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.