sent into amphetamine-fueled hyperdrive. (Unlike their buddies in the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, these guys craved concision, with only two of the debut’s 13 songs clocking in over three minutes.) But as great as their first record was, common wisdom has held that their subsequent releases stunk to high Valhalla. While this one-disc retrospective does much to rectify the Grape’s reputation as a one-album wonder, there is the un mistakable sense of a band losing their moorings as the disc nears its end.

Kicking off with six unimpeachable classics from the debut, the disc takes a quick dive with “Bitter Wind,” a bit of treacly hippiedom that flounders despite the ballsy singing and typically amazing bass playing of Bob Mosley. “Murder in My Heart for the Judge” and “Can’t Be So Bad” (where the band take a swing at the style of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and improve upon it), from the sophomore album Wow, show the band developing on their strengths, and knowing that these gems will never get played on the oldies stations that they belong on is one of the pains of being a Grape fan.

Skip Spence devotees get two rare finds here: “Motorcycle Irene,” a paean to a biker chick that literally ends with a crash, and “Seeing,” a song that sounds like Spence and the rest of the band going their separate ways. As the last few songs on this peculiarly saddening compilation attest, the band became disillusioned, still playing a far- seeing version of country-rock but without the bite that they or similar bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers were capable of. “Truly Fine Citizen,” the title track of their fifth and final album, closes things out on a high, with Jerry Miller and Don Stephenson somehow channeling the sound and vision of the absent Spence, at least for a glorious 1:48—they must have given their all, for the silence that follows is deafening.

(Coxsackie’s Sundazed Records will reissue the first five Moby Grape albums this fall.)

—Mike Hotter


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