Can't Stop the Rock

This week: the latest from Savath & Savalas, The Spy in the Mes and The Traveling Wilburys


Savath & Savalas

Golden Pollen (Anti)

Always a musical shapeshifter, U.S. expatriate Guillermo Scott Herren adopts multiple personas, even when he's working under the musical nom de plume of Prefuse 73. While his side project Savath & Savalath has certainly followed a separate path, there were once obvious similarities: The band's 2004 EP, Manana , employed the computerized filtering and cut-up treatment that was, until now, expected in any Herren outing.

With the full-length Golden Pollen (Anti), Señor Herren has for the most part axed the folktronica of earlier Savath recordings in favor of a more organic approach that isâ"dare I say itâ"traditional? Not only have the computerized beats and loops disappeared, vocalist Eva Puyleo Muns is absent from the picture. And all is not well.

Co-produced by Herren and Tortoise's John McEntire, Golden Pollen is pleasant enough, although the affair oftentimes verges on postmodern easy-listening territories. While earlier Savath releases offered narcotized rhythmic cadences and Spanish-hued female vocals, the new disc is all Herren's.

Mr. Herren proves an able vocalist, but the song structures are more standardized, delivering the sound of a postmodern Jose Feliciano, if you will. Working neither as ambient music nor as an aural foreground, the album is too pastel to deserve full focus, yet not lulling enough to serve as sonic wallpaper. Sometimes the best intentions can run amok. Come back Prefuse, wherever you are. â" John Sewell

The Spy in the Mes

And That's Why I Breathe Through The Illusion of Wanting To Be Used To Wanting To Do (Kick Start)

Self described as, â“a delightfully rubbed salad bowl of singer/songwriting, trashy pop, garage-punk, circus and polka + other stuff,â” The Spy In The Mes (pronounced â“meeseâ”), a diversely quirky quartet from Denmark, recently rolled through Knoxville to promote its latest release, And That's Why I Breathe .

The disc is an ambitious exploration of more genres than a Quentin Tarantino flick, mashing up elements reminiscent of early David Bowie, poppy-punk Fallout Boy, grunge gods Nirvana, art rockers The Talking Heads, and new wave wackos Devo.

In the hands of lesser talents this approach could be a disaster, but frontman Jesper Borjesson Holm, a multi-instrumentalist who can not only can play his butt off, but brings a multiple-octave vocal range seldom found in pop, pulls it all together.

On a recent on-air â“90.3 The Rock Unpluggedâ” acoustic performance, the band impressed the local college radio station's GM Benny Smithâ"who has seen some great ones over the yearsâ"so much that he said of Holm: â“The kid's got â‘it.'â” â“It,â” of course, being that X-factor that separates the stars from the players.

Musically, Holm's compatriots are also first rate; particularly Hasse Mydtskov, whose precision drumming binds together the band's complex compositions.  

The record's 11 cuts range from sweet and melodic to hardcore thrash; sometimes in the same song. When it works it's fantastic. When it doesn't, it's still interesting. The Spy in the Mes could be a mess, but it's quite the contraryâ"a palatable slice of Danish, indeed. â" Brad Case

The Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Rhino)

In 1988 when Bob Dylan said â“why notâ” to buddies Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison, the trio jumped up and down like giddy schoolchildren. What Rolling Thunder Bob had agreed was to record an album with his mates under the band name The Traveling Wilburys.  

Roots-of-rock icon Roy Orbison was added to the mix and a new super-group was born. The by-product, The Traveling Wilburys Volume One , went on to sell 5 million copies and garner a spot on Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 albums of the millennium.

A follow-up titled The Traveling Wilburys Volume Three (there was no Vol. 2â"Harrison's way of saying, â“Lets mess with the buggersâ”) didn't fare as well primarily because Lefty Wilbury (Orbison) had passed away and his signature falsetto was sorely missed.

Due to legal snafus, the group's material was never released on CD until now. The Traveling Wilburys Collection , a triple-disc box set, including both LPs plus bonus cuts, along with a DVD of their music videos, comes as one of the most anticipated â“missing discsâ” in decades.  

And worth the wait it was. Nearly 20 years down the line, the Wilburys sound better than ever. With Dylan, Petty and Lynne strumming along in anticipation of Roy's haunting middle eight, it reminds one of how good songs can be when real pros click on all cylinders.

TWC-3 also plays better in retrospect. Though the album possesses no instant classics, the lack of Orbison's golden larynx requires the group to take an edgier rockabilly approach that resonates beautifully within the crystal clean digital re-master.  â" B.C.


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