Sunday, January 21, 2007

Partly Cloudy (Chance of Rain)

AIDS Wolf vs. Athletic Automaton, Clash of the Life-Force Warriors,
Skin Graft [1/23/07]

I slipped this disc in my player with no foreknowledge about either group. Seripop's B&W Savage Pencil-inspired artwork is both scary and intriguing [they're also responsible for the image at right] and the band names are definitely...interesting. I thought that might apply to the music, as well. It does. This is swirling, pounding punkadelica, for lack of a better word.

Athletic Automaton are from Providence and AIDS Wolf are from Montreal. Both have released one record apiece. Some of the tracks on their first collaboration are instrumentals, some have vocals. In the latter, a woman's voice rises up through the morass like an unruly ghost. Credited with "yelping," Special Deluxe sounds like a banshee trapped in a well, howling for someone to let her out--so she can suck the life out of them.
Other participants include Hiroshima Thunder on drums and Barbarian Destroyer and HIM, The Magi, both on guitar.

Also available as a gatefold LP, Clash of the Life-Force Warriors is demented stuff with a downright vicious vibe. It's not quite my scene, but I admire the crazed intensity, except when Deluxe's howling devolves into babbling. That's when they lose me.

BARR, Summary, 5 Rue Christine [2/10/07]

In the midst of tripping out about everything, I realized I don't know
what I'm doing. Try to hit--I mean, hit the town like a ton of bricks.
Hit a few spots a little too hard. Made moves too much. A little bit uncomfortable, a little bit sad, I mean I was a little bit confused,
even sort of mad but still kind of amped on the drama and ambiguity.
-- BARR, "Was I? Are You?"

Strictly speaking, BARR's fourth full-length, Summary, isn't a spoken word recording, but LA-based Brendan Fowler (New England Roses) is more of a talker than a singer. (Vice describes him as a "motivational rapper.") There's a slight King Missile ("Jesus Was Way Cool") thing going on here, except his vocals are even more prominent and the music is even more spare, just a little piano and drums (Fowler) and bass (Corey Dieckman).

There are musicians who monologue much of their way through life, like Bob Dylan ("Subterranean Homesick Blues") and Lou Reed ("Take a Walk on the Wild Side"). I like that kind of stuff. I don't like this. It's akin to sitting next to a crazy person on the bus who rambles on and on and on. Plus, he doesn't have the pipes for it. Tom Lehrer and Ken Nordine did, Gil Scott-Heron and Mose Allison did. So did the Last Poets. Maybe those comparisons aren't fair, but Fowler has this sort of droning/adenoidal tone. He lacks the forcefulness of those other cats. And his lyrics read like diary entries. This would've worked better as a graphic novel.

Bird & Batteries, Selections From...
Nature vs. Nature, Self-released

Not to be confused with the Bird and the Bee, whom I've raved about elsewhere, Bird & Batteries is one-man San Francisco band Michael Sempert. He's got six other players helping him out on guitar, bass, brass, drums, and backing vocals, but this is primarily a solo effort. Because the original Nature vs. Nature had 18 tracks, this edited version, which slims things down to 12 (including Neil Young's "Albuquerque"), is titled Selections From...

I'm not thrilled by Sempert's voice, but it never rises too far above the music. Wise move. He's not a terrible singer, but there's something a little flat about his style. It's like a cross between Steely Dan's Walter Fagen and Brian Eno.

Of Montreal is the closet analogy I can find for Nature vs. Nature, except this is rootsier stuff (must be that steel guitar). I like it more than BARR, but that's as much enthusiasm as I can muster. Sempert has an original style--he dubs it "electro-country-indie-pop"--and I respect that, but I found this record rather dull.


Endnote: Bird & Batteries play Seattle's Comet Tavern on 2/9 and BARR plays Gallery 1412 on 3/9. Fun fact about AIDS Wolf, they were voted 10th Most Pretentious Band by the Montreal Mirror's Readers' Poll. Nice! Image of their first CD, The Lovvers [sic], from Amazon, Nature vs. Nature cover image from CDBaby.

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