Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
Touch & Go
Bobbing and nodding contentedly at the confluence of Brooklyn meltdown post-rock, street-corner doo-wop, and bleeding-heart singalong soul, TV On The Radio's full-length debut is more than simply a challenge to accurately distill. Gratefully, it's proof the pioneering road the band paved with last year's Young Liars EP is running one way -- the right way.
The album is on track from the opening moment: a dusty sax fires a few warbling notes over a dark, churning bass-rumble loop before suffocating under a programmed, rolling-drum trampling. After more of the stampede, lead vocalist and co-founder Tunde Adebimpe's penetrating falsetto howls in, consummating the marriage between soul and rock. Throughout the album his voice consistently explodes in dripping, multi-tracked harmonies and plunges like shrapnel straight through to each song's marrow -- strengthening the claim that his vocals are the glue that hold the band's signature sound together. Nothing on the album, even the a cappella street-corner voyeurism of "Ambulance," would have been out of place on the spot-on EP.
On "King Eternal," over safecracking knob-twiddling paired with dynamic organic elements, Adebimpe shares vocal duties with new addition Kyp Malone; the latter's voice registers higher -- echoing a eunuch's untrained yelp -- as the convoluted vocal timbre takes on a deep-woods, Nathaniel Hawthorne tone of repentance and supplication. Together, they plead, "Hear it/Heed this call/Oh fucking eternal," a line that registers above a Dancer in the Dark-inspired, third-shift assembly line, industrial-clanged romp. Standing alone, this and each similar moment is truly inspired.
Unfortunately, the repetitious mix of loop-based instrumentation and organic punctuation wears thin by the album's end, despite the worthy vocal theatrics. But if one's largest concern is consistency, when the product is this consistently sound, it's a concern hardly worth registering: You could find yourself hypnotized by much worse.
Track to burn : "King Eternal"
Grade: B+--William Morris
Shadows Collide With People
When heroin forced Frusciante's mid-90s exile from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he began a solo career to support his habit. Early releases revealed a husk of a man, his mind and ambition depleted by addiction. Then, he kicked, released To Record Only Water for Ten Days in '01, and brought RHCP back with him.
I'm not much of a Peppers fan, and pretty ambivalent about heroin, but Shadows Collide with People is some real good shit, man. Maybe it's the lack of smack, maybe it's Anthony and Flea fucking off, but this is Frusciante's best-recorded work.
The man is a great guitarist, has no problem with synths or noise, sings harmonies like a drunken angel, and can write tunes that feel both intensely private and meant for the masses. "Regret" repeats a "I regret my past, stay alone" mantra over music so open it seems to grow to let more in, bursting at the seams as it is.
Shadows... is littered with strange instrumentals and songs that take two or three listens to fully arrive in your head. So the album does lose steam as it goes on, but the best of these songs are more addictive than any spike in the vein.
Track to burn: "Omission"
Grade: A---Jesse Steichen
I'm Good Now
Shockorama / Vanguard
Schneider fronted the bands The Scabs and Ugly Americans before going solo in a folk-rock direction. His earlier bands and works, especially Lonelyland, were more funky, rocking and esoteric, while the new effort, I'm Good Now, is laid back with a "come sit next to me and hear my music" aura. A long-running staple of the Austin scene, Schneider is apparently content these days strolling in the middle of the road knows as alternative pop. I'm Good Now is more reflective and moody, but no less lyrically challenging than previous releases. There's the trance-y "Piggyback" and the jazzy undertones of "Getting Better," while some tunes resemble a less-disheveled Beck or mid-career Dylan -- check the freestyle delivery of the title track. You can count on Schneider to add a twist to each song and his craft is especially effective when he lets his hair down and cuts loose, as with the guitar-fueled "C'mon Baby." Schneider's new material comes from an evolved sense of musical contentment, all the while staying strong on the metaphorical lyrics.
Track to burn: "C'mon Baby"
Grade: B---Samir Shukla