Veil Veil Vanish: Change in the Neon Light


RIYL: Pom Pom Diary, The Sounds, White Lies

Metaphor time. Take a chocolate cake, for instance. Even a bad one has some tasty bits, and a good one is always a treat, no matter how many times you’ve had it before. Sure you can feel like you’ve OD’d on too much chocolate, but give it a little time, and you’ll be back for more.

A lot of rock music genres are the same way. The musical elements that define them as a genre or style are the same elements that become quite familiar and overused, both appealing and repetitive all at once. The heavily ’80s-influenced post punk revival of the past decade fits this description to a “T”, as does the debut album by Veil Veil Vanish, Change in the Neon Light. Only seconds in, it is obvious where the San Fran quartet got their recipe; it is all Cure, spiced with Echo & the Bunnymen, sprinkled with early U2 and iced with Gene Loves Jezebel. There is nothing subtle here, and one could argue it is derivative, but that is only on the surface. Take one big bite and you’ll find that Change in the Neon Light is one helluva good chocolate cake.

The atmospheric qualities of the entire album are shimmering and driving, an album full of layered guitars and danceable percussion. The opening title track and final song “Wilderness” perfectly bookend the darkly emotive mood that fills the album. Keven Tecon’s vocals are plaintive but never whiny, while Robert Marzio deserves MVP accolades for signature drums that carry every song forward relentlessly. The album never lets up. From beginning to end there is not a weak track, and it really hits its stride in the second half with “Secondhand Daylight,” where Amy Rosenoff’s bass line and Cameron Ray’s guitars play off each other expressively, and “Detachment,” which serves up Siouxsie Sioux-like power. “It’s no fun if it doesn’t leave a mark,” they sing, and this album proves the point.

Veil Veil Vanish (a name just ridiculous enough to stick) is a surprisingly strong as a band on this debut, and it bodes well for the future. They haven’t drastically changed the recipe in creating Change in the Neon Light, but they definitely know how to cook. Their debut sets a high bar for the next course. Recommended. (Metropolis Records 2010)

Veil Veil Vanish MySpace page

  

Editors: In This Light and On This Evening


RIYL: Joy Division, Peter Murphy, Shriekback

Editors have stood out from their UK peers by doing the most unlikely thing: staying the same. In an age ruled by extreme makeovers, Editors followed their 2006 breakthrough The Back Room with an album almost exactly like it (2007’s An End Has a Start), and were rewarded with their first #1 album in the UK and their highest-ranking single.

Then a funny thing happened: they grew positively bored with what they were doing.

Editors_KevinWestenberg4

Cut to present day and In This Light and On This Evening, Editors’ third album, where the band chucks the guitars for a wall of synthesizers and in the process makes an album that is absolutely unlike anything they have done before and yet right in line with everything they have done before. The songs carry the same epic feel of their best work – lead single “Papillon,” for one, has a mile-wide chorus – but the new tools they use to build those songs have opened the playbook considerably. The melodic high keyboard line in “Bricks and Mortar” serves as a secondary vocal, while the delicate “The Boxer” touches upon ideas that would have been completely foreign to the band last time around. “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool,” meanwhile, could be this generation’s “Being Boiled,” a relentless piece of minimalist electro that stacks on some real drums for dramatic effect.

As remakes go, In This Light and On This Evening is the type that will impress both the casual Editors listener and the diehard. Even better, the band has put themselves in a position to take their next album in any direction, and it would appear to be a logical progression from here. Quoth the prophet Sheryl Crow, a change will indeed do you good. (Fader 2010)

Editors MySpace page
Click to buy In This Light and On This Evening from Amazon

  

21st Century Breakdown: David Medsker’s Top 10 Albums from the 2000s That You Never Heard

A problem, sadly, that tended to happen far too often this decade.

I’m not going to write some lengthy intro for this; if you’re reading our continuing coverage of the decade that was – and thank you very much if you are – then you know that despite music’s increased exposure thanks to the interwebs, it also became damn hard to either find a good band or vault them to the next level. Several of the bands in the list below actually had both good buzz and record company support behind them, and still failed. Such was the ’00s: as the Icehouse song goes, no promises.

Here are ten of my favorite albums that no one bought, or at least, didn’t buy enough of.

Sugarbomb: Bully (2001)
A small but devoted cult has built around this completely insane group of Ft. Worth power pop aficionados. Legend has it they dressed like women and kissed onstage while rocking the ever-loving shit out of their audience. This was their only major label release, and because of the sudden belt-tightening the nation suffered upon its release – it came out September 25, 2001, ow – the band was dropped shortly afterwards. Pity, because these guys could play. And they could sing better than they could play. And man, could they do a, um, killer Queen impression. Think Muse sounds a lot like Queen? Listen to “After All,” the closing track on Bully.

The main songwriters in the band, Les Farrington and Daniel Harville, seemed so distraught over the collapse of the band that they never really gave it another shot, at least in terms of playing to their strengths. Last I heard, Harville was slumming in some Shiny Toy Guns-type band that’s far beneath his abilities, whlie Farrington has pulled an Andy Sturmer – a fitting analogy, since Farrington’s a big fan of Sturmer and his band Jellyfish – keeping virtually no profile on the web. Again, pity. All concerned deserved better.

Midnight Juggernauts: Dystopia (2008)
Odds are, if a band signs to Astralwerks, I’m going to like them. but even I was unprepared for how totally fucking awesome the Midnight Juggernauts’ debut album Dystopia is. They’re an Australian trio that melds Daft Punk beats to late ’80s modern rock stylings, with perhaps a dash of Air-style ambience. And best of all, they’re an actual band, playing these songs on real guitars, keys and drums. Anyone who listens to Peter Murphy, David Bowie and Daft Punk should own this at once.

The Lolas: Silver Dollar Sunday (2001)
Poor Tim Boykin. He’s sickeningly talented, a guitar virtuoso and a wizard at stacking harmonies like a Jenga block, but his power pop band the Lolas never quite got off the ground. It could have been a matter of timing; the band sputtered to a halt shortly after MySpace took off, and according to the band’s MySpace page, they haven’t checked it since May 2006 – but even if he had kept waving the power pop flag, the odds of a band like the Lolas making the jump is unlikely, especially if they’re based in Birmingham. The Alabama Birmingham, not the UK Birmingham. For those who scoured NotLame’s release sheets in the early ’00s like a meth addict looking for another fix, though, the Lolas’ sophomore effort Silver Dollar Sunday was, pardon the pun, a hell of a score. They wiped the floor with Oasis on “Long Time,” and turned in the best Stone Roses impression ever on “Wild Blood.” If the YouTube vids are any indication, Boykin is now a long-haired guitar instructor in his hometown of Birmingham. I urge everyone within 200 miles of his house to sign up for lessons.

Delays: Faded Seaside Glamour (2004)
Their influences are apparent – The Hollies, Cocteau Twins, the La’s – but there isn’t a band alive quite like Delays. Their debut single “Nearer Than Heaven” is a flat-out skyscraper, and Greg Gilbert’s androngynous tenor/falsetto combo is as unique a voice as you’ll find in music today. This was one of those records that just made me dance around the house in a ‘hey it’s all going to work out’ kind of way. And in 2004, that was a stark contrast to the other dark, melancholy shit we were being subjected to. This album makes me glad to be alive. That’s as nice a compliment as one can pay, if you ask me.

Rialto: Night on Earth (2001)
They may have been late to the Brit Pop party (and extremely late at that, dropping their debut in 1998), but Rialto singer and chief songwriter Louis Eliot has a way with a tune – ask the people in South Korea, they loooooove Rialto – and in many ways the band improves upon their eponymous debut with Night on Earth. They had two drummers first time around, but are down to one drummer and the occasional machine on this one, and in the case of a melodramatic song like “London Crawling” it fits like a glove. “Idiot Twin” is one of the best songs Depeche Mode never wrote, and “Shatterproof” will make any fan of OMD’s “If You Leave” squeal with delight. Of course, I bought the import, convinced that it would never see the light of day in the States. Sure enough, two months later, Eagle Rock releases it, with bonus tracks to boot. So I bought it again, and gave the import to a friend.

Gene: Libertine (2001)
As much of a Britpop fan as I was during the mid-’90s – seriously, what the hell else was I going to listen to, Hootie and Alanis? – Gene never grabbed me the way I expected those endless Smiths comparisons to. I loved “Fighting Fit” from Drawn to the Deep End, but scarcely listened to anything else from that album. When their 2001 album Libertine came up for grabs during my tenure with PopMatters, I thought, ‘What the hell,’ and ended up thinking, ‘Hell, yes.’ More mature, more patient, and eager to explore different textures, Gene basically laid the groundwork between Coldplay’s Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. You’re welcome, Chris Martin.

Paul Melancon: Camera Obscura (2002)
When this album was released, I had daydreams about hooking up Atlanta pop genius Paul Melancon with Jon Brion. It made perfect sense to me; they both love classic pop melody, fractured fairy tales, and the Beatles. It’s a match made in heaven, and Brion will make him a star. Ah, but being signed to an Indigo Girl’s record label apparently only had so much pull, and the album didn’t quite jump into the general consciousness the way I hoped it would. Damn. Didn’t they hear his love letter to ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne, cryptically titled “Jeff Lynne”? Even better is the album’s final track “Fine,” which sports one of those great wordless choruses. Oh, and it ends with arson, like all love stories should.

Click to hear Paul Melancon’s “King Sham”

Republic Tigers: Keep Color (2008)
The Republic Tigers are like the American version of the Feeling – they are simply not from their time. Listen to those melodies (the A-ha tribute “Buildings and Mountains”), the patience they take with the arrangements (“Golden Sand”). Ideally, someone will hear this album and think that that is how songs should be written. But after the whole Paul Melancon thing, I’m not holding out hope. For what it’s worth, guys, the people who grew up in the ’80s think you guys are peachy keen.

Click to hear the Republic Tigers’ “Fight Song”

Kenna: New Sacred Cow (2003)
This was going to be included in our piece on the best albums you never heard, but we based the inclusion of the albums on which artists were willing to answer a few simple questions, and Kenna forwarded us to his publicist…who couldn’t be bothered to respond. Ironically, Kenna called me shortly before his second album came out, even though I told the label that we needed to reschedule the interview. As it turned out, the interview was never rescheduled, and to borrow a phrase from Led Zeppelin, it makes me wonder. Here’s me, an avowed fan of the man – one of the best concerts I ever attended was a Kenna show at Schuba’s in Chicago. The show started at 6:00, and drinks were on the house, woot! – and the label can’t coordinate an interview. I suppose it’s fitting, since labels just have no idea what to do with an artist like him. He’s black, but his music knows no color. You’d think that the fact that his high school buddies, who are now known as the Neptunes, produced the record would be enough. Not so. Oh well. I love this album, and this album also produced one of the most original videos of the year.

Swag: Catch-All (2001)
When we asked Swag singer Doug Powell about Catch All, his stint with one-shot super group Swag, he dismissed it as pedestrian pop, and seemed surprised that anyone would love it. I get where he’s coming from, since the album doesn’t exactly rewrite the rules of pop, but it sports some damn good tributes to the Zombies (“Please Don’t Tell”), Elvis Costello (“Eight”), and the Byrds (“Lone,” “Louise”). And what’s wrong with that? Not a damn thing, if you axe me.

  

Steal This Song: Gazpacho, “Winter Is Never”

The problem with a band reaching the upper reaches of the rock star food chain is that inferior bands begin to imitate them. And the band that has inspired the largest number of shitty copycats of late, sadly, is one of this writer’s favorites.

Muse_14 edit

Yep, Muse.

The thing about Muse is that their approach is a lot simpler than it appears. The song, by and large, comes first, whereas the band’s copycats see the flashy solos, the lightning-fast drum fills, and the busy bass lines and instantly forget about writing and concentrate on playing. Big, big mistake. Without a tune, that stuff is just masturbation.

Which brings us to Gazpacho, which seems an odd name for a group of Norwegians, but then again we suppose that everything is served cold there. (This moment of cultural insensitivity brought to you by Jack Daniel’s.) This is the first Muse-y band we’ve heard since “Knights of Cydonia” that seems to understand the order of things. They can play, and they make sure that you know they can play, but it’s not their endgame. And, in the case of “Winter Is Never,” the haunting ballad that closes their new album Tick Tock, the song comes first, second and third. David Gray is probably gnashing his teeth over this one, as this could pass for a White Ladder outtake, with a few Buckley-isms from lead singer Jan Henrik Ohme in the second chorus. Gorgeous stuff, and best of all, it’s free! The download link is below.

Groepsportret Gazpacho

In the meantime, those who felt a tad disappointed by Muse’s new album The Resistance would be wise to check out Tick Tock. It won’t make anyone burn their copies of Black Holes and Revelations, but for a mere $6.23 to download, it’s a steal. Dig in.

Gazpacho – Winter Is Never

Gazpacho MySpace page
Click to buy Tick Tock from Amazon

  

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: The Twilight Saga: New Moon


RIYL: Vampires, werewolves, everlasting love

Say this for soundtrack supervisor extraordinaire Alexandra Patsavas: with the soundtrack to “New Moon,” the second installment in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, she leaves nothing in the bag, as it were. With a lineup chock full of megastars and indie darlings, New Moon is the most ambitious soundtrack to come down the pipe in a while. It’s also decidedly more grown-up than its predecessor, forsaking teen angst poster children Paramore and Linkin Park for the moody stylings of Bon Iver (teamed up with St. Vincent here), Sea Wolf, and Grizzly Bear. Muse is the only returning act – expect them to appear on the soundtrack for every “Twilight” movie, as Meyer is a devout fan – and it’s a doozy, as “I Belong to You,” from their latest album The Resistance, is punched up and, more imporantly, edited down (no piano break, woo hoo!). Thom Yorke delivers the wonderfully minimalist electro brooder “Hearing Damage,” and Patsavas scores a massive coup by securing the first new song by OK Go in four years, the endearingly oddball “Shooting the Moon.”

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

The biggest problem with the soundtrack is the sequencing. It will surely make sense in context with the movie, but as a straight-through listen sans visuals, it’s awfully up and down. All quibbling aside, New Moon is far better than anyone had a right to expect it to be, growing up along with its audience. Bravo, Alex. (Chop Shop/Atlantic 2009)

Twilight: New Moon MySpace page
Click to buy New Moon from Amazon

  

Related Posts