MUSIC REVIEWS: Dandy Warhols, George Harrison, Darla Farmer, Purple Crush, Pink Mountaintops
The new Dandy Warhols album that’s not so new, The Dandy Warhols Are Sound, is the album the group originally intended to have released in 2002, but the record company at the time had different ideas. Capitol remixed much of the Dandy’s original album to create the very-well received and now classic, Welcome to the Monkey House. So, if you hear some familiar sounds on Are Sound, don’t be surprised. That being said, these are the band’s original intentions for the release back in ’02 and the mixes they played at their infamous Odditorium parties back in Portland, Oregon. This album is a must have for any die-hard Dandy’s fan, but one shouldn’t expect to hear anything mind-blowingly new. It’s a collector’s item to be sure and hopefully it inspires an Odditorium tour that spans further than a quarter-city block of Stumptown.
The ‘quiet’ Beatle certainly had a lot to say in 1970 when the no-longer-mop-tops officially broke-up. The ‘dark horse’ released some great albums after his chock-full-of-classics first All Things Must Pass, often with one foot in the spiritual side of things while the other was firmly planted in the commercial (I refer you to “My Sweet Lord,” and “Give Me Love Give Me Peace On Earth” included here). On this 19-song CD we also get the title track gem “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” and later Harrison hits like “Got My Mind Set On You,” “When We Was Fab,” and “All Those Years Ago.” For me though, three tunes here from the infamous Concert For Bangladesh: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the goose-bump producing “Here Comes The Sun,” and the near perfect “Something” (technically not Harrison solo hits as they were originally released under the Beatles moniker, but why be picky?!) kick ass.
It would have been nice to have had “Cracker Box Palace” included, but then again my all time favorite Harrison track “Isn’t It a Pity” is as well as his killer slide work on “Marwa Blues.”
Christ man, this is George Harrison we’re talking about here; I didn’t even get all medieval-on-your-ass and demand you listen to the man’s killer guitar work on the ‘Naked’ version of Let It Be. I’ll be content if you pick up Let It Roll: Songs By George Harrison and understand what you’ve been missing.
Unpredictable. Scatter-Shot. Experimental. Dark Horror-Punk. Bizarro-Pop. Cabaret for the Dementedly Cynical Generation. Experimental-Latin-Skank-Swing. A Collision of Ska, Rock, Jazz, Rockabilly, and Folk with the frantic energy of a rabid barking dingo who is frothing at the mouth.
Listening to a band like Darla Farmer will invoke that feeling of being eight years old and tragically lost at a creepy carnival. You’re repulsed, intrigued, and hopped up on adrenaline. On their debut album, Rewiring the Electric Forest, the seven-piece band takes visitors on a Tilt-a-Whirl that oscillates from scatter-shot to bizarro-pop to ska-cum-rockabilly-cum-venom.
The spectacle begins with “The Apology,” a deceptively mild-paced tune pared down to the basics: simple drums, crisp horns, and eccentric lead vocals. A bit scraggly, a bit airy, and stocked with ambiguity, I foolishly assumed that the vocalist was a chick–a bit homely with a wild rock streak. Not so: Darla Farmer is a misnomer, a name cleverly lifted from a real-life bank teller in Nashville. Instead the conductor of this house of mirrors is Clint Wilson, an expert lyricist and savvy guitar player whose licks drip with sanguine salivation.
The oscillation eventually scoops to a track titled “Dirty Keys,” an up-tempo collision of frantic piano, screech-singing, and ominous horns. Wilson’s vocals are so intense that the lyrics become secondary to the audible expression of raw emotion. No laffy-taffy here. “Dirty Keys” takes the creative risk of combining truly violent vocals with astute orchestration to create a push-pull with the listener; you don’t want to see the car crash…but you do.
The Brooklyn based duo Purple Crush used its Crushed Records label to release their first compilation. Hot sweaty dance club synth, super tweaked techno-pop and brooding downer techno comprises much of You Been Crushed Volume 1. Sleazy, unapologetically risqué and wickedly creative, this compilation is fit perfect for an overcrowded dance club. With certain synthesized whip appeal and catchy sing-song flamboyance, Nic Xedro’s Lil Wayne-esque, auto-tuned out “I’m A Freak” is all kinds of fun filth. Club choral synthesizers form around the chorus that expands inside high snapped snare taps and hip-hop love. The combined sound is anthem worthy and hard to forget while Xedro’s howls are computerized and X-rated. Xedro’s version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” although not on this compilation is also something of an oddity but quite a masterpiece. Purple Crush’s “NYC Bad Girl” is a head swinging, shoulder shrugging dance homage to old school techno and futuristic pop robotic lockdowns. UK’s Loud Pipe’s “Crazy Old Maurice” has a rigid stealth to its low-end and spreads out like a cloudy sky. It is one of the more laidback dub-ambient tunes on the album. It pops and twists around itself, at times sounding like a monster that soon plumes out into an explosion. The Purple Crush remix of “Rebel Rebel” by American Folklore, who is a Texan living in Sweden, has a breezy techno rock bounce with just enough quickened acoustic guitar, keyboards and squirts of bass that keep one moving. A music fête full of choppy high arcing keys and backhand slaps of bass beats is enough to get most dance albums by, however, there is a frenzied unique style to You Been Crushed that has its own special aptitude like nobody else.
Slowly swaying its way forward, jangling heavily with synthy backdrops and the occasional hard riff, Outside Love evokes some sort of latter day cowboy. With track after track reverberating with a western electro sound, Pink Mountaintops guide listeners upon a trail of cohesive but distinct tracks.
Driven with purposeful and sometimes repetitive marching drums, the remaining instruments, guitar, harmonica, fiddle, even xylophone, create explosive solos over the synth-layered songs. The main vocalist, Stephen McBean, fits right in there with a smooth yet rough voice that can get loud without losing integrity. Warbling over the majority of the tracks, he’s usually backed up by the husky female voice of Sophie Trudeau, who finally gets her own shot with “While We Were Dreaming,” a slow track that sounds almost hymn like, akin to Mazzy Star.
Lyrically, the songs are concerned with love, friends and life, though always fresh and interesting as on “Vampires,” where she sings ‘You can suck out my blood, but not kill the heart of the my love.’ Pretty sweet sentiments, actually. Floating between electric guitar to acoustic, then back to electric, the album relishes the freedom of playing western folk with the added ability of effects and synthesizers.
With tracks like “And I Thank You” and “Holiday,” slow dreamy anthems become the favored medium of the group, with slow expansive soundscapes begging one to wail along with them. Still, Pink Mountaintops is talented enough to make each track it’s own creature.
One song in particular steps out of this mold though, showing off the band’s ability to really cut loose, “Gayest of Sunbeams” a positively pounding romp that makes me wanna roll down the windows and hit the gas. All in all, a great album for those into contemporary western rock acts with that fuzzy garage sound.