It's a revealing week of new releases, as some of today's hottest big names--like Gnarls Barkley and Panic! At The Disco--go head-to-head against familiar names like the B-52's, the Lemonheads, Pennywise, and even the Counting Crows!
Luckily, all these artists are only battling in terms of record sales instead of an actual fistfight or rumble--which would not only be unpleasant but likely cause a stir!
That being said, though, I wonder: Don't you think if Panic! At The Disco and Gnarls Barkely actually were double-teamed against Pennywise and the Counting Crows on a televised national wrestling match, it would not only be fun to watch but actually help boost their record sales?
I do. So why won't they do it? Are they afraid to?
The Odd Couple (Downtown/Atlantic) Released early due to popular demand--that is, shoved out by their record company ASAP to counteract that pesky "internet leak" thing--this could be the make-or-break effort for a band whose one enormously successful single "Crazy" could well eclipse anything they'll put out for the remainder of their natural lives! I'm rooting for them, mainly because I enjoy the funny outfits their wear in their music videos! The record's quite good too, but when has that mattered?
Counting Crows: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (Geffen) They're back and as great as they ever were! Judging by the album title, the CCs are a literate bunch with sophisticated taste in films; throw in their love of the 12-inch vinyl album, as illustrated by this package's graphics, and you've got a rockin' combo whose hearts are so clearly in the right place it hurts! Still, one wonders what possessed them to literally count crows on this album's reported hidden track. I agree it is the height of irony that the band's name is similar to Sheryl Crow, the Black Crowes, Crowbar, Dan Crow, Rob Crow, Cro-Magnon, Crowfoot, Krokus, and Crowsdell, but to actually draw it to our attention is questionable indeed! Wait till I find that track!
Pretty. Odd. (Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen) One thing I'll say about Panic! At The Disco: They really punctuate very well! Also, I know a lot of people who normally have no opinions about music in general tend to offer opinions when they see this band on television. "These guys look like jerks!" say some, while others counter, "My, what a fine looking bunch!" But it isn't about looks, people, it's about music! And with that in mind, I'd have to say that this is the finest CD I've seen in several weeks. Its jewel-box is shiny, its booklet's graphics are pleasing to the eye, and the disc itself is distributed by a major label! Also, I'd say that bands often seen wearing hats of any sort are better than those who don't, as a rule. All told: a masterpiece!
The Raconteurs: Consolers Of The Lonely (Third Man/Warner) With a great first album under their belt--Bob Dylan's, shoplifted at Best Buy two weeks ago!--the Raconteurs have a keen taste for melodic pop and can actually write and play it as well! Their first album was a gem, and their newest--another rush-release, no less--could easily be just as good, some say! I'm thinking it probably will be, because "side projects" are where dudes like Jack White and Brendan Benson let their hair down and throw all commercial considerations out the window just because they can! Additionally, the hoity-toity "eu" in their name implies high-class art! Snatch this while you can!
Funplex (Astralwerks) The time may be right for a B-52's revival! After all, who of a certain age doesn't remember the raw excitement that overtook the dancefloor in the late '70s when "Rock Lobster" or "Dance This Mess Around" boomed over the club speakers, it was 2:30 in the morning, your vision was blurring, and you had serious doubts about your ability to drive home through the snow without running into a parked car and getting hauled off to the slammer yet another time? And I won't consider "the bulk of all humanity, moron" an acceptable answer! Rock on, Athens' finest!
Pennywise: Reason To Believe (MySpace/Interscope) Ever heard the expression "penny wise, pound foolish"? Me neither! Ever think that Southern California punks would record an entire tribute album to legendary singer-songwriter Tim Hardin? Me neither! Ever think that a band would actually give their brand new album away for free on Myspace instead of charging money for it? Well yes, of course--we all did. And it's about time! And if you'll pardon the pun, it's worth every "penny"!
Temposhark: The Invisible Line (Paper And Glue) A Brit band with a taste for the electronic, Temposhark are a compelling band whose new album is quite good! I've played it several times, often while not speaking on the phone, and the "beats" and "rhythms" make me feel good about myself in a refreshing way! They have an association with Imogen Heap, which I don't--and by presenting songs with titles such as "Not That Big" and "It's Better To Have Loved," they offer a vivid contrast to other contemporary artists such as rapper Rocko, who was happy to name one of his new songs "Umma Do Me"! Incidentally, should I have used a dash back there?
The Lemonheads: It's A Shame About Ray--Collector's Edition (CD/DVD) (Rhino) There was a time when just about everyone considered the Lemonheads the second coming of, I don't know, someone really important or something--but that time was during the middle of July in 1992, of course, and a lot has happened since then! So I was pleased as punch to get this deluxe edition of Evan Dando's first-ever gold album and give it a 21st century listen, and here's what I determined: It's really pretty good, "Dando" is one hell of a weird last name, and if somebody wanted to make a case that the band was actually prophesizing the forthcoming death of beloved performer Ray Charles a full 12 years later, they could do it on the Internet and--heck, these days--nobody would argue!
Lionel Loueke: Karibu (Blue Note) A pretty stunning Blue Note debut for African guitarist Loueke, who's joined here by pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and who amazed everybody during his recent Nissan Live Sets performance with Hancock--which you can catch here on April 1st, if you're so inclined. He's an enormously gifted player with a highly refined sense of time, and I suspect we'll be hearing lots more from him in the coming years. Highly recommended.
Day26 (Bad Boy) Known to the world for their highly charged appearances on Making The Band 4--and unlike Danity Kane, actual males--this quintet has boldly promised to change their name daily, aiming to increase the day-count number by one until every person in America buys their album! It's a gamble, sure--but if you're into databases and naming conventions, it's actually pretty slick! I'm betting they'll rule the D's by August!
- Gnarls Barkley