CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | JUNE 09, 2009 7:26 AM

Credibility = a step backward

mp3 samples: Anti-Flag

"The Economy is Suffering...Let it Die"

"When All the Lights Go Out"

"The Old Guard"

The People or The Gun
***1/2 out of *****

Politically charged hard-core punk-rock bands don’t sign to major record labels. They just don’t. Anti-Flag didn’t get that memo. It signed to RCA four years ago, and last year’s The Bright Lights of America fulfilled its contract. Now, it’s back on indie label Side One Dummy.

What does this mean for the band’s newest release The People or The Gun? It means the songs are shorter, the riffs are heavier, and there is a refreshing lack of children’s choirs singing choruses.

Unfortunately, it also seems to mean a musical regression.

The album is a mass of both pluses and minuses. The lyrics are as anarchic as one could hope for (one chorus goes, “when the cities burn down, we’ll all be warm”), but they seem less inspired than those released on RCA. The music is harder, too, but I swear the guitar riffs are recycled from older songs (I guess even music can go green).

Listening to the album gives one a feeling of déjà vu. The bass is fast and hard, there’s plenty of screaming and swearing, and there is no shortage of “Whoa-OH’s” in the song’s choruses. We’ve heard this all from Anti-Flag before — but that doesn’t mean it’s crap. “The Economy Is Suffering, Let It Die” rails on apathy to the plight of others, and the pop punk-ish “The Old Guard” still manages to rock almost as hard as “When All The Lights Go Out” — which proclaims “we don’t need no CEO’s, they need us … proletariats of the world unite!”

In all, the album seemed to be one thing: rushed. I’m sure the band was eager to rebuild the credibility it lost while on RCA — but it should have waited. The hurry to reassure fans the band hadn’t been changed by its exposure to the mainstream meant the band had to stick with what it knew — bare-bones punk. But hey, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Tanner’s Picks: “The Economy Is Suffering … Let It Die,” “The Old Guard,” “When All The Lights Go Out”

Instrumental Icons

Sonic Youth
The Eternal
***1/2 out of *****

For an indie-sounding band that’s been releasing tunes since 1982, and with 23 albums to back it up (compilations included), Sonic Youth doesn’t suck. Note the band is not up to par with some of its ’80s counterparts (U2, anyone?), but despite that, it is still able to release a strong album that doesn’t disappoint fans. The band’s latest release, The Eternal, though not magnificent, is full of slow, strong tunes that aren’t agonizing on the ears.

One of the notable traits Sonic Youth possesses is its musicality. The band is well-known for its strong and unique guitar playing, and The Eternal is a beautiful showcase of what these five musicians can do. Throughout the tracks, it’s evident that if the words were taken away from each song, the remnants would be just as powerful.

The Eternal starts off strong with the track “Sacred Trickster,” a tune featuring intense vocals and some kick-ass guitar playing. Though the following track “Anti-Orgasm” is a little lengthy with its six-minute running time, it is similar to the first song in that the instrument playing is fucking brilliant.

Sonic Youth’s flaws throughout its latest album include the band’s tendency to sound repetitive as well as the members’ love for lengthy tracks. Take the album’s closing song, “Massage the History.” At more than nine minutes long, it gets obnoxious to listen to. It’s also a more mellow and tuned-down song then the others on the album, but it’s a welcome change to the repetitive vibes of the other tracks.

Toward the middle of the album, Sonic Youth’s musicality seems to ebb as songs start to mirror each other. “Leaky Lifeboat” sounds a bit like “What We Know,” and though the vocals differ, the background beats sound the same.

Despite the few flaws, Sonic Youth delivers a strong album full of chill tunes accompanied by strong instruments which makes the CD a worthwhile release.

Rachael’s Picks: “What We Know,” “Poison Arrow” and “No Way”

A Solid Celebration

mp3 sample: The Dirty Projectors

"Stillness is the Move"

The Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
***** out of ******

The Dirty Projectors has had quite a year. After dynamite collaborations with David Byrne on Red Hot Organization’s charity album Dark Was The Night and a concert with Bjork, the group’s strong year continues today with its eighth studio album, Bitte Orca.

With the band well-known for its experimental pop sound, this album is probably its most accessible. It starts with echoing, almost haunting guitar strums. Drums start, and the tempo picks up as lead singer Dave Longstrenth’s tenor voice, dancing between full and falsetto, comes in singing “look around at everyone / everyone looks alive and waiting.” The mysterious guitar sounds and tribal drums set the tone for the entire album — namely, it’s a celebration. The acoustic guitar picking drives the album, giving the music a bouncy, light, and colorful feel. In “Temecula Sunrise,” a song clearly about affection, Longstrenth not only shows off his acoustic guitar skills but also his gift for clever lyricism (“what hits the spot like Gatorade / you and me baby”).

The album comes down from the bounce with the soft, delicate “Two Doves.” Again driven by the guitar and violins, this time the female voice takes the lead. Angel Deradoorian’s voice provides the perfect balance to Longstrenth’s. Her low-alto range has a genuine, gentle feel. Singing such words as “kiss me with your mouth open / for your love better than wine,” she makes love to the listener and continues to earnestly beckon to her lover to rely on her alone.

The album crescendos back into its earlier energy, picking back up with “Useful Chamber.” The Dirty Projectors’ talented composing abilities shine through with synthesizers, and the underlying beats drive the songs (and the rest of the album) to a dynamic finish. The celebration ends with “Fluorescent Half Dome,” which features Longstrenth’s lyrics about wholeness (“when I’ve had enough / I will look for you”).

With Bitte Orca, the Dirty Projectors deliver. Longstrenth is a composer, and a very inventive one at that. He drives the album with his poetic lyrics and admirable guitar skills. This is definitely something you shouldn’t miss — you’ll celebrate all year.

Eric’s Picks: “Stillness in the Move,” “Two Doves,” “Temecula Sunrise”

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