Interpol – Interpol

Rating: ★★½☆☆

A few years back, Interpol seemingly could do no wrong with indie fans, but then came the debacle that was Our Love to Admire.  It wasn’t an affair many of us remember fondly, but that is all supposed to be in the past now that Interpol, the album, is ready for the streets.  While it definitely reverts back to older stylings of the band in its hey-day, it is a record that will force you, once and for all, to get off the fence.

Listening to “Success,” you’ll find those dark rhythmic bass lines and Paul Banks darker vocal effects giving you that personal haunt as guitars ring in the background of the track.  However, it comes off as a bit of a lackluster rendition of the band on Turn Off the Bright Lights.  Some of the bass work here is super-solid, but the entire sound of the song isn’t entirely new.  “Memory Serves” even appears in the same vein, though its execution is far superior to its predecessor.  Those stuttering guitar chords dancing on the shoegaze horizon are superb here, and the slower pace allows you to delve deeper into the band’s mood.

“Lights” came out to the masses with a great video accompaniment, portraying the artier side of the band.  And while the song, for the most part, is actually a solid effort, it begins to display the same trappings of Interpol trying to revisit their early career. They use similar guitar lines, and nothing is utterly distinguishable from the old band, other than a more polished production value.  “Barricade,” for its part, gives a bit of an affront to the audience, using a sort of stuttering guitar line to mix dance grooves with the haunting of Paul Banks.  Despite the powerful chorus, it seems forced, and sort of generic in its overall presentation.  It’s right about this point that Interpol seems to have sort of blended together, mashing up the grooves of the past with the polish of latter day sins.

At first listen, “Always Malaise” doesn’t appear to be too much. It’s got a tinkering piano that unites Banks with the listener, but it’s the echoing effects in the background that make this song worthy of several run-throughs on your home speaker.  Perhaps a sharper guitar would have given it even more of an edge, but you have to appreciate a step into newer ground on this number.  And that’s when it all seems to grow a bit cold and ordinary.  The creative spark doesn’t survive on the latter half of the album, and you could honestly cut out some tracks to make just a decent EP.  Interpol, for all their great work in the past, haven’t come back as strong as you expected after their last falter.  Listening to Interpol probably won’t make you hate the band, at least not if you’re an early fan, but it’s not likely to win back those that left, or new fans.  It’s an album full of songs you might think about listening to, but probably wouldn’t come back to time and time again.  It’s sad, frankly, as I’m looking at the band from the other side of the fence.

Show Preview: Screaming Females @ Mohawk (9/8)

Date Wednesday, September 8th
Location Mohawk
Doors 1000p
Tickets @ the Door only

The first time I was able to catch Screaming Females, I was rather impressed.  Admittedly, I had gone to see if Ted Leo would sweat all over me, which he did, but this threesome kicked out some powerful jams all the same. They had a knifes-edge tilt, rushing through their set with fury and female vocal prowess.  You’ll definitely have a harder time finding such a sweet evening of tunes.  They’ll be backed up by Yellow Fever, who should definitely fit this bill a great deal, and The Crackpipes.  See you inside the Mohawk, and grab the band’s record Castle Talk–if they have it early.


Download: Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It [MP3]

New Music from the Moondoggies

We first brought you news of a new full length from Moondoggies back in May, and said album, Tidelands, is still on for release on October 12th, from our really solid friends over at Hardly Art (well, we like them all, but mainly Moody). This latest track really shows a great deal of promise, as it has a huge Northwestern feel to it, using great harmonies to accompany that woodsy-stomp.  You can’t deny the extra emphasis from the organ/piano here either.  It’s that sort of harder-edged American sound that appeals to people from all walks of life. Is this record out yet already? We want it.


Download: The Moondoggies – It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity [MP3]

Sonny & the Sunsets – Tomorrow is Alright

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sonny & the Sunsets actually released this album quite some time ago, almost two years, from the word on the streets, but it’s really just seeing the light of day for the masses right now.  Despite that this is a re-release, this will be the first time any of us encounter Sonny Smith and friends.  Tomorrow is Alright offers us a glimpse into the past of the band, and where we can reasonably expect them to head in the future.

This might be just one man’s opinion here, but you’re going to be hard pressed to find a stripped down number this year as good as “Too Young to Burn.”  Sonny’s vocal affect is warm and friendly, like your older brother’s band is just having a nice little jam in your backyard.  And that chorus, man that chorus is just ridiculous.  Some will tell you that the whole affair peaks right here, but rest assured, there are many more solid moments to come, though this could go down as the best.

“Strange Love” operates in a different world altogether.  A barroom piano, and some acapella moments for accompaniment provide the track with a bit of country-western jangle.  It’s something that allows the listener to get into the spirit of the whole album, which seems fueled more by whiskey in dive bars than California sun.  You’ll also find yourself getting into “Planet of Women,” especially with the male/female vocal interplay that goes on between the lyrics.  It’s hard to see how a song that sounds so simple can be so elating.  There’s a bit of a wink and a smile in the songwriting process, and you’ll break into a grin when you hit the lyric “queen I like it like that.”  Special moment.

Other reviews have sort of dismissed the lackluster approach that appears throughout Tomorrow is Alright. Oddly, though the band take their time to warm you up to songs like “Stranded,” the power of such songs succeeds precisely for that approach.  The band isn’t rushing into anything here, not trying to be overly convincing for their audience.  But, in doing so, you will find Sonny & the Sunsets every bit as endearing as your favorite artists, simply because there is no pretense to the craftsmanship of the tunes; they just want to play for you.  Even as they seem to kind of half-ass it, they give you tracks like “Chapters,” which boils down to little more than a nice little stomp, and mentions of various chapters.  You might not be sure why you love it, but damn if it’s not enjoyable.

You’ll find a band doing their own thing when you come to the album’s closer, “Lovin on an Older Gal.”  A twangy little jam until the very end, but one that exudes confidence in the best way, showing that the band is indifferent to praise here and there, they just want to give you some great tracks to enjoy while you’re sitting around the house.  Tomorrow is Alright probably won’t wow too many listeners around the globe, but that doesn’t ever seem to be the point.  You want good songwriting that you can share with all your friends?  Then check out this re-release by Sonny & the Sunsets.


Download: Sonny and the Sunsets – Too Young to Burn [MP3]

The Thermals – Personal Life

Rating: ★★★½☆

Their last time out, on Now We Can See, The Thermals began to steer away from their conversations regarding art and politics.  They introduced a bit more of their personal worlds into their songwriting.  For the most part, they stick to these new tactics on Personal Life, using the title to indicate the album’s lyrical subject matter.

“I’m Gonna Change Your Life” kicks things off with that distorted guitar and bass, including Hutch’s vocals.  While the song definitely has a bit of that soft/loud complexity, it doesn’t have quite the same fury that one associates with the group’s previous efforts. It’s not until “I Don’t Believe You” pummels you in the face that you completely recognize the old energetic band you probably adored since day one.  You’ll find monosyllabic “oohs” throughout the track as well, a long trademark of Hutch and Kathy.

As the record creeps along, you begin to realize that changing subject matter also means a change in the overall approach to writing the accompanying music.  “Never Listen to Me” has this bubbling bassline that walks you through the entire song, but once again, the urgency is absent.  This might be disheartening for some, especially those longtime fans of The Thermals, but you’ll soon realize that even these slower numbers have some special moments, such as Hutch’s cutting guitar working its way in and out of the track.  Similarly, “Power Lies” takes a back seat to the regular pace, even though the song seems to contain remnants of olden days, or at least the ability to unleash.  Still, one of the things that you’ll notice as you go through this collection is that repeated listens don’t wear you down, and the slower pacing allows for more depth somehow.  These songs aren’t hitting you over the head in a hurry, so the odds are you’ll come back, able to keep rocking out to Personal Life time and time again.

There are some odd moves too, or at least those that will come across unexpected.  “Alone, A Fool” is basically an acoustic guitar strummed with Hutch’s vocals doing the majority of the hard work. Even though it is one of the shortest tracks to grace the record, for some reason, it’s one of those songs you can revisit separate from the whole.  But, just as you thought they were going to close out gently, “Your Love is So Strong” brings back that much needed energy, due mostly to the addition of Westin Glass and his pounding drum kit.  And so you find yourself near the end of it all, unsure how the band will leave us, at least for this round.   “You Changed My Life” closes it all out, and while there’s a lack of speed, it sorts of sums up everything about the album.  There’s light touches of traditional sounds, but with a slightly different direction to the overall construction of songs.

That about encompasses all that is Personal Life.  While they’ve maintained bits and pieces of their past, they’ve been able to adapt to a new member, as well as new subject matter.  It might take die-hard fans a bit of time to get stuck into this one, but the more spins you give it, the more you’ll find that its wholly more rewarding than previous efforts. The Thermals have written an album that still contains a certain edge, but allows you to absorb a bit more melody and understanding as you go track by track.  Give it time kids, it’s got some special moments waiting for you all.


Download: The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You [MP3]

New Belle and Sebastian Tunes

This might be old news at this point in the day, but as a long time devotee, I have to post about it.  Belle and Sebastian have a new album B&S Write About Love coming out October 12th, and as one of the more clever creative groups out there, they’ve created a 30 minute video that features two of the new songs–which are brilliant!  You can claim not to like them, and claim its not newsworthy, but no one has been as consistently good as this band since 96, and I mean no one.  Watch the video HERE.

New (ish) Music from The Spits

I’ll acknowledge that this band has been around for quite some time, but only recently did I start to really dig the group after the release of their newest album, IV. Everything about this band works perfectly for a Friday.  The Spits are fast, catchy, and a little bit dark…all things I enjoy.  I just wanted to give those who weren’t aware a little heads up on this killer band.


Download: The Spits – Tonight [MP3]

New Music from Clinic

Once you get beyond the fact that Clinic gained a lot of popularity for donning surgeon masks during their shows, you’ll also discover that the band has a remarkable discography.  It’s a collection of work that shows a fondness for pop of the past, but mixed in with a sense of musical adventure, along with their willingness to push boundaries.  The group has a new addition to the discography titled Bubblegum, which will hit stores on October 5th via Domino.  Expect something special, as per usual.


Download: Clinic – I’m Aware [MP3]

New Tunes from Telekinesis

Telekinesis just released a new EP yesterday, and I just had to pick it up.  The Parallel Seismic Conspiracies EP has a few new tracks from Mr. Lerner, as well as a few covers of Guided by Voices.  You can order the EP over at Merge Records, or grab it from the band while they’re on tour with SSLYBY.  Give it a go.


Download: Telekinesis – Dirty Thing [MP3]

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