22 April 2011

2010: Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan, Jamie Lidell

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan:

Released August 24, 2010 (Vanguard)

Short Notes: Dusty, Druggy Americana from former Belle & Sebastian and Screaming Trees members.

Lin: A-

In many ways, it's harder to write a review of a good album than a bad one. Part of it may just be my own negativity, but I find it's often easier to see what a song is lacking than what it does well. I've listened to Hawk a dozen times for this review. I love most of these songs, but I keep coming back to a minor but annoying problem. Although sonically distinct, it reminds me of The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues -- a collection of excellent songs poorly sequenced, precluding an emotional arc and leaving us with nothing but schizophrenia. Maybe it's foolish to want an 'album' in these days of mp3s and isolated track, but the regretable thing is that, listening front to back, Hawk is less than the sum of it's parts.

I'm still highly recommending it, though. My favorite track, "Come Undone," is a maddingly familiar slice of 60's soul pop. (My roommate says it sounds like a Bond theme song. He's not wrong.) There's a pair of Townes Van Zandt covers -- which will always score you some points -- and Lanegan pulls off the tricky part of sounding like Van Zandt while also making it his own. (This is true even on the non-covers, like "Cool Water.") The latter part of the album, particularly "Sunrise" and "To Hell & Back Again," gets by with a Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra vibe -- probably the best comparison I can make for the overall sound and adventurousness.

Brandon: A

This is just about the strangest duo in pop music. Campbell is the Scottish magical pixie girl who used to sing about tigermilk and boys with arab straps, and Lanegan, well, he used to be in this band:

But it works, and on this album, they’ve made a worthy successor to the hazy, wobbly Americana of their first two records. While nothing has the menace of my favorite track from their first record (a deadly cover of the Hank Williams classic “Rambling Man”), this is a top-notch slice of pop that skirts classic Northern soul, straight country, and the druggy Americana of Giant Sand and Stan Ridgeway. The vocal magic of pairing Campbell’s delicate, almost kittenish purr with Lanegan’s stereotypical (and Waits-ian) rasp is in full effect here--nowhere better than on the Townes Van Zandt tearjerker “No Place To Fall”--but the best songs are the sleazy, muscular numbers like the title track and the magisterial soul-gospel of the closer, “Lately.” Remarkably (given that Lanegan’s voice is what sticks with me), Campbell is the brains behind the operation, writing almost all the songs. One of the better albums so far, and well worth your time.

Jamie Lidell:

Released May 18, 2010 (Warp)

Short Notes: His trademark soul gets an update, with mixed (if mostly successful) results.

Brandon: B

Lidell’s first “proper” pop record, the amazing 2005 record Multiply would surely appear on my top 20 albums of the decade list. Almost like Berlin-era Bowie singing a perfect facsimile of Stax/Volt soul, the album is an unexpected masterpiece. But three records into his career as a indie pop star (he got his start making Aphex Twin-lite electronica), the formula is both wearing thin and getting consciously pushed in new directions (and not always successfully). While there’s still a lot of the trademark soul here, I also hear a lot more almost-disco, and an almost 80s vibe (“Enough’s Enough,” “It’s a Kiss”). There’s also a much heavier sound on this record than on his previous albums--with the fuzzy stomper “The Ring” and ”Gypsy Blood” (my favorite) verging on “banger” territory. I’m intrigued with the evolving sound, although Compass lacks the poise and polish of Multiply

Lin: B+

I liked Lidell's 2005 Multiply, though it skirted the line between the Soul I love and the Soul I don't so closely that I don't listen to it very often (outside the superb title track). It's a completely artificial line of personal preference cleaving (broadly) Motown/R&B-based soul from the funkier Muscle Shoals-style. Compass is a lot like his last couple of albums but stays, for the most part, on the funkier, rockier end, belying his origins as an electronic producer. It's not that straightforward as there is a fair amount of differentiation between the tracks even if they are all based in the same setting. The more experimental, almost dream-poppy at times and full of junkyard percussion, title track being one of the highlights. The comparatively normalcy of the next track is almost disappointing, though it's a fine song in its own right. For the most part, Compass is an interesting and good album, but I'm not sure when I'd put it on: it's not really a part album, or a "headphone" album, or a working album. Maybe something in-between all those.

21 April 2011

2010: Hot Molasses, How to Dress Well

Hot Molasses
Molassachusetts EP

Released January 2010 (available on Band Camp)

Short Notes: Scrappy Boston pop outfit put out a formative EP.

Lin: B+
First off, I ought to note that both Brandon and I are friends with a few members of this band -- I was in Boston at the end of March of the release of their newest EP and slept on one of their couches, after all -- so we're probably a little biased. Of course, this means that my grade up there is complete hogwash, as it's either too high (since I have a stake in the band) or too low (as I'm compensating).

That out of the way, I do actually really enjoy this 14 minute EP. At five songs, it goes by way too quickly, but with a surprising amount of variety in the sound (having three different vocalists will do that), though all of it is rooted in some good power pop. My favorite track here -- "Blank Verse" -- is perhaps the poppiest track on the album, but has a slight edge to it with a few more-aggressive guitar figures. The opener, "The Chief", nominally about Robert Parrish, has a similar sort of feel too it. The hardest rocking "Mendoza Line" sounds a bit out of place, but the EP is better off for including it. "Sig Uglies" is probably the best written thing here: I love the lyrics and the sentiment, though I find the music a bit less interesting than the others. Rounding out the list is "A Little Wasted," with just a touch of country to spice things up.

You can download this EP (and the new one, too) from hotmolasses.bandcamp.com. This, you should do.

Brandon: B+
It’s hard to review your friends’ music, but I’ve known Andre and Ben for a long time, and I’m far more interested in promoting this quirky little Bostonian pop group than I am in offering a traditional review. In fact, that this EP even gets a grade (let alone one of B+) is largely to allow me to direct you to the superior (and newer) HoMo EP, Frankly, which was released last month.

Without going into a fawning dissection of each song, I’ll tell you that while the group started some years ago playing overtly alt. country rockers, this record, which features no less than three lead singers, is mostly varied pop numbers (some power, some mid-tempo) with a good bit of guitar twang on the margins. “Sig Uglies,” my favorite, is a clever take on the dilemma faced by most post-college urban twentysomethings trying to figure out relationships during an era of steady economic decline among that demographic (which is to say, in an era in which most such folks can’t afford to live alone in the city). All the songs have the pleasant lofi vocal buzz/clean guitar line feel of music recorded by the inexperienced and frugal (which fails to capture the epic-ness of the HoMo live show), but each has its own pop charms. Well worth your time (and Frankly is even better, recorded para-professionally and with stronger-still songwriting and singing).

How To Dress Well
Love Remains

Released on October 19, 2010 (Lefse)

Short Notes: R&B slow jams, meet drone.

Brandon: B-
One of my strongest memories from college was a writing assignment I completed as part of my training for working in the colleges’s writing center, in which we were to incorporate a number of new words into a poem or short essay. The only of the words I remember was “palimpsest,” which might be defined as the faint hint of text of image left on a medium after it has been erased or cleared. Later that year, my girlfriend was working on a painting that incorporated lines of verse partially obscured by color and texture, leaving the impression of text that had been partially obscured in an effort to re-use a canvas (at least, to my eyes). This record is like a musical palimpsest, with the almost poppy soul of songs like “My Body” and “You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’” (my favorites) so obscured by drone-y fuzz, digital manipulation, and whatever other slings and arrows have been thrown at these tracks that they leave the impression of beautiful songs occasionally popping their heads up out of the white noise. It’s an interesting conceit, and it succeeds about as much as it fails here. There’s some real moments of joy here, but they are rarely and inconsistently maintained.

Lin: C
First off, this is like the Ariel Pink album reviewed earlier but significantly more subdued. That makes it slightly more to my liking, as the murkiness brings it closer to an ambient/drone style, which I'm a growing fan of. As such, it's the poppier moments that fail for me, as it's like listening to the radio with your head under water. To make matters worse, I had to check the bitrates on the files I downloaded to make sure I didn't get 32 kbps instead of 320 kbps. There's always the possibility that the files I got are simply corrupted, but the sound quality here is horrendous, in a one-man black metal band sort of way. Turns out it's intentional, probably. Man, I just don't get it.

10 April 2011

2010: Harvey Milk, High on Fire

Harvey Milk
A Small Turn of Human Kindness

Released May 18, 2010 (Hydra Head)

High On Fire
Snakes For The Divine

Released February 23, 2010 (Koch Records)

Lin: A- (Havey Milk)
Alright, so, this album is right up my alley, though if you don't like it, I'll understand. Big, thick, crunching chords. Vocals halfway between singing and growling, a rougher Danzig being the closest comparison. Lyrics as bleak as a dead forest in winter (check out that album cover) with song titles to match: "I Just Want To Go Home" and "I Am Sick Of All This Too" being just the first two. There's this moment about three minutes from the end of the album, where a full soaring electric guitar comes over the top of the sludge punctuating the rhythm in the higher octave, and its beauty captures the primary beauty of A Small Turn of Human Kindness: it's not particularly noteworthy (I miss it half the time if I'm not paying attention), and it's not "traditionally beautiful" in the way that, say, late 90's Flaming Lips are. What it is, is an accent to the darkness, the light that shines letting you know just how bad things are. That oversells the point a bit as the catharsis allows the otherwise depressive atmosphere to dissipate enough to handle. One of the finer metal releases of the year.

Lin: A- (High on Fire)
And then there's this one, also one of the finer metal releases of the year. But while Harvey Milk mines the doom and sludge, making a plodding and deliberate album, Snakes For the Divine has a brighter sheen: not quite the clean production of, say, Mastodon -- there's too much stoner rock here left over from guitarist/singer Matt Pike's previous band Sleep. This is indeed a very good thing: 80's thrash isn't a bad comparison here, particularly South of Heaven-ish Slayer. Still, my favorite track here -- "Bastard Samurai" -- is the least Slayer-like and most doom-y of the bunch, taking almost four minutes before the song opens up (...slightly).

I think sometimes about how I'd go about getting folks into metal since I'm, more or less, the only one of my friends who really dig it. (I'm having a hell of a time trying to find company to Maryland Deathfest.) Sometimes I'll take the cue of the mainstream indie press and recommend something like Mastodon, something with enough good and cred, even if I don't particularly like it. Or something that's less "metal" and more rock (like Clutch, perhaps, who are nevertheless awesome). But I think High on Fire may become my go-to. While it's not as good as, say, the Agalloch album I can't stop gushing about, it's far more accessible, lacking some of the more divisive metal devices. Point is, this is a great place to start.

Brandon: B (Harvey Milk) / B+ (High on Fire)

More than anything else I’ve learned since we started this little project, I’ve really had an opportunity to think critically about what kind of metal I like. Because I’m not a metal guy (I never even went through a high school phase--I was a punk rock/post-punk/indie rock kid with strong classic rock leanings--never so much as owned a single mid-1990s Metallica record, not even S&M, the epically bad Metallica-meets the SF Orchestra record that came out in 1999 just in time for my Weezer-loving college girlfriend to pick it up), I struggle to come up with interesting things to say. This is why it’s been a slow week at She’s Making Whoopee in Hell--with two metal records back to back, it’s wicked slow-going for me to make time to listen and write up.

Mostly as a result of Lin’s intercessions over the years, I’ve accumulated a share of metal records that represent various facets of the last 30 years of the genre’s history (two years ago, I actually had to add a “metal” genre to my carefully constructed metatagging system to accommodate the 31 records currently on my hard drive). And so, I can say with some certainty that I’m not really into the heavy, sludgy, proggy sound of a lot of the metal I’ve heard over the last few years. When I reach for metal, it’s typically either late 1970s British (Motorhead, Judas Priest) or early 80s American thrash/speed-style (by which, in a really crude way, I mean early Metallica and Slayer). The slower, heavier stuff just doesn’t really move me all that much. I’m a Screaming for Vengeance kind of guy, god help me.

So that makes the Harvey Milk record a hard go for me. I can hear that it was writted, performed, and recorded with care. I can hear the raw emotion poured into the slowed down, loose-stringed riffs that linger in the air. But I like it best when they let the songs breathe a little--”I Know This is No Place for You” is, for all the heaviness, a little easier to for me to get into than the denser songs. If you like dark, slow metal, it seems like a decent place to start.

High on Fire’s Snakes for the Divine is a bit more indie friendly--grounded in stoner rock, but also some more familiar thrash notes. especially on my favorite track, “Ghost Neck.” [ed. note: I’ve started to recognize that when I write about music I have a hard time feeling strongly about, my reviews start to sound like wine tasting note--”notes” of this, “hints” of that. Weird. -B] This record, which has earned some well-justified praise from the indie rock set, is a much easier listen for me than any of the metal records we’ve reviewed thus far. This is aggressive, cathartic music that’s (despite the kick-ass cover art) not conceptual, or filled with arcane references. It’s straightforward, hard, and fast, and by far the best of the metal bunch thus far for non-metal people (although the Agalloch record should be heard, even if I think it’s a bit daunting for beginners like myself). It’s recommended.

06 April 2011

2010: Grinderman, Harlan T. Bobo

Grinderman [2]

Released September 14, 2010 (Anti)

Short Notes: Nick Cave is gross. And we like it.

Grinderman 'Heathen Child' from Trim Editing on Vimeo.

Lin: A
I love Nick Cave, having nearly everything he's put out -- from the Bad Seeds, from Grinderman, from The Birthday Party and the Boys Next Door. So this is probably worth taking with a grain of salt. I was never able to get into the first Grinderman album, finding the album unfocused (symptomatic of much of Cave's recent work, sadly) and at times uninteresting. But I loved the idea. Whatever the original Grinderman promised is fulfilled by Grinderman 2 -- the dirty, sweaty, blasphemous, creepy, ugly, leering promises. Your enjoyment of this album will depend on how close those adjectives are to "AWESOME!" for you.

It still has some of the flaws of Grinderman's first, but they're thankfully minimized temporally and sonically. Unbelievably, there are three tracks here that top "No Pussy Blues," the best of Grinderman 1. "Evil" and "Kitchenette" could have been written by Howlin' Wolf. "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" and "Worm Tamer" sound closest to the stuff on Grinderman 1, but do it better.

"Heathen Child" is one of Nick Cave's best songs.

The real surprise, though, is "Palaces of Montezuma." At first it sounds out of place, thematically and musically: a fairly straight-forward love song? No squealing guitars? Backing humming vocals? It fits though, both alongside Cave's more tender moments with The Bad Seeds, and as a respite from all the weirdness going on in this album. It still has some of the weirdness:

"The custard colored superdream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen...
I give to you
the spinal cord of JFK wrapped in Marilyn Monroe's negligee...
I give to you"
Damn, though, if that ain't romantic.

Brandon: A-

Most of the reviews I’ve read of this record make a point of explicitly comparing this record with Nick Cave’s other work--with his Bad Seeds records, or with his more manic, punk influenced music with The Birthday Party (records that came out around the time I was born). Because I’m only a casual Nick Cave fan, I’m trying to approach this with as little prejudice or expectation as possible. And what I get from Grinderman 2 is plenty of sleazy, sexualized posturing wrapped in fuzzy punk and copping lots of old blues moves--sort of like a middle-aged version of Iggy Pop who never met Bowie and stayed in Detroit, getting weird. At first listen, Cave sounds sinister and threatening, but as I’ve hung around, what I hear is actually a lot more playful, especially in the songs overtly about Cave’s hypersexual dirty old man persona. “Worm Tamer,” which is about exactly what you’d figure, isn’t really dark or violent, but rather as much about Cave’s appreciation of his girl’s prowess (and his own uncertainty about his ability to keep her) as it is about any kind of objectification.

The standout here, though, is the song that’s most different from the rest of the album, “Palaces of Montezuma.” Sort of like “It’s the End of the World And We Know It” as remade by the kind of guy who’d call his lover a “worm tamer,” it’s got what a lot of the sleazy bluesy numbers here don’t have--a hook. Sure, it’s more straightforward, but as far as repetitive pop culture-referencing songs go, it’s pretty great.

Harlan T. Bobo

Released April 13, 2010 (Goner)

Short Notes: Quirky singer-songwriter record from sometimes Cat Power collaborator.

Lin: B+
This is a pleasant surprise, and makes me sad that I'm only just now hearing about the epically-named Harlan T. Bobo. The "thing" -- whatever it is -- that was missing from other country/roots albums we've reviewed (I'm thinking of, namely, the Charlie Parr and Doug Paisley albums) is found here. Sucker is very short, clocking in right around half an hour, and while it leaves me wanting just a bit more, it's varied enough that it still feels like it's covered enough ground to be satisfying. I mean, we have the rockabilly here (Energy, Bad Boyfriends), the content porch-sitting songs (Sweet Life), and even a track that would sound awesome arranged for ukulele (Drank). This is a fairly happy sounding album, one of the rare few that are still good. Worth checking out.

Brandon: B

This sounds a lot like a Lou Reed solo record from the 1990s, in a good way. Filled with straightforward but quirky arrangements with dense, conversational lyrics, this is as entertaining a short 30 minute record as I’ve heard this year. Bobo’s sound owes something to the quirkier end of what I think of as alt.country, but there’s a lot of variation here, from the Leon Redbone swing of “Perfect Day” to the almost-surf of “Energy” and the French sing-a-long of “Mlle Chatte” (who likes butter, apparently). This isn’t a “big” record, but it’s clever, lyrical, and fairly rewarding. Recommended.

04 April 2011

2010: Gold Panda, Gorillaz

Gold Panda
Lucky Shiner

Released September 7, 2010 (Ghostly International)

Short Notes: Twitchy sound collage with a retro (8-bit) vibe.

Lin: C+

I think of albums like this as driving albums -- night driving in the high plains of Wyoming or the long expanses of I-80 passing through the towns of Nowhere, South Dakota. Occasionally a tree will pass by off to your left, or a trucker trying to stay awake forgetting his brights are on and blinding you momentarily. But most of the time it's rote, the only thing to do are minute adjustments of the steering wheel. Sometimes it's amazing: freedom by isolation, alone with nothing. But most of the time it's boring, just another thing to get through. Occasionally it's maddening if you're anxious for your destination. If you're calm enough to enjoy it it can be enjoyed. That just doesn't happen often.

Brandon: C+

After several listens, the only way I can really do justice to this album is to describe it as being like what I imagine Jandek would sound like, if Jandek was a little dance-y and worked mostly with a sampler. That’s pretty vague, but what I mean is that this record is build off of quotidian, forgettable samples--a single word, sonically manipulated out of recognition, a few blips repeated, a strummed guitar and a snippet of dialogue--that the artist is trying to craft together into something bigger. Unlike Girl Talk, the source material itself isn’t the point. Rather, by working with sounds that are individually forgettable, Gold Panda seems to be trying to make something that’s not only musically compelling, but also vaguely spiritual--as though you can, out of the sound collage, occasionally pick up little, recognizable moments of humanity. This is an interesting notion, musically and sociologically (although I could be attributing all this deep thinking unnecessarily). I’m just not sure this is record is successful on those terms.

I think I probably liked this more than Lin, if only because I found the opening track, “You,” a trippy, pitchshifted club track built off little more than handclaps and sampled voices rhythmically (and barely comprehensibly) repeating the words “you” and “me” to be remarkably good--catchy at an almost prefrontal level, but still sonically interesting. The rest of the album never really hits the initial high, sadly. Despite some longer spoken clips and more “organic” sounds (along with some Mario Bros.-style blips that evoke basements and the late 1980s) on the later tracks, nothing else on the record sounds quite as alive as “You.”

Plastic Beach

Released March 3, 2010 (Virgin/EMI)

Short Notes: For better or for worse, this doesn’t sound like a cartoonish side project anymore.

Brandon: A-

Right or wrong, I understood the first two Gorillaz records as hip-hop records, dominated by the sounds of their produces (Dan the Automator and Danger Mouse, respectively), and with the “guest” rapping as central to what made the albums interesting. Despite the fact that Plastic Beach starts with a Snoop Dogg track (“Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”), this isn’t a hip-hop record at all. Both more eclectic and (despite the lack of a single uber-producer) more focused the earlier and very single-heavy records, this sounds like the electro-pastiche of one of my personal favorites (and a deeply underappreciated band), Big Audio Dynamite (an easy reference, as Paul Simonen and Mick Jones both play with the Gorillaz live). My favorite tracks here, the dark electro-soul of “Stylo” (with Bobby Womack and Mos Def), “Superfast Jellyfish” (with its bright 80s synths), and “Some Kind of Nature” (with Lou Reed) are wildly different, but each is held together by a carefully constructed and layered pop vision that’s light years beyond the Prince Paul-style quirky hip-hop production on their first record. This sounds less and less like the guy from Blur dabbling in new genres, and more and more like a statement on its own. None of the songs here are as immediately candy-coated and catchy as their earlier singles (“Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc”), but this record sounds more mature and ambitious, and I like it more on the second and third listen than at first.

Lin: B-

Wow, not what I was expecting. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I've never been a big fan of the Gorillaz -- the first album has two phenomenal tracks and a bunch of alright stuff and the second album is about the same. I kept waiting for Plastic Beach to break out, to give me something, preferably something like "Clint Eastwood" or "Feel Good, Inc." But, for all its star power (both within the band and the numerous guests), it never happens. I'm willing to postulate that my expectations are playing a large role in not liking this but, frankly, I don't really have all that much desire to go back and listen to it again. A couple of moments poke their heads about the fray -- the "Some Kind of Nature" with Lou Reed and "To Binge" -- but for the most part, I just find this album confusing.

01 April 2011

2010: Glossary, Gogol Bordello

Feral Fire

Released February 2, 2010 (Rebel Group)

Short Notes: One of America’s finest southern rock bands put out a rewarding, uneven record.

Glossary - Save Your Money for the Weekend from Stewart Copeland on Vimeo.

Brandon: B+

Depending on how you’re counting, this is record five or six for Glossary, a Tennessee band with feet in the alt.country and southern rock worlds. For what it’s worth, I think they’re one of the better bands working today in my preferred genre (I’m an alt.country boy. There’s no point in hiding it. My favorite kind of music went out of style--with a whimper--in 1997. I think that makes me “retro.” Or old.). Feral Fire is a good introduction to the band, if not their strongest work. Like Lucero (another personal favorite) or the newer work of Jason Molina, Glossary are at their strongest with atmospheric rock with a little southern waggle (“The Natural State,” Lonely is a Town”) or, even better yet, with straight-out barnburners like the album’s strongest track, “Save Your Money for the Weekend,” which I choose to hear as a rebuke of the fact that I’m not at the bar RIGHT NOW. Where they aren’t as strong is in their slower acoustic material, which sounds like (the newly re-united) Slobberbone or early Uncle Tupelo, with a wee bit less immediacy. These songs make up the bulk of the middle of the record, which is a bit slow. Still, there are some excellent songs here, and this is a band well worth your trouble if you have a taste southern rock.

Lin: B+

I want to like Feral Fire more than I do. A lot more. It's a good time and there's not a bad track here. I love this particular mix of straight-ahead Thin Lizzy-esque rock and roll with just enough of a country influence. I could see it on at a party -- well, the type of parties I go to, anyway. In the right hands it could be an awesomely appropriate soundtrack. The slower tempo'd moments remind me of what I like about Backyard Tire Fire (and makes clear just what they were missing on their new album). The use of both male/female vocals is a real nice touch, coming off far more organically than most bands that often use this device. (I’m looking at you, Lady Antebellum.)

But...I don't know. At very least, the album is missing the two or three excellent tracks needed to elevate this to an A- or A, thereby securing a spot in my listening rotation. In these reviews I try to mention a couple of my favorite songs to give you a place to start -- I'm not sure which ones to suggest here. "The Sweet Forever"? Opener "Lonely is a Town"? "Pretty Thing"? I’d lean towards the last one, but take your pick, or take one of the other 8 songs.

But I liked it enough that I downloaded one of their other albums (available for free on their site) and will give it a listen eventually. As for this one, I'm really quite unsure of the grade. I'm tentatively going with a B+, but that may be revised at the end.

Gogol Bordello
Trans-Continental Hustle

Released April 27, 2010 (Columbia/DMZ)

Short Notes: Everyone’s favorite Ukranian gypsy-punks are back with another LP.

Lin: A-

Bordello's last album, 2007's Super Taranta! didn't immediately impress me. It wasn't until 2 years later when I returned to it that I fell in love and began considering it my favorite album of theirs. I wonder if the same thing will happen with this one... but I doubt it. Trans-Continental Hustle is more immediately bracing, sure. Everything that one likes about GB is here: Eastern European folk rhythms and other 'world' music motifs, earnest broken English, sing-a-long choruses, big beats, anthems. It's more consistent than Gypsy Punks and Super Taranta! -- but lacks anything close to the fist-pumping joy of the former's "I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again" or the latter's "American Wedding." It sounds...workmanlike. Hutz and crew have done this long enough and are musically adept enough that they can throw something together and have it sound good. And it is good (hence the A-). I would bet many of these tracks would be awesome live (GB was the most exciting show I've ever been to, after all). But here, it lacks fire of their other work.

Brandon: B

It’s been a few years since I’ve really considered this band. Lin’s a big fan, and I have a few records and a strong memory of an excellent live show in 2006 at the Annex in Madison. So I’m not biased against them by any means, but I do have to admit that I find their “signature” Eastern European sound can grate a bit over the course of a long-player. In that spirit, I basically agree with Lin here--this is a good record (consistent, high production values, interesting songwriting and at least some sonic variety), but without the big sing-along moment that a band like this really needs to be more than a particularly novel and entertaining afterthought. As with all the Bordello albums, I’ll definitely keep it around for mixes, but I doubt I’ll be listening to it much on its own.