CD Roundup 101
Professor K delivers the grades on the latest local CDs
I have to say that although I tend to think of myself as having a good sense of humor, I’m not sure how blowing my car up was intended to be funny. There is still shrapnel embedded in the walls of my neighbors’ house, and their beloved dog is permanently deaf in one ear. Frankly, though, that dog was always a pain in the ass, so maybe it’s for the best.
I have to say that I feel as if the class is getting nostalgic for what some of you call “the olden days.” Both Genre Peak’s Mysanthropy and Junobot’s The Nature of Technology seem to long for sunnier times (although Genre Peak’s sunny day is quite a bit darker than Junobot’s). Both CDs are listenable, although both lean a bit too heavily on mid-1980s electronic sounds and textures for my tastes. My grade for both: B.
Of course, virtually all musicians stand heavily on the shoulders of their predecessors, so at some level, singling out a band for doing so is problematic. For example, Hip Service’s new album, Uncovered, is a release that references classic funk and is great at it. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t do anything new with the sound (meaning Hip Service is a great cover band that just happens to be playing originals). Grade: B.
Then again, combining one’s influences can sometimes generate surprising results. The joint shoulders of Sonic Youth and AC/DC support Rock the Light, and all I can say about the band’s new seven-track CD, The Summer We All Got Laid, is thank you. This is an album that reminds the listener of what rock music can be: straightforward, full-blast and simply timeless. The notes I took while listening to the disc are blurry, but they seem to say, “This is the fucking rock band!” Simply put, this music rules. Grade: A.
Lest you think we find Rock the Light alone in the A stack, let me mention that Las Pesadillas’ The Flyin’ Dog EP also made the cut. What other band in Sacramento bookends an album of six originals with covers of both Karl Orff and Richard Wagner? What other band call be described as Sacramento’s answer to Frank Zappa? Just this one. In terms of influences, it is difficult or impossible to say whose shoulders Las Pesadillas crouches upon. (I picture the band crouching on shoulders, rather than standing, although I can’t explain why.) Captain Beefheart? Mr. Bungle? Who cares! It’s a beautiful record full of Sturm und Drang and occasional pangs of sadness and grace. “Ed’s Gone Home” will break your heart. Grade: A.
In the general C category let me just say this: Paradigm’s Thirty Stories High is ready for a major label, but it makes me fall asleep. If you’re going to make a bid for the mainstream, you need to make a mainstream-sounding record, but such recordings bore me to tears. Let’s leave this kind of music to teenagers who think Gwen Stefani is a great singer and songwriter (instead of a middling pop singer peddling her mediocre looks in a desperate attempt to salvage a career that will, at any moment, plunge her into obscurity).
Of course, there were many more local CDs released this quarter than I can mention in the space allotted here, but several others also fell into the C range: The Four Eyes’ Sweet Sounds!, Mark Scott LaMountain and the Blue Thunder Band’s Blue Thunder Boogie and Instant Legend’s Dancing with Machetes and Swords. We’ll leave the two D’s and one F off for now, but at least I can tell you that the median grade this time around was a C.
Remember to take these grades with a grain of salt. At least all of these musicians are out in the world doing something. Most mornings, it’s a challenge for me to put on my tweed jacket and loafers and get out the door before noon.
Best wishes, and I’ll hear you next quarter,