We get a lot of fine CDs in the USOUNDS office, so it’s once again time to blow the doors off and let you know about some albums which none of our high-flying journalists have been sober enough to review. Once again, associate editor Hassan Jenkins takes up the task this quarter and finds some gems worth checking out. This time, he focuses on albums with a common theme of pretentious rock albums that actually deliver the goods.
INNAWAY “Debut S/T”
This album is superb, lots of rolling guitars, feedback, solos, power-riffs etc. The songs are well crafted, and unlike some neo-pyschedelia, the grooves are on point with good bass and drum interplay which keep the up-tempo numbers from being boring or repetitive. The singer is great with that 70’s California laid-back overdub vibe. There are also some great spacey numbers which draw out their sound into extended slow-jams. This is one of my new favorites. 8.7/10
MORE INFO: Some Records
DJ Spooky and Dave Lombardo: “Drums of Death”
Most rock-rap collabos take rap beats and marry them to cheesy guitars, then add whiteboy rapping on top. That is not for me. This album takes heavy metal drums from one of the world’s best drummers, and marries it with DJ Spooky’s out-there sampling, along with metal guitars and (for three track) Chuck D. The pretentiousness of this album cannot even be charted, but it works. This is some powerful shit, not for the faint of heart, with a sci-fi spin that keeps the whole thing off center and totally irrelevant, in a good way. The best tracks are Public Enemy covers, especially “B Side Wins Again (2005)”. B+
REMOTE “Birds Eye View”
Remote is the latest band from LA’s Ran and Tal Pink (MLF, Bamboo) who harmonize and philosophize their way through this excellent debut album. The influences are fairly straightforward for a rock group in 2005 (Radiohead, which is the gold standard for all pretentious rock bands, the Beatles), but the final result is something that stands on its own, with an emphasis on interesting melodies and superb musicianship. The unique interplay between the voices of the two lead singers, combined with a band playing at the top of their game results in an album that features grand, expansive rock tracks full of musical intricacies and flourishes. Remote connects with their audience on an emotional level, with lyrics that mine loss, regret, and the pain that can only come from love. Overall, this is an impressive album that showcases serious talent. ****
More info: Fonogenic.com
Gomez “Out West”
Gomez may be the kings of the subgenre that all of these bands I’m reviewing kind of fit into. Call it neo-prog rock, call it “big songs,” or whatever, but they are the kings. This new double live album is certainly large– 20 songs recorded in San Francisco during Gomez’s last tour, and for fans it’s pretty much an essential release. For the uninitiated, you get a superb introduction to a band that mixes big everything (vox, guitars, attitude) into a bold and booming production with plenty of guitar noise and atmospherics. ***
Benzos “Morning Stanzas”
I was primed to hate this album just based on the band name, cover art, and album name. I don’t know why, it just bothered me in some fundamental way. But I gave it a try and while this is not my favorite album of the year, or even of the day, there is some good stuff there. Benzos have an instrument-heavy sound, with lots of guitars, synths, drums, bass, and electronic beats and flourishes. The vocals are excellent and soaring, but need to find more personality if they are to be as affecting as they want to be. This album has a lot going for it even though it all doesn’t go in the same direction when it should. Nonetheless, I hope to hear good things from Benzos in the future. One thumb up.