platters (2007-07)

If I Only Had A...

Griffin's newest has heart; Panthers' latest has nerve; Jan Jelinek's got brains; and Menomena finds its way home

Patty Griffin


But lo and behold, Panthers has finally hit stride. With its newest, the group jettisons the psychedelic ramblings of yore in favor of stripped-down compositions that focus on the rock and leave the pretense behind, or at least buried under a mass of primordial, power-chord thud.

The pivotal flaw of Panthers' last outing, Things Are Strange , was singer Jayson Green's lyrical focus on, ahem, "theory." Green's attempt to astound us, Ian Svenonious style, with highfalutin verbiage that might have sounded academic, really offered nothing: It was sheer effrontery shrouded in flippety-trick vocabulary.

This time around, Green has pared it down--or at least his witty repartee is inaudible. The Trick by no means represents a conscious dredging for the lowest common denominator of pop accessibility; it's just honed to a proper fighting weight. And now the band can get down to business. The group's roots in the protopunk/protometal of groups like The Stooges, MC5 and The Pretty Things are still in ample supply. But this time around, the brutality of the rock factor is amped to the Nth degree.

Jan Jelinek

Tierbeobachtungen finds Jelinek with a focused new approach. The precision and discipline of techno is jettisoned in favor of an amorphous, botanical sound. While the pieces on the disc have titles, they're certainly not "songs" in the verse/chorus/verse sense. The textured and colorful chording of Jelinek's music has, interestingly, gone full circle. Sure, computers are employed in the production of this music. But his new, imminently modern sound elicits memories of Herbie Hancock's Electric Piano playing on Miles Davis' In a Silent Way .   Perhaps unwittingly, Jelinek has created jazz.