Sights & Sounds: Sugar Coated Slacker Pop

LET’S WRESTLE – Nursing Home

THE GOOD: British indie rock trio Let’s Wrestle delivers more hooks, humor and raw emotion on their jagged sophomore effort.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Produced by the legendary Steve Albini (Nirvana, the Pixies, the Wedding Present), Nursing Home possesses that hollow stripped-down kick-in-the-teeth sound for which the producer is known. Vocalist/guitarist Wesley Patrick Gonzalez has also come up with another excellent batch of lazy anthems, once again turning the most mundane subjects into three-minute crunchy pop gems that stick in your brain long after the final guitar thrust has faded into oblivion. Here the lads refuse to grow up while belting out tunes like “In The Suburbs” (having

dinner with your mom and playing video games all night never sounded so appealing) and “I Forgot” (irresponsibility and unreliability may not be annoying qualities after all). It’s as if early Weezer crashed head on into some mid-period Dinosaur Jr. while unpolished Britpop blasted away in the background.

Let’s Wrestle makes music about the (very) common man, but there’s a sly intelligence and wit running throughout these songs. It’s a difficult balance to pull off, but Gonzalez and crew

somehow do.

BUY IT?: Oh yes.

THE JAPANESE POP STARS – Controlling Your Allegiance

THE GOOD: Irish (yeah, they’re not actually from Japan) electronic/dance outfit Japanese Pop Stars give us their sophomore effort and…

THE BAD: …fall victim to the sophomore slump.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Or maybe their music is always this flat. Allegiance is a tight record with some great beats and a few cool guests, but it’s sorely lacking in innovation or anything that seems to drum up any sort of genuine excitement. Think second-rate Chemical Brothers or Crystal Method both circa 2001 and you kind of get where this set (unfortunately) is.

Even a good number of the guest vocalists don’t bring much to the table. The Cure’s Robert Smith mumbles his way through “Take Forever,” sounding either drunk or stuffed to the gills with mashed potatoes. Jon Spencer (of the Blues Explosion) is surprisingly reserved on “Destroy.” Lead single “Let Go” does cook with Green Velvet adding some funky hypnotic touches. “Fight the Night” finds Morgan Kirby delivering a playfully seductive vocal hook over a seamless rhythm. But there are simply not enough of these moments to make the entire set worthwhile.

BUY IT?: I can’t recommend you do.

THE WOMBATS – This Modern Glitch

THE GOOD: British indie poppers The Wombats return with a polished second album.

THE BAD: Too polished? You bet!

THE NITTY GRITTY: The band’s 2007 debut A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation came off like a more cheeky version of the Arctic Monkeys – tight guitar driven tunes with jagged rhythms and a sly sense of humor. Tracks like “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” and “Kill the Director” were positively giddy with just enough aggression to be taken seriously. Glitch finds the band working with a handful of producers (Jacknife Lee and Eric Valentine being just two) and going for an honest-to-goodness hit. The end results aren’t necessarily bad but at the same time, not very exciting. And a few cuts border on downright annoying; “1996″ only a slightly less irritating nostalgia trip than Bowling for Soup’s “1985.” However, the guys still show off their cleverness and melodic prowess on tracks like the sexually charged “Jump into the Fog” or the grand swaying “Schumacher the Champagne.” Too bad the formulaic far outweighs the fascinating.

BUY IT?: Maybe. Glitch isn’t a total loss. But the Wombats have to get back on track next time.

NEW RELEASES – CD

FEIST – Metals

INDIGO GIRLS – Beauty Queen Sister

MERLE HAGGARD – Working in Tennessee

NEW FOUND GLORY – Radiosurgery

WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS – In the Pit of the Stomach

ZOLA JESUS — Conatus

NEW RELEASES – DVD

FAST FIVE with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker

SCREAM 4 with Neve Campbell and Emma Roberts