Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
GOSSIP — A Joyful Noise
THE GOOD: Post-punk rock/dance outfit Gossip brings on their fifth.
THE BAD: Neither good nor bad, just “meh.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: You forget about Noise about five minutes after it finishes playing. There’s nothing disagreeable here; just average music done by-the-numbers.
What started out as some “riot girrrrl” concoction in the late ’90s has been slowly inching toward dance/rock abandon for the past half decade. But it’s hard to tell if these ladies are for real or just looking to be the next big crossover. Noise has a few moments that cruise (punchy single “Move in the Right Direction” lights up the room), but even these shining bits feel forced.
Other cuts are just too damn simplistic. “Get a Job” bitches about a lazy roommate and sounds as if its lyrics were scrawled out on a bunch of post-it notes, left behind for the offending party to read. When I’m at work/You’re sleeping in/You need to get a job. Too bad, because front woman Beth Ditto actually has a commanding vocal presence.
BUY IT?: Nah. Killer back beats and the occasional sharp riff can’t save this one.
BATTLEME — Battleme
THE GOOD: Lions’ frontman Matt Drenik relocates to Oregon and offers a no-frills rockin’ solo debut as Battleme.
THE BAD: The record doesn’t explore any uncharted territory, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you just need something to crank while cruising with the top down.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Drenik brings on the straight-forward indie pop; rock songs with just a hint of the electronic to accentuate the backbeats. Cuts like “Wire” and “Woman, I’m A Lost Cause” are all riffs, hooks and forward momentum; three minute gems that get the job done and get out.
But the album also has its share of more introspective bits. Tracks such as “Killer High” and “Doin’ Time in My Head Ain’t Cheap” introduce acoustic elements while openly flirting with classic folk-rock. It’s this effective balance between the two extremes that makes Battleme a satisfying album; varying textures with a consistently high energy level. This is that frothy “poolside” stuff that doesn’t bog itself down with high concepts, intricate arrangements or deep meaning. Battleme just kicks, and that’s enough.
BUY IT?: Give it a shot.
THE TEMPER TRAP — The Temper Trap
THE GOOD: Australian indie pop outfit Temper Trap dodges the sophomore slump.
THE BAD: But this new effort is still far from great.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band’s “Sweet Disposition” was all over the place a couple of summers ago — movie trailers, ads, boring commercial “alternative” radio, etc. Its chugging riffs and rhythms and frontman Doug Mandagi’s smooth falsetto were the stuff of crossover hits.
The debut album Conditions was a heaping helping of more of the same. Now it’s time for seconds, and the new record is not at all sloppy. But Temper Trap is not all that exciting either. This is textbook sensitive guy rock all the way — a dash of Coldplay here, a splash of Snow Patrol there, and a smattering of turn-of-the-century U2 just in case these dudes ever do an American stadium tour.
But there are some spots that leave a lasting impression; spry lead single “Need Your Love,” the simmering “Miracle” and ’50s throwback “I’m Gonna Wait” all being high points. So, what … guilty pleasure?
BUY IT?: Your call. Temper Trap is painfully average, but you could do a hell of a lot worse.
NEW RELEASES — CD
ANTHONY AND THE JOHNSONS —
Cut the World (Live)
NIKI AND THE DOVE — Instinct
SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER — Lost in Transition
ROB ZOMBIE— Mondo Sex Head