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RED Reviews

by Autumn Thatcher and Brent Sallay

I Don’t Know You
Lola Ray
DC Flag

A quick survey of Lola Ray CD reviews makes it increasingly obvious that this band is something special. Most alternative music publications have given the group of guys outstanding reviews, and justifiably so considering I Don’t Know You, which was released in June of 2004, is the band’s debut album. Though the album itself is solid, it is easy to understand why one would not expect much from this band. Limited expectations would typically arise upon learning that the band’s album was released by DC Flag, a label co-run by none other than Benji and Joe Madden, the twin vocalists from Good Charlotte. This in itself is surprising as Good Charlotte’s bubble-gum wanna-be-punk music lacks any of the musical genius that is immediately found in the lyrics and instrumentation of I Don’t Know You.

The band’s run-in with the Good Charlotte vocalists was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. Being one of the first bands to sign on with the newly formed label in 2003, Lola Ray has already earned itself a respectable reputation with a number of awestruck critics who are still shaking their heads over the fact that the band is that good.

Perhaps one of the best things about Lola Ray is that it is nearly impossible to place them into any one genre. The album’s opening songs, “Plague (We Need No Victims)” and “What It Feels Like,” can definitely be placed into the punk genre, however, but songs such as “Preach On”, though a bit softer, fall into a garage-esque category. To make things more confusing, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jon Balicanta maintains a voice that more easily ties into indie-rock than anything else. The instrumentation on the album is just as diverse as the many ways in which Balicanta sings the lyrics. When listening to this cd, one can expect anything from heavy guitar riffs to unique bouts of electronic hooks.

Though the album is inconsistent in sound, it is orchestrated in a smooth manner that allows the songs to easily transition from one to the other. I Don’t Know You is definitely worth purchasing, if nothing more than to marvel at the fact that this is indeed a debut album. The maturity of the band is evident, even though most of their songs are comprised of simple lyrics that project a feeling of teen angst, the subject matter of nearly every pop-punk band. This is what makes Lola Ray different. You may or may not hear the music on the radio. The band members could very easily take over MTV, and eventually sell out and settle on selling ungodly amounts of records that offer nothing new to the music world. That, however, is their decision. For now, Lola Ray is a little bit of something borrowed and a little bit of something new, but definitely a band worth listening to.

And now, the sexiest thing I've ever written:

Archer Prewitt
Thrill Jockey

Boobies. Nowadays, they're just about everywhere.  From your girlfriend to your mother to your wife to your sister to your, well, just about all women everywhere, and some men too.  Yes, it sure looks like boobies aren't going to be going anywhere any time soon, so we'd better all get used to them.

Archer Prewitt has.  He's come a long way since his glory days in the '90s with staunch clothesists the Coctails and the Sea and Cake.  (I don't think any of those bands' album covers even had girls on them at all!)  Prewitt has had a handful of solo albums since then, most notably 1999's White Sky (my #11 album of that year), and though that album was propelled by excellent songcraft and unique instrumentation, it didn't even hint at the fact that Wilderness would feature boobies on its cover.

Yes, not only is Wilderness his most successfully ambitious album to date, but with it, Prewitt has joined the ranks of the Pixies, the Slits, and Roxy Music for putting out a career-defining album with boobies on the cover.

What's that, you say?  They're only cartoon boobies?  Not very realistic?  Possibly underage?  I know.  I had my doubts at first, too.  But thorough, repeated critical analysis has brought me to the conclusion that yes, in fact, this album is fit to stand up against those others, penciled mammaries and all.

You're probably wondering what I'm getting at.   Well, you know how girls like the Shins?  Archer Prewitt doesn't sound anything like the Shins.  But you know how when you are listening to the Shins, if you are a dude, and not a girl, you think, “I like this, but if I were a girl, I would REALLY like this.”  Well, I think the same thing when I'm listening to this album, only I already REALLY like it too, so I can only imagine what girls will do when they listen to this--

Probably they'll all take off their tops or something.  Which, in case you can't tell from this review, I'm totally in favor of.  There's nothing wrong with being sexy every once in a while.   Though mostly I'm just curious if they look anything like they do in cartoons.

Before the Dawn Heals Us

Nope, I still can't see it.  About a year and a half ago, the French electronic duo wowed the underground with Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts.  Many of that albums' fans went so far as to suggest that the group's name was short for “My Bloody Valentine x 83.”  And while I respect these people's taste in musical reference points, I still can't really see how the comparison holds much weight, or for that matter, what all the fuss was about.

However, Before the Dawn Heals Us is a completely different matter.  For one, M83 has lost a member, which wouldn't be such a big deal for, say, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but this basically changes M83 from a band name to an alias.

Most groups would try to cover up their personnel change, donning fried chicken buckets on their heads and raiding MTV like we were all too stupid to notice.   But M83's Anthony Gonzalez has taken the opposite route.

Yes, in a move that was possibly orchestrated to hide from the French government, Gonzalez has eschewed nearly all of the trademarks of his group's last album in favor of live drums, heavier themes, and above all, melodrama.

It's a move that may confuse those who are already fans, but personally, I admire Gonzalez's ability to evolve. It also doesn't hurt that what he's chosen to evolve into happens to be just my thing.  In fact, I can kind of even see the MBV comparisons now. Although not as meticulously produced as, say, Loveless, Before the Dawn Heals Us certainly shares that albums' childlike sense of wonder, as well as its desire to make every single song the most important experience you will ever have in your life.

This approach to songwriting is a risky one.  It either really works or it really doesn't.  So it should say something that there are only two real missteps here: the repetitive “Can't Stop,” and the stagey “Car Chase Terror.”  Take out those two tracks and you're left with 55 minutes of pure music concentrate.  Just enjoy it while you can, because next year M83 will probably be the next teen pop sensation.

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