Richard Hawley: Truelove’s Gutter


RIYL: Roy Orbison, Scott Walker, Nick Cave

Death, taxes…Richard Hawley. The onetime Longpig is not only good for an album of new material every two years, but he’s good for a good album of new material every two years. Hawley went widescreen on 2007’s Lady’s Bridge, but opts for a more stripped-down approach on Truelove’s Gutter, his latest. The songs, as per usual, are the kind of ghostly ballads that would haunt an abandoned ’50s dancehall, which Hawley spices up with the use of a singing saw and a waterphone. (Yes, we had to look up the latter instrument, too.) He’s not in a hurry this time, either – the shortest songs clock in at four and a half minutes, and two of them hit both sides of the ten-minute mark. Amazingly, the epic tracks, “Remorse Code” and “Don’t You Cry,” are two of the album’s finest, breezing by in seemingly half the time. “Soldier On,” meanwhile, could serve as the new textbook definition of “quiet storm.”

Hawley himself surely knows that his success in the UK is a blessing and not a right – his music is blissfully out of time with its surroundings. Don’t be surprised, though, if Truelove’s Gutter ends up burying us all. (Mute 2009)

Richard Hawley MySpace page
Click to buy Truelove’s Gutter from Amazon

  

Was Lollapalooza ’09 the best one yet?

This year’s Lollapalooza is officially on the books, and whether or not you were there to catch all the highs and lows of the ’09 edition of the long-running festival in person, now it’s time for a recap. Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker and James Eldred were ‘paloozing with the best of them this year, and they’ve thoughtfully prepared a day-by-day report of what went down at Grant Park last weekend — and if that isn’t enough to sate your appetite for Lolla coverage, they also collaborated on a liveblog of the event.

It’s all up at Bullz-Eye now, so to read about the “epic” lineup and “biblical” weather, just click on the image above or follow this link!

  

Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” meets the critics

Green Day - 21st Century BreakdownFive years after releasing 2004’s career-defining American Idiot, Green Day is back with their follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown, hitting stores today. Does it live up to the considerable hype?

According to Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, Breakdown is a solid 3.5-star affair — perhaps not the towering achievement that Idiot was, but as he says, you have to “give the band credit … for not shying away from the impossible expectations that have been thrust upon them, and trying their damndest to make an album every bit as massive” as their last outing, even if their reach exceeds their grasp a bit:

The problem is that this time around, that whole reach-exceeds-their-grasp thing comes back to haunt them. The band simply bit off more than they could chew, and had they been willing to pare down the track listing to a more reasonable length (18 songs! 69 minutes!), we could be talking about Breakdown and Idiot the same way that people compare and contrast The Bends and OK Computer.

These sentiments are more or less in line with the qualified praise doled out in reviews from a number of outlets, including the UK’s Guardian (“a little less bold, a little less surprising than its predecessor”), Entertainment Weekly (“The band seem oddly immune to the fact that success … has rendered Berkeley’s gutter-boys-done-good accidental targets of their own ire”), and Popdose (“bucks the current trend of churning out singles in favor of creating deep tracks that beg for repeated listens — and may the gods bless ‘em for it!”)

And what does the band say? Well, watch this Total Assault interview clip to hear directly from the boys themselves:

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Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

With American Idiot in 2004, Green Day released one of the best rock albums of the past 20 years. I immediately went from casual fan to huge fan with that record. The music was incredibly powerful, but the lyrics were even more impressive. Green Day was willing to make a rebellious political statement at a time when most of the country was in a collective stupor, consumed by the “war on terror.” They didn’t hold back, and the result was stunning. Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker summed it up in his review of the record.

Green Day’s biggest conceit was that they were what they seemed, a group of snot nosed punks who would rather beat off in front of the TV than take a stand on anything of importance. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. No band writes tunes as sharp as “Longview,” “Geek Stink Breath” and “Hitchin’ a Ride” without some synapses firing. And with their newest, American Idiot, the cat’s out of the bag; they wrote a concept album, which actually brings the band full circle. With songs that both rocked and popped, they were more of a mod band and a punk band, and American Idiot pays heartfelt tribute to their mod forefathers the Who while eviscerating the current pop culture climate at the same time. It’s heady stuff, to be sure; they’ll certainly never get away with acting like slackers again. The world knows better now.

Many fans have been waiting for their follow-up effort, and 21st Century Breakdown arrives in stores in May. Rolling Stone scored an “early listen” to six tracks from the record. We weren’t so lucky, but we bring you their impressions.

As previously reported, the 16-track album is broken into three acts — Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints, and Horseshoes and Handgrenades — and Dirnt told AP magazine that the songs “speak to each other the way the songs on [Bruce Springsteen’s] Born to Run speak to each other. I don’t know if you’d call it a ‘concept album,’ but there’s a thread that connects everything.” The songs are defiant, but also defiantly hopeful, referencing the unsettled political climate as well as more personal and generational turmoils. Its blend of claustrophobia and freedom is well illustrated by the album’s cover art, which depicts a tight shot of a young couple kissing against a graffiti-covered wall.

Defiant. I love it. Can’t wait.

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Abraham Simpson once succinctly explained about how he used to be “with it,” but then they changed what “it” was. Suddenly what he was “with” wasn’t “it,” and what was “it” seemed weird and scary to him. He then pointed a bony finger at his son Homer and said, “It’ll happen to you.”

It happened to me this year.

The thing is, I’m okay with it. Pop is a young man’s game, and I just turned 40, so the vast majority of songs climbing the charts are not aimed at me. In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who feels compelled to remain hip and cool as they hit their late 30s. It’s hard work, and you will invariably find yourself on the other side of the fence from the hordes of people who think (insert indie band of the week here) are the saviors of rock and roll. Don’t fight it: embrace it. Circle of life, etc.

Having said that, I made a concerted effort this year to give a listen to the music that was being aimed at our impressionable youth and see if I could hear what they hear. After trolling through the muck that is Rocco’s ”Umma Do Me” and contemplating whether I wanted to live on the same planet with people who gave Rocco their hard-earned money, I found a few pop singers that I quite liked. The problem is that no one bought their records, which sums up my CD collection – and my favorite songs and albums from 2008 – better than anything: pop music that isn’t popular. Sigh.

Top 10 albums of 2008

1. Midnight Juggernauts: Dystopia
A little Goth rock, a little Daft Punk dance, a little Muse-ish paranoia, and a whole lot awesome.

2. Panic at the Disco: Pretty. Odd
The kids, apparently, were furious with Panic at the Disco’s decision to make a, ahem, more traditional pop album. To that I say: fuck the kids, Panic. I’ll take this over the needlessly wordy songs from your first album any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

3. Airborne Toxic Event: Airborne Toxic Event
I still haven’t read Pitchfork’s brutal 1.6-rated review of this album. Just knowing that they would do such a thing to an album so completely undeserving – their song “Sometime Around Midnight” is worthy of three or four points all by itself – is confirmation that I need not worry what their opinion is about anything, ever.

4. Attic Lights: Friday Night Lights
Odds are the debut album by this Scottish quintet will never see the light of day in the States. The reason? It’s filled with smart, sunny, harmony-laden pop songs that aren’t produced within an inch of their lives, which fell out of favor with Stateside radio programmers about ten years ago. Still, I’m willing to bet that more people are listening to this album ten years from now than anything Akon ever does.

5. Republic Tigers: Keep Color
Much like the Attic Lights, though the Tigers were lucky enough to get their fabulous debut album released on this side of the pond. Being American certainly had a lot to do with that, though it didn’t help them much with getting on the radio. I guess that spot on the “Gossip Girl” soundtrack will have to suffice.

6. Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It
Again, showing my age here, but this is my idea of R&B. Saadiq’s slavish attention to detail results in the finest Smokey Robinson album in decades. Could have done without the drop-in by Jay-Z, though.

7. They Might Be Giants: Here Come the 123s
So maybe I am into music aimed at the kids, if the kids happen to be my two-year-old. They Might Be Giants’ follow-up to their wildly popular Here Come the ABCs is even better; “Seven” was produced by the Dust Brothers, for crying out loud, and the kids’ screams of “We want cake! Where’s our cake!” will stick in your head for days. The videos on the accompanying DVD are awesome as well. Anyone with a toddler should buy this, stat.

8. Joe Jackson: Rain
At long last, a proper follow-up to Ben Folds Five’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.

9. Sunny Day Sets Fire: Summer Palace
Think New Pornographers, on a global scale.

10. Benji Hughes: A Love Extreme
Occasionally juvenile, yes, but hot damn, is Hughes hard to beat when he’s on his game. Look for Beck to cover half of the songs here before long.

Honorable Mentions
Coldplay: Viva La Vida
Keane: Perfect Symmetry
R.E.M.: Accelerate
Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken: Ampersand EP
James Hunter: The Hard Way
Flight of the Conchords: Flight of the Conchords
Army Navy: Army Navy
We Are Scientists: Brain Thrust Mastery
Foxboro Hot Tubs: Foxboro Hot Tubs

Songs I loved from albums I loved… less

Never Miss a Beat,” Kaiser Chiefs
Instant classic, this one. All bands should be challenged to write a catchier melody using five notes or less, like the verse here.

Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings
You just know that Debbie Harry loves this.

Chasing Pavements,” Adele
This song went Top 10 in eight countries. In the States, it peaked at #82. Jesus, people.

You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds w/ Regina Spektor
The one truly brilliant moment on his most recent album, though once you’ve been married four times, you should by law lose the right to complain about how it’s your ex’s fault.

“A-Punk,” Vampire Weekend
Ey! Ey! Ey! Ey!

Wow,” Kylie Minogue
Meow, meow, meow, meow!

I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie
Eight and a half minutes of delusional stalkerism disguised as bold determination. We’re used to the former from them, but not the latter. Bravo.

Money, It’s Pure Evil,” Bigelf
I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison yet, but I’m pretty sure a chunk of the guitar solo here is taken note-for-note from “Comfortably Numb.”

Cantaloupe,” Carlon
Hollies, Hollies, Hollies, get your vocals here.

“Join with Us,” The Feeling
For being a bunch of pop boys, they freaking bring it at the end. As of press date, their second album (this is the title track) has no US release date. D’oh.

This Is Only,” Charlotte Sometimes
‘She’s Half My Age,’ Crush #1. I am positively smitten with this girl. Cute as a button, sassy lyricist and with one of the most unique voices in pop, I can’t believe a major actually signed her. And that’s part of the hypocrisy with the music press: had this been an indie release, and not as slickly produced, people would be lining up with Liz Phair-style rapture for the girl. Ugh.

Fragile,” Kerli
‘She’s Half My Age,’ Crush #2. Here’s another one that would be better served positioning herself as a modern rock goddess than a Goth-tinged popster, and this song’s the proof. Oh, and don’t ever use the ‘G’ word in her presence, if you don’t want your eyes gouged out.

Slave to the Rhythm,” Shirley Bassey
Dame Shirley Bassey covering Grace Jones, with Primal Scream’s “Loaded” serving as the drum track. Does it get any cooler than that?

Girls,” Walter Meego
Daft Punk, crossed with David Cassidy.

They Live,” Evil Nine
Daft Punk, crossed with zombies.

Sensual Seduction“/”My Medicine,” Snoop Dogg
Pity Marvin Gaye isn’t still alive to cover the former. Pity Johnny Cash isn’t still alive to cover the latter.

Never let me down…again: Artists I love making albums I thought were just all right

Aimee Mann: @#%&*! Smilers
She may have hated making albums for the majors, but they sure were better when she did.

B-52’s: Funplex
Better than Good Stuff, but that’s not exactly saying much.

Gary Louris: Vagabonds
I still think he has one of the finest voices in music, but this record could have used a couple shifts in tempo.

Jack’s Mannequin: The Glass Passenger
Want a little cheese with that whine?

2008: The year of the bad band name

Are all of the good band names truly gone? You’d certainly think so, judging from some of the releases we saw this year. Even good bands – including two bands in my Top 10 – gave themselves bad names. Here is a small list of the ones I found to be particularly bad.

Unicycle Loves You
Biography of Ferns
Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Airborne Toxic Event
Sunny Day Sets Fire
Uh Huh Her
The Sound of Animals Fighting
What Laura Says
The Number Twelve Looks Like You
Dancer vs. Politician
We Landed on the Moon

Phony of the Year

Katy Perry. “I Kissed a Girl” and “Ur So Gay” are such manufactured controversy that even Madonna blushed.

Fare thee well

Junior Senior has called it quits. Damn.

  

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