Catch-up: Last month in rock (sort of)

There are a great deal of records that I would love to have the time to talk about in depth; Morrisey’s Greatest Hits (not his first and most likely not his last, but probably both for me), The Used’s Shallow Believer (hey, remember when McCracken and Way were bosom buddies and that was enough to sell records?), Vampire Weekend’s eponymous (that indie record every major musical publication shit themselves over)… But doesn’t not talking about an album get the point across just as well? Doesn’t it say more if I choose not to lambast a record on the mere intentional spite the omission inspires, that I’m unwilling to even mention a crappy record in the off chance someone might take it upon themselves to prove me wrong? You are welcome, then, to take a listen to Junkie XL’s Booming Back at You. Don’t stop there, take a listen to The Hush Sound and Panic at the Disco‘s newest as well (did anyone else notice all the Sgt. Pepper references in reviews for that record? It’s like Pretty. Odd. has become the Sam’s Town of 2008 for musical musers across the board). But what about the records that were good, just not good enough?

PlayRadioPlay! released Texas last month and the electropop world was immediately abuzz (abuzz = blogs caring enough to upload the leaks). While there’s nothing remotely ambitious about the lyrics (drug addiction, ode to real-time girlfriends), the style of the record appears oddly simple, with grade-school lyrics, low-key tempos, and thin, Death Cab-inspired vocals. While “Some Crap About the Furniture” is a testament to the youthfulness of the record (“You were the best thing summer gave me / Better than silence and no school“), keeping target audience hardly ambiguous, the momentum of the record is ultimately sustained when teenage-cry-cry tracks like “Without Gravity” and “More Like Worst” pigeonhole the record into the typical teenage MySpace chewing gum samples. “Forgiveness, the Enviable Trait,” one of the only moody tracks worth a further listen (and composition: at 2:21 its transience could be the sole hook) provides little consolation: what is the point of this record again? Saying something like that could easily overlook the one incredible half of this record, but there’s not much to do with the leftover tracks.

You wouldn’t be hard pressed to find American rock inspired acts outside of the continent, and while this would be the perfect introduction to ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION’s March album WORLD WORLD WORLD, I’d rather turn it over to Nell, a Korean rock band who released Separation Anxiety and that I, admittedly, did not get around to until two weeks ago (I could talk about WORLD WORLD WORLD but that band has become such a disappointment since Sol-fa, it’s better if I let them die a quiet death). The title song would have you making epic predictions for the rest of the album, which is, of course, hardly the case. “Separation Anxiety” has an amazing melody and finishes on a sweet note (OK, I have no idea what the lyrics are, but the song sounds sad enough – I won’t digress and begin discussing what wonders the intangibility of words can do to a music piece, not here) and “Moonlight Punch Romance” is, well, exactly like the title sounds. It’s amazing: in a country that seems proud that both pop and rock records are inundated with ballads that sound like every Top 40 ballad of the early 90s, that a record finally, maybe, wouldn’t do that, but then it doesn’t have time to, not when it’s busy re-writing each of the songs in succession, some with success (“Afterglow,” the brilliant English-lyriced “Tokyo”), most with failure (everything I didn’t just mention). And dude, he like, totally stole Taka’s glasses in the promotional video.

The days when Q101 weren’t just relevant, they were purveyors of alternative, seem so long ago and that’s probably because they were. I can’t think of anywhere but college radio that Boy Kill Boy’s Stars and the Sea would not only be played, but hailed as the forthcoming Audioslave (do kids still listen to that? I’m stuck for an analogy and uninterested in doing research). The record has some clever punk influences scattered among the tracks, enough to keep them edgy and exciting (“No Conversation,” “Loud and Clear,” the Ramones-esque “Two Soul” – that’s Joey, not the band), but there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the album that makes you want to go out and, you know, download it (the ultimate in 21st century scorn, I know).

Neon Neon isn’t a rock band, not exactly, but I’m going to stretch the Cars influence on Stainless Style as far as I can so I can babble a bit about “Dream Girls,” “I Told Her on Alderaan,” and “Raquel.” More New Order than Big Country, the tracks are nothing less than clever pop tracks that wouldn’t seem out of place on some big name 80s reunion tour (even the vocals sound of-the-date), yet I still can’t think of a better way to relive one of music’s most fun decades without being nauseatingly indulgent in cliches. Yet while “Steel Your Girl” and “I Lust U” are pretty catchy (hey, is that italo disco?), the MSI vocals of “Trick for Treat” and meaningless repetition of “Sweat Shop” and “Luxury Pool” close the doors on the decade, bringing the grunge and rap of the early 90s that ended the party for many a weekend cokehead businessman.


7 thoughts on “Catch-up: Last month in rock (sort of)

  1. noonan April 29, 2008 / 11:01 am

    is the Vampire Weekend album any good, or is every one shitting themselves over nothing? that one song is catchy as all get out, but probably too catchy for the album to be any good. just curious.

  2. vinyabarion April 29, 2008 / 12:51 pm

    First off, why does a song being catchy make it bad?

    Secondly, the second to last quip was really funny. About downloading… hi-la-ri-ous… 😀


  3. noonan April 29, 2008 / 1:52 pm

    it doesn’t. Vampire Weekend just gives me a one hit wonder (if there is such a thing in Indie rock) kinda vibe. I haven’t heard the rest of the album yet, so I could be way off.

  4. Anna April 29, 2008 / 4:37 pm

    noonan: The Vampire Weekend album was probably one of my worst listening experiences of the past five years. It’s so folksy and simple, it makes Bob Dylan look metal.

    vinyabarion: Catchy does not equal bad. As far as I’m (and the dictionary) is concerned, catchy is a good thing.

  5. lisa April 29, 2008 / 10:57 pm

    Ok, I’m sorry. I have to say it, and I can hear you now (WTF, LISA?!) Darren just posted a blog about Neon Neon and likes “I lust U”. Which means two of my most favorite musicians mentioned the same band, which makes me excited enough to mention it here just so I can say “Darren” again and annoy you as well as pollute your blog with my babbling crap.

    Ok then. I’m done now. :P~

  6. lisa April 29, 2008 / 11:01 pm

    Also…wtf is up with the jellyfish? O_o

  7. Anna May 2, 2008 / 11:47 pm

    lisa: Darren has good taste in music. Also, I don’ t know what is up with jellyfish, but it would be unrealistic to say there aren’t stranger videos out there.

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