In this edition: Adam Ant, Big Dipper, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Beaten By Them, and Ex-Cult.
Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Adam Ant: Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter (Blueblack Hussar Records)
A voluptuous blues moan reminiscent of Led Zeppelin tackling Robert Johnson accompanied by the pronouncement, “For a time I lived in Tennessee/ A pretty hillbilly,” isn’t how one expects an Adam Ant record to begin. The wordily titled new long-player (released January 22) is chockablock with such nifty surprises, the sound of a veteran, bettered by age and experience awakening to the core ideas that first made him jump in bed with the dirty whore that is professional music making.
Ant’s bullshit detector is strong here, and a lot of insights lurk inside the steadily engaging music. The industry and its bestial treatment of its creative denizens is a reoccurring theme on Blueblack Hussar, and as a man who’s known both the champagne highs and fourth-on-the-bill on a 80s revival tour lows Ant has much to say on the subject, and he speaks his mind with clarity, nuance, and acid wit. As culturally savvy as ever – remember Adam hung with the same brain trust that gave us the Sex Pistols, Bow Wow Wow and PiL – he takes jabs at being an aging lethario, consumer obsessions, art culture and much more, and his aim is generally true.
He’s anchored this double album’s worth of thoughts to the easily the most diverse, intriguing musical settings of his long career. Yes, those hoping for a revival of Kings of the Wild Frontier are shit out of luck, but aficionados of his 1979 debut Dirk Wears White Socks will likely vibe with the rawer dogging here (and the New Romantics will probably dig oddly warbling ballads like Valentines and How Can I Say I Miss You?). The extensive CD booklet holds pics of a more ragamuffin version of Prince Charming – a look that says, “I’m your filthy uncle and I’ll surely bugger you roughly if given half a chance” – alternating with a “everyday” look that mixes up pirate, hippie and Renaissance Faire accents – either way, one still can’t help but stare at what Ant has thrown on.
Throughout this album, one is reminded of the recharged energies of Joe Strummer with the Mescaleros, and given an open mind, this new chapter – filled with whimsy, venom, dead solid rock riffing, and cool production touches – could ensnare a fresh 21st century audience for Adam Ant. For the Impound’s part, we think this is his best album yet. (Dennis Cook)
Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Big Dipper: Crashes On The Platinum Planet (Almost Ready Records)
This return to the studio after 22 years is as fine a bit of quirk dappled power pop as one could want. These dozen tracks confirm why Guided By Voice’s Robert Pollard (the subject of a fine “Alex Chilton”-esque homage here) views Big Dipper as the 20th greatest band in rock history. There’s something so well put together about every cut, and like Steely Dan and Robyn Hitchcock, they excel at making whacked characters work as stand-ins for larger concepts within the framework of really catchy, radio friendly (in the old school sense) songwriting. The second half of this album is where they fire the turbo thrusters and enter the realm of prime Cheap Trick and Fountains of Wayne with the final six cuts showing an off-handed gift for toe-tapping music that also makes you think. It was 2008’s stellar compilation Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology that brought a lot of us up to speed on what we’d missed in the late 80s/early 90s during the band’s initial phase, but this cements their relevance and appeal right here, right now. (DC)
Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Drivin N Cryin’: Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones (Redeye)
The EP method is a great way for a band to reintroduce themselves to the public lexicon. Ergo, Atlanta, GA alt-rock icons Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ embrace the format like an old friend with their latest endeavor – a double LP’s worth of new material spread across four extended players and released over the course of a 12-month period. Coming off the high of last June’s Songs From The Laundromat (DI review), Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones (released September 2012) is exactly what it proclaims. Utilizing their collective love for Nuggets-era American psych as a launching pad, DNC barrel through a sextet of cuts about homeroom crushes (Out Here in the Middle of Nowhere), the custom rides that impressed them (Hot Wheels) and escaping into the fantasia of Atomic Age sci-fi as a means to mend a broken heart (Space Eyes). And smack dab in the middle is Johnny Rides Shotgun, arguably the most original tribute to the Queens punk legends put on wax and the fiery sonic sun around which the EP’s other talking points revolves. DNC’s next installment, Songs from the Garage (due out in April), promises to showcase the band’s roots in punk, but it seems as though they started that party early with this fun, fast and furious set. (Ron Hart)
Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Beaten By Them: Kinder Machines (Logicpole)
If there’s one terrestrial college radio station outside of WFMU that still holds any kind of influential weight these days out here in the Northeast it’s WNYU. And if you’ve followed their charts over the last six or seven years, you’ve definitely seen the name of Beaten By Them. Since 2005, the San Francisco-cum-New York-cum-Melbourne, Australia-based quintet have been a secret handshake of sorts amongst lovers of the instrumental post-rock idiom. But Kinder Machines aims to take them to a new plateau of listenership, working alongside Tom Waits’ go-to engineer Oz Fritz to incorporate Beatles-like orchestral sweep, New York¬-era Lou Reed gristle, and back country Americana into their unique spin on Tortoise a la TNT. Seek this out ASAP, especially if you are a fan of the Thrill Jockey and Temporary Residence labels. (RH)
Ron’s Bonus Review:
Ex-Cult: Ex-Cult (Goner Records)
Produced by white-hot nu-garage heavyweight Ty Segall, Memphis’s Ex-Cult uncork the momentum they’ve built up playing in the backs of local bars and friends’ basement parties on the 12 songs on their eponymous debut LP. Boasting an attack somewhere between The Dead Boys, The Sonics and Flying Nun’s deep crate greats The Gordons, these youngsters make an indelible impression across strong, unrelenting tracks like Shades of Red and Post Graduate, which, enhanced by Ty’s adventurous board work, simulate the unbridled energy of their on-stage action so much you might as well call this motherlover a live album. Or is that alive? (RH)