CD Reviews (01-11-2006)

Live Lunch

Juggernaut Jug Band (Independent) jug music It would be difficult not to like the Juggernaut Jug Band. For years (in various incarnations), these guys have melded traditional jug music with jazz, blues, swing, ragtime and rock to create an honest sound to go with a fun stage show. This album is a recording of the band’s July 1, 2005, appearance on WFPK’s Live Lunch, and it captures not only the essence of one of Louisville’s tightest bands, but also the essence of jug music itself. Here, the Juggernauts deftly cover the Memphis Jug Band and Whistler and His Jug Band — original jug bands from the 1920s — and in true JJB tradition, also capably offer well-chosen, tongue-in-cheek covers like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps” and the Doors’ “People Are Strange.” The band seems happiest, however, rollicking through traditional tunes like “The Sheik of Araby,” goofy classics like “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” and the traditional folk/bluegrass number “Chicken Pie.” And if you’ve never heard the song “You Gotta Have Skin” (You gotta have skin/It keeps your insides in), that’s reason enough to buy this disc. It’s a must-have for JJB fans, and not a bad intro for the uninitiated. —Kevin Gibson


As This Is Futuristic

The Apparitions (Machine) power pop Give this one a chance. It’s nothing to write home about, but perfect for a sunny day in June. Fun and freewheeling, The Apparitions’ second full-length release is an inviting, playful disc of lighthearted songs that pack in as much complexity as they can hold, compliments of the band’s three guitarists. The album even shows a bit of range with the explosive choruses of “She Burned Out Their Eyes” to the dark, guitar-rock ruckus of “You Chirp Like Little Sparrows.” The Lexington quintet keeps the lyrics original, whether it’s a brief history of the world featuring God creating the monkey before the robot in “God Monkey Robot,” or a song on the nuclear holocaust in “With Wolf Clothes On”: Where the sun’s beamed in on video feed/so we never burn or even blink/and we can turn it off whenever we please. Not bad. Not to mention it’s amazing what a few major chords and organs here and there can do. The Apparitions have a CD release party is Friday at the Dame in Lexington. —Sean Rose


Dimanche a Bamako

Amadou and Mariam (Nonesuch) world, really Amadou and Mariam are generally the favorites in any “coolest couple” contest. Well-dressed, immensely talented and obviously in love, the blind Malian couple’s fame is growing outside of their native West Africa and especially in France, where the fact that they are from a francophone nation comes in quite handy. As this happens, they are increasingly a transnational band, retaining their Malian roots, but not being burdened by them. Their new record is probably their least “traditional.” The brand of “world music” on this album is not the type of flat, lifeless Epcot Center pop that you would get on the average Putamayo compilation. This is “world music” in the sense that it is from no one place. They enlisted the production of Franco-Spanish maverick Manu Chao, whose production style is to bring in everything but the kitchen sink. Under Manu’s control, Amadou and Mariam’s ballads have been layered with found sounds (children’s voices, car horns, etc.), reggae beats, Spanish guitar and the occasional funk ensemble, meaning the tracks can range from simple nostalgic love songs with a distinct Arabic-tinged African guitar melody to complicated, dazzling Afrobeat jams not dissimilar from Fela Kuti. It’s bewildering, beautiful stuff. —Alan Abbott


The Tide and the Undertow

Extra Blue Kind (Opulent Records) clever rock Some must-haves: density, intensity and subtlety. They could be the trilogy of desire for any artist or production of work. All of them had to start in somebody’s garage or basement or, in this case, somebody’s frat house. Maybe it also defines them as a band. However, hear the music before crucifixion via investigation. Well, still listening. Even after investigating. This first release for the Indianapolis-based boys comes out with a punch, a bright and frolicking piece aptly titled “Make Yourself Useless.” Humorous. Say those things that are digging holes in your mind, chaotic thoughts born of despair and anger and, according to “Atmosphere,” suicidal visions, but do it with a catchy little bop in your belfry and it’s all good. “Lipstick” meets the groove-song quota with a hint of The Cure and a dash of salty darkness. Screaming rage doesn’t much fit lead singer David Handy, as on “Trails Turn.” Thankfully the closing track, “Sugar,” wraps up this disc with the same glue that stuck to you to begin with. Hear some Stones influence there … and don’t miss the hidden track. A second dose, please. Check them out at Uncle Pleasant’s Saturday, Jan. 14. —Michelle Manker


Solid Gold Hits

Beastie Boys (Capitol) whiteboy rap The Beasties here show that they’re now OK being labeled Old Masters. This release sticks to the business of hits, resulting in a somewhat streamlined approach that compensates for some of the extravagant odd-duckness of their previous compilation (1999’s The Sound of Science). The new single-disc also integrates some of the recent To the Five Boroughs sessions — so, just in case you couldn’t get past the slightly slowed-down flow and roughness, or thought that whole album piggybacked on post-9/11 sympathies for the Big Apple, “Ch-Check It Out” now follows “Brass Monkey” to make a convincing case that it all fits together as a proper body of work. In fact, the 15 tracks here (nothing truly new, just a Fatboy Slim remix) fit together so well that this is a fine readymade party album that’s just maybe a little safe at this late date. It’s perfect if your favorite perspective is the rearview mirror (though some anal purists might chafe at the non-chronological sequencing) or if you’re programming your Tivo to capture their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speeches. —T.E. Lyons