Friday, May 19, 2017

FIRST IMPRESSION: R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner - Make It Be

Collaborative albums between artists can be dicey propositions. Does it sound too much like one of the folks involved or do you split the difference between the two different styles/personas?  Can the sum possibly be greater than the parts?   Trust me, for every “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts” or “Madvillian” there are a dozen “Watch The Thrones”.  It takes not only an estimable set of skills to make the balancing act work, but also the ability to set aside ego to come up with something that works best for the songs.  Against a lot of odds, “Make It Be” (a nifty bastardization of the Fabs’ “Let It Be”), the collection of tunes birthed by the coupling of madly prolific lo-fi hero R. Stevie Moore and power-pop prodigal son Jason Faulkner gets it almost exactly right! 

Eschewing the scrappy homemade quality and murk of many of Moore’s releases, this is Faulkner’s sonic show.  Fuzzed-out opener, the deliciously misanthropic “I H8 Ppl” sets the stage, with Moore spitting lyrics atop Faulkner’s bed of guitars and synths and it sets the stage for an album chock full of deliciously weird and inventive tunes. While “Make It Be” can at times come off as lacking cohesion, the kitchen-sink experimentation more often than not produces a roller-coaster of sounds and styles, exemplified in miniature by the way the lo-fi prog instrumental “Gower (Theme From a Scene) bleeds into Moore’s spoken word diatribe “Prohibited Permissions” and finally segues directly into the buzzy garage stomp of “Stamps” (a Pixies-esque salvo about needing a roll of the titular object, natch).  At 18 tracks, it can be a bit dicey at times (the noodly, half-assed guitar interludes don’t exactly ooze necessity), but wonderful gems like the silly and delightful ersatz ‘50s juke-jumper “Don’t You Just Know” more than make up for any chaff amongst the wheat.  If nothing else, it makes me remember how much I miss and love Jason Falkner.  His “solo” contributions like “Another Day Slips Away” or the psych gem “Horror Show” would have fit perfectly on his well-loved 90’s solo albums for Elektra.  Also, his guiding hand has helped Moore to make the most of his gifts and provided structure to a songwriter whose own prolificacy sometimes works against him. “Make It Be” is not only a nice addition to both artists’ catalogs, but will also hopefully bring some deserved exposure. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

FIRST IMPRESSION: The Feelies - In Between

The arrival of a new album by Haledon, NJ’s favorite sons (and daughter) is always a cause for celebration – particularly when it can be punctuated by anywhere from three to twenty years in between!  What a treat, then, that “In Between”, the Feelies’ 6th album (and first since 2011’s comeback, “Here Before”) is such a lovely document of what the band does well. The newer, softer Feelies that have evolved out of their 20-year absence make increased use of acoustic instrumentation here – oftentimes, it’s the percussion of Dave Weckerman that is loudest in the mix, and the songs have a late-Velvets ease to them that bely the tension rippling right beneath the surface.  Autumnal in the best sense of the word, the album opens with the crackle of a campfire and the chirping of fauna and the title track sets the pace for most of the album – Glenn Mercer’s and Bill Million’s guitar strums nestling against one another, while Stan Demeski’s brushed drums and Brenda Sauter’s supple bass sagely keep time.  The band is in no hurry and the album is all the better for it.

Those only familiar with the band via its classic debut will certainly be surprised by how languid the band is here – most songs shuffle breezily by and the first appearance of Mercer’s biting lead guitar doesn’t rear its head until the fourth track, album highlight “Flag Days”.   All of this, however, is simply preamble to the 9-minute monolith that is the reprise of “In Between” that closes out the album.  A fully electric take on the title track, the song continues to build steam until hitting the three-minute mark, and then it goes off the damn rails.  Million’s churning rhythm guitar locks in with the rhythm section and Mercer’s skittering leads careen around it all; the sound they make is simultaneously hypnotizing and paranoia-inducing but never less than thrilling.  When both guitars nimbly (and loudly) solo over the last minutes of the jam, it reminds you of why this band is so fervently adored almost 40 years after their debut.  The culminating pick slide and feedback is all the reminder you need that age is nothing but a number and that the world is a better place with the Feelies rocking in it.  

...And We're Back!

Have you missed us?  Sure, you have!  After many false starts (read: laziness and ennui), the rockist reviews and fawning interviews you know and love are returning.  We promise to be less like that ne'er-do-well uncle who sometimes forgets your birthday and gives you wildly age-inappropriate presents (really, Uncle Barry, "naughty" playing cards?  AGAIN?) and more like an attentive lover, showering you with gifts that are both thoughtful and plentiful.  So, dig into the archives and prepare yourself for the awesome power of a fully operational mothership! (T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M for you fans of middling 90s George Clinton know who you are!) Color Is Its Own Reward is back, baby, and it's about to get loud...