The Marked Men – Ghosts

23 07 2009

The Marked MenGhosts
2009 – Dirtnap

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

First up, I love me some Marked Men. I was turned on to them, embarrassingly enough, by Mitch Clem’s Nothing Nice To Say, which featured their second-latest album, Fix My Brain, in the number-one slot of its Best Albums of 2007 strip. I’m not normally that big on pop-punk or powerpop or whatever it’s called these days, but I did come of age in the mid 90s, which means, I think, that it’s in my DNA. My first show was a pop-punk show (Lagwagon – yeah, yeah; it was Edmonton, Alberta in 1994), and while I was always more into the Dead Kennedys than NOFX, I have had a fondness for The Queers, Mr. T. Experience, early Green Day, The Hi Fives, and a whole bunch of local poppy punky bands. What I mean to say is I don’t consider myself “into” pop punk, but I guess I kind of am. Not that it necessarily matters, since I’m not sure that the Marked Men count as pop punk, but they made me think of that little rant, so there you go.

Anyway, the band’s latest album, Ghosts has the band sounding older than they did before and rougher than they did on Fix My Brain. There aren’t as many insanely catchy hooks, but the driving, uplifting guitar is still there, and I kind of like the move from super hooky to older, messier, (drunker?), and fuzzier. It sounds like these guys have been listening to my husband’s band, actually. They sound muscular and reckless in the best possible way. Where the band’s previous albums are great and poppy and really tuneful, with great vocals and harmonies and good, hooky, catchy song structures, Ghosts is more raw (sorry, I hate that term, but it’s true) and sounds like they worried less about making things sound nice and more about getting their balls up to the wall as much as they possibly could. The whole thing clocks in at 30 minutes for 15 songs, too, so most of the tracks are super simple, super concise, and super compact. Each song sounds like its exploding out of the gate – none of this pussy transition nonsense for these guys!

All in all, I’ve listened to it twice now, and I like it more the second than the third. I’m sure if you watch my last.fm, you’ll see it quickly overtake my current top-listened bands (which are, by the way, inaccurate, but still). I am not the dancing kind, but this album makes me want to dance around my apartment by myself. I wish that there were more bands like this around. So many of the “garage rock” and “pop punk” and “rock ‘n roll” bands out there today have so little heart and guts, it really does hit you like a tonne of bricks when you hear something like this album.

I can only hope these guys make it out to San Francisco soon and play a show or two. Go get this album.

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The Dandy Warhols – Earth To The Dandy Warhols

23 08 2008

The Dandy WarholsEarth To The Dandy Warhols
2008 – World’s Fair Record Label Group

When did The Dandy Warhols stop ripping off the Brian Jonestown Massacre and start ripping off the B-52s and Frank Black?





Parts & Labor – Mapmaker

27 07 2008

Parts & LaborMapmaker
2007 – Jagjaguwar/Brah

Okay, so, apologies to the 3 people who have found and read (or did read, until I stopped writing) this blog. I hit a writer’s block – ironic, since I’m not a writer and suck at it when I do it recreationally. Ah well; so it goes.

The album that finally inspired my ass back into writing was Parts & Labor’s Mapmaker. I worked the day shift at the record store on Friday, and my still-mostly-drunk coworker bought me this record after seeing that I’d been listening to Husker Du the night before, which was nice of him, since I’m broke until Wednesday. He told me to take it home and listen to it loud, which I didn’t do, since the only system I currently have is my laptop, which only has one working speaker. Instead, I put it on my ipod and listened to it on my long walk to work the next day.

Yow.

I kind of thought my coworker was talking shit when he said these guys took a page from Husker Du. I mean, they’re from Brooklyn. I figured they might have a good song or two, but I was in no way prepared for what this album sounds like. It does kind of sound like Husker Du, but it sounds like Husker Du and something else… it sounds like Husker Du smashed up with The Dismemberment Plan. Actually, at first, I thought the singer was Dismemberment Plan frontman, Travis Morrison, but it’s not. In fact, the four guys in Parts & Labor don’t really seem to be or have been in any other bands at all.

But what’s it like, really?

Mapmaker sounds like all the stuff that other people think is so great about Animal Collective (noisy, sort-of-long songs and lots of dynamics and soaring vocals and kind of a freewheeling, letting loose kind of feeling to the whole enterprise) but done, well, well, rather than in a profoundly irritating fake-animal way like A.C. That is to say, it’s driving Husker Du-esque drums (with lots of tight, interesting flourishes – the drumming on this album rules), soaring, distant and echo-y sounding vocals, lots of weird, electronic guitar and keyboard-ish noises that sound like drills and buzzsaws half the time, no bass on half the songs, and even the odd electronic beat or squawk thrown in. There’s lots of energy, and the songwriting is tight enough to keep all the disparate sounds from sounding like an annoying pile of trendy noise. There are even a few dance-y kind of hooky tunes, but not enough to make this a dance band in any sense of the word. What I mean to get at is that this is a band that is better than the sum of its parts and that looks worse on paper.

Finally, these guys sound like they mean it, and I suppose that’s probably what I like most about this album. Yes, there are lots of trendy, hip, elements in their songs, but that doesn’t seem to really matter in the face of the four guys in the band just, for lack of a better term, givin’er. It’s totally shitty of me to say, but Parts & Labor sound like they love music and love playing, and hearing this album made me realize how relatively rare that is in music coming out today.

Thanks for getting me out of my slump, guys.

Also Listened (some picks from the last 45 days):
Beck – Modern Guilt
Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal
Quest For Fire – S/T
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
Carcass – Heartwork
Lair of the Minotaur – The Ultimate Destroyer
Fugazi – The Argument
Elliott Brood – Mountain Meadows
She Wolves – S/T
Melvins – Nude With Boots
Antelope – Reflector





Dan Sartain – Join Dan Sartain

7 06 2008

Dan SartainJoin Dan Sartain
2006 – Swami Records

The write-up on Dan Sartain on the Swami website says he’s “more talented than a thousand talented dudes.” A thousand? Fuck that. Try ten thousand or a hundred thousand. Dan Sartain, from what I can tell, plays all the instruments on this album himself, which means that however much I might normally like this album, I now like it more if for nothing other than the appreciation I have for sheer gumption, especially when well-aimed. JDS sure does make me wish I knew how to put on eyeliner and do my hair so I could make myself pretty just to listen to Mr. Sartain. This isn’t dirty rock ‘n roll; it’s showered and just a little bit dressed up with a bit of Brylcreem and a nice but slightly worn pair of shoes. Oh, and it’s not really rock ‘n roll at all. It’s not quite rockabilly either. It’s someplace in between but with just a hint of that chugging Johnny Cash guitar driving the whole thing. Listening to this album makes me wish I was sitting at an elegant typewriter with a western-style lamp instead of in my underpants in bed drinking wine with smudged drugstore mascara. Oh well. I guess we can’t all be Dan Sartain.

Photo Credit to David Wala

You know how some people evoke a certain mood just by being in the room or in the scene of a movie or sometimes even just with their voice? The best example I can think of is that cowboy guy in The Big Lebowski. That guy’s name is actually Sam Elliot (though in the movie, his character is known only as “The Stranger”), and it seems like he always plays kind of the same role: the cowboy guy with the heart of gold and the twinkle in his eye. Anyway, it seems, upon listening to Join Dan Sartain, that if he were an actor, Mr. Sartain would probably be typecast in the same kind of way, though instead of the weathered-looking cowboy, Sartain would be the functioning slightly-alcoholic male lead with good plain fashion sense and an appreciation for a particular kind of whiskey-addled decorum. This is mood music, sure, but it’s not just mood music.

What I mean is that when I listen to this album, I can close my eyes and imagine my life has a bit more class than it actually does.

I have a crush on Dan Sartain.

Also Listened:
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
Neko Case – Furnace Room Lullaby
Neko Case – Canadian Amp
Lucero – Lucero
Firewater – The Golden Hour
Constantines – Kensington Market
Dirtbombs – We Have You Surrounded
Rick James – The Definitive Collection
Removal – If You Can’t Say Anything Nice Start A Band
Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
Drive Like Jehu – Yank Crime