Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flaming Lips - Heady Fwends

This is not your average collaboration album. From beginning to end it sounds like The Flaming Lips. The album's narrative doesn't get hi-jacked by each of the collaborating forces. 

Normally collaboration-themed albums fractures the style of the principle artist. Blunders like DJ Shadow's 2006 collaboration effort "The Outsider" come to mind. It was a full-on sonic war, the collaborators fought viciously and no one really emerged as the winner. The is similar to Yankee's Law, which I named for the catastrophic super-group failure Damn Yankees. When one combines the creative forces of 2 or more commercially and or artistically successful entities there is a division or subtraction of talent rather than an addition or multiplication. Some high-profile collaboration efforts buck that trend but normally that's a surprise, not the rule. 

The real reason this album succeeds is that at no point do the Flaming Lips succumb to the temptation to do silly cross-over numbers that no one wants to hear.

Collaborations on here are done largely with fellow rock artists who have their own stylized way of doing things (sorry Kings of Leon). I was bracing myself for a catastrophic hip-hop breakdown but that never came. Best collaborations include Prefuse 73, Plastic Ono Band, Bon Iver (who normally puts me to sleep), and lastly the electrifying Nick Cave. 

The only track that sounds a little ridiculous at first is the opener "2012" which is the product of working alongside Ke$ha. Now I have no beef with Ke$ha. She is super hot in my opinion and has the stage presence and musical sensibilities to write/perform some truly high energy pop. She's no Brian Wilson but still, as far as radio fare, she does a better-than-average job. But the track gets marred firstly because of the corny repetition of the dystopian "you must be upgraded". Then the song starts into this strange space-rock cabaret led by Ke$ha. It was the only track I hated the first time I listened but it gets better as it unfolds. The intro still remains questionable to me though upon further listening.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mission of Burma - Unsound

Before MoB released Unsound last month, I had no idea that they'd done any studio albums since they reunited in 02. Roger Miller's hearing has been in tatters since the mid 80s so I figured it was safe to just continue on with the assumption. Well, apparently this is their 4th since coming back together and it is heavy. 

To get a feel for the post-reunion albums I compared Unsound to 2009's "The Sound, The Speed, The Light" and the former is far heavier, rather than tending toward more harmonic, radio-friendliness as MoB can at some moments. If there's any song on here that sounds uncompromisingly like golden era Mission of Burma it's "Second Television"with it's over-the-top punk energy but clean guitars.

Other gems on here include "Fell-->H20" with chugging guitars, galloping bass lines, and doom-ridden lyrics. "What They tell Me" features something I never thought I would hear on a Mission of Burma album: horns. Somehow it works out pretty well and adds to the track's the power, however MoB, don't try this again. It surely can't work out this well a second time. "7's" also manages to conjure up a good classic MoB sound. 

Random closing thought, it's very pleasing to hear that MoB is still able to do those almost Who-like oohs and ahhs on certain tracks. What other punk or post-punk band does that? There's plenty of ohhhs but ooohs, now that's rare! It's part of the band's soul. Fantastic record and I cannot wait to see them play at Fitzgerald's in September.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An open invitation to all my readers

Since late May, I've been working to get Houston's most famous outsider artist, Jandek, to play another Houston date this summer. Luckily, my friend Jonathan and I have been planning monthly music showcases and we already had one set up for July 12. On that date the representative from Corwood and an ensemble of two punk musicians will join together and make beautiful music

The event will be hosted at Mango's Cafe (403 Westheimer Road) and will be 7 dollars at the door. There will be no advance tickets. Lineup order is kind of up in the air with exception of the Jandek performance which will start at 8 o clock SHARP according to the representative. Come out and show your support for local Houston music and for the city's coolest enigma: Jandek!

RSVP to the Facebook event here.

The Presets finally showing signs of life again

I've always enjoyed The Presets. Even the overly-dramatic, machismo sophomore album "Apocalypso" had me bebopping. Although at points it got SO utterly priapic and silly-sounding that I was wondering if they were going to lose their coolness. However, flash forward four years to last Friday when their latest single "Youth in Trouble" was released. It's got a catchy, minimalist beat, (and thankfully no gimmicky appeals to mindless dubstep latecomers) but most importantly it sounds modern and dark, like their 2005 debut "Beams".

Watch the music video if you want; it's mostly a mish-mash of lo-fi psychedelia that I could take or leave. The song though, it's pretty good. It's off their third full-length "Pacifica" which will hit the streets in September.

And just as a general observation to provide more goth/post-punk context for my blog's overall theme (not that I always will) Julian Hamilton's vocals are totally Gothy sounding, now and previously.