Harlem’s American Gangster
THE VANILLA GORILLA
Def Jam/Slip and Slide
MICHAEL THUGLESS When I was in sixth grade I had lines in my eyebrows and wore silk shirts with Z Cavaricci overalls. My friends and I would make up dance routines in front of a giant mirror in my basement, then go to school dances and dazzle the ladies with our synchronized Roger Rabbit. Most of our moves were lifted directly from Heavy D and the Boyz—I jocked those guys so hard. That summer, Trouble T. Roy, my favorite Boy, died after falling off a balcony or something. I was honestly bummed out. Maybe it was because I thought that it would break up the group or it meant we would have to start dancing like Bell Biv DeVoe, I don’t know. Shortly after Trouble’s death, Pete Rock and CL Smooth released an epic tribute called “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y),” which became an instant classic and helped me get through the tragedy. Long story short: It’s too bad Pete Rock will never make another song as good as that one.
THE DEATH SET
THING THING The B-52s! Funplex! How cute are they? They’ve sounded exactly the same for 32 freakin’ years and it’s awesome. I know back when “Love Shack” came out it got real annoying real quick, but go to YouTube and watch the video again—for some reason it totally rules now. They look like so much wacky fun. They’re just, like, cool grown-ups with amazing wardrobes having fun. Don’t you wanna be like them when you grow up?
Dom America More dark, sketchy dirt-thrash from these mountain-dwelling weirdos. Three tracks total: two quick face-stabbers and a dirge on the B-side called “Tapped Out” that extracts the worst bits from “Damaged” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and smashes their faces together in the toilet. Now that every partycore unit is scrambling for bragging rights on how far underground they roll, I’m psyched that a crew like Sex Vid exists to chase them back out of the cave. Hopefully they break up before the dreaded “concept album” stage, which has yet to NOT be the death knell of a band’s interestingness. Fingers crossed for an early death!
Fury & Flames
Metal Blade Erik Rutan is not a musician. He is actually some kind of prehistoric head-eating primate with a mutated adrenal gland that bestows nth level mindless ferocity. These long-haired dudes obviously keep him chained to a boulder somewhere in Florida and whip him with barbed wire whenever they need songs for a new record. That’s the only explanation for how this band keeps embarrassing all others by raising the bar for sheer mind-blurring barbarism in death metal. However, I have seen enough movies to know that eventually Rutan is going to escape and kill thousands before being recaptured, so you may want to skip visiting grandpa this year. He may be dead already.
RONAN THE ACCUSER
The Colonel Records While there’s certainly no shortage of classic-rock/Americana revival bands in New York these days, there is a dearth of the enthusiasm that made any of that shit worth a damn in the first place. If what you’re offering up is sun-soaked, beer-loving classic rock, then all I’m asking is songs that make me want to crack a Bud in the backyard at 2 PM. The Weight have the excitement and the drawl to make everyone else sound like they’re reading off cue cards.
Anti OK, look: We’ve spent plenty of time in these pages shitting on Philadelphia, but you know what? It’s a fucking city, an address for people to get mail sent to—who cares? Yeah, a bunch of ding-dongs live there, but name a major metropolitan center without its fair share of assholes. That’s why this record pains us so. Being “eccentric” is a good way to get views on YouTube or have your family use a word other than “loser” when describing you to others. But when you try and turn it into a band, not so much. And I know picking apart press releases is the ultimate fish-in-a-barrel move, but I just wanted to make sure you know that if you do go to a Man Man show you will see a “hipster chaining up his fixie out front.” We tried, Philly. We really did.
LOST LOCKER COMBO
Whoa-Oh LLC is a concept band dreamed up by Maximum Rock and Roll’s Bill Florio, where every song evokes some kind of scholastic/educational theme. If you think overexplaining it ruins the joke, wrong—the joke ruins the joke. And that’s the funny part. See, there’s multilayered retardation and cleverness that can be peeled back, but underneath everything are actually six or seven above-average pop-punk songs that I really want to hate but actually like a lot.
LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR
War Metal Battle Master
Southern Lord We’ve hit the point where metal songs about epic battles and mythical beasts are more tired than rap lyrics about money and hustling and it’s fucking boring. At least most of those rappers are actually rich and probably dealt drugs at some point. Pretty sure these fellas from Chicago haven’t spent much time warring with battle-axes, though something tells me they probably took Intro to Greek Mythology and might just have extensive comic-book collections in their (mom’s) basements.
Ecstatic Peace This is probably what all those post-grunge alterna-bands like Staind and Our Lady Peace thought they were making when they were recording their yodeling, overproduced abortions—a contemporary version of everything that was good about 70s rock, divested of its damp polyester trappings and lacquered in a glossy coat of distortion. I guess there but for the grace of ten years and 40 or 50 IQ points go these guys.
Attack and Release
Nonesuch Some of these songs were supposed to be collaborations with Ike Turner. That would have been less boring. I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing. I have more thoughts on lentil soup.
KEITH JENNINGS And with this, Clinic have finally crossed the whisper-thin line dividing “having a distinctive sound” from “recording the same album three times in a row.” Good job, fellas. Is it ironic that a bunch of guys dressed as surgeons have never dealt with the fact that their singer is suffering from a decade-long case of lockjaw?
EL PERRO DEL MAR
From the Valley to the Stars
JASON CROMBIE Meic is sometimes called the “Welsh Dylan” and has spent the past 30 years putting out unpronounceable albums of gloomy, traditional folk in that zany language of theirs (1977’s Gog is both the best and funniestly named). This one, however, is his attempt to break into the English-speaking market on the heels of such equally cerebral countrymen as Tom Jones and Tammy. The music’s not bad, but there’s something sort of vicariously embarrassing about the whole outing, like spotting your dad’s car outside the OTB or listening to Big Audio Dynamite. Also, isn’t Dylan Thomas technically the Welsh Dylan?
A HUMORLESS NERD
Super Roots 9
JARBOE / JUSTIN K. BROADRICK
The End Spectacular as this is, I will admit to fantasizing what it would have been like for mid-1980s Jarboe to team up with early-1990s, Streetcleaner-era Broadrick. Although it would probably would be a situation like communism or Alien vs. Predator: awesome in theory, but a handful of random humans would get involved and fuck it up for no reason. That said, J2 is intensely brain-churning and guaranteed to cure a sunny day in one listen. Put it on at bedtime so you can wake up in tears, then spend all day feeling purged and rejuvenated. Or just take a laxative. What am I, a nutritionist?
GAY PARKER JR.
Lie in Light
Skin Turns to Glass
Anywhere I Lay My Head
Atco Fuck it, I’m giving this a smiley. Yes, she is a 100 percent tone-deaf celebrity putting out a vanity project à la such past tasteful silver-screen chanteuses as Milla Jovovich or Minnie Driver, but, my God, it’s an entire album of Tom Waits covers, people. And there’s drum machines and ethereal chimes everywhere and they’ve hidden her deadpan voice (half Liz Phair, half Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet, and just a sliver more pleasant than Tom Waits himself) under so many effects and echoes and fuzzy layers of gunk to try and make her seem on-key, that, call me crazy, the sheer audacity of it all fills me with an evil sort of glee. I’m filing this proudly next to my CD of Tina Yothers’s band, Jaded.
LANITA SICKS In a world where “atmospheric” and “spacey” are bywords for “milking a single chord progression for over an hour,” it is more than a pleasant surprise to see a Yank and a Kraut team up and rip out a spacey, atmospheric album full of stuff that changes, like with actual separate parts. It is a rabbit punch in the upper arm while you’re sleeping. These guys and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band are the only folks left making 8- to 15-minute songs that couldn’t be pulled off in 2.