Friday, June 24, 2005

Report Card, June 2005
[Yes, of course this is modelled on C********'s C******* G****, cut me some slack, okay? Let's face it, I've been heading towards this for years.]

Student of the month
Basement Jaxx, The Singles - Special Edition
Only 3 albums in (not including the Atlantic Jaxx comp), and this shows not just you but everybody else how they did it, and it's more obvious than you think: they write blindingly great pop songs. Then they run them through the Prince-o-lator or some such, coming up with glorious, squelchy house anthems that sound like they were made with pop radio in mind (and, being British, they might've been - remember, they're pop stars over there), but most importantly, Felix and Simon start with well-written pop songs. The singles disc astounds from beginning to end, but what may surprise you is how essential the "bonus traxx" disc is, too. You might be able to live without 2 or 3 of these songs (and only that many), but why risk it? This is on a par with The Hits/The B-Sides. Really. A+


Annie, Anniemal
Filled with one good-to-great alternate-universe #1 pop single after another. B+

Caribou, The Milk of Human Kindness
Kinda wonky psych-'tronica, like how I always imagined an Elephant 6 electronic record might sound. That's not a compliment. C+

Danko Jones, We Sweat Blood
Like the Blues Explosion without irony, this is one sexed-up (at least sex-obsessed) power trio, with an emphasis on the power. Every song is about sex, which is why rock'n'roll exists, isn't it? B

Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway
Much better than it has any right to be, this is solid pop-rock, though there's still too many ballads here (and I don't count the title track among 'em). Thank goodness, or some mini-Max Martins, for single-of-the-year candidate "Since U Been Gone," and check out the sass in her still-evolving voice. B

Manic Street Preachers, Lifeblood
Maturity: sometimes it's a bitch, sometimes it's a breeze. They still miss Richey, but they don't need to. B

Motown Remixed
You need precisely 2 of these reworkings (Jazzy Jeff's deep house rub of "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" and the inspired Tranzition mix of "My World Is Empty Without You," which slows it down to superb effect), and a few of the others are enjoyable enough (such as hearing "ABC" gone crunk, and I like the new take on "Let's Get It On," which makes it sound kinda like "Hey Mr. DJ"), but as an album, it's entirely unnecessary, with mostly far-too-obvious song choices and lazy mixes. B-

Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation, Mighty Rearranger
Much better than it has any right to be, Bob sounds reinvigorated like he hasn't in years, excited to be collaborating like he hasn't since you-know. This is also the closest thing to a you-know album since you-know, but more in tone and tenor (and only occasionally volume) than bombast. The much-touted northern African rhythms are present and accounted for, as are the folkie touches (someone's been listening to his Sandy Denny records), but they accent rather than take over; this ain't Graceland. Plant hinted at the breadth and depth here on his covers album ("Darkness Darkness" comes to mind), and he makes good on it. "Return to form" is a cliché because sometimes it's true. A-

Royksopp, The Understanding
Sounds like it was tailor-made for KCRW play. Jason Bentley will love it, which isn't such a bad thing, except that it means it's pretty tasteful, as far as "dance" goes. B


Parent's signature required
New Order, Waiting For the Sirens' Call
Like a New Order album, only not as good. Unfortunately, it is New Order. This reminds me of Duran Duran's 1994 self-titled effort (a/k/a "The Wedding Album"), another well-intentioned bid for relevance. Hate to say it - really hate to say it - but their spiritual children have lapped 'em. Not abject failure, but a huge disappointment. B-

What a coincidence: I burned "Darkness, Darkness" a few days ago. Such a great song.
What's yr take on "Get Ready"?
As opposed to Mr. Soto, I think it's better than Sirens' Call, Ian. Not great, but good, and "Crystal" was a superb comeback single. I'd probably give it a high B.
I ask because I can't quite understand why I love it so much (as opposed to Republic, where I can fully understand why I love). I think I might have just played it too often when I got it and now it's hunkered down in my hindbrain.
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