With Gonerfest kicking off tomorrow, this seemed like the perfect time to check in on the garage-rock world with four fest-connected releases, two on In the Red and two on Goner itself:
Alice and Friends — The Box Elders (Goner):
Nebraska-based brother band (guitarist Jeremiah and bassist Clayton McIntyre) producing lo-fi but relatively gentle garage rock with the crucial accompaniment of a two-piece/one-man musical helpmate (Dave Goldberg). This homemade debut album has its quirky charms — the basement where it was recorded symbolizes a self-created world that's a pleasant place to visit. The physical reality of that basement's a problem, though. Rather than making the low fidelity a useful sonic element (see Times New Viking, etc) or a meaningful extension of attitude or world-view, Alice and Friends
just sounds poorly recorded. One suspects that better things await. ("Dave," "Hole in My Head," "Death of Me")Grade: BThe Box Elders play the Hi-Tone Saturday, September 26th, 11:15 p.m.
"Hole in My Head":
Davila 666 — Davila 666 (In the Red):
This garage-rock-en-Espanol ensemble from San Juan opens their North American debut by collectively howling, and by the time that first song ("El Lobo") is finished, you might be howling right back. Their sound runs the pre-punk rock gamut — mid-’60s pop melodicism ("Bla Bla Bla"), Stooges swagger ("Basura"), Stones groove ("Dimelo Ya"), Velvet Underground combo of the twinkling and atonal ("Tu"), and that's just the first half! — but never comes across as mere record-collector-rock mimicry. This startling command and musical ambition make them much more than just good genre music. In a culture known more for sonics, attitude, and a band's way with rock's simple formal verities than meaning, not understanding the words might be more help than hindrance; you can happily pretend their sentiments are as provocative and eloquent as their sound. ("El Lobo," "Basura," "Dimelo Ya," "No Quiero")Grade: A-Davila 666 plays the Hi-Tone Friday, September 25th, 11:15 p.m.
Love and Curses — The Reigning Sound (In the Red):
The first Reigning Sound studio album in five years isn't as sonically arresting as 2004's Too Much Guitar
. It isn't as covered in record-shop pixie dust as 2002's Time Bomb High School
. And it isn't as compellingly moody as 2001's folk-rockish Break Up, Break Down
. In other words, it’s the most mundane Reigning Sound album ever. Or it would be if one simple, gorgeous song after another was mundane. If Greg Cartwright had been fortunate enough to come of age in the late ’50s or early ’60s, he might have been the equal of Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison. As it is, he'll have to settle for being the most musically skilled, least affected, and most soulful purveyor of pre-Beatles-style rock-and-roll the world now knows. In other words, a cult artist. I think his new band lacks the snap of the Memphis version, but the singer and the songs are still exquisite. ("The Bells," "Broken Things," "Debris," "Brake It")Grade: A-The Reigning Sound isn't playing Gonerfest, but Cartwright will reunite with old (multi-)bandmate Jack Yarber for a show-closing Compulsive Gamblers set at the Hi-Tone Café Friday, September 25th.
Lemons — Ty Segall (Goner):
This San Francisco wunderkind and occasional one-man-band displays the musical facility of a young Jack White, albeit with a little less blues and troubled romance. The reverb-drenched clatter and splatter of this debut is packed with memorable hooks, nifty riffs, and fertile musical ideas and is equally effective loud or quiet, assaulting or soulful. After several listens, every track grabs and holds, but I can't recall a single phrase. If Segall's songs ever catch up with his sound sense, look out. ("Lovely One," "It 1," "Untitled #2")Grade: B+Ty Segall plays the Hi-Tone Thursday, September 24th, midnight.