Boston Spaceships – The Planets are Blasted

bostonRating: ★★★½☆

Ohh Bobbie, how we love your Miller Lite infused high-kicks. How we love walking into your shows dry and leaving sopping wet from not only our own but other peoples body sweat. How we love being able to throw beers in the air at innocent by-standers and not give a shit. Above all else Bobbie, we love your unmatched creative output of material. Slurrrrrp.

Boston Spaceships return with Planets Are Blasted only 5 months after their first LP Brown Submarine. In a recent interview, Chris Slusarenko has said they already have a third album ready tentatively titled Zero to 99 which should be out before October. With no trimming on the song count, Planets Are Blasted boasts another 14 songs just as it’s former had. The line-up has stayed the same with booze buddies Chris Slusarenko (GBV, Svelt, Sprinkler) on guitar and John Moen (Decemberists, Jicks, Elliott Smith) on drums. Now implemented as an official band and not a side project, Boston Spaceships carries on the sounds of pop infused punk/garage rock and beyond. In classic Pollard fashion, all the songs are generally under 2 1/2 minutes in length with the exception of one which goes into prog zoning of 4 minutes.

The treats keep coming on this sophomore release which I wonder if they were recorded at different sessions or what? I’m curious to hear more details on the recording process of these songs. For the most part, the way these songs see the light of day all starts at Pollard’s home. He comes up with raw demos, usually consisting of him on an acoustic guitar and singing vocal melodies on top. He’ll go through the songs deciding which ones will work for his solo project and which ones are Boston Spaceships material (The man has a self-proclaimed 3,000 un-released songs give or take a thousand depending on how many Miller Lites he’s had).  He’ll then call Slusarenko up and say that he has some ideas, they’ll get together, have drinking challenges, write notes on songs usually ending with KICK-ASS the more they drink. Slusarenko will then take these songs home, mull over them until he knows every subtle part, take them to Moen and flesh it all out.

It’s amazing at the ease in which Pollard can come up with a catchy chorus. Such is the beast of album opener “Canned Food Demons.”  It immediatley takes you back to GBV days of old, maybe missing the piss and puke buckets, but as close as we’ll get and I’ll gladly take it.  I mean, the man is 52 years old and can still squeal with more power than any rock singer I’ve heard at his age. When you hear him howl, “now she’s coming aroooound, canned food demons aliiiiiiiive!” Just surrender already. This may be the best song on the album but it definetly doesn’t stop here. Gems like “Queen of Stormy Weather” and “Heavy Crown” will quench your thirst for more R-A-W-K.

As a whole, Brown Submarine too me is a much more polished album with catchier and inventive melodies than this one. I don’t know if the songs were picked first for Brown Submarine and the ones on Planets Are Blasted were picked afterward from the same collection of material but either way, this album still holds up in my opinion. Not as strong or consistant throughout, but still many perks that will turn an ear. Most of all, I’m really happy to know that this isn’t a “project” and that Pollard is having fun and pumping out little bits of gold over and over. (insert high-kick here)

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/bigogetsanearful.mp3]

Download: Boston Spaceships – Big O Gets an Earful [MP3]

Clem Snide – Hungry Bird

clemRating: ★★★☆☆

Eef Barzelay had promised us long ago that his days with Clem Snide were well over, which was odd, seeing as he was the primary musician behind the band’s music.  But, here we are again with Clem Snide’s newest album, Hungry Bird.

Barzelay is one of those singers who has a very distinctive voice.  It’s somewhat near the nasal region, yet in an endearing way.  This quality in his voice makes you immediately familiar with him as a frontman, and it draws you in closer to the group; it is meant to draw you in closer to the lyrics.

As in the past, Barzelay weaves his lyrics around the most mundane of things, though this time around, there is less of a childishness to the entirety of the lyrics.  Well, childish is probably not the word to use, so let’s use wit in this case.  Seemingly, he’s thrown these lyrical concepts a little bit away from the group, which inevitably bring a more serious tone to the album as a whole.  It’s a different approach for the group, one that might lead long-time fans through a period of adjustment.

A serious tone has been established through the vocal and lyrical element, which really sets the mood for the listener.  The band, always lumped into post-country genres, has never been one to fiercely pick up the pace, but it seems here they definitely slow the tempo all the way down.  Take “Hum,” for example, a slowly sprawling song, ending with a seeming crescendo of ferocity, but pulled back just in time for the band to hone that slowdown hoedown that covers the album.

Most will appreciate this album’s gentleness, as the level of intimacy achieved here is one that will bond with listeners.  The quietude of the mood is soothing, and it forces you to pay attention to every little aspect of the album.  Strong production allows you to see those littlest details, as the band has filled out all possible areas of their sound.  It’s almost as if its a late slocore album, shedding the walls of country tinge away as they created, and ultimately finished this album.

Long time fans will surely be glad to have this band back together, working to create that soft edge of country sound that many people lovingly dote upon.  While it may not be the best of the group, songs such as “Burn the Light” will surely show that Clem Snide is still a strong force to be reckoned with, now, and in the future.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/03-hum.mp3]

Malajube – Labyrinthes

mala1Rating: ★★★☆☆

With the release of their second album, Labyrinthes, our favorite francophiles, Malajube, were poised to hit the United States running full steam ahead.  The question everyone wanted answered was whether or not they would convert from their first language to a more commercial language, one that would surely break them into the independent scene in the neighboring country. The answer, dear reader, is an emphatic “no!”

They open the album with the epic “Ursuline,” which has a certain sense of urgency once the songs gets going, but just as you expect the band to push over the top and rush through the song, they scale the entire number back, slowly leading you towards the outro of the song.  It’s a statement the listener must respect, as the band has the capabilities to lead you wherever they wish.

Still present this time round is the organic sound.  Usage of gang vocals, both brash and soothing go in and out of the record.  Pianos, guitars, drums and extemporaneous instruments/sounds are also used indiscriminately.  It’s a sound that one has come to expect from our northerly neighbors, as they seem to rely a lot on the soundscapes of fellow Canadians, Broken Social Scene. This time around, the band sounds a lot warmer than on Trompe L’oeil.

Yet, through it all, the band sound just like something you would listen to on something like KEXP. The guitars are driving, providing the pace of the record, but the band can pull that sound away from you immediately, resting, instead, on atmospheric “oohs” and “ahhs.”  Clever combinations of sound come within each song, which is precisely why this band garners the interests of fans today.

And you’ll come across songs such as “Heresie,” which will win you over in a short span of time.  In fact, the coupling of the aforementioned song with “Dragon de glace” is probably one of the more special moments you find on the album.  It’s a mellower Malajube than the one presented on the earlier part of the album.  It’s a pleasure to come across a band that puts out an album where to layout of the songs on the album shows a strong thought process, as if they wanted you to listen to the album all the way to the end.

But, the one detractor, as alluded to earlier on, is the fact that the band, while respectable, maintain their allegiance to their native tongue.  It’s not that the vocal element is not appealing, as one can take a certain emotive quality away from the songs, but its the lack of a connection between the band and most listeners.  Musically, the band can take you many places, but a lot of people will want to connect with the lyrical content, and that is simply not possible for people versed in English.  It’s the one miss on this album, though for many, it’s a pretty big miss.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/06-les-collemboles.mp3]

Download: Malajube – Les Collemboles [MP3]

Islands – Arm’s Way

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Immediately, I want to say that this record is probably worth the purchase–albeit one when there isn’t much else out there to buy. Initially, I listened to this album four or five times in a single day, but therein lies the problem–I can’t recall great moments about this one–I can’t recall the shapes of the songs, give or take one or two. Care to explain you ask? I do indeed.

For starters, this album is far too long to listen to in one sitting, and if you do, you will find it does nothing more than blend into the background as you and your buddies make dinner–steaks right? By my count, 8 of the 12 songs go over the 5 minute mark. Sorry, Nick Thorburn, I just don’t have that sort of time these days. Sure, they dabble in length, but not quite like this.

Now, is the music worth it? Yes-but not like you want it–not like your “Rough Gem.” The closest Islands come to replicating that playfulness is on the 4th track “Creeper,” and it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Here is our problem listeners: the affinity for clever, circus-laden melodies is gone. But, on the plus side–so are all those faux hip-hop moments. I miss the former–its always been the attraction for me.

What I do like about this album, especially apparent in the last three tracks, is the new darker side of this band, and I don’t mean that in regards to lyrics–I mean it in reference to the somber mood apparent in these tracks. We all know that Jaime Thompson is no longer a member, and this is really apparent, or at least to me, in these lyrics. I could be off, but, whatever the cause, it makes for some of the more special moments on this record. Like I said–I bought it. I listen to it from time to time, but I can’t tell why. Maybe you can?

Islands is playing Emos Austin on June 23rd. Click here to purchase tickets for da show.

Hear “The Arm” off the brand new album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/islands-the-arm.mp3]

Download: Islands – The Arm [MP3]

Mates of State – Rearrange Us

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Who doesn’t want to wrap this band up in a Taco Cabana tortilla, dip them in some queso and eat them for a late night snack? Maybe that’s not exactly the image you had in mind but can you blame me? Mates of State is the band you want to bring home and introduce to the family. The band you wish no one caught you smiling about every time you heard their songs. Mates of State have been doing their thing for a while now and doing it very well I might add. Doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well. The first time I heard “La’hov” from My Solo Project (2001) I knew this band had something good going on. They brought you the sound that always made you want to dance and sing at the top of your lungs. After My Solo Project Mates dropped three more very solid and likeable albums each with superbly written pop jams that all ages can’t resist. On top of these three albums, MOS got hitched and also dropped two kids along the way. So now the act manages the music industry along with two little ones.

The bands most recent effort, Re-Arrange Us, sees the band growing up a lot or showing their age if you will. Kori Gardner(every indie fan boy’s dream girl) begins to use less and less of her famous electric organ that everyone fell in love with in the first place. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing but I can see some die hard fans turned off by this, me being one of them. I do like the way Mates is attempting to grow up a bit & seeing what’s going to work for them as a band in the future. They are evolving as a band, refining their sound & trying new things, I’m just not sure if it is paying off. The album starts off with “Get Better” with it’s slick drums and tight hook that you can’t say no to. “The Re-Arranger” is the feature track of the album. It shows Mates going back to what they do best: sing-a-long lyrics and the best pop rhythms money can buy. If every song on the album sounded like this one, mark it down as the best of the year. Unfortunately, that’s not the case….Not every song on the album will cause you to sing-a-long, but at least will make you tap your feet. The songs are strong but something seems to be missing.

The beats are good, the lyrics are like always, the sound is refined, so what else is there? The songs tend to be good but what about after several listens? They start getting hard to tell apart…. And this can’t be Mates best work… can it? What happened to the days of “Nice Things that Look Good” or even “Fluke”? I miss the organ. Fine I said it. Who doesn’t? As much as I like these songs, I also find some faults in them. After a few listens, the album starts to sound like maybe it was rushed or the band is just going through the motions. They still put a smile on my face but I miss the old rockin’ days of Mates of State. Mates is still putting out music that rivals most any pop outfit but I think they could be the best pop band around if they really put their minds to it. Here’s one fan boy missing the days of the mighty Kori Gardner and her trusty electric organ.

Don’t miss Mates of State blowing through Austin at Emo’s June 13th. Click here to purchase tickets before they sell out. Never miss the chance to see Mates live!

Hear “Get Better” off the new album now:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/01-get-better.mp3]

Download: Mates of State-Get Better.mp3

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