Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dancing in
the Dark

EP, self-

The new wave re-
vival continues with Future Future, teen sibs Jordan (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) and Jamie Lawlor (drums, percussion).

The problem lies not with the quality of the material—though I could do without the squealing guitar on Owsley tribute "Dr. Al-
bert"—but that too many musicians born around the same time are doing the same thing. These six tracks pirouette along the edges of goth and electro-pop, employing outsized drums and minor chords. While I hardly think Springsteen was predicting
the Jersey lads, the phrase "Dancing in the Dark" comes to mind.

Jeff Who?, self-titled, Bad Taste Records

This Reykjavik quintet rolls from the hard to the soft. Sometimes they sound like ELO, sometimes like the missing link between disco and hair metal. Suffice to say they have no fear of the cheese, and will do whatever it takes to make a song work, hence the un-ironic use of cowbell on "The Great Escape" (and if you're gonna use Will Ferrell's favorite instrument, by all means: do like he does, and set the smirk aside). I often take unoriginal and unmemorable acts to task, and after two listens, I'm not so sure Jeff Who? dodges those fates as successfully as they could, but their second disc guarantees a good time, and that's far easier said than done.

Bob Harp, Collecting Dust, self-released [7/21/09]

On the follow-up to Good Misery, this San Francisco trou-
badour sings, strums, and plays the harmonica like Bob Dy-
lan, circa The Basement Tapes (he even borrows the frog-
in-his-throat from "Lay Lady Lay"). That doesn't mean
Collecting Dust sounds like a carbon copy, though the
man's influence is keenly felt, right down to the high-pit-
ched "Hurricane" violin on "One Last Night in Califor-
nia." I like Dylan, but I don't love him, and I feel the
same way about Harp. He needs to emerge from
Zimmy's long shadow into his own light.

Honor by August, Found, self-released [5/26/09]

"Distinctive, inviting vocals and anthemic, reverb-drenched guitars."
-- MetroMusicScene.com

Michael Pearsall sings lyrics like "We hope and pray that love will
find a way" with a straight face, probably because he really means
it, but these painfully earnest piano-rockers aren't doing anything
the Fray hasn't already done. They also thank stage-sharers Bon
Jovi and Third Eye Blind in the liner notes and borrow the Edge's
waterfall-guitar trick. The DC quartet's second self-released ef-
fort serves as a handy reminder that "indie" is just a word.

J.A.C.K., Deletist, Yabyum Records [6/16/09]

"A thunderous mountain of sound."
-- Deli Magazine

Ignore the name and the occasionally dunderheaded lyrics—"the
whole world is controlled by assholes"—and enjoy the screaming.
Whether it's more a matter of skill or luck, a good scream can be a
beautiful thing. Too high, and a man risks sounding like a castrato;
too low and the cookie monster effect kicks in. Scott Holland's got
the balance right. Since J.A.C.K.'s moniker recalls the idiotic
radio format, I expected little from Deletist, but these New
Yorkers have got it going on. Recommended to fans of Sub
Pop-era Soundgarden and the Laughing Hyenas.

Various Artists, Creative Belfast Presents Sound of the City, Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission [promo]

Unlike the last N.I.M.I.C. compilation, which I review-
ed in 2008, this one leaves bigger names like Snow Patrol, Neil Hannon, and David Holmes behind, but Sounds of the City still aims to promote Northern Ireland's music scene, and there's something for most listeners here, like the driving electro-pop of Skibunny's "Up
Down" and the gentle country of Anthony Toner's "Sailortown," which references Van Morrison ("brown eyed girl") and Thin Liz-
("whiskey in the jar"). If none of the 14 tracks set my ears on fire, nor did I encounter anything likely to embarrass the folks from the North and those of us rooting for their success.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: For more information about Creative
Belfast, please click here; for Future Future, here;
for Bob Harp, here or here; for J.A.C.K., here; for
Skibunny, here; and for Anthony Toner, here.
Images from the Jeff Who? MySpace Page
(photo by Ari Magg) and Planetary Group.


Anonymous said...

This blog is built negative comments that I am speculating to be the result of a failed music career. This part time writer/full time insurance peddler, has even gone to the trouble to pick on kids and teenagers to build her own credibilty. I challenge you to find a good comment in these pages, not surprising since the writer is into outdated bands like Cheep Trick, Rolling Stones and the Kinks, or maybe she's just plain old and out of touch.....

kathy fennessy said...

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your input. Unfortunately, you don't appear to have read the post in question very carefully, or you would've noticed that I praised both Jeff Who and J.A.C.K. That said, I am "old"--over 30!--and I do like "outdated bands" like Cheap Trick, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks. I also like the Black Lips, Deerhunter, and plenty of other younger artists. And I'm definitely not a "failed" musician or "full-time insurance peddler." Those are what's known as banner ads. I'm a full-time freelance writer. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.