The Cult @ Stubbs (9/5)


Date 9/5/09
Location Stubbs
Doors 7pm
Tickets $28 From Front Gate

I was just a wee youngling when British glam rockers The Cult got their start, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some throw back 80s rock.  So if you’re into that sort of thing, make your way to Stubbs on Saturday night for the experience.  Once the headlining set wraps up, head indoors for a free show (if you keep your Cult ticket) by local Austin boys Scorpion Child.  That picture alone should make you want to check this one out.


The Clean – Mister Pop


Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s hard to tell where a band will end up after remaining rather quiet since 2001, yet alone to see how they’ve progressed in a career that has spanned over three decades.  Still, New Zealand’s The Clean have left their jangling influence all over the map, and with the release of Mister Pop on Merge Records, they look to reestablish themselves in your listening rotation, if they aren’t there already, as they probably should be.

Of course, the jangling has diminished a bit, and we have seen the band expand their sound, completing the expansion of their sound to include slow surf-psychedelia such as they do on the album’s opener “Loog.”  Despite the lack of a proper lyrical track, you cannot really pull yourself away from the song. “Simple Fix” works similarly, though it has a standard beach appeal to the instrumental, while the other instrumental track wavers on a more space-influences structure.

Then they move on to the meat and potatoes in “Are You Really on Drugs.”  Although the lyrics may resonate with many, there’s not much to them overall, but what will get listeners is the subdued strumming with the hollow, yet moving, vocals that seemingly bounce off the background of the song.

Never satisfied the group goes into a territory that will seem familiar to everyone, combining that classical indie guitar sound that distinctly belongs to them along with the female backing vocals.  You’ll also find one of the staples of the album inside “In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul” as guitar licks cut through the blank spaces; it’s something that the band uses to near perfection on this album, without ever overdoing it.

“Back in the Day” and Factory Man” are two of the strongest songs on the album, stuck right smack dab in the middle.  Vocals are delivered in that classic Lou Reed delivery circa “I’m Waiting for the Man” while the rest of these songs come off like similar artists such as Comet Gain.  There is something in these songs that immediately makes them feel familiar, as if you’ve been listening to them all of your life, and in fact, you probably have.  Whether or not The Clean have influenced hundreds of bands will never be discovered, but if they didn’t, then people have done a great job approximating their sound without admitting to common thievery.

An odd bit in the midst of the album is “Tensile.”  The vocoder effect used just sort of throws off the mood momentarily, although it clearly portrays the expanding horizons of the group.  Still, it’s a bit off, which is somewhat shocking, as the rest of the album has seemed to fit perfectly up until this point. But rest assured that the group close the album properly with “All Those Notes,” a song drenched in the electronic cloak of a keyboard. Such a slow number as this is a fitting end to Mister Pop, an album filled to the brim with interesting listens you’ll keep coming back to as you graciously thank the heavens for the return of The Clean.


Download: The Clean – In the Dreamlife you Need a Rubber Soul [MP3]

FTC: A Tribe Called Quest

FTC_tribecalledquestI know I’m new here and don’t mean to rock the boat too much with bringing up hip hop, but when I think about a record that deserves to be taken from the shelf and dusted off, I always default to A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory. The Low End Theory is quickly coming up on its nineteenth anniversary, which shows two things: 1. I am getting old and 2. This record truly is timeless.  The meshing of the larger than life drum loops, the smooth upright bass, and the honey soaked rhymes of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg makes you feel like you are listening to something from the past, present and future.  If you will allow me to go a little “get off my lawn” for a moment I feel blessed to have known hip hop when it was at this stage; where groups like The Tribe and De La Soul turned these cold elements into a vital artifact.  Pop Matters music editor David Heaton wrote, “Any 30-second snippet of The Low End Theory will go further to convince of the album’s greatness than anything I can write.”  I’ll give you four minutes with A Tribe Called Quest’s “Vibes and Stuff”.


New Tunes from The Clientele

clientele2Once again, tracks are slowly leaking from the upcoming album Bonfires on the Heath by UK wunderkind The Clientele.  Surely, you’ve heard of them, but in case you haven’t we’re offering this new track.  Their special dream-inducing psychedelia is present here, and it only builds the anticipation as we head towards the October 6th release date on Merge Records.


Download: The Clientele – Harvest Time [MP3]

HEALTH – Get Color


Rating: ★½ · · ·

Coming from the same scene that birthed No Age, Abe Vigoda, and The Mae Shi, Los Angeles’ HEALTH crashed onto the scene with their cacophonous brand of noise rock garnering favorable reviews with their 2007 self-titled debut, the ensuing remix collection DISCO, and spastic live shows.  On their newest offering, Get Color, HEALTH attempts to produce a more easily accessible album while retaining their trademarked aural destruction, which they do, but to a fault.

What made their debut so great was that it felt dangerous; it made you uncomfortable while listening to it, but in such a good way. The giant drum sound and the shrillness of the vocal manipulation just seemed right. I remember the first time hearing “Crimewave”, just be being blown away and wanting more.  On Get Color, HEALTH switched from recording digitally to recording directly to 2” tape.  In an interview with Drowned in Sound, bassist John Famiglietti, discussed this decision: “On tape, you can be as loud and abrasive as you want, and the more brutal it gets it just feels good to hear.  On a computer that abrasive sound registers as a brittle spike, and even though it’s the sound you want, it’s terribly annoying when it comes out of the stereo”  This is true, Get Color is easier to listen to, but it just comes off as flat noise with a beat,  sterile as a cadaver on an examiners table.  When you embrace the term “noise” as an identifier of your bands sound you shouldn’t be afraid of the “brittle spike” in the recording.  I don’t yearn for a smoother sounding Lightning Bolt record, and HEALTH shouldn’t strive to make their noise easier on my ears.  Just plug in your fifty guitar pedals and tear shit up!

The biggest mistake HEALTH made on Get Color was wrangling in their greatest asset, drummer Benjamin Jared Miller. On their debut Miller was a force to reckoned with but here, while being completely competent behind the kit, he is regulated to generic flourishes and strategically placed blast beats.  The songs on Get Color feel overly planned out, to the point of coming off as a dead behind the eyes Hollywood starlet; pretty to look at and listen to, but offering nothing of value to our world.  I struggle to discuss individual tracks, because they all, essentially, sound the same.

I originally wanted to give this release a half of a star, but I hold on to hope that seeing the band live at Fun Fun Fun Fest this year will redeem this collection of songs. After all I hated At the Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out until I saw them live.  So, HEALTH, the ball is in your court, bring it in November.


Download: HEALTH – Nice Girls [MP3]

Brothers & Sisters @ Scoot Inn (9/4)


Date 9/4/09
Location Scoot Inn
Doors 9pm
Tickets $5 @ Door

Friday night at Scoot Inn is a great place to stop by if you’re looking for some great local upstart acts.  The Lineup includes some of our more recent local favorites Brothers & Sisters, The Low Lows, Mr. Lewis and The Funeral 5, and The Sideshow Tragedy.  Can’t get much better than that!


Download: Brothers & Sisters – The Air Is Getting Thicker [MP3]

New Tunes from The Drums

thedrums-domsmith-photo01We’ve been loving The Drums since we got their self-titled debut EP, but now they are gearing up to release a new EP titled Summertime! The EP features three brand new tracks for those of you that had the debut, but if not, there are 6 brand spanking new songs, one being that sweet tune “Let’s Go Surfing.”  But, now we have a new number for you, this one featuring an adorable female vocal with that bouncing bass line the band utilize so well. You can get a hold of the EP at Twenty Seven Records.


Download: The Drums – Don’t Be a Jerk Jonny

A2W: Ideal Soul Mart

idealLocal Austin boys Ideal Soul Mart have been gaining some positive attention around town with some jam packed shows at several local venues.  We here at ATH have taken notice of the band’s efforts and thought they’d be a great choice for this weeks artist to watch feature.  Follow the jump for more info on this up and coming band.

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New Music From Hallelujah The Hills

hallelujah_the_hills-let_it_waveI’ve been giving some heavy rotation to Hallelujah the Hills lately, and like most smart bands, they have some free music you can check out.  Start you trek into their discography with a free EP from last year called Prepare to Qualify which you can download for free.  After that, have a listen to this new jam “Classic Tapes” which will appear on upcoming album Colonial Drones out September 22nd on Misra Records.


Download: Hallelujah The Hills – Classic Tapes [MP3]

Chuck Ragan – Gold Country


Rating: ★★★½ ·

As the frontman of Hot Water Music, you expect Chuck Ragan to be an angst-ridden misanthrope, but you’ll find a different man writing the tunes on his second solo album, Gold Country.  Chuck has called this work some of the most mature music he has created to date, and such a statement is quite visible upon repeated listens.

As you begin listening to this album, you get the feeling that a lot of the songs are left over from the period when Chuck wrote Feast or Famine, his first solo outing. “For Goodness Sake” features his throaty vocals that bare witness to his past.  Similarly, “Glory” has that old hoedown feeling, with a quick-step guitar strumming accompanied by an equally paced violin.  But, you can notice stark differences on this go round–even by listening to these two songs.  For one, both feature female backing vocals, adding a richer texture to the compositions, which makes them seem like more complete songs, as opposed to simple acoustic tracks. “Glory” also brings in a gang vocal of “al la las” near the end of the song.   It’s these slight steps up that give brith to the maturity of which Mr. Ragan has spoken.

Some of the songs on this album also appear to wear the influence of Chuck flexing his muscle on the road with the Revival Tour, a collection of punk troubadours gone punk.  Yes, Chuck already has an experience in this realm, but there are definite moments that recall Tom Gabel of Against Me, such as “Done and Done.”   This is by no means a knock, but it demonstrates how experience can bleed into our musical development.

Listening to a song like “10 West” you begin to realize that you sort of feel a strong connection to the Chuck Ragan.  He’s talking about some sort of roadtrip that recalls various memories, but the recording manner that involves multiple moments of gang vocals makes you feel as if you are at home with Chuck Ragan.   You can feel yourself sitting in the room with him as he writes this song for you and all your memories.

And in the end of it all, this is a Chuck Ragan.  The old screamer always seems to get personal when he picks up the acoustic, and his lyrics never seem to come off interesting.  Most people might not call it the most remarkable thing ever, but you can see that he’s been making steps to progress, and most (like me) don’t even think he needs to.  He’s included touches of piano, violin, femal backing vocals and other ornate details that add to the texture of this wonderful album.  Gold Country is definitely an example of a growing Chuck Ragan.

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