Thursday, March 28, 2002

Music to My Ears VI
A three-pack of new record reviews!

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: "The Tyranny of Distance" CD
I've held off on reviewing this local record because, well, it's not what I expect from Lookout! and its Bay Area pop-punk past and because Ted didn't really resonate with me at first. I've yet to see the Pharmacists live, but on record, Ted has always hit me as a Paul Heaton-meets-Push Kings power pop wunderkind (a la Grand Royal's Ben Lee, who doesn't remind me of the aforementioned folks, but still). Now, in part thanks to Brad's accolades, I'm giving Ted another chance. Color me a push over, but the record's not bad! In fact, it's amazing. There's a lot of mersh pop superheroics that I'm sure the Harvard-bred-yet-Bay Area-transplanted Push Kings wish they were party to, but Ted's catchy, slightly kitschy and solid pop phenomenon is quite impressive. Take "Parallel or Together"'s bubblegum repetition and, damn it, lyrical direction toward my ex. Nice sax (I think) in "Under the Hedge." And "Timorous Me" nods toward Ben Folds, sans piano, and "Stove by a Whale" recalls Brett Rosenberg's Kinks leanings. "The Great Communicator" is the Replacements plus the Tar Babies with some Morrisey vocals mixed in. The record is that weird, and I don't know why I dismissed it at first. Maybe it's the insidious influence of Brad and Amie.

Massive Distribution: CompHellation 2000 CD-R
My CD player at home wouldn't play this at first, but it did eventually. The comp opens up with a burst of crowd noise and a sample, and Elf P's "The Pond Song" is an unimpressive lo-fi dirge. Godbuls' "Live at the Green St." is a more interesting smidge of crowd noise, segueing into Donkey Disaster's "Let's Rock," reminding me of the early Runt of the Litter comps and Bill T. Miller's "Heavy Hardcore Headroom" comp, which helped launch Toxic Narcotic and Showcase Showdown. This comp is a mix of the categoric comp and the freeform fantastic. "What's fantastic?" you ask. A good question. I listened to this comp so you don't have to. Deerhoof's brief Suzanne Vega-like vocals on "Live at HappyPunk" are interesting, as is Devil Music's spoof of Karate's post-rock posturing (unintended, perhaps). Tunnel of Love's Slim Cessna-esque approach to the death song "California" is a highlight. Other neat bits: 2000 Flushes' amateurish scratching and beat boxing; the Judd$' bad-ass, cut-off country caterwauling; the Frogs' brief Fugs-led-by-Sander Hicks imposition; Jimmy Cousin's "Hole in My Hat;" Tristan Dunster's Maestro Subgum-manhandled opera "Male Sexuality;" J.K.'s "Sun Theme" and its guitar-driven revelations; Stinky Treats' "Love Them Ho's"' undersung Beastie Boys beatifics; and X-Members' wind-ridden "Left and Right Speakers." This comp is similar in many ways to Darryl's Black Apple comps. Thank the gods that we have Massive Distro now that Darryl's moved to LA. A good look under the covers of the Boston indie-rock, hip-hop, and no-wave scenes. Call 617-427-3267 for more information.

The Eric Zinman Trio CD-R
Eric begrudgingly lent me some tapes to issue on my now-defunct cassette label Tulip Tapes years ago, so I'm rather psyched that he's finally released his own CD. Featuring Laurence Cook on drums and Craig Schildhauer on bass, this set of piano trio recordings captures much of the original tape, given that it was recorded in 1996, before I moved to Massachusetts. I'm guessing that Eric remixed and mastered many of the original sessions to release this. "Lightning" is a quick hit at five minutes, and "Shopping" is a playful ode to what might be Eric's favorite pastime (given that he lived near the glass-encased Chestnut Hill Mall when I first sat in his living room to learn about the history of and players in the Boston jazz scene back in 1996 or 1997). I'm trying not to make Ahmad Jamal or Keith Jarrett comparisons, but Lowell Davidson's "Stately" begs their mention. Eric doesn't deal in your average pinky-twinkly piano jazz, but his music isn't overly exciting or enervating. The ending of "On Demand" gets somewhat intense, and the opening to "Marx Brothers" is OK, as is that piece's drum work and the little bit of chaos at the end, but for the most part, I think that this is background music. Background music infused with subtle humor, yes, but nothing that's too far forward.

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