Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
JACK WHITE — Blunderbuss
THE GOOD: Detroit rocker Jack White cooks up his first solo effort.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: For almost 15 years, the man has cranked out quality work with the likes of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. Only the Stripes are officially broken up, which means White didn’t necessarily have to go solo. But the time was right.
White brings on the usual mix of hard rock, blues, rockabilly, country and rough R&B. But the music is more soulful this time. Songs like “Freedom at 21” and “Love Interruption” manage to move us without punchy backbeats. But that doesn’t mean they’re mellow. You can tell something is simmering beneath the surface, ready to pop any second.
More direct tunes like the jagged “Sixteen Saltines” and jumpy R&B classic “I’m Shakin’” (the only cover on the record) find the guy in rare form, flawlessly combining our more organic past with the electric present. And the occasional nod to those smoky honky-tonks or southern gospel churches of yesteryear only makes this tapestry even richer. Blunderbuss feels like the man’s past work but also explores new territories.
BUY IT?: Oh yeah.
ELECTRIC GUEST — Mondo
THE GOOD: L.A. based trio Electric Guest bring on their debut.
THE BAD: If something crosses over into the mainstream, there’s an A&R feeding frenzy looking for copycat bands that are at least close to capturing the original’s feel and momentum. But what comes later is never as satisfying as what came first. And if you’re a couple of generations removed from the trailblazer — forget it. Electric Guest feels like a third generation band.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Mondo was produced by Danger Mouse, and different tracks immediately recall two past DM projects. The upbeat R&B flavored stuff sounds like Gnarles Barkley without Cee-Lo Green. The more laid back moments resemble Broken Bells without James Mercer’s songwriting. And twinges of MGMT’s more radio-friendly material are all over this thing too. But Electric Guest isn’t as memorable as any of those aforementioned acts.
Just as Nirvana begat the inferior Bush which begat the even more inferior Silverchair two decades ago, Electric Guest find themselves at the end of the whole dance/rock/soul hybrid thing which has been chugging away for almost a decade now.
BUY IT?: Your call. Mondo has its moments, but you’ve heard them before.
ISLANDS — A Sleep and a Forgetting
THE GOOD: Ongoing Canadian indie rock project Islands (singer/songwriter Nick Thorburn and whomever he happens to be playing with this year) releases their (his?) fourth.
THE BAD: No gripes. Once again though, Islands revamps and redefines their sound; one could never accuse Thorburn of making the same record twice. Enter with an open mind.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Recorded in about two weeks with very little overdubs, A Sleep is the most intimate and emotionally open Islands record yet. Written in the wake of a bitter break-up and relocation to the west coast for Thorburn, the collection is a stripped down somewhat melancholy affair; our guy sounding like a cross between your favorite Pacific-northwest bearded band and some haunting late ’90s Mercury Rev. Tracks such as “This Is Not a Song” and “Can’t Feel My Face” embrace the sadness in settings both subdued and forceful.
But A Sleep is not a downer. Thorburn keeps the set balanced, bouncing between lyrical and musical extremes. One could hardly call cuts like the catchy “Hallways” or the swaying “Lonely Love” depressing.
BUY IT?: Yes. A Sleep is another quality shift in an eclectic catalog.
NEW RELEASES — CD
CROCODILES — Endless Flowers
FRIENDS — Manifest
THE HIVES — Lex Hives
MYNABIRDS — Generals
THE TEMPER TRAP — The Temper Trap
NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE — Americana