Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Crowded House "Intruguer"

Intriguer We're Just Paper Over Cracks  
4 Out of 5 Stars

When Crowded House member Paul Hester committed suicide in 2005, Neil Finn reacted by recording "Time On Earth" with the surviving CH members. That album was a heavy rumination on the loss of a life-long friend and creative partner, and was a tough album to absorb. One of Crowded Houses's best attributes was that they were a terrific band, with a sense of camaraderie and often (despite some serious songs, like "Better Be Home Soon" or "Four Seasons in One Day) the sounds of good mates getting together for a good joke or two.

This was always reflected in their videos and even in the odd comic song ("Chocolate Cake," "Here Comes God"). "Intriguer" is less weighty than "Time On Earth" yet still feels haunted by Hester's ghost. Neil Finn's songwriting remains top-notch, with brilliant moments on "Intriguer" measuring up as should-be hits like "Even If" or the giddy in love "Twice If You're Lucky." There's a nice propelling beat and synth-line to the opening "Saturday Sun" that hearkens back to Finn's days with Split Enz (and seems most indebted to Hester's passing).

"The madness is won, The nightmare is done.
Meantime, he waits
Colors up the sky,
Make the darkness come to life.
Memories inside his heart
Of everything he wants to know
And every place he has to go."

There's plenty of other delightful songs and temptingly quotable lyrics all across the album ("Amsterdam," the atmospheric "Isolation") that will lure CH's many fans to this CD. I've been an Enz/House fan myself for many years, including seeing the band on the "Woodface" tour (with Roger McGuinn showing up for the encore!). "Intriguer" lives up to Neil Finn's continuing legacy of excellent albums.

 Crowded House Woodface Together Alone Classic Masters 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection (Reis) True Colours

Monday, April 25, 2011

My thoughts on Lawrence O'Donnell and the 4/25 edition of MSNBC's "The Last Word"

Dear Lawrence,

Greetings from Philadelphia. I'm a regular, near nightly viewer of the MSNBC line-up, and try to watch as dedicatedly as I can. Tonight, however, may be only the second time I've ever cringed at your show. The interview with Rev (?) Graham made me incredibly uncomfortable, and then the follow-up on Rush Limbaugh just made me wince....well, Limbaugh makes me wince on his own; perhaps this was a double barreled wince.

What made me squirm so hard is that I almost felt you were softballing Graham. The guy is just another typical white rich-kid coasting on his Daddy's reputation along with the inherited Billy G Billions, and you gave him open mike to proselytize endlessly. Did he really need to read the entire John 3:16 quote, plus? Frankly, WHY does it matter if President Obama is a Christian? Should it matter at all? Even more importantly, why would a President need the holy water dripped from the likes of Graham and his ilk for approval to govern?

Given that Graham seems to love using the racist euphemism that Obama has "the seed of Islam" inside him and is now riding on Donald Trump's wig-tail, why get him on camera at all? He brings nothing useful to the discussion other than more proof that evangelicals are crackpots, swindling people out of their cash by using fear of Hell as motivation.

Which leads me to part two: The Thrashing you gave Limbaugh. Yeah, I get it. Rush is a lyin' sack of bird vomit, puking up predigested swill for the baby flock to swallow. They may think it's nutritious and delicious, but they're still swallowing puke. Chairman of the Keeping America Stupid Foundation, that man. (And I can't get a broadcasting gig? Life is SO unfair sometimes.)

Meanwhile....bookend both segments and I was starting to feel like my Cable Box had magically switched channels from MSNBC to an episode of The 700 Club. I half expected your Rush segment to close with a request for viewers to open up their hearts, open up their wallets and call the 800 number on the screen. Operators will be standing by.

If I wanted almost a quarter hour of uninterrupted Christian Come-ons, I can call my Bible Thumping crazy Republican Step-mother. But as one of America's non-believers, I'd prefer my MSNBC to continue giving me useful information, news and relevant commentary. In fact, I am always proud that you, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz contribute thoughtful and factual reports on Gay Rights issues. Tonight, though, just made me wonder where the thoughtfulness went.

Tim Brough

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Hot Hot Heat "Future Breeds"

Future BreedsI want to see results  
3 Out of 5 Stars

Hot Hot Heat get off the major label merry-go-round and back on the Indie Label train for "Future Breeds," which throws off the smoothness of "Happiness Ltd." and goes back to quirky post-new wave. Lead singer Steve Bays sounds loads edgier than anything from "Happiness," and some of the songs spike with oddball electronic energy.

"Future Breeds" sounds like HHH once again dropped in from the early 80's to rev-up some MTV-ready video-wave tunes. It also makes "Future Breeds" an uneven album. Fortunately, the leaden middle of the album ("JFK's LSD," "Jedediah") is counter-balanced by the straightforward cool stuff on either end. There's the frantic ""Implosionistic" and fantastic pop of "Goddess of The Prairie,' along with the old HHH sounding "21@12" (which comes out as 21 at midnight). And I love the line from the closing cut, "Nobody's Accusing You of Having a Good Time" that snorts "some days the grim reaper isn't looking so grim." Stuff like that is what made me an HHH fan in the first place.

When I first caught wind of HHH, it was because of Bray's Robert Smith yelp, which sounded like The Cure being backed by Elvis Costello's Attractions. "Happiness" was an attempt at smoothing things out for major consumption, even if it did boast better songs. With "Future Breeds," they're back where they started, but this time I think only aficionados - like me - are the ones that will really dig it.

Elevator  Make Up the Breakdown Happiness Ltd. The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years [DIGIPACK] The Cure - Greatest Hits Day & Age

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Florence and The Machine "Lungs"

LungsDog's Teeth Sink In  
4 Out Of 5 Stars

I am all for earth-mamas getting their Kate Bush on, and "Lungs" is one of the better efforts in that style. Florence Welch has the kind of power Neko Case delivers, along with the mystical feel sometimes displayed by Lilith Faire types like Sarah McLaughlin. And like Kate Bush or Sinéad O'Connor, there are those indescribable moments that quirk "Lungs" into areas you wouldn't expect it to go.

The initial attraction has been "Dog Days are Over," a forceful declaration of emancipation that has a universal resonance to it. With Welch's booming voice raging atop a aggressive track, "Dog Days" is pretty near irresistible. Yet there's no way that the single prepares you for the strangely punky "Kiss With a Fist" or the booming blues mayhem of "Girl With One Eye." Welch sings everything with a flamethrower intensity that sometimes makes the album a bit too monochromatic vocally, but when you get her snarling out a lyric (from "Hurricane Drunk") that goes "I'm going out, I'm gonna drink myself to death" or she tones the firepower down a touch on "Between Two Lungs," you get the feeling that Florence and The Machine might have some staying power.

The Sensual World  Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Middle Cyclone I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got The Annie Lennox Collection It's Not Me, It's You

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Black Keys "Brothers"

Howl and Growl with The Black Keys
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Black Keys are the latest incarnation of garage-band boys to discover the gritty blues. "Brothers" is their best to date, having distilled their influences down to basics, at the same time not jettisoning the hipster production stlye of Danger Mouse and his ilk. The atmosphereic wooshes that swirl underneath the best songs here (especailly "Too Afraid To Love You") eliminate mone of the primal yearning from the songs, and pull them into a more modern sound. Even the update of Jerry Butler's "Never Gonna Give You Up" maintains a reverence for the original; other than being recorded in this century, there's not much difference between the way the two songs feel.

Which is one of the many reasons I enjoy "Brothers." The big echoing drums, the fuzzy guitars, the less than perfect singing (there's no auto-tune on this album) make it more of a feel album than a technical one. When something chugs like "Sinister Kid" or reaches to the falsetto heavens like "Everlasting Light," you can tell that Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach are trying more to make the album sound right more than having one more go at that perfect take. Or that they feel no shame in taking a Gary Glitter drum stomp and attatching it to "Howlin' For You." "Brothers" takes to the same mold that Jack White seems to have gone for with Dead Weather in that anything worth using is good in service to the song.

Fans of slicked up blues or even the uber-purists will likely not like this, as the music is raw and blunt, without much thought for replicating tradition in a narrow sense. "Brothers" rumbles along its own stream, engrossing everything in the water like so much swamp moss.

Attack and Release  Thickfreakness Rubber Factory Icky Thump Sea of Cowards Horehound