Monday, June 17, 2002

Music to My Ears VIII
A four-pack of new record reviews! (I was feeling kind of bitter the night I wrote these, and I'm afraid I even take some friends to task. Constructive criticism, I hope.)

The Lot Six: "Gwylo" CD
The first song strikes me as a Fugazi knockoff, with its helter-skelter sections and emotive vocals. Almost three minutes in, the yelling turns to string picking and coughing, and the Guy Piccioto-like vocals emerge as most welcome, despite the ease of the comparison. "Styler/Stylee" is a piano-free Ben Folds-esque number with enough adequate verse-chorus divisions that I wish I were seeing them live until the dimuendo, which quickly morphs into a Cracker-like song structure with the onset of "Coincidence Reprise." Fugazi comparisons are rekindled with "This Is Entertainment," perhaps the strongest song, followed by the appropriately assertive "I'm into It." This is the best Fugazi-inspired record I've ever heard, but then comes "Last Flight of the Spruce Goose," a Herb Alpert-evoking number that then shifts into a more sensitive emo song. Where is this band coming from? They're not original enough to stand on their own, but they're not consistent enough to be a total rip off. I know which way I hope they fall. Espo Records, P.O. Box 63, Allston, MA 02134.

Model Kit CD EP
This is a Green Day-meets-Blink 182 wannabe knockoff that pleases me but fails to innovate beyond the mersh cliches. The second track, which is better than "All That I Need" with its chunka-chunk chorus, goes much further and is the kind of song that could be important -- especially with the melodic chorus in which "nobody cares." Then, the third song. It sounds like a Hip Tanaka concept that didn't get very far. As sweet and shallow as Model Kit's sound is, I think it's dangerous to ride on other bands' coattails -- especially when they're so short. Three songs aren't a lot to go on, but it might be nine minutes too many. Model Kit.

The Brett Rosenberg Problem: "Destroyer" CD
It's not until the second song, "My Girlfriend's Daughter," that I really believe Brett's earnestness, and given his age and status, it's probably a good thing. Brett's overly accurate power-pop song stylings are pretty transparent, and as good as his songs are, it's hard to move beyond his source material. It's all good stuff, but it's not enough. "Kelly Haas All Over Again" is a throw away (as inspired by real life as it might be), and "Always Hanging Around" is a studied, albeit labored potential hit. This could be a song featured in Rock 'n' Roll High School, and it's almost as though Brett knows it. While "Orange Line," which even Brett has kind of dismissed, isn't even worth mentioning, "The Wait Song" returns to the Who-meets-Buddy Holly inspirations that Brett so often draws upon. Power pop at its best and most saccharine yet satisfying. The second half of the record sets off with the quality "Shame on You," complete with Jed Parish organ a la Brett's last record -- a detail worth repeating. Rounding the record off, we have an Elvis Costello-inspired song, "She's My Baby Tonight;" a rather screwy ballad, "I Don't Really Wanna Fuck Things Up;" and the bluesy ending "Obsessed." I'm surprised and slightly disappointed that this isn't more important or interesting than Brett's previous record. The hooks are here. As is the energy. But the commitment? Why stay so strongly rooted in the past? Brett Rosenberg, P.O. Box 9231, Boston, MA 02114.

Sinkcharmer: "Stars in Winter" CD
"As Nevada Burns" is the first song of note on this record self-released by Paul Coleman, a fellow member of the Handstand Command collective. Even though Paul's vocals are mixed way too low, the gang pulls it off in the end. "20 Paces" serves as an interesting inclusion -- why not feature more songs written by these three? Might be better than the Operators or the Tardy. Might not be. Because I'm torn about Paul. The songs he does fronting the Ops are among their best. And their best songs are better than Paul's solo songs. There are a couple of pieces out of left field here: the Fugs-like thresher "Down to Dollars" and the lo-fi southern latitude lounger a la White Town "Ode to a Grifter." But those are iffy comparisons. The brief "Goosemayer" re-establishes Paul as a solo entity, as does the wonderful live staple "Rubber Legs." "Last Dance" reminds me of several northern California pop-punk ensembles, including the Ne'er Do Wells and the Potatomen, and Paul even embellishes and improves on many Twee Kitten-like concepts. But as much as I would like to say otherwise -- and as good as a songwriter Paul is -- this record just doesn't hit me hard. The reference points feel too wide ranging, and I don't get that strong of a sense of who Paul is. Sinkcharmer.

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