MUSIC REVIEWS: The Dead Weather, Meese, Middle Class Rut, Machinedrum, Don Henley
The White Stripes have certainly made a name for themselves in today’s music scene, and even The Raconteurs have witnessed success. But with a new female vocalist and a daring new sound, Jack White’s newest project, The Dead Weather, is definitely a contrast from the former two.
The first few tracks on Horehound left me puzzled as to what type of sound this band was trying to achieve. Supposed hits “Hang You from the Heavens” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother” were my least favorite songs on the album, and the first track that actually made sense, (“So Far From Your Weapon,”) initially reminded me of The White Stripes. By track six, however, I began to turn. “Rocking Horse” is an energetically resonant song that will have you swaying like Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace with its psychedelic/distorted guitar and pulsating vocals. Concluding track “Will There Be Enough Water?” is by far one of the best tracks on the album. And while the shining moments of Horehound are found within songs that have the most depth lyrically, this track says all it needs to in four bluesy lines. Other strong tracks include “Bone House” and the instrumental “3 Birds.”
Although chemistry among band members is not evident till the album’s completion, I think White’s new effort is worth the listen. The artist did state this to the Toronto Star earlier this month: “Things just started to happen. We didn’t have a direction. We just went a song a day, two songs a day, whatever we could do and recorded them on the fly… There was no time to think about what it was. It just was.”
Indeed, The Dead Weather’s debut seems to set a tone more than define a sound, yet this work of unpredictability will leave you grinning with visions of sex, cigarettes, smoking guns and hysteria. If Natural Born Killers needed another soundtrack, this album would easily suffice.
Upon immediate listen, the acoustic guitar filled piano-driven pop of Meese can’t help but feel quintessentially ‘90s. But once they break beyond this stereotype, they end up most closely resembling a band like Copeland, who coincidentally formed just after this acoustic wave but had the songwriting to stand out and last beyond the rise and fall of dozens of the Warped Tour’s lighter side. The comparison also fits because both bands songs exude a certain melodic pop sensibility not always present in acoustic ballads. This effect, displayed on standout early tracks like “Forward Motion” and “Count Me Out,” ends up aligning them with a more nuanced version of fellow Denver-based foursome The Fray.
The simplicity of these ballads that work on a pop level while never straying from their comfort zone gives Broadcast a pleasant understated feel, which makes the presence of lead single “Next In Line” even more baffling. Coming midway through the album, the song sounds like absolutely nothing you’ve heard in the twenty minutes approaching it. Lead singer Patrick Meese contorts his voice to a pitch and pace that seems to be inexplicably channeling Adam Levine, but the half-hearted sexuality of the lyrics don’t quite match the machismo of the Maroon 5 man. The song isn’t awful, it just feels entirely foreign and unnecessary within the context of the album.
It’s not obvious plays at mainstream like this that show some worthwhile potential in this young band, like on their heartfelt catchy tune “Take the World On.” The song begins and ends with a quote from an ‘80s song: “Sing me to sleep.” Sure, this is borderline cheese, but it’s performed with just enough candor and earnestness to let it work: and earnestness that if Adam Levine possesses, has not yet seeped through his music.
Good news! Rock isn’t dead. Ok maybe it never was dead, but Middle Class (MC) Rut’s new EP, 25 Years is a breath of fresh air among a sea of horrendous releases as of late.
MC Rut are a power duo (there’s something you don’t hear very often.) composed of Zack Lopez on guitars/vocals and Sean Stockham on drums/vocals. The best part is that this release, being an EP, swoops in for six tracks of anthemic rock, kicks your ass, and then swoops out leaving you wanting just a little bit more. 25 Years starts off with the aptly titled “25 Years,” a romping screamer that sets the tone for the rest of the album. It segues into “Dead Set” another cool little track that puts forth quite a wall of sound for just two guys. “I Guess You Could Say” doesn’t let up the heavy goodness as Zack and Sean prove they really know how to wail. The vocals are tight, slightly Perry Farrellish, the guitars are heavy and the drums are spectacular. “All Walks of Life” has an almost epic quality, and I could seriously see these guys playing it for a packed arena one day in the future. “Tied Up” is another great rocker and the album ends on a high note with “I Don’t Really Know.”
And then boom, it’s done. It kind of makes one wish more albums had six songs on them with no filler. Bravo.
An enchanting electronic release from glitch hop master Machinedrum is a warm fuzzy blanket that gets off artfully on digital noise, circuit bending, computer crashes and errors. This album mixes that sub electronic genre with the upbeat pouncing of hip hop beats and dance music. Fortunate for Machinedrum he masterfully sews the two together to create an engaging album that never grows tiresome or loses its leaps and bounds. Glitch music originated in Germany, and Machinedrum uses just enough of the art to fuse hip hop and ambient dub trance together generating club shaking tracks and mellowed out breezy songs that move along with soft pulsing rhythm and blues overtop the uplifting plight of cascading synthesized keys and beats. Want to 1 2? will easily seduce fans new to glitch, as well as fans of both hip hop and electronic music. “In The Dust” could reign at the top of major R&B single’s top ten lists. Its sweet soul crooning of sugar lust love is delectable. Discoed funnels of keys spiral outwards as the drums frame the track nicely. The chorus pops out like a soft wave.
Machinedrum is Travis Stewart, whose works have also appeared on Adult Swim. This album could be catalogued in the same scope of NERD, Jamiroquai, and Roni Size but even that is too limited a crowd. “Thisgo Ball” has a nice spring and a marvelously charming vocal track by Arisa Sound. The blips and tumbles of the instrumentation are delectable. Keyboards pump alongside a techno hop while ultra-bright vacuumed keys ascend. “Freshkids” is a sunny dance overture that pumps like heart beats. The freshness of this album is a necessary musical awakening.
The problem I have with Don Henley (and The Eagles) is that when the man gets soft he can get supper duper sappy. A song liked “For My Wedding” and the last of the first 14 tunes here on The Very Best Of Don Henley, “Take You Home” are nice enough but things get unnecessarily syrupy as Don rolls around with his smoky high voice. It’s not that the guy can’t make you cry adequately, my personal fave “The Last Worthless Evening” and the utter perfect “The End of the Innocence” are great Henley sad moments and included in this two disc set.
The guy can kinda rock too, “I Will Not Go Quietly” and “Dirty Laundry” are here plus the goofy “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” “Boys Of Summer,” the first Henley hit is included as well.
The second disc includes the iconic ‘Boys of Summer’ video, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” and “For My Wedding” plus four audio bonus tracks, all Henley offerings from movies, most notably the wonderfully plaintive “Love Rules” from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (it can be argued that this whole package is worth it just to get this one song…but you didn’t hear me say that.)
All four Henley solo albums are represented on The Very Best Of Don Henley and with those videos and extra songs it’s a worthy investment.