On this, their fourth disc, Texans Slobberbone have shaken
off any remaining traces of the twang that had folks lumping
them into the alt-country or cowpunk spheres. The result is
the group’s best outing—a big, joyful, shaggy album full of
straight-ahead rock and thick, clotted guitars that sounds
like it could have been forged in the college-rock expanses
of late-’80s Minneapolis. This is the kind of pugilistic,
no-frills rock that would have done a pre-sobriety Paul Westerberg
The opener, “Springfield, IL,” is a fierce declaration of
intent, announcing itself with one roughed-up guitar chord
that is allowed to sear across several seconds before Brent
Best’s fierce, mangy voice leaps out and the thunderous bottom
of Brian Lane’s bass begins to barrel along. But guitarist
Jess Barr eventually steals the show, first noodling away
at the corners of the song with some Byrdsy arpeggios and
then tossing off a couple of barbed solos. “Butcher” is all
claptrap rumble and taut squalor, while the morality tale
“Find the Out” reeks of anthem and features some fine lyrical
snap (“A pothole’s teeth makes tires slide/Two shoulders too
thin to abide/A sleeping driver, wayward truck, now he’s stuck
. . .”).
The only missteps here are the tepid rawk balladry on the
sole cover, the early Bee Gees’ hit “To Love Somebody,” and
the lighter-raising, Southern-friedisms of “Sister Beams,”
which seems better suited for the misty, redneck balladeer
side of Kid Rock than Slobberbone. Nevertheless, by the time
the listener reaches the acoustic, dobro-smattered closer
“Back,” any minor trespasses are forgiven. On Slippage,
Slobberbone come off like the affable fuck-ups who done good.
Their earnest attitude, fat-ass rock, and utter lack of self-importance
are hard to resist.
Selected by Brian Wilson (Capitol)
This 20-track compilation is the Beach Boys according to Brian
Wilson. Say what you will about his emotional and psychological
state over the 15-odd years the Beach Boys were a creative
force; this CD makes the case that Wilson never lost it in
the sense in which he is usually accused—the neurotic, drug-addled
fuck-up who wrecked his band with self-indulgence.
The period in which the band sang about sun, surf, hot rods
and chicks is represented by exactly six songs, and there
isn’t a dud in the bunch (e.g., “Don’t Worry Baby,” “I Get
Around”). There are two tracks from Pet Sounds; not
incidentally, they’re two of Wilson’s best songs, “God Only
Knows” and “Caroline, No.” The rest are hits that never happened.
From the tour de force “Heroes and Villains” to the gorgeous
“Surf’s Up” and “Time to Get Alone,” this is very fine pop
music that was ignored by radio and the public.
More than any other ’60s band, the Beach Boys were prisoners
of their success. When they stopped singing about having fun
fun fun, their commercial prospects dimmed. This CD makes
the case that the Beach Boys made it through to the early
’70s with vision intact.
Though he ignores some key songs, Brian Wilson’s compiling
instincts are sound. He may not be completely satisfied with
“Sail On, Sailor,” but it’s on the disc. Why? Because, as
he admits in the liner notes, “I love how this song rocks.”
Yes it does.
Now 58 years old, Gordon Haskell is a veteran of the English
music scene. Over nearly 40 years, he has been a member of
King Crimson, has played with Cliff Richard and Tim Hardin,
and was Jimi Hendrix’s roommate for a while. And that’s just
the tip of the iceberg. In recent years he was stoically cranking
out tunes to drunks in bars. Then something magical happened,
the sort of thing that brings on unforeseeable good fortune
while being completely unexpected. Spurred on by a dare, Haskell
mustered together 300 bucks and recorded a song live in the
studio called “How Wonderful You Are.” It’s a jazzy ballad
that manages to remain cliché-free while being built of widely
recognizable components. The BBC aired the song last September,
and it became its most requested song ever (surpassing previous
record holders “Hey Jude” and “My Way”). It’s an uplifting
song that engages a wide range of listeners with ease. It
also repels others because of its inherent mellowness, though
those same people often hum along in spite of themselves.
There’s an easy familiarity to Haskell’s songs and singing.
He’s not reinventing the wheel, and that in and of itself
is a comfort.
(The Mindleach Recording Company)
eponymous debut disc from 50 Man Machine offers one of the
most diverse, if not perverse, instrumental attacks ever captured
in a recording studio, as steel pans, turntables, bagpipes,
double bass, experimental sound collages, mandolin, clarinets
and even an udu or two slug it out for sonic space.
In less able hands, such an eclectic mixture of textures could
lead to an auditory train wreck—but under 50 Man mastermind
L. Collier Hyams’ able direction, the results are strikingly
effective, never smacking of instrumental gimmickry or musical
oddness for musical oddness’ sake. Hyams’ songs are, for the
most part, strong and straightforward, and his guitar and
vocal work underpin the whole project with a twang-flavored
Americana feel, one that provides ample room for the army
of other instruments and players to find, explore and exploit
their own acoustic niches.
featuring Scott Smallwood’s steel pans and Neil Anderson’s
pipes generally evoke the Caribbean or Celtic flavors or those
instruments’ homelands (although this is as much a function
of preconditioned listening reflex as it is a function of
the songs themselves), while the remainder of 50 Man Machine
taps an indescribable vein of musical internationalism without
the lowest-common-denominator reductiveness that renders so
many so-called “world music” discs so completely disposable.
All told, this is a challenging and rewarding record from
artists who seem willing not only to color outside the lines,
but to toss the whole damn coloring book out the window, drawing
instead in burnt umbers and siennas and taupes and heliotropes
and fuchsias on the walls of places normally decorated in
simple primaries and pastels. Worth a peek, for sure.