The above New York Times article is the best review I’ve seen yet of Brian Wilson’s new album, No Pier Pressure, based on what I have heard of the record so far. All of the other reviews I have read have been either completely shallow, or seem to not be interpreting it correctly given his discography. I am still forming my thoughts about the record and will write about it more at some point. In the meantime I think that this is a good place to start reading about the album if you are interested in it.
I really like the new Cribs album For All My Sisters a lot. It’s pop music in the best sense. Pop music as played by rock band. Despite the fact that the band is from England, there is something California about their new record. If not for the accents on the vocals, there is something about this record that can be traced on a musical family tree back to certain elements of Weezer and even the Beach Boys. I’m not saying that is intentional, or that there aren’t stylistic differences, only that there is a melodic sense that is somehow sunny and often melancholy a the same time.
The album is produced by Ric Ocasek who also produced Weezer’s Blue and Green albums, and also their excellent new album Everything Will Be Alright In the End. As I said, there are definitely some melodic moments that recall Weezer, although The Cribs have been delivering great melodies since the start of their career. However, while Weezer, for the most part, have an easy mass appeal, despite their idiosyncrasies, The Cribs new album is more cryptic. Despite being melodic, the guitars are more jagged, more angular. Even their extremely melodic vocal hooks are more elusive, less singsongy. This is rock n roll pop music filtered through British post-punk.
One of the things that Ric Ocasek does time and time again is get great guitar tones. He does this without doing anything seemingly complex. Aside from a couple of synth parts and extra backup vocals, there is almost nothing on this album that the three piece Cribs could not reproduce live. Hearing a guitar overdub that plays something different than the main guitar line is rare. Mostly it just sounds like one guitar part doubled. If you listen to this album, the Weezer albums, or even the Bad Brains God of Love, Ocasek is able to create deep textures through guitar distortion. He is able to take something incredibly simple and turn it into an aural painting. Where guitars can often sound flat, he creates an incredible amount of depth, a warm swimming pool that the listener can pleasurably dive into. This is a big deal, especially for a three piece band.
Despite the album being full of hooks, there is not anything as instantly memorable as earlier Cribs records. There is no song that has a chorus as memorable as the song We Share the Same Skies, for instance. This doesn’t necessarily work against it, as the album holds up on repeated plays. The album is enjoyable on the first listen, but it is definitely a grower. I know that I have said several times that is is incredibly melodic, and it is true that the album has very glossy production, but there is a slight sense of artiness here, just below the surface, that keeps the album from being swallowed too easily.
If I had to criticize anything, it would be that the lyrics haven’t really opened themselves up to me yet. That’s not to say that they are bad or unintelligent. They do not get in the way of my enjoyment either. It’s just that, despite the album having a classic rock mix, the vocals are not buried like they are on many other indie rock records, the vocals seem part of the music more than the centerpiece.
The Cribs have consistently been at that crossroad where indie, pop, rock, and post-punk collide. I am partial to this kind of music, but I think anyone that likes to hear guitar oriented rock music with great melodies would like this as well. They are not doing anything groundbreaking, but they put the ingredients together in a unique way that gives them their own sound and personality. The fact that they do have their own personality does mean they are able to expand the form on the margins, and that alone is worth something.
James McMurtry’s new album Complicated Game is out today. McMurtry is one of the best songwriters in America. I probably won’t be able to review the new album until next week. In the meantime here is one of the tracks off of it. I’m really looking forward to diving into this record when I get the time.
Slade performing Merry Xmas Everybody.
And…if you want your Christmas with slightly more drugs:
Was listening to the album Let There Be Rock by AC/DC all day. It is an absolutely fantastic rock n roll album. I have no idea how the album was recorded, but it sounds like an album recorded by a band live in a room while rolling some fat tape. It may seem simple to some, but the playing, writing, and recording are tremendous. Every groove is deep in the pocket. The guitars sound like snarling dogs. The lyrics are funny and witty and delivered for maximum effect by Bon Scott. There aren’t many overdubs that couldn’t be performed live, a guitar part here and there. I love records like this, that sound like an actual band. A great deal of the magic is from the way the musicians interact with each other. This is primal physical stuff. At the same time there is more sophistication going on in the arrangements then appears. This can be seen in the way there are long pauses on the title track, and then all of a sudden the band explodes back into the song. That’s not amateur hour there. Angus Young’s lead work sounds like he is taking the paint off of an entire countryside of barns. There is a reason that every one from metal bands to Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye love this band. They are the very best at what they do. The title track, which may be my favorite AC/DC song will be posted above. It’s also one of my favorite rock videos.
This song says it all right now. “If you don’t know this then, what do you know?”
My last posts may have been too dark for a Monday morning. I’m stuck in the airport and I’m sure many of you are stuck at work. (Which is where I surfed the internet so much I once thought I found the end of it!) Here is a little joy in the form of music. This is Melody of Rain by Marah from their Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania album. In my humble opinion they are the best band from my home state of Pa and at the height of their powers they are one of the greatest rock n roll bands out there right now. Like many great bands they can’t be properly defined by one genre, but even when they are doing something like this that has one foot in folk music, they always have another in rock n roll.