Albums of the Week

April 2-April 8

Comments Off on Albums of the Week | April 2-April 8

In this edition: Julian Cope, Pond, Hellsongs, Lee Ranaldo, Lost In The Trees and Lyle Lovett.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Julian Cope: Psychedelic Revolution (Head Heritage)

“Live dangerously and you live right.” This Goethe quote adorns the CD tray, and it’s far from the only pointer outward (and inward) on the latest brain-grenade from Julian Cope, the academic-brilliant Archdrude and expert imagination tickler who continues to keep music interesting and provocative after more than three decades. The first of two new albums from Cope scheduled for 2012, Psychedelic Revolution is folk music with the “fuck” left intact. “If you’re a greed head you’re going down/ If you’re a fat cat you’re going down,” Cope and Canadian chanteuse Lucy Brownhills intone on the title track, and throughout the decaying, misogynistic, money-obsessed, monotheistic power set is square in Cope’s sights. The messages are clear as he peels away the painful layers of X-Mass In The Woman’s Shelter or turns the Western condemnation of suicide for a higher cause on its head on Vive Le Suicide, but Cope never sacrifices his seemingly insatiable musical/sonic curiosity or resorts to trite observations. In many ways, this 2-CD set – each disc around 30 minutes, separated for storytelling purposes – celebrating Che Guevara and Leila Khaled is precisely the new millennial protest music Dirty Impound put out a cry for in our Salting The Wound essay. Since a brief flirtation with chart success early in his career, Cope has gone his own way (and he was still unique even in his hits), delving DEEP into any and all subjects and styles that tickle his fancy, a true independent in a world of thought slaves. Psychedelic Revolution continues his efforts to raise rock’s level of discourse, turning down the distortion and volume of the past decade for some of the prettiest, touchingly sincere work he’s ever done. This is as close to plainspoken as Cope comes, but these times call for direct address and substantive action and this a proper soundtrack to lift one’s feet for the long road ahead, compassion and hope ringing out from this strange corner. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Pond: Beard, Wives, Denim (Modular)

If one wasn’t told this deliciously shambling spot of contemporized glam rock was captured in the Australian countryside in a marathon ‘getting back to our roots’ weekend you’d never pick up on anything pastoral, holiday-ish, etc. on Beard, Wives, Denim (released March 6). The informality of studio chatter and the odd clunk keep this a good distance from “polished,” but the skipping, charming vibe, sexy-nasty guitars, gutsy vocals, and well-hooked songwriting reveal a band far more together than their loose mythology suggests – self-described as “the idea of Pond was to be able to get anyone we wanted to play whatever whenever in a completely ego free kind of trip, all under the big obligation-less blanket of ‘Pond’.” While they’ve garnered some attention amongst the hipster class for their ties to Tame Impala (a couple members join in the fray here), Pond shares stronger aural allegiance to Sweet, T. Rex, short-lived Imperial Drag, and even a hash pipe tenderized Rush in places (When It Explodes). The horizon shimmers one’s gaze falls, a wavering POV that’s toe-tapping AND disorienting AND a great deal of fun. Sometimes Beard is downright raw ‘n’ funky (the one-two smack of Moth Wings/Leisure Pony), and Prince at his most bemusingly trippy – think Around The World In A Day on ‘shrooms – hovers like a benevolent spirit in pockets. The cheeky liner notes add further entertainment value, and ultimately this is just a fine fucking slab of tough, clever, un-fussed-with rock that’ll put your backfield in motion. (DC)

Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Hellsongs: Long Live Lounge (Tapete)

Gimmicks are not usually a good way to get DI’s attention but Sweden’s Hellsongs run with their beautified, chamber music arranged remakes of iconic metal/hard rock songs in such a winning way on Long Live Lounge (released February 28) that resistance seems not only futile but not especially sensible. In a nutshell, it’s as if a group of skilled, open-minded musicians heard The Cardigans’ rendition of Sabbath Blood Sabbath and REALLY ran with it. Lead singer Siri Bergnehr has a lovely, subtle voice and the choral-like backing singers give everything a great deal of oomph. And she belts out leather clad chestnuts like Metallica’s Seek & Destroy and Iron Maiden’s The Evil That Men Do (the opening pair) like someone who’s crawled inside these tunes and emerged with the essentials firmly in her teeth. Maiden surfaces again with Run To The Hills and there are takes on Alice Cooper’s School’s Out and Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It on this collection, which finds Hellsongs bolstered by members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Classy, clever stuff. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Lee Ranaldo: Between the Time and Tides (Matador)

While much ado about Sonic Youth lies within the context of the creative dynamic between Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, especially in light of their recent divorce, it is unfortunate that the contributions of guitarist Lee Ranaldo often get overlooked in spite of his massive influence on the overall sound of the possibly temporarily defunct alt-rock icons. In fact, the 56-year-old native of Glen Cove, Long Island has written some of the group’s best material in the last 25 years, including Hey Joni from Daydream Nation, Goo’s Mote, and Saucer-Like from SY’s vastly underrated 1995 masterpiece Washing Machine, just to name a few. And while he has released a number of experimental recordings under his own guise in the past, Between the Time and Tides(released March 20) marks Ranaldo’s debut foray as a solo artist in regard to his aptitudes as a structured pop songwriter. Backed by a crack team of fellow underground comrades and associates, including Alan Licht, Jim O’Rourke, Nels Cline, old bandmate Steve Shelley and, perhaps most surprisingly, John Medeski on keys, these ten new songs find the guitarist expanding his, ahem, sonic boundaries to include forays into folk, country rock, raga and full-on psychedelia. But it’s the material that sounds like could-have-been outtakes from the final years of SY’s Geffen era, like Xtina As I Knew Her and Stranded, that will remind you of the utmost importance of his role as one of modern rock’s most talented and underrated treasures. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Lost In The Trees: A Church That Fits Our Needs (Anti-)

Losing a parent to suicide has got to be one of the most devastating curveballs life can throw at a person. But Ari Picker, frontman for the North Carolina group Lost In The Trees, turned the tragedy of losing his artist mother to her own hand in the summer of 2009 into a lush, heartwarming tribute to her life on the group’s stellar sophomore full-length. Blessed with a voice that’s equal parts Art Garfunkel and Thom Yorke, Picker leads his band through a cathartic collection of Hitchcockian chamber pop with the imaginative assistance of acclaimed producer Rob Schnapf, who brings the same sense of gravitas he did to Elliott Smith’s XO to A Church That Fits Our Needs (released March 20). Undoubtedly, Picker’s mother, whose beautiful face graces the album’s cover, is smiling down approvingly on him. (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Lyle Lovett: Release Me (Curb)

Country great Lyle Lovett makes his 11th studio album with Curb Records his final one with the label for whom he’s been faithfully churning out magic since his eponymous 1986 debut. But the appropriately titled Release Me (released February 28) shows the Texan bowing out of his contract in style with a cool, kitschy collection of covers and originals that play upon his trifecta of strengths as a singer, songwriter and swinger supreme better than anything he’s done since The Road to Ensenada. (RH)