Mike Press captures poetic songcraft of Jeff Tweedy with Beck’s quirks

March 27, 2008 at 7:07 am (Adult Album Alternative, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Mike Press

Album: Keep Your Head

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.mikepress.com

Written by Derek Jensen

Singer/songwriter Mike Press casually tosses out more great lines than most of his peers are barely able to piece together. Keep Your Head is basically moments of genius stitched together. It’s not a smooth ride, certainly, and it took me repeated listenings to appreciate Press’ style in full. In fact, that is the best way to experience this record, in one large gulp, over and over again, letting Press’ rambling, off-the-cuff observations and desert-dry wit into your subconscious.

“Our love was a train wreck in the stars,” Press sings on “Tears of Goodbye (Wayward People’s Hearts),” recalling the poetic imagery of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Obviously, Press is fan of the Americana segment of the indie-rock population; however, he isn’t too enamored of it in the sense that he is afraid of reaching beyond it. In fact, the influence of Beck and his stream-of-consciousness wordplay is just as pronounced here as the traditional roots-rock elements found in “Short Supplies” and “Taboo.”

I never heard of some of the groups – Drunken Boat, Sticky, etc – that Press used to be in so I’m curious as to how his work has progressed through the years. He certainly has something going for him here.

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The Libertines US offer flashback of pre-Nirvana alternative rock

March 7, 2008 at 7:51 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Libertines US

Album: Greatest Hits

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.thelibertines.us

Written by Derek Jensen

It may be hard for those who didn’t discover alternative rock until Nirvana or, God forbid, emo, but there was a period of time when just about everybody in the indie scene wanted to be R.E.M. Worshipped by Rolling Stone magazine and the crowned princes of campus stations worldwide, R.E.M. ruled the underground for nearly a decade before their inevitable mainstream breakthrough. You need to read that history lesson to fully understand the Libertines US.

With their continually ringing guitars and enigmatic lyrics (the most straightforward is probably “Everybody Wants to Be My Sister,” which says it all), the Libertines US were among the best of the R.E.M.-alikes. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t like R.E.M. enough. While most R.E.M. clones settled into the same jingle-jangle-jingle-jangle format track for track, the Libertines US skidded in other directions like Goth punk rockabilly (“Voices from the Past”) to neo-psychedelia (the Church-ish “Firetruck”) to, well, proto-grunge (“300 Moons”). However, what may have seemed confusing two decades ago fits perfectly within the electic jukebox of my iPod. Like the Velvet Underground, the Libertines US were way ahead of their time. My only problem with Greatest Hits is that it seems to toss in everything the group has recorded, and not all of it clicks for me. Nevertheless, the many tracks that do – more than half of this CD – make this a must-buy. Get it while it’s still in print.

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Wolff could be rock’s first tuba hero

March 5, 2008 at 8:46 pm (Electronica, Industrial) (, , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Wolff

Album: Addition by Subtraction

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.wolffandtuba.com

Written by Derek Jensen

The day that the tuba becomes a primary instrument in rock & roll is when you know progress has finally been made, that the cutting edge has been sharpened once again. Wolff is seriously ahead of the pack. While industrialists like Nine Inch Nails don’t know where to go anymore, Wolff has clipped on guitar pedals to his tuba and is taking us to sonic terrain previously unheard, at least from my ears. The title cut is oppressive and claustrophobic, recalling Dessau and Ministry and other dark, machine-like European bands from the late ’80s to the early ’90s. However, those acts relied mainly on synthesizers and drum machines to pull off those cyborg effects, not a tuba. “What I See” and “Screaming Tuba” will leave you similarly bruised.

Wolff never loses momentum or his sense of rhythm; Addition by Subtraction moves along fairly quickly and always keeping our interest. Not everything is grim, either. “Broken Words” is actually danceable. Too weird for you? Maybe, but perhaps not. I was actually surprised at how melodic this record turned out to be. It’s not too far off from the experimental sides of Depeche Mode and New Order.

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Vast Countenance groove to the heart of the Kinks, the Beatles

March 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Vast Countenance

Album: As We Please

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.vastcountenance.nl

Written by Derek Jensen

Opening the indie-rock scene to blatant fan-worship of the ’60s, Vast Countenance breathe new air into an increasingly stale climate. These Dutch rockers embrace the Woodstock generation with giddy open arms and actually do not humiliate themselves. Their taste for retro rock is real and intelligently and coolly shaped into prime slices of garage-band nostalgia and British Invasion power pop. “Easyride” takes a look back at the Beatles’ ringing-guitar majesty without the bland coyness that often informs such efforts in the indie-rock world. “Clay” finds Vast Countenance investigating psychedelia while “Trumpet Slide” takes a walk on the wild, er, dark side of the rock groove.

Is there anything original here? My answer to that is: Does it matter? Rock & roll is so old now (more than 50 years, kids!) that all we can do now is recycle the same parts in different ways. If Vast Countenance want to take a time machine to the glory days of the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, they certainly do so with youthful vigor and an inspired spirit. And they write attention-grabbing tunes with the crisp kick of an angry stallion. Fasten your seatbelts when the guitars take off on “This Year’s Fall,” making most of the post-punk wanna-be’s (they know who they are) look like wimps. Even VC’s mellow touches such as “Finelines” and “Telephone Line” are ethereal and pretty, making me long for the late, lamented Straitjacket Fits.

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