Here at CL headquarters, we get inundated with an ass-load of music. In fact, we're mailed so many CDs every week, we don't have room to review even 10 percent of the stuff. But that won't stop us from trying! To that end, we're devoting extra space this issue to offer our highly regarded opinion (sarcasm) on a bunch of new music. Check it out:
Apostle Of Hustle
National Anthem of Nowhere
Arts & Crafts
The Deal: Second release from Broken Social Scene side project, Apostle of Hustle.
The Good: Andrew Whiteman is more proof those socialist Canadian bastards are cloning superior rock talent in their embryo-killing stem-cell labs -- probably between legalized pot breaks and gay marriage ceremonies.
Whiteman is the hustling Apostle, in addition to his guitar duties with Toronto's mega-collective Broken Social Scene. National Anthem of Nowhere is an apt title for this adventurous set with nomadic influences ranging from pulsing Joy Division bass lines and Tortoise jazz-scapes to Cuban son, Memphis-white-boy soul and 1960s' Brit-pop confections. Whatever the style, Whiteman's six-string skills are a catalogue of cool: warm-toned Tom Verlaine textures, Jeff Beck fuzz, and Marc Ribot Latin boogie (he, too, plays the Cuban tres).
Whiteman is the songwriting heartbeat of BSS, and there are moments when National Anthem captures that band's joyous unpredictability and horn-splashed grandeur -- particularly on the title cut and album highlight "Cheap Like Sebastien." But Apostle's music usually has more modest aims. It wins listeners over with dimmed-lights, intimacy and increased focus more often than full-chorus sing-alongs and arena-sized hooks -- even stripping some songs down to acoustic guitar, keys and brushed drums.
The Bad: It's hard not to hear the Apostle through the prism of BSS' ramshackle audio kaleidoscope, which can diminish anyone's luster. And though Whiteman lived in Havana for a year and does a mean Ribot, the Latin flavors occasionally feel, well, sort of Canadian.
The Verdict: The next best thing to BSS.
– JOHN SCHACHT
The Deal: Punked-up dub riding on interstellar dust.
The Good: The instrumental posse Dub Trio loves to mess with your head. Just when you get comfy in a spacey dub groove, the boys rip open guitars with breakneck hardcore and punk. There are even bits of squeezebox tango and tropical trip-hop bubbling in the mix. Mike Patton (Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, and Faith No More) lends his distinct voice to the album's only vocal track, "Not Alone."
The Bad: The recording quality is a tad on the lo-fi side, though the bass sounds mighty phat, and the band maybe shifting the musical gears a bit too quickly for some folks to digest.
The Verdict: This is a prime collection of tracks for those who want to chill for a spell on island vibes and then go motoring down the interstate at rash speeds within the same tune.
– SAMIR SHUKLA
Younger Sister Band
The Deal: Asylum Street Spankers meet the Amazing Rhythm Aces with a little help from Duane Allman.
The Good: Even though their biography boasts a glowing Pete Seeger quote, The Younger Sister Band, straight outta Brooklyn, is more about rock than folk. Originally an all-girl bluegrass band, only two unrelated sisters, Fletcher Boote and Jessica Seagall are left in what's now a quintet putting out country rock with a gospel tinge.
"Not One Drop" sounds like early Allman Brothers backing Maria Muldaur. "It's Too Hot" is a trainwreck but a highly satisfying one -- sounds like a drunken choir on the back porch at midnight.
But the girls can do some pure country when the mood strikes 'em. "Murphisboro" sounds like it could be a lost outtake from a June Carter Cash session, perhaps a bastard child of the massive Carter Cash duet "Jackson." Stacey Earle would be proud to claim "Do Right,"
The Bad: The problem here is the men. Although the songs are strong, the male vocals are not -- they just don't step up. "Sampson" is too mush-mouthed for its strongman subject. The girls' harmonies are pretty behind the lead, but there's just no punch up front. "Strong Box" is a great song complete with a nasty, greasy slide that should have made the cut radio ready. But once again, it needs more rasp, more edge. Toward the end of the record, even the girls get tired. "When I'm Gone" has great potential with a slap in the face rockabilly gallop and plenty of attitude in the lyrics. But Boote just mumbles the vocals. Christ! If you're able to write this stuff, you oughta be able to put some feeling in it when you perform it. Even if you don't feel it, seems like you could throw down a few glugs of whiskey to get in the mood, then belt it out like yore guts are on fire, at least for the record.