Other reviews (cont.)
Middle Class Rut – 25 Years
‘MCR vs. MOR’
What is best about this EP is that only two band members produce their righteous racket. What is worst is that in places their pedestrian rock is less MCR and more MOR. That they share initials with one of the world’s largest cod-emo pop rockers does not help, despite being completely inconsequential. Nevertheless, presumably to differentiate, their chosen shorthand is the misleading MC Rut.
25 Years is not thus a collection of vitriol spat over fractured beats, it is a collection of Jane’s Addiction-loving vitriol squeezed and screamed out of chugging riffs, which at their best recall Rage Against The Machine, and at their worst, naff-era Offspring. Dashes of At The Drive In-type screamo often accompany these tracks’ peaks. The title track is impressively abrasive, the self-referencing ‘All Walks Of Life’ crashes thrillingly, as it did as the b-side to the excellent ‘Busy Bein’ Born’, which is disappointingly here absent. Lesser tracks do not compensate for this loss.
These Californians hail from Sacramento and by including some filler on this EP have prevented the use of the creative adjective ‘sacramental’, and for this reason alone points could have been deducted. That ‘I Don’t Really Know’ questions its own inclusion, and elsewhere shrugworthy lyrics are leant on such as ‘I came into this world as nothing, I ain’t gonna leave that way’ enforces the point. Repetitive hooks borrowed from Rocket From The Crypt provide variety but are otherwise un-noteworthy. More of this and less of that in future please.
Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter
‘Slow Train To Pleasantville’
It has been a travesty that Grandaddy no longer exist, and a wealth of undeserving posers do, since they called it quits in 2006. Lytle’s solo release goes some way to rectifying this issue. Now, ‘Sophtware Slump’ it is not, but Lytle does prove himself a capable solo artist, successfully plucking the fuzzy, driving sequences from his band’s magnum opus and setting them out like pleasing b-sides to that and other albums.
‘Just Like The Fambly Cat’ was a little bit of a let down on which to limp to a close, ‘Yours Truly, The Commuter’ returns their welcome, dreamy sound with dignity, if not adventure. Its melodies and choruses sit comfortably with identifiable Grandaddiness, see highlight, ‘Ghost Of My Old Dog’. Its trademark indie-rock shuffle is smile-inducingly pleasing, but not groundbreaking.
Elsewhere it plods and sags a little, as perhaps can be expected after a three-year hiatus, but rarely detractingly so. ‘I am Lost (And The Moment Cannot Last)’ employs the piano to credible effect, but on ‘Fürget It’ is amusingly immemorable. This commuter is unlikely to attract new followers, but should gently please veterans. Whilst this album may not reinvigorate nor reinvent Lytle’s career, it confirms there is more than languid life in him yet.
Richard Swift – The Atlantic Ocean
‘A B Sea’
A friend recently asked if I listen to, or merely hear, music. I replied equally pretentiously that I do neither, rather appreciate it, and sometimes, conversely, do not. As such, I appreciate that some people will love this record, but sadly, I am not one of them. It is irrepressibly happy, and takes in various 60s singer-songwriting influences, combines them with some white, falsetto soul and introduces the whole lot to some bouncy keyboards. The resulting collection recalls some forgotten kids’ TV themes (the title track, and ‘A Song For Milton Feher’). It is like Ben Kweller covering Ben Folds tunes, on a sunny day. I’d say infuriatingly light, others may disagree. There is some redemption however in the album’s final track, ‘Lady Luck’, a soulful number devoid of whimsy that brings Cold War Kids to mind. Despite this slight salvation, this album I neither wish to listen to or hear again for some while.
Voxtrot – Voxtrot
‘Voxtrot Echo Romeo Yankee Mike Oscar Romeo’
It was a very wise move to open this eponymous debut with the quietly disturbing ‘Kid Gloves’. All its talk of ‘touching me’, driving guitars and considered mew of a vocal create an affecting and competent opening. Elsewhere, sadly, the effect is less successful and firmly broaches wet nothingness; see ‘Ghost’, ‘Stephen’ and ‘Easy’. ‘Firecracker’ provides hope. It is a lively indie-rock stomper and borrows one of Arcade Fire’s crescendos. However, this promise is short-lived, and soon the listen returns to earnest but light, unadventurous indie schmindie rock-pop. ‘Blood Red Shoes’ ends the album on a relative high, nodding agreeably, but is nowhere near as exciting as the band of the same name; Voxtrot are forever to be dullish also-rans (see Official Secrets Act). Packaging an album with a credible opener shows smarts but it counts for little when there is little in terms of substance to back it up.
Youves – Cardio-Vascular
Less comfortable than the entire output of Radio 4 (band, not yawnsome radio station), but not as groundbreaking as The Rapture were in 2002, Youves breathe a little life into punk-funk’s corpse. Is it innovative? No. Is it enjoyable? Yes. From the whoops and hollers of the magnificently titled ‘Fully Erect Serve And Protect’ to the encourage-able rhythms of ‘Another Djemba Djemba’ this album is a lot of fun. The ever-present and now iconic cowbell puts in a solid performance and the genre’s spiky guitars do all that could be asked of them. Like most, Youves career will probably be short, and is almost entirely borrowed from others’ catalogues. Nevertheless, there is a skill to cherry-picking, and Youves have done it impeccably.
Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
‘Band Of Merry Men’
Adjectives such as earnest, honest, fun-time and warm are bound to be thrown at this release, and deservedly so. However, further examples of that which could be aimed their way are overweight, indulgent and safe. This solid outing houses no surprises, though this is not entirely a bad thing. Alt-country, alt-rock, general Americana and even college rock all get a fair hearing – so far, so Oberst.
Where this template differs is that this is very much a focus on ‘band’, and less on their named leader. There are numerous and varying ‘guest’ vocals sessions from the band members, the most successful of which is probably the liberally affecting first, ‘Big Black Nothing’. In general, the toning down of Oberst is bad news, despite the obvious camaraderie in the recording. Oberst can carry an average song which aplomb, his band mates cannot do so as readily. Oberst rides atop the odd, cute epithet and liberal organ with enigmatic sparkle, but only the acoustic and lingering ‘White Shoes’ and the more solidly rocking ‘I Got A Reason #2’ are ever near his peak.
Elsewhere it is a little Ben Kweller, a little latter-day Kings of Leon and a lot good quality MOR. The earlier half of Outer South’s 16 songs house its best, from the toe-tapping opener with its never-more confident vocal to the strongly Bright Eyes reminiscent ‘To All The Lights In The Windows’. The back end is a let down and provides support to the album being overweight, that said, ‘Roosevelt Room’ is full of rousing spunk and pleasing organ.
Despite not being his best material, Oberst increasingly seems a golden boy. Even when he does not play his best, he still churns out a win, and that consistency is why he finds himself near the top of the contemporary, singer-songerwriter pile. Newcomers would still be best to check out ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ first, his best in terms of accessibility.
You need to be logged in to comment