Issue September 2, 2008

Music Reviews

Every Girl In The Shower

Rude Weirdo

(LOUISVILLE LIP)

<grab-bag confrontational>

Rude Weirdo’s sound calls to mind the Golden Age of hardcore and indie rock, before these Siamese twins of vibrant, diverse genres became homogenized same-fests.

We’re talking about an era of independent music that spawned both Dinosaur Jr. and Big Black. In this spirit, the Weirdos mix the sludgy, metal-inspired proto-grunge of Black Flag, a touch of Mission of Burma’s angular quirk and a whole lot of Butthole Surfers’ twisted sense of humor. Like much of the music from this era, there is definitely a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of macho posturing/misogyny, but whether any of the offending lyrics are in earnest or just part of the joke is not for me to say. Evaluating the music on its own terms, that’s all beside the point, especially when the best track on the record, hands down “What’s Up, Tase This,” is also the most likely to offend. In other words, take a copy of Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, throw in a frog or something, mix and enjoy. —Anthony Bowman

Folklore and Superstition

Black Stone Cherry

(ROADRUNNER)

<wrong impression>

First off, this record is kind of a cocktease.

It opens with a nice bass-drum thump, some cool distorted guitar, then, about 12 seconds in, you’re dropped right into your standard, over-compressed, radio-friendly “metal.” The vocals are a car wreck involving Creed and late-era Soundgarden.

Modern metal style and production aside, this record never really hits its stride. For every solid rocker that would please most Alice in Chains fans (“Long Sleeves” and “Devil’s Queen”), there is an equally soft power ballad that would infuriate them. Hell, once it ticked over to track two, “Please Come In,” I had to double-check to see if this was actually released on Roadrunner. Opeth or Dragonforce this ain’t. To their credit, though this record sounds incredibly vanilla and unoriginal, it’s accessible. I’m sure there are a lot of forlorn Creed fans out there who will really love this. I guess I just expected more from “Kentucky boys done good.” —J. Brian Hall

Common Reaction

Uh Huh Her

(NETTWERK)

<uh huh hot>

The wait is not only over — it was worth it. This first full-length, 11-song album by the L.A.-based duo was supposed to come out in May. Due to circumstances beyond their control (read: the music biz), Common Reaction was delayed. But that didn’t stop Camila Grey and Leisha Hailey (of “The L Word”) from gallivanting cross-country to maintain the buzz and anticipation of the new material. I caught them at Nashville’s Exit/In in mid-May and was in awe of their stage performance and innovative setlist — they made a subtle shift from experimental electronica (last year’s EP I See Red) to a more pop-infused sound. In fact, two tracks off the EP (“Explode” and “Say So”) show up here, slightly made over to reflect the new direction.

Grey’s breathy lead vocals, mixed with a high-dose keyboard and bass, mesh well with Hailey’s layered background vocals. Opener “Not a Love Song” is about as fast as it gets. My favorites, the title track and “Wait Another Day,” set the pace early on — somewhere between slow and steady and just right. It’d be hard to turn down Grey’s repeated request in “Dance With Me”: Lie down / Just give it up / Dance with me … —Sara Havens

How to Walk Away

Juliana Hatfield

(YE OLDE)

<woah-man>

On How to Walk Away, Hatfield writes like a woman who has evolved. Her eyes still stare sultry from behind her trademark red locks, seductively challenging you to fix her. But her voice sounds hardened, experienced and more confident — she doesn’t sound like a girl looking for answers, but rather, a woman who has come to terms with no answers.

Hatfield injects a healthy sense of blunt sexuality. While keeping the songs from getting raunchy or vulgar, she does get a little bawdy here and there. “My Baby…” is a song about a relationship drained of all things affectionate and sustained on meaningless sex. The emptiness and boredom with which she sings helps to drive the song’s theme into the psyche. And with the tune “Just Lust,” she offers an ode to the one-night stand. Her emotional disconnect as the female narrator causes a jarring role reversal that makes the song almost disconcerting. We’re so used to the image of men acting out of lust that it’s strangely refreshing to hear a woman singing about acting on the same motivation. —Brent Owen

Moody Motorcycle

Human Highway

(SUICIDE SQUEEZE)

<’corn husker>

Harmony in pop music seems to be almost forgotten these days, with everyone all EQ-ed and cleaned up artificially, even when there’s no “song” to speak of. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned melody, the kind you could sing along with in the ’50s and ’60s? What? Don’t remember that? Me neither.

Well, lucky for us, Human Highway do.

With a pedigree that includes Montreal indie-pop act the Unicorns and Islands (vocalist/guitarist Nick Thorburn was a member of both) and Woody Guthrie (multi-instrumentalist Jim Guthrie is his grandson), Human Highway’s deceptively simple, stripped-down and mostly acoustic record brings all the right touches. Reminiscent of the lovely pop-folk sounds of The Everly Brothers (but a little more world-weary) or Simon & Garfunkel (sans the maudlin moodiness), Thorburn and Guthrie successfully bridge that gap between classic pop and modern indie. “Sleep Talking” evokes the Everlys as well as anything — the refrain of slee-eee-eep … reminds of Don and Phil pretty plainly — and is probably intentional. The title track is a more driving and, dare I say, rocking cut — and would make a killer single. “Pretty Hair” shows the duo’s sense of humor, and the album closes with “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” a sweet and to-the-point slice of introspection that leaves me wanting to hear more. —Todd Zachritz

Sunshine Lies

Matthew Sweet

(SHOUT FACTORY)

<100% better>

Finally, after a string of fruitful collaborations, Matthew Sweet, the smooth-singing father of indie-pop, has returned with a vibrant new solo album. Sunshine Lies is a refreshing return to form for Sweet, after two of his most recent albums left him, seemingly, settling into middle-age with a mellow folk trio and sappy covers of ’60s classics.

Sunshine Lies feels like the raucous but sensitive Sweet as he was on his early ’90s masterpieces Girlfriend and 100% Fun.

“Room to Rock,” “Let’s Love” and “Sunrise Eyes” all let Sweet savor in the beauty of thick, distorted guitar riffs in ways he hasn’t explored since “Sick of Myself” and “Someone to Pull the Trigger” a decade and a half ago. When he isn’t rocking out behind layers of guitar, Sweet sounds solid as he rolls through mid-tempo tracks like “Around You Now” and “Back of My Mind.” Elsewhere, with “Feel Fear” and the title track, his saccharine melodies and silky voice are the only saving graces to otherwise tepid ballads.  

Sweet fans will enjoy having Sunshine Lies on the shelf — but if you aren’t familiar with his previous catalog, begin at the beginning and work your way up. —Brent Owen