We Are Wolves: Invisible Violence


RIYL: Handsome Furs, New Order, The Rapture

On their third release, Montreal trio We Are Wolves polish and refine their unique brand of indie, post-punk and electro to such a shine it’s hard to find another band to compare them to. They’re most reminiscent of It’s Blitz!-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs but they are still strikingly different in the way they combine punk and electronic music. While the YYYs practically abandoned their punk influences to create their dance-happy indie rock, We Are Wolves still embrace it, combining scuzzy garage rock riffs with Moroder-influenced synths in a way that shouldn’t work as well as it does. Invisible Violence is a pendulum of a record, swinging back and forth between rock songs with an electronic edge like the opening track “Paloma” or electronic numbers with a slight rock edge, such as the epic “Reaching for the Sky.” It’s cold and detached while being energetic and in-your-face, like someone gave Gary Numan and fuzzbox and had him go to town. The term “dance-punk” doesn’t fit these guys, they could probably best be described as garage-electro; everything about them is lo-fi, with their wonderfully retro-sounding synths melding perfectly with their scuzzy guitars and howling vocals. This has to be the most hard-rocking, punk-friendly album ever to be obviously influenced by late-’70s disco. (Dare To Care Records 2010)

We Are Wolves MySpace Page

  

21st Century Breakdown: James B. Eldred’s Top 10 Albums of the Decade

Oy, this decade was a mess. The ’90s were easy. Rock had grunge, hip-hop had gangsta rap and a genre-defining electronic album seemed to come out every week thanks to artists like Aphex Twin, the Prodigy and the Orb (just to name a few). There was no Zeitgeist-turning moment in music this decade, no Next Big Thing. Instead, we saw mainstream rock dissolve into a post-grunge funk from which it might never recover, while pop music infiltrated rap music in insulting and embarrassing ways (thanks, Auto-Tune). Meanwhile, both the punk rock kids and hippies discovered electronic music, giving Pitchfork whole new genres of music to build up and tear down.

We’re more fragmented then ever – case in point: of all the albums selected by the writers who’ve contributed to our End of Decade series, only one album has been selected twice – which means that there’s something out there for anyone, but nothing for everyone. It sucks if you like the idea of a rock band being bigger than Jesus, especially if you don’t want that band to be U2. But if you like the idea that at any given moment there’s probably an album being released that will appeal to just you a few thousand other people, then this is a great time to be alive. However, that also means the chances of finding something truly “original” are next to nil. We’re getting to a point where it feels like everything has been done, and everyone is just paying homage, making pastiche or ripping off something that came before.

That being said, there were still a few original albums to make their way to my ears this decade, and almost all of them ended up being my favorites. So while you say this is my “best of” list for the decade, you could also call it my “most original” list as well.

1. Fucked Up: Chemistry of Common Life
Canadian indie rock seemed to be the scene of the ’00s, and while it gave us some good music, most of it bored me. It was just so damn pleasant. And Fucked Up is a lot of things, but pleasant isn’t one of them. In fact, almost everything about them, from their R-rated name to the abrasive vocals of their lead singer (who goes by the name Pink Eyes) almost dares you not to like them. I sure as hell didn’t at first; it seemed like they were trying too hard to be “outrageous.” But when they give you a song as brilliant as “Son the Father” with its goosebump-inducing riff and the best lyric of the decade (“It’s hard enough being born in the first place / Who would ever wanna be born again?”), it’s impossible not to take notice. This is hardcore punk’s Dark Side of the Moon and will probably be just as influential in the years to come.

2. Arcade Fire: Funeral
Okay, so not all of the indie-rock from Canada bored me. I didn’t want to like Arcade Fire, I didn’t want to fall for their melancholy lyrics and haunting melodies, and I didn’t want to be put under enchantment by the haunting closing track “In The Backseat.” It just kind of happened that way. Damn Canadians and their near-perfect records.

3. Hell: Teufelswerk
An as-yet-unheard masterpiece, although there is some hope still since it only came out this year. Teufelswerk picks up where The Orb’s Adventures into the Underworld left off, taking the listener on a journey across two discs that include ambient, house, electro and just about everything else in between. Not made entirely for the dance floor, it’s the kind of electronic album that should have mainstream appeal, even with its 13-minute tracks and bizarre guest appearance roster of Bryan Ferry and Diddy. If you consider yourself a fan of electronic music and you don’t have this album, you’re doing it wrong.

4. At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command
It came out in 2000, and nearly 10 years later there’s still nothing that sounds remotely like it. It’s usually pegged as an emo record, (the first time I heard the word “emo” was in regards to this record) but modern emo has little in common with this masterpiece of tempo changes, passionate vocals and adrenaline-fueled insanity. Too bad the band couldn’t survive much past the album’s release, and the two offshoots they formed after the break-up, the Mars Volta and Sparta, have come close to even matching this record in the years that have followed. Of course, almost no one else has, either.

5. Marnie Stern: This Is It And I Am It…
“This chick is kinda nuts,” said my editor when he pitched this CD to me. I’m naturally attracted to insane women, so that’s partially why I took a shine to Stern so quickly, but it mostly had to do with the fact that I’ve heard nothing like her before. She’s some heavenly combination of Van Halen and Sleater-Kinney, taking guitar virtuosity and mixing it with riot grrl passion to create an entirely one-of-a-kind sound in the process. She’s her own beast, creating her own genre which should just be called “holy shit music,” because that’s all I can think to myself when I hear her.

6. Deltron 3030: Deltron 3030
Indie hip-hop may be easy to find now, but in 2000 there was no scene for that, at least there wasn’t in my consciousness. I still don’t remember how I found this record, which is a crazy concept album about an intergalactic rap battle in the year 3030, but I remember being pleasantly surprised when a year later everyone involved on it (Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, DJ Kid Koala, Dan the Automator and Damon Albarn) went on to form Gorillaz. But this album is still better than anything those animated monkeys put out. It isn’t only the best hip-hop album of the decade, but the most original as well.

7. Mastodon: Leviathan
Prog-rock and heavy metal, two great tastes that taste great together, especially when used to create a concept album based on “Moby Dick.” Mastodon’s early albums showed promise, but this seafaring epic really sealed the deal and heralded their arrival as “the” metal band in 2004. It was also the first album to show me that popular metal was finally getting past that nu-metal BS that nearly ruined the genre at the turn of the millennium. There needs to be more metal based on classic American novels. I’m waiting for a metal interpretation of “The Age of Innocence.”

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz!
The biggest 180 of the decade. Sounding nothing like their previous records, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t go dance-punk for their third LP, they went full-on dance – like a rocking version of Kylie Minogue. You’re not going to hear a better dance track this year than “Zero,” unless you count all the other up-tempo numbers on this flawless record.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell
Oh yeah, and their first album wasn’t half bad, either.

10. The Strokes: Is This It?
The poster band and the poster album for the for the poster genre (post-punk revival) that was supposed to become the Next Big Thing. And while that didn’t really happen, we still got some really good records out of it, this one still being the best. And even if you didn’t like it, you have to admit that it probably got a bunch of kids listening to the Stooges for the first time. And the UK version (see photo) had the best album cover of the decade as well.

  

Karen O and the Kids: Where The Wild Things Are


RIYL: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Deerhunter, The Kills

“Where The Wild Things Are”is a classic for multiple generations, and many (present company included) frequently site it as their favorite book from childhood. So most likely the upcoming film adaptation will mean a lot to kids of all ages, unless it sucks. However, if the soundtrack is any indication to the broad appeal of the film, we probably have nothing to worry about.

The soundtrack is credited to Karen O. and the Kids, but “the kids” are more than just the child singers on back up; they are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bradford Cox from Deerhunter, Dean Fertita from The Dead Weather, Raconteur Jack Lawrence and the Liars’ Aaron Hemphill. That’s a lot of indie rocking, but there’s nary an ounce of pretension to be found here. Instead, there’s something for everyone.

Kids will enjoy the tribal beats and easy-to-sing along choruses of tracks like “All Is Love” and “Capsize,” while hipster 20- and 30-somethings will enjoy the complex and layered instrumentation that is present throughout, and everyone will be in awe once again of Karen O’s remarkable voice, which shows more variety growth here than on any Yeah Yeah Yeahs record. Sure, she may have been quiet before on classics like “Maps,” but she’s never done it as effectively as she does here on haunting, dreamy tracks like “Worried Shoes” (a surprising Daniel Johnston cover) and “Hideaway.” And while Karen’s always wailed with the best of them, she really lets it out on “Animal,” a banging acoustic stomper that serves as one of the few loud points of the album. This is a soundtrack though, and some parts are very score-like, with a good chunk of the second half being mostly instrumental and incidental. Still, it’s very pretty instrumental and incidental music, but those expecting the pop music of the single “All Is Love” should be forewarned.

But that’s a small complaint. This album rocks for all ages. Hipsters and pre-schoolers unite! (DGC/Interscope 2009)

Click to buy Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack from Amazon

  

Jemina Pearl: Break It Up

It’s not all the cocaine/not a chemical reaction in my brain/that’s making me go insane.” That’s the first line to “Heartbeats,” the opening track of Jemina Pearl’s solo debut Break It Up. It’s nice to see that the lead singer of the recently departed Be Your Own Pet hasn’t lost her edge. Sure, the music behind her vicious and vindictive lyrics may be better tailored for the dance floor than the mosh pit this time around, but this is dance music in the vein of Blondie, using disco beats to accompany dark lyrics and an overall menacing feel. While the Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the same approach this year with their excellent disco revival record It’s Blitz!, Pearl instead goes even further back in time with her dance-pop, instead drawing from ’60s pop music. Songs like “Selfish Heart” and “Ecstatic Appeal” sound like punk rock covers of unreleased Ronnettes songs. And others, like the brilliant “I Hate People,” an ode to misanthropy and true love (featuring Iggy Pop!), are freakish bubblegum pop songs from hell combining easy listening sounds with twisted lyrics and themes. “I Hate People” might just become an anti-love song classic; its chorus of “I hate people but I love you” should be anthem of every punk rocker in love, maybe even becoming a new wedding song. One thing’s for sure – Jemina’s back, she’s still pissed and kicks more ass than ever. (Ecstatic Peace! 2009)

Jemina Pearl MySpace page

  

Seen Your Video: Flaming Lips, “I Can Be a Frog”

Four words and one letter: Karen O in a bikini. Enjoy!

The Flaming Lips “I Can Be A Frog”

  

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