Something’s Wrong

BB reminds us that rock music is broken

by Aidan Morgan

cd-brokenbellsBroken Bells
After The Disco
Sony
3 out of 5

There must have been a moment when rock and roll broke. I don’t remember exactly when it happened –– a Yes album too far? The first Nile Rodgers track? The opening guitar riff on Marquee Moon? Maybe it was Spinal Tap? –– but when I listen to Broken Bells, I can hear the echoes of that collapse.

I also hear the echoes of little children who knelt by their beds at night and prayed that Danger Mouse and James Mercer would not only make music together, but that they’d do it twice. Children, After The Disco is the answer to your prayers.

After The Disco works best when Danger Mouse takes control of the arrangements and lets James Mercer spin his melodies against a shimmering electronic background. You wouldn’t think it works, but Mercer’s voice and Mouse’s synth are the peanut butter and bacon sandwich of pop music: unthinkable at first, but surprisingly delicious. The opening track “A Perfect World” is the perfect mix of sensibilities, with Mercer’s melancholy hanging over the electropop notes like so many sad curtains. It’s a small subversion that restores a lot of dignity to the form.

When guitars creep into the mix, though, Broken Bells starts to sound a little –– well, broken. It’s like the peanut butter and bacon sandwich is suddenly made with raisin bread or something. Tracks like “Leave It Alone” make me think of the flabby early ’80s rock singles that bellyflopped across the record charts on the way to a K-Tel compilation’s B-side.

It’s what happened to rock and roll after years of neglect broke it completely.

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cd-dumdumDum Dum Girls
Too True
Sub Pop
3.5 out of 5

There’s a particular sort of Sisters of Mercy, bat-filled-cavern-reverb, drum machine sound that’s pretty much a dare to just try and like a record. Here it is on Too True, and –– sorry, what’s that, lead vocalist Dee Dee Penny? I’ve “got Rimbaud eyes”? Have another goblet of port. Whatever, though. The drums are confident that they will win in the end, and they probably will.

Two True’s title track is a swooping, thrilling Simple Minds takeoff, “In The Wake of You” is Kate Bush via “Born to Run” and Flock of Seagulls, and “Under These Hands” kicks out the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Dum Dum Girls are basically wearing a cape in public, and even if it looks like Strawberry Switchblade cosplay it’s fun as hell. Just hire a person drummer for the next one, please. /John Cameron

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cd-juradoDamien Jurado
Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
Secretly Canadian
4 out of 5

Damien Jurado noted on Twitter that Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’s release date was exactly 17 years after that of his first full-length, Water Ave. S.. The difference between the two records from the Seattle artist is astounding. He sings in one blunt mode on Water Ave. S. while Brothers and Sisters has him in full-on musical revelation. Over the course of three records together, he and producer Richard Swift have carved out a strange, beautiful world, mixing the compelling, tragic beauty of Jurado’s songs with twisty studio-invented sounds, calling up the saddest R&B and the most compelling indie-folk. Jurado’s mastered his vocals, from the nuanced mid-range he’s lived in for so long to the high range he’s brought with Swift.

The record moves towards simplicity with great effect — the clarity of “Silver Malcolm” and “Silver Joy” cutting the listener before the cathartic, low-key pop joy of closer “Suns in Our Mind”. /James Brotheridge

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cd-pinecones

The Pinecones
Ooh!
Reel Cod
3.5 out of 5

The Gilmore Girls soundtracks throughout the series’ seven seasons. Sloan. Any Murderecords band, really. Anything from the late ’80s onward that has “jangle”. Finding comparisons for The Pinecones — the Brent Randall-led power-pop trio from Toronto — is easy.

I’d previously known Randall as the kind of guy who wears his paisley shirt butto
ned to the top while sitting behind his keyboard. When it was him and the Pinecones, the songs were more of the contemplative, ’60s-styled pop variety. Contemplating what? Probably stuff similar to what he’s talking about now that he is The Pinecones, along with bandmates Paul Linklater and Marshall Bureau. Their concerns are common ones — mostly relationships and whatnot — but the music is undeniably fun. The leads are catchy, the guitar solos clean, the harmonies as classic as they get. Nobody earns a series of “la la la”s like these guys. /James Brotheridge

2014-02-06

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