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.

No comments: