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July 2004
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Remembrance Through Memorable Statements: America, in Mourning, Looks at the Death of Three Icons


Linklater, Hawke and Delpy Still Have Magic Chemistry


Porter's Great Music Remembered in
De-Loving Biopic


Ferrell Goes All Out to Bring You the News


The Emperor Has No Clothes: 'Napoleon Dynamite' Not Even an Indie Firecracker

This Sequel's Spidey Senses are Tingling
 
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RED Reviews
 
by Brent Sallay and Jordan Scrivner
 
   
Happy Like an Autumn Tree
Cyann & Ben
Gooom
(out of 5)

Let's hear it for hard working bands. On the one hand, you've got your Radioheads, your Breederses and your Interpols, who take so long between albums you'd swear they were putting effort into them. And then, in the other camp, you have recent artists such as MF Doom, Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, who document nearly every waking breath with another album, keeping their fans in a near constant state of salivation without ever letting the quality slip. Honestly, a hand of applause is in order.

You can add to that list the French electronic folk group Cyann & Ben. Which list? Oh, let's say the latter. Last year, the band's debut, Spring, managed to land the highly coveted number four position on my list of the best albums of all time that happened to see release in 2003. Most people would need a breather after that. But not Cyann or Ben (or the other two people in the band).

A few weeks ago, in my never-ending Internet search to find the best music in the world and deliver it straight to you, I came upon a curious thing: a review for a new album by Cyann & Ben. “Why, what's this?” I said. “Not bloody likely. I think I would have known about something like that in advance.” But lo and behold, a visit to the band's France-based Web site, www.gooom.com, revealed that a new full-length album had indeed been released, and in the end of May (of all months!). How could this information have passed me by? Why had no one else brought this to my attention? I needed to know more. I needed to hear it for myself.

Friends, I am pleased to tell you that just one listen to Happy Like an Autumn Tree put my fragile elitist mind at ease. A second listen brought me near to tears. The third and fourth and eventually twentieth cemented the album in my mind. It has now joined forces with my circulatory system and is pumping blood and oxygen like never before. I haven't felt this good since I went off the Atkins diet.

But let's talk about the album, shall we? Q: Is it as good as Spring? A: Yes, but not as long. And lest the title of the album mislead you, bear in mind that that autumn tree on the album cover does not look all sunny happy, like a Beach Boys album. It's more of an autumn happy, like the happiness I feel in winter from realizing how depressed everyone else is.

Q: Will I like Cyann and Ben? Can you name some other bands they sound like? A: All right, but begrudgingly. When Spring came out, I thought it sounded sort of like Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd, Flying Saucer Attack, and Low. Happy Like an Autumn Tree is a bit more intense. “A Moment Nowhere” sounds kind of like Grandaddy covering The Pixies’ “Ana.” “Obsessing and Screaming Voice in a Shell” sounds like a slightly more upbeat Sigur Rós, only without that insidious child molester feel.

But keep in mind, when I say Cyann & Ben sounds like another band, I don't just mean if you like that band, you will like Cyann & Ben. I mean that listening to Cyann & Ben will replace your need to listen to that other band. Pink Floyd who? Exactly. Okay, maybe that's going too far.

The best thing I can say about Happy Like an Autumn Tree is that as much as I loved Spring, I have nothing to say about the new album paling in comparison to its predecessor. I have no complaints about this album, and honestly, either album would serve as a welcome introduction to the band's rich pastoral sound.


 
   

Laced with Romance
The Ponys
In the Red
(out of 5)

Lots of bands sound like themselves. Take The Velvet Underground or The Ramones. They pretty much always sound like themselves. Some bands sound like other bands. Like Creed and Puddle of Mudd. (Nothing against either band, of course…Just kidding—lots against both.) Some bands usually sound like themselves, but every once in a while they have a cold or something, and just don't sound like themselves at all. (See Neil Young in 1983.)

And then there are bands that never sound like themselves, or have only sounded like themselves in like one or two songs. Chief among such bands in my mind is The Jesus & Mary Chain. Don't get me wrong. I know every Jesus & Mary Chain song sounds exactly the same. But how many bands have attempted to recreate “that J&MC sound;” how many times have I referred to “that J&MC sound,” that most revered of all sounds? When really, if you actually even listen to a Jesus & Mary Chain album, the band itself never really ever sounded like that.

I realize this is an alarming discovery with the potential to disrupt the very fabric of the space-time continuum as we know it. But thankfully, The Ponys [sic] have come along to fill the void before anyone else gets hurt needlessly.

This is because the Ponys actually sound like Jesus & Mary Chain. This is a good thing. Whereas most garage bands are content to sound like such legendary garage bands as The Strokes and The White Stripes, The Ponys are actually kicking it old school, back when “kicking it” usually referred to a can, and before “old school” was synonymous with Will Ferrell and a horse tranquilizer.

Jered Gummere's vocals are more Tom Verlaine (Television) than Julian Casablancas (The Strokes). And the band even gets a little glam on the Pulp-errific “Fall Inn.” But look at me, dropping names like a lame emcee. Laced with Romance stands very well on its own merits, and though a few songs fail to stand up with the rest of the album, it’s a strong debut nonetheless, and well worth a look for anyone who may have soured on the nu-garage revolution.

brent@red-mag.com


 
 
   
Sonic Nurse
Sonic Youth
Geffen Records

Sonic Youth is BACK! Sonic Nurse, the band’s best album in six years, and, unfortunately, their only good album in that same timeframe, is now out in stores.

For those of you who don’t consider Sonic Youth to be in the top three greatest bands of all time, along with The Beatles and The Velvet Underground, the band members got all their instruments stolen shortly after releasing their 1998 mellow ride A Thousand Leaves. In a panic, they hired musical mad scientist Jim O’Rourke as their bassist and turned Kim Gordon into guitarist no. 3. They then released NYC Ghosts and Flowers, which is a really, really terrible album. And remember what I said about them being the greatest band in the world…Well, as that album proved, it seems everyone in the world has the ability to disappoint.

Shortly thereafter, they released the mediocre Murray Street, an album I eventually came to accept as decent, even though I initially hated it, still jaded over you-know-what.

I was generally afraid that SY was never going to release an album of the same caliber as, say, 1996’s Washing Machine (the idea that they could ever match their 1988 masterpiece, Daydream Nation, was a moot point. It would be like humanity writing another Bible.)

But I can say right now that, at least, Sonic Youth has made yet another great album. And you feel it right in your bones with each passing measure. The album’s opener, the quirky, downright catchy “Pattern Recognition,” features Kim Gordon singing in a way only she can—her voice borderlines in the bored/sensual way that has been her trademark since 1986’s EVOL. It’s the voice that Kim Gordon fans can wrap their arms and legs around.

As good as “Pattern Recognition” is, it’s not where Kim Gordon really shines in Sonic Nurse. Her two best tracks on this album are “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” and “I Love You Golden Blue.” The first song might take some getting used to, and if the listener can get past the idea of people in their mid-to-late-50s trying to rock, then it’s quite a song to be added to SY’s repertoire. However, “I Love You Golden Blue,” which is the second to last song on the album, is a very pretty thing. It begins with what sounds like tiny rocks of hale dripping onto a windowsill. Then hale turns into tiny hits of Steve Shelley’s symbols, and then slowly, sonic guitars and sounds form dark clouds around the song. By the time Gordon’s voice comes through, though, the clouds have left, and the sun comes out. Everything is golden blue. If this isn’t a love song for Gordon’s husband, Thurston Moore, it certainly should be. The only thing I would change on the album is to have this song be the closer. However, Thurston Moore’s “Peace Attack” is a wonderful little jangle-fest.

To anyone wary of buying this album, I say unto you, fear not. Sonic Nurse is a quality piece of work from a band that, amazingly, has been churning out music like this since before I was born.—JS

jordan@red-mag.com


 

Blasphemy and Other Reviews

Dear Everyone,

I am sorry I was unable to write any reviews last week. Lest you suspect I was living it up in my golden boat on Bear Lake over the 3rd of July weekend, I thought it only fair to offer this explanation: As luck would have it, I was sick for most of the week with food poisoning (thank you very much Crown Burger…I think). Perhaps you even had the privilege of being thrown up on by me at the Sugarhouse Park fireworks show. If so, congratulations. Treasure the memory. I do.

In any case, I have only recently regained the will to live/ability to sit at a computer screen and rattle off ball-shatteringly powerful music reviews. It's a shame too, because last week I was going to review the new Bark Psychosis CD, Codename Dustsucker, which some of you might remember as my #2 pick for album of the year as of April.

 
   

Anyway, there's obviously no time for that now. The music review train stops for no slouchers. And I have two new victims for you this week. Though I do feel bad. Because this new BP album is getting tragically little press. So let's just say this: though Codename Dustsucker may have slipped down a few rungs in my mind since April, if you're a fan of the band's previous work, or of Spirit of Eden-era Talk Talk, you should definitely check it out. You can get it for only £10 at www.firerecords.com! Plus, just look at this cover art. Isn't it pretty?

And now, on with the slaughter! —BS


 
   

Blueberry Boat
The Fiery Furnaces
Sanctuary

It was only last September that the Fiery Furnaces first raised eyebrows with their debut album, Gallowsbird's Bark. “Why, stop that racket,” the eyebrows would say. And the Fiery Furnaces listened. Over the next few months, the brother-sister duo of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger would embark on a quest of the self so harrowing and portentous as to nearly drive both to the brink of insanity. And it was there that they found Blueberry Boat.

Blueberry Boat is a 13-song, 80-minute electro-blues concept album about pirates and their cache of summer's most delectable fruit. Like nearly all double-length albums, it is far too long and meandering. In fact, many will find it unlistenable. But there are moments on this album, particularly in its first half, that chart sonic landmarks so brazen and bold as to ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR ANY OTHER MUSIC ALTOGETHER. Observe:

The opener “Quay Cur” runs through about eight different songs in its ten and a half minute runtime. A harsh digital wind is pitted against funereal piano hits until the song decides it wants to be an iceskating laser show, and then a rockabilly throwback, and then an oldtime slave dirge, and then a prog rock finale with a solo, somber piano outro.

And that's just the opener. The title track and “Chris Michaels” continue to succeed at cramming as many ideas as possible into eight or so minutes. This method has somewhat lost steam by the time “Inspector Blancheflower” rears its lazy disco head, but the Fiery Furnaces members have other tricks up their sleeves. Hell, they've got other sleeves up their sleeves, and some of those aren't even on their arms.

In the hands of most any other band in the neo-blues garage revival, “Straight Street” and “I Lost My Dog” would have been particularly blasé, but the Fiery Furnaces take these otherwise traditional blues numbers and enliven them with creative syncopation, digital disturbance, and the occasional amp turned up to 11.

If you happen to be looking at a tracklist while you're reading this, you might notice I haven't said much about Blueberry Boat's second half. In all honesty, if the album would have ended after track eight, “Mason City,” the album still would have been almost 50 minutes long, and I doubt I would have been able to restrain myself from rewarding it a (gasp!) perfect rating. (Cue fainting.) But even I, the four-eared freak who often finds himself with eighty minutes or more to spare, have a hard time getting through the rest of this album in one sitting.

And if I must complain about one more thing, the Friedbergers’ insistence on rhyming nearly every single line with the one that follows it doesn't always make for ball-shatteringly powerful lyrics.

But this is petty bickering. Blueberry Boat is one of the most innovative and rewarding albums to come out since, well, Animal Collective's Sung Tongs came out last month, but barring that, it's certainly one of the most unique albums to have come out in several years, and it's quickly become one of my favorites of 2004. —BS


 
   

Together We're Heavy
The Polyphonic Spree
Hollywood

[First attempt at review; June 2, 2004]

Make way, heathens. He's back, just like he said he would be, and not a moment too late if you ask me. So you can put away your showy wares, your naysaying and your wantonness, and come on down to the church with me for some celebratin'.

I am of course referring to Jeebus. I know most of you either already know all there is to know about him or are tired of hearing it, but these music reviews do usually call for a bit of background, so bear with me here for just one paragraph.

Jeebus and the Apostles first hit the scene in the early A.D. years. Most of their work was limited to a few hundred pressings on vinyl sandscript. Not many people heard their recordings, but as the saying goes, everyone who did hear them ended up starting their own church.

All right, even I know this is lame. Jesus wasn't in a band. He died for our sins, right? He was crucified, resurrected, and then ascended to heaven, promising to return when the time was right. Of course, not everyone agrees on this matter. These are pretty outrageous claims. But I think that after hearing this new, highly anticipated album from the Polyphonic Spree, you'll all agree with me on this one thing:

Jesus Christ is alive and well and living in Dallas, Texas. He and his concourse of approximately 200 angelic cherubim have managed to arrive rather inconspicuously onto the scene by assuming the form of a travelling band. That band is called the Polyphonic Spree. Together We're Heavy is the most incredible, redeeming piece of music I've heard in over 2,000 years. Jesus gets five stars. Jesus is Lord. That's all I have to say on the matter. Amen.


[Second attempt at review; June 15, 2004]

Today I listened to Together We're Heavy for the second time. Upon further research, The Polyphonic Spree is actually headed by some guy named Tim. The fifty people he tours with are just regular people in white robes. They can sing pretty well though. “Section 11: A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed” is a pretentious title, but the song still sounds divine. I think these guys at least commune with God. Maybe this Tim guy is some sort of a prophet or something.


[Third attempt at review; June 26, 2004]

I've been seriously looking into Judaism. I was all right with lyrics about sunshine in my soul when I thought it was my Lord and Savior singing them, but who is this creep? Listening to this album is like listening to the five most lyrically cringeworthy seconds of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on endless repeat. I want my money back. There is no God.


[Final attempt at review; July 10, 2004]

I've come to terms with my God and my musical tastes. Together We're Heavy is a mixed bag. The first track is still a great song, with an actual riff, something the rest of the album could sorely use. There are several other songs on the album that are musically interesting, and the album is as a whole is very well produced, but Tim Delaughter is in serious need of a bad day. Or perhaps a songwriting coach. Here's a tip to get you started: “Sun” is not the only word that rhymes with “love.”

And now, it is finished. The review, I mean. Crap. I hope God doesn't read RED Magazine.

brent@red-mag.com

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