Thursday, May 27, 2010

No No No To Yeah Yeah Yeahs/LCD's Silvery Sound/Feeling the Heat of The Rev (CD Mini-reviews) by Alison Ross

No No No To Yeah Yeah Yeahs/LCD's Silvery Sound/Feeling the Heat of The Rev
by Alison Ross

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz

The first time I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeah's was on David Letterman. I had known about them, but not heard their music. As I was watching Letterman, I was impressed with their “big” sound – the boisterous guitars and Karen O’s brash vocals. So I bought their EP and was taken with it for a few weeks. But my fascination with them lapsed pretty quickly and I began to focus on other music. But recently I read some positively shimmering reviews about their new album It's Blitz, and this temporarily revived my interest in them. But after giving the album about a dozen whirls, I have determined that the YYY’s style is simply not engaging enough to mold me into a die-hard fan. Their sound is too derivative. Sure, they are talented in rendering these derivative tunes, and the tunes are enjoyable in their way, but I hardly see the point in making music unless it sounds brazenly original. My favorite on the new album is the second one (Heads Will Roll), a techno-dance number that when cranked to illegal levels metamorphoses the car or house into a fog-filled goth club. Otherwise, the album is what I would term "competently lackluster."

The album, "The Sound of Silver," by LCD Soundsystem, on the other hand, is an outrageously enjoyable affair. The New York-based electronica outfit melds punk volatility with a funky exuberance. I am nostalgically transported to the days of New Order and David Bowie at times, and impelled to retreat to my club-hopping ways while listening to this disc. Lyrically LCD Sound System seems bent on evincing a searingly skeptical attitude toward American privilege and provinciality (see North American Scum and New York I Love You, But Your're Bringing Me Down), although certainly the lyrics cover a gamut of topics not easily confined to a cursory review. In short, this is a cunningly captivating album; it's musically and lyrically literate, and yet not mired in solipsistically self-conscious hipsterism like so many modern bands.

The new album by Reverend Horton Heat is a different beast altogether, of course, from those of the YYYs and the LCD Sound System. Whereas those albums mine late 70s and 80s post-punk and electronic sounds to inform their direction, the Rev has always dug into an earlier era for inspiration: namely, the era of rockabilly. The Rev essentially pioneered the genre known as psychobilly, a frenzied fusion of sloppy psychedelic punk and the dulcet twang of country. And it all makes perfect sense, too, given that The Rev hails from Dallas, Texas, home to the dueling incongruous sensibilities of an almost avant garde progressivism and the more hewing-to-tradition cowboy ethos. The new album by the Rev does not stray far from its formula, but it does drop into the mix dollops and dashes of Zydeco and Tejano. This in itself is no great transgression, but the problem I have with it is that it does nothing to propel the Rev’s sound forward. It adds a mildly interesting dimension to the Rev’s template without providing anything startlingly fresh. But then, the Rev has never been about reinventing itself, I guess. Lyrically the album explores the routine themes of drinking, smoking, women, and the idiosyncratic charms of Texas culture and nature.


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