One By One
Until a few months ago, I still felt sort of wrong for respecting, following, or even acknowledging the continuing existence of Dave Grohl. Like many others who were initially pleased by the birth of "alternative" music with the release of Nevermind, some deep, primal part of me still considered Grohl's solo aspirations a senseless, thoughtless, and heartless desecration of his former band's brief and strangely complete-unto-itself recorded legacy. But (nihilo sanctum estne?) the repackaging and resale of Nirvana's music has finally started this year, so I finally realized how unfair I was to dismiss Grohl's work. Ergo, I swallowed my infantile impulses and started to investigate the Foo Fighters.
Turns out they are pretty good.
The release of the band's One By One is the second Grohl-related new release of the year. It is both a pop-friendlier adjunct to his work on Queens of the Stone Age's Songs For the Deaf and a rebuttal to his own past with Cobain, Novoselic, and whoever else thinks they were in Nirvana. One By One also puts Grohl in a select group of workaholic artists (Eminem, Connor Oberst, Luna, and Sonic Youth) who are overcompensating for a shabby year in music by putting out as many good-to-great records, songs, and EPs as fast as they can.
The major surprise of One By One is how the countless glorious rock choruses complement the countless pleas for forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and transcendence throughout the record. The thunderous "All My Life," the acoustic-electric "Halo," and the two closing ballads are all primo power pop preoccupied with healing, escape, and God only knows what else. The music is sufficiently blunt guitars-bass-drums real loud, but the filigrees and little touches thrill me. File the whole thing under "modern rock" but recognize that such a label now denotes an outdated idea with very few skilled practitioners. What other band could exercise chops and exorcise demons within such a constrictive genre? Staind? Disturbed? Creed? PEARL JAM? None of 'em!
One By One is the best vaguely nostalgic guitar pop-punk genre exercise/statement of purpose since Blink-182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. -- Addison Engleking
MC Paul Barman
(Coup d'Etat Entertainment)
The marriage of capitalism and artistry that is rock-and-roll is sometimes too awesome to ponder. For example, nobody in their right mind would ever say to themselves, "Hmmm, I think I'm in the mood for a Jewish Ivy League MC who attacks education, feminists, and Amazon.com, rhymes 'Margaret Sanger' with 'bloody coat hanger,' fantasizes about sex with Cynthia Ozick and Maxine Hong Kingston, and sounds like a demented guest host for a Saturday morning kids' show." Yet such an item exists: MC Paul Barman's omnivorous, irrepressibly nerdy, and inexplicably triumphant new full-length Paullelujah!
Along with Slug/Atmosphere and you-know-who with the movie, MC Paul Barman is one of three white rappers worth caring about (maybe there's a fourth, but you go "discover" him). His 2000 EP, It's Very Stimulating, was the funniest Prince Paul production ever, brimming with comedy, outrageous couplets ("I got up in her cervix a lot/like I was Sir Mix-A-Lot") and wacky samples. Although Barman flies without Prince Paul for all but one track on Paullelujah!, the noise is similarly childlike and disorienting.
Barman babbles more than he flows, offers a glimpse into the life of a hypersmart, sex-starved Jew that rivals Portnoy's Complaint ("I want a sister not a shiksa" goes one glancing blow), and possesses a verbal matrix that bends words like Keanu bends not-spoons. The beats are jubilant, irritating, spunky, and lumpy. The catchiest track is also the filthiest. And the two best tracks make fun of folk songs and poetry readings.
Of course you need it! -- AE
This past Thanksgiving morning found me not sitting by myself in a Barnhill's Old Country Buffet (this will no doubt come later in life) but attempting the equally punishing act of wrapping my head around this new Mastodon album. Remission has caused a lot of brouhaha in the heavy and/or extreme music communities as an "unclassifiable" masterpiece -- uniting fans of every tiny sub-genre into harmonious testosterone frenzy.
Unclassifiable? Not really. A masterpiece? Probably. As a metal album, and that's what it is when the votes are tallied, Remission sits next to Judas Priest's Sin After Sin, Maiden's Killers, the F*cking Champs' III, and maybe a better-than-average Slayer album.
I have no idea how a human can move like drummer Bränn Dailor, though it's closer to the free-jazz tornado wailing of Ronald Shannon Jackson or Slayer's Dave Lombardo (who is essentially a free-jazz drummer these days) than any metal drummer I've heard. Remission can be extremely complicated and math-y, almost paying tribute to Slint (who, when stripped of the indie-rock pretense, were a metal band) in its quieter moments, but it thankfully steers clear of the instrumental overcompensation of bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan and Mr. Bungle. You can hear the songwriting skills at work in the classic guitar trade-offs that recall the venerable work of Maiden or even Thin Lizzy. However, those addicted to melody need be thoroughly warned: This is not your divorced uncle's metal; it is brutal and largely unrelenting in its velocity, and the vocals are akin to a thousand dying seagulls. Death metal or grindcore Mastodon are not, so perhaps I got ahead of myself in not subscribing to the "unclassifiable" tag. -- Andrew Earles