MUSIC REVIEWS: Krantz Carlock Lefebvre, These United States, Actors & Actresses, The Changes, The Crystal Method
Guitar ‘maverick’ Wayne Krantz with super-duper players Tim Lefebvre (Bass); Keith Carlock (Drums) have released Krantz Carlock Lefebvre.
A first in 15 years for Krantz who has played with Steely Dan, Michael Brecker and Billy Cobham, he’s teemed up with Carlock-whose credits include Sting and James Taylor-and Lefebvre who has kept the low end for Chris Botti as well as others.
At times I felt they were in Living Colour territory, like with opener “Holy Joe” when Krantz gets kinda heavy noisy. I liked the lazy snare from Carlock on “It’s No Fun Not To Like Pop.” “Left It On The Playground” starts with fun noises, burps and farts but although Carlock is kinetically fine, I’m not sure this long one goes anywhere. “Mosey” and “Rugged Individual” though are great; the first featuring a good solid rock lead melody with the latter offering a sweet melody and the first use of a clean guitar sound (into a wha-wha later).
The 2nd half of the CD really does pick up. There’s “War-torn Johnny” with the band finally playing like the tight 3-piece they are; this is another favorite of mine with great pull-off’s, a slight detuned sound and almost chunky country fed groove. “Wine Is The Thread” is a fantastic ending, a real sly commercial tune with a lyric that actually works.
Disjointed maybe in the beginning, but by middle of Krantz Carlock Lefebvre these three supremely talented players bring it together for a very entertaining jazz-like CD.
Immediately likable, Everything Touches Everything, the third full-length album by These United States intertwines poignant lyrics with a folky rock sound. The Washington D.C. based band produced a lively and interesting mix with vocals crawling over rapid drum beats and sprinting guitar chords.
The words in this compilation are truly worth giving a listen. Vivid imagery is laced throughout, like in the charitable line, “Don’t you send me my red shirt; sew that onto your thin wings” in “I Want You to Keep Everything.” This song and maybe a couple of others sound like they could pass for twanged-up Matchbox Twenty tracks. Later in the album lyrics reach existential levels in “The End” with the line “Brilliant as the moments we live for, few and far as the deaths which we drift towards.”
The more upbeat numbers really outshine the slower songs. One being “Conquest & Consequence,” a catchy standout with its sing-songy verses and perky percussion. The comforting vocals of singer Jesse Elliott make this collection, but the well-arranged instruments are never boring and enhance the alt-rock sound of the band. These United States did well to create an overall smooth experience with this one.
Arrows, is the latest from Kansas City’s Actors & Actresses. Labeled as shoe-gaze, this down-tempo release has a way of making songs that lull the listener into each world crafted by the mere 9 tracks on the album that seem to last and last. Almost like ambient rock, shadowy drums press against the elegantly poetic vocals of Scott Bennett who also plays bass. The bleak strains of guitarist Andrew Schiller are often heard intensely twisting against a rigid yet fully capable drum kit masterfully executed and made entrancing by Dave Sumner. The hopeful tow of “Quiet” suffocates under spiraling guitars and a palpitating metal beat. The beauty of Bennett’s vocals gives the song an intoxicatingly emotive edge of yearning. The stiff groove of “Hello Tornado” moves like an unapologetic affront. The song demands its likeability because the rich layered animosity of the instrumentation that sprawls out nicely. Huge leaps of artistic sonic undulation make Arrows as multidirectional as its title. The other side of this musically poignant release is that the songs come alive by a sort of rare instrumentation and care in handling that proves itself righteous over and over.
Formed in 2002, this Chicago based band has a ‘rock and roll meets new wave’ sound. Four members in the band; two guitar/vocalists, bass, drums, and three of them doing double duty on the keyboards, give a good range of sound to the band, though their EP is very different from the LP.
First of May is a strong offering, with insistent jangly drums, subtle pulsing bass, reverb free guitars, and rich vocals. Each track has unique composition and exhibits commendable rock n’ roll themes. Stand out tracks are the over six minute long and very infectious “Her, You and I” ; the interesting instrumental “1984” ; and the heart wrenching, though empowering, “Such a Scene.”
Today is Tonight has higher production values than the group’s EP, as well as more keys, bells, and tinging sounds. Here The Changes bring a large new wave influence to their songs and the first two tracks exhibit this new influence. While some of the tracks retain the strictly rock n’ roll sensibility that worked so well for the EP, the tracks are otherwise pretty run of the mill.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 80s again and again by the album, especially with the inclusion of such song titles as ‘Modern Love.” There wasn’t anything about this new wave influence that jumped out as new or innovative and the majority of the album sounded the same. Still there are a few tracks that struck me; such as “Sisters” with it’s slower synthy sound, reminiscent of “Stars,” as well as “Machine” which has an interesting lyrical message and the best guitar licks of the album. Over all, the LP’s tracks seemed overproduced and didn’t have the successful sound of the EP.
Long after the birth of the electronica craze and it’s subsequent pop-culture death, The Crystal Method continue to create music that is innovative, pioneering and most importantly – a damn good listen. On their latest release, Divided by Night, they have created a definitively dark, moody, and adventurous work that is sexy and ambitious. This is an album best listened to after midnight – in those long night hours electronica was meant to inhabit.
Using their deep musical style and taste for sounds from every different genre, they create a mix of songs that are each exciting and unique. The album features collaborations with Matisyahu, Justin Warfield and several other great artists who extend the depth of this album with their differing contributions and vocals. Far from being your average techno album made for clubs, The Crystal Method have once again taken this genre to new and unexpected heights. And as soon as I find my old glowstick from college, I think I will turn down the lights and dance around my room a little while it plays.