“Leaders of the Free World”
4 out of 5 stars
It took long enough for Elbow’s latest album to reach U.S. soil, as it was first released in the group’s native United Kingdom back in September of last year.
The new record, its third overall, helps define Elbow as a major player in the new era of Brit-pop, which includes such groups as Doves, Starsailor, South and Turin Brakes.
Unlike Oasis and Blur, this new wave rests on the basis of artsy-orchestral arrangements that build on themselves to form cacophony. “Leaders of the Free World” follows that style and takes it to the next level.
This time around, the songs consistently have a wild and loose feel to them while remaining calm and controlled. Like the eye of a hurricane though, there’s a frantic feel to the calm of this storm, one that keeps the listener on edge.
Combine that with singer Guy Garvey’s almost Peter Gabriel-esque vocal delivery and you have a band that is ready to explode.
Normally, I remain cool and collected when it comes to music, but for these guys I’ll make an exception: This rocks!
Key Tracks: “Leaders of the Free World,” “Forget Myself,” “Station Approach”
“There’s A Lot In Here”
3 out of 5 stars
Whether or not you realize it, Jonah Matranga has meant a lot to the music industry over the past eight to 10 years.
You’re probably familiar with at least one of his projects, for a good reason.
He’s belonged to three different bands (Far, New End Original and Gratitude), and his solo efforts under the moniker of Onelinedrawing have brought him acclaim from critics and fans alike.
But after all of that, Matranga finally decided to step out from behind the curtain with a combination CD/DVD live collection.
If you’re looking for a slick, well-produced live record though, don’t look here.
The first six songs, which feature just Matranga, his guitar and a beat machine, were recorded on a stereo system in a living room.
The last five tracks, however, are done with the help of a full band.
The song selection is solid, covering tracks that span his career.
Key Tracks: “Smile,” “Lukewarm,” “A-L-L-Y-S-O-N”
“Randy the Band”
3 out of 5 stars
It seems to me that Sweden is a very successful nation. It produces a lot of good athletes – there are many Swedish players in the NHL.
Besides athletics, it seems to have a knack for producing solid rock bands, including Roxette, Division of Laura Lee, Mando Diao, International Noise Conspiracy and, of course, the Hives.
Enter Randy the Band. Despite their eyebrow-raising name, these Swedes have crafted a record that makes up in fun value for what it lacks in technical ability.
Taking the garage rock stylings of the Hives and adding more of a punk element, Randy churns out 15 songs in quick fashion, with only three songs topping the three-minute mark and only one going longer than four minutes.
This, however, is not a new thing for the group: Back in 1996, the band tried to record the fastest-played punk rock record ever, and in some ways succeeded.
All that aside, this is just a fun record that fans of garage rock will certainly like.
Key Tracks: “Promise,” “The Pretender,” “Going Out with the Dead”
2.5 out of 5 stars
Wussy guitarist and vocalist Chuck Cleaver has been around the music industry for quite a while now.
His other band, the Ass Ponys, achieved a fair amount of success through the ’90s, even releasing a pair of albums on the major A&M records label.
In 2006, with the Ass Ponys on hiatus (their last record was in 2001), Cleaver returns with a new cast of characters under a new name. Despite this, the music itself has not changed much.
Wussy continues to peddle Cleaver’s brand of country-influenced indie rock that is notable for its unusual twists and quirky, sometimes absurd subject matter.
Frankly, the only major difference between the two groups is that Cleaver no longer handles lead vocalist duties full-time – Lisa Walker now splits them with him. While the formula for his past success is there, the songs just don’t measure up to his prior material.
I’m not convinced that dividing up vocal duties was the best move for the group.
Still, I’m certain that someone out there will find this enjoyable.
Key Tracks: “Humbrained Horse,” “Conversation Lags,” “Shunt”