Big Dipper played an important part in my young adulthood. They were with me on the day I cut off all my hair. It was the late 80s and I was sporting what could be described as the ‘Duff McKagan,’ a mass of long blonde locks that was obviously manufactured to look more “rockin” than what my coif would naturally attain.
I got tired of the ‘Duff’ look and decided to start over. The night after the big trim, I went to see Big Dipper play in support of their second album, Craps. There was a nice size crowd, bigger than the previous times the band had played. You got the sense that Big Dipper was on the verge of bigger and greater things.
After the show, a few friends approached me while I attempted to talk with the members of the band. In between the comments of “Great show!” and “What happened to your hair!” bassist Steve Michener signed the insert of my Heavens CD and added “Your hair looks good!”
My knowledge of Roman mythology is pretty slim, but I’m fairly sure that Furies were pretty intimidating creatures, sporting snakes for hair, bird wings, and blooding dripping out of their eye sockets. To be honest, I’m more familiar with the Furies found in the movie The Warriors, the baseball uniform wearing gang that chased our heroes to battle in Riverside Park. They were pretty intimidating too, if I recall, darting around the shadows of Manhattan with baseball bats and Kiss makeup.
The Furies referenced throughout The Rosebud’s third album, Night Of The Furies, have more to do with the avenging creatures of mythology than of a late-twentieth century movie character. But there’s nothing vengeful about the music that the husband and wife duo (Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp) have created here. However, some longtime fans may be a little unforgiving when they hear the direction that the band is taking on their latest effort.
Always one with an eye to history, especially that of British pop music of the 60s and 70s, Britt Daniels has returned to the musical inspiration that made Spoon stand out. Yes, it’s spare in parts, but never boring. Daniels has a knack for melody and sounds like he’s finally comfortable applying that to instrumentation. Not a Wall of Sound, by any means, but perhaps a bit more flesh on the bones now. Like Kate Moss with boobies.
There are horns on this album and I don’t hate them.
Given power-pop’s track record of posting lousy sales, it says something about any band that chooses it as their primary influence. The genre itself prompts such a primeval reaction among its supporters that it’s completely logical when a band gets caught up and starts bashing out their slight interpretation of it.
The Broken West’s interpretation of power pop adds a big tablespoon of their Los Angeles history to it, which makes their debut long-player I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On fairly unique for a genre that typically prides itself on staying close to the bone.
Don’t get me wrong: The Broken West isn’t reinventing the wheel here. Instead, the performances grab the wheel and take you on a journey down Laurel Canyon Boulevard on the way towards the Paisley Underground.
It goes without saying that the road of record companies is littered with talented artists unceremoniously dropped due to shifting priorities, exiting staff, and the most common career-killer: poor record sales. Richard Buckner knows about this, having been dropped from MCA Records immediately after he delivered, Since, his second album for them in what should have been a three album deal.
Thankfully, Buckner’s persevered and with the support of a few believing independent labels who’ve given him the freedom to grow and develop as a performer. Meadow, Buckner’s eighth album overall, continues to demonstrate his progression from an alt-country folkie towards a more well-rounded artist with a firm eye on the road that brought him here.
It would be easy to write the first one-line review ever published on Glorious Noise about this record: “What up, guys, you’re a couple years too late to the pirate/war narrative/Bowie wannabe bandwagon.” [That would be the second one-line review, actually – Ed.]
The debut album from new Merge residents White Whale invites so many comparisons to its peers and predecessors that it’s like a history lesson of the last two and a half indie rock years. The singer’s voice bears a resemblance to Mac McCaughan of Superchunk, there are songs titled “O’William, O’Sarah” and “The Admiral” (mp3), and the album itself is a “narrative” of the band’s journey through a war in a long-ago era, and the spacey musical nods to Bowie are present too. With all these possible strikes against it, though, there’s something completely compelling about the music itself that keeps the listener reaching for it over and over, trying to sort through the artifice.
Songs like the purposely tinny, echoey “I Love Lovely Chinese Gal” don’t exactly help their cause, but on “What’s An Ocean For” and “One Prayer,” the tempo, piano, and the melody all collide and bloom in ways that make your heart swell. “Forgive the Forgiven” is a haunting examination of a girl who “bled [her] finger to remind herself even good girls sometimes hurt.” “Yummyman Farewell” starts out scattered and hushed, and then punches its way through to an absolutely glorious rush of a song. One wishes that they would spend less time concerning themselves with ships and voyages and girls they had to leave behind in the war and concentrate on their strengths; just simply be straightforward about it rather than weighting the joy they’re capable of with so many conceits.
This band deserves an audience, and a huge one. Please bear with them. Their next album ought to be great (unless they head south to chase the Desert Fox into WWII).
A familiar melody chimes through the beginning of Transistor Radio, Matt Ward’s third album and follow-up to the extraordinary Transfiguration of Vincent. It’s the Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe In Me,” re-created on two acoustic guitars. Although you can still pick fragments of the original’s sweetly melancholic arrangement out, Ward’s version has gathered some antique charm—it takes on a completely different personality in Ward’s hands. Which, perhaps, is his biggest asset—he knows the virtues of ambiguity. When exactly was this album recorded again?
His voice, which is downtrodden and just a little rusty, cracks over these mini-dirges with a timeless charm. Which makes it so difficult to pinpoint Ward’s sound, to pick words to describe it—on the surface, it’s incredibly simple-sounding. But delve deeper and you find that these songs have as many layers as a towering evergreen trunk carved into cross-section view. Ward turns the dial of his own transistor radio and captures the sound, atmosphere, and production of everything he picks up signal on—even if it means the monophonic haze of “One Life Away” (with Jim James) sounds ancient in comparison to the following track, the sweetly disorienting “Sweethearts on Parade.” Somehow, it all makes sense as a whole.
Transistor Radio bears a less introspective nature to its predecessor—nowhere is Ward hoping for “a voice at the end of the line,” instead taking on a more abstract, metaphorical lyrical tone that suits the evasive setting the songs take place in. But the shots Ward does take here hit hard—”Come back / My little peace of mind,” and “I’ve got lonesome fuel for fire” say so much with so little that I imagine all other so-called lyricists jealous that Ward got to these sentiments before they could.
Ward’s diverse yet strangely united, collective sound is blanketed with the rustic sense of rootsy, outdoors America—where the back-porch is still home, where the rocking chair sways softly in the breeze, where the sun sets over the horizon and you can see for miles over the amber landscape. Where the internet and digital cable aren’t even part of the vocabulary. And most importantly, where a man with an acoustic guitar can put you right in the middle of this serenity, despite honing his craft in the post-millennial age. When everything else today seemingly needs a blip or a beep, Ward is content letting the spirit of centuries past play his backing band, giving Transistor Radio the sweet spirit your history textbook is lacking.