Ra Ra Riot @ The Parish – 10/3

The crooning pop of Ra Ra Riot will make its way into Austin this Friday, twice!  They will be playing a free show at our favorite record store, Waterloo Records at 5 PM.  Then they’ll graba bite to eat before heading on over to the Parish to close out the evening.  If you’re not sure about whether you want to go, just check out our review of the latest album The Rhumb Line .

You can find yourself tickets for the show at Frontgate Tickets.

Gentleman Jesse and His Men – s/t

Rating: ★★★★★

A few months back I was fortunate enough to come across a short album by Atlanta band, Carbonas. After careful research I came across Gentleman Jesse and His Men, a band fronted by Carbonas bass player, Jesse Smith. I adore the more abrasive album featuring Jesse on bass, nothing comes close to my level of enjoyment when listening to the power-pop of the band he fronts.

Immediate references will draw upon similarities to bands such as The Exploding Hearts, due to vocal delivery, and Buzzcocks, based solely on emotional similarities. Still, one would have to go much farther back, back into the 50s bandstand rock n roll in order to complete the circle of influences. Every riff seems straight out of an era, but done so refreshingly that its hard not to fall in love right away.

Remember those bands you grew up listening to when you were younger? This should have been one of those bands. This should have been the only one. Every song has staying power, and it goes beyond the box we’ve placed Gentleman Jesse inside. If teenagers had good tastes, then they would spend countless hours in their mirrors singing and bouncing along to this album with a hairbrush in hand, wishing they could take to the stage. This album has that much power.

Vocal inflections allow for the listener to differentiate between each song, though you might find that the rhythm section becomes a little redundant at times. Still, you could list every single song on the album as a hit. Pick a song, sing along and you’ll bob your head for the rest of the day.

“All I Need Tonight,” the third track definitely jumps out at you as one of the more powerful songs. The backing vocals bring back the simplicity in garage rock, just in time for the killer solo at the end of the song. It’s precisely the way it was always meant to be; straightforward rock music without meandering into noise and atmospherics. “The Rest of My Days” ask “where is time going,” and its clear that the rest of my days will be spent listening to this album, this song.

The latter half of the night packs just as much punch as the first half of the album. Songs like “I Get So Excited” and “You Got Me Where You Want Me” are meant to be sung by entire audiences. Each song is full of fervor, hoping to grab the audience and hold them close to the speakers one last time before the album winds down to its end. No one should skip a song.

After listening to the album in my ears for days, its hard to be really objective here; this album is the most refreshing thing to come by and cleanse my pallet, which is odd due to its apparent nostalgia in the realm of power-pop. Those of you interested in good clean pop rock will do well to find this immediately. I can see it nearing the Top 10 right now as it plays again and again.

The Broken West @ The Mohawk — 10/1

Longtime members of Merge Records, The Broken West are hitting up Austin tonight. The band comes to town fresh on the heels of their newest release, Now or Heaven and will be taking to the stage along with Hollywood Gossip. Mohawk says that they will open the doors at 8 PM, so expect the bands to take the stage around 9:30.

You can head on over to Merge Records to listen to the latest album from The Broken West. 

Blitzen Trapper – Furr

Rating: ★★★★ ·

On their first album, Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper was all over the place.  They played classic rock in a crooked modern pop manner, but the vocals lacked clarity in delivery.  Their newest album, Furr, offered hopes of better production with the backing of Sub Pop Records, and dreams of consistency.

Those of us with high hopes might have to admit that despite the band’s efforts, we are only having our needs fulfilled on one level, that of the vocal delivery.  It’s predominant departure from their previous effort, which does make this one exceedingly better than its predecessor.

One would be hard-fought not to notice the 60s-70s rock influences draped across this entire album, but they were there in the past.  The previous albums spoke softly of such influences, but they step it up entirely on this album.  All of this is furthered by the strength in production on this album, which pushed the influences to the forefront, rather than disguising them in  a lack of clarity created by walls of noise.

They did write one of their worst songs ever, and chose to include it.  “Love U” is full of unadulterated yelping, and it rarely provides anything worth holding onto.  It’s merely walls of screaming, accompanied by sloppy musicianship, and it stands right in the middle of the album–just skip it.

Almost every single listener who has a weakness for the folkier moments in rock n’ roll will surely find the rest of the album enjoyable.  Each track seems to recall another musician at every turn, as if the band set out to write an album full of covers.  Songs like “Echos/Always on/EZ con” and title track “Furr” are purely magnificent.  The subdued tones of each song warrants repeated listens for the rest of the year; the folkier side of Blitzen Trapper is where the band, ultimately, performs at their best.

It would be easy to pigeonhole this band as one intent upon revisiting the past, but they seem to have their own spin on our heralded past.  One would be remiss to toss this band to the side due to a lack of originality; give it a couple of spins and you’ll find that the songs seem strikingly modern.  The band is knocking at the door step of a solid album, and Furr is an album that furthers that dream for both the listener and the band.

The ACL Top Ten

We decided to take a different route in reviewing the events of ACL and we thought a Top 10 List would be the way to go.  This isn’t just a list of our favorite bands, rather a list of the best things, moments, memories or any other tasty randomness we could come up with that went down over the weekend.  We obviously would love to hear what else we maybe missed from our list.  This isn’t just our opinion, it’s what we heard from you good peoples that attended this year’s ACL.  List is after the jump.
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Little Joy vs. Los Hermanos

I’m all kinds of into audience participation, so I thought I would throw one more your way. Today, we will debate over whether the singer for Fabrizio Moretti’s (of The Strokes fame) newest project, Little Joy, is in fact better suited to front a band backed by Fab or by his old band, Los Hermanos. The kids love Little Joy, and Devandra Banhart produced the album, but something about the bossanova sounds of Los Hermanos are really working for me today. You make the call.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/little_joy_no_ones_better_sake.mp3]

Download: Little Joy – No Ones Better Sake [MP3]

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/09-09-condicional.mp3]

Download: Los Hermanos – Condicional [MP3]

Metallica – Death Magnetic

Rating: · · · · ·

In the presence of editorial constrants, which would have guided me to review this album in two words, those two words being, Shit Magnet, I have decided to elaborate on the actual quality of this album.

The first question I asked myself when reviewing this album was, “Would anyone spend more than two minutes reviewing this album if the composing author wasn’t Metallica?”

In the past I could have easily made the case that judgement of Metallica albums was so dependent on past quality albums that despite the quality of albums released, the response would have been the same: Metallica doesn’t have it and hasn’t had it for more than 10 years. And in that time I would have been able to argue that high expectations had as much to do with disappointment as did the actual quality of the album.

However, this is the first time that I am absolutely convinced that the quality of the product would not have even warranted a record contract for any band other than Metallica. Albums like Load, Reload and St. Anger at least had the redeeming factor of providing the audience with music that, even though unoriginal, appealed to a basic sense of urgency in the world of metal. What Death Magnetic provided to the world of metal was not only a well deserved kick in the ass, but a wake up call: the band that brought metal to the masses has effectively become a weaker version of prepubescent metal bands.

Although most metal fans would feel ashamed of having to expose their favorite band to the world of musical criticism, Metallica has managed to make even the most respectable metal fans ashamed of their own taste in music. The primary question in this whole ordeal has to be exactly why we are listening to songs that are obviously rehashed versions of old, obviously great, better versions of Metallica songs.

I was one of the several people that considered Unforgiven II to be one of the biggest travesties in the history of music when it was first released. However, after 5 years worth of even worse music, and the realization that the change in person on the Unforgiven series from first to second person was enough to warrant attention, I came to terms with the fact that Unforgiven 2 was a much better song than given credit to. I am unforgiven, now you are unforgiven. I get it. Awesome. I can live with that.

Imagine how many things I kicked when I realized that there would be an Unforgiven 3. Unforgiven 3? Really?

Hetfield: we get it. You want to be forgiven. I don’t even care why. Maybe you had inappropriate relations with an underage cat. Maybe you touched yourself too much. I don’t care. One song is enough. Two songs were too much. Three songs are a direct kick in the left testicle.

As a good Metallica fan I was forced to give you the benefit of the doubt. I listened to songs that no other human being should have listened to.

“What don’t kill you make you more strong”

That line by itself should be enough to push fans over the edge. But the mediocrity of the lyrics was not the end… this album was the biggest insult to a 20 year old fan base.

If you can listen to this entire album and not feel like every song was a direct rip-off of Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning or the self-titled black album, I cannot even elaborate further.

There are very few albums that have disappointed me more than this album. I guess the last Bonnie Tyler could have been close, but it really wasn’t. I’d rather listen to Total Eclipse of the Heart every time I work out than being forced to listen to any song in this album.

Metallica, much like Santana, has sunken into the sea of bands that, trying to ride one good period of their lives into oblivion, managed to destroy their image rather efficiently. I award this band zero points, and may god have mercy on their souls.

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