platters (2007-09)

We Got It All

Neil Young fetishes, simple garage rock, mall emo, industrial mythology, metalcore shtick, and the potential of sound

Dolorean

More so than Dolorean's previous efforts (2003's Not Exotic and 2005's Violence in the Snowy Fields ), You Can't Win sounds like the realization of a full band coming together, rather than a somewhat glorified solo project. Al James is still in control, but his cohorts make their presence felt, especially new guitarist Emil Amos (borrowed from the band Grails), who provides a looser, somewhat flashier complement to James' acoustic strumming.

Stylistically, James' songs still dwell in a melancholy landscape reminiscent of the darker corners of R.E.M.'s Automatic For the People , with drifting piano and organ, ghostly harmonies, and complex, reflective lyrics. The opening track, "You Can't Win," sets the tone beautifully, as an ominous percussive lead-in gives way to church-worthy keyboards and James' somehow uplifting repetition of the song and album's defeatist title. From that point on, there is no shortage of Dolorean's distinctive pastoral balladry in its finest recorded form yet, especially on "Beachcomber Blues," "In Love With the Doubt," and "Heather, Remind Me How This Ends."

Black Lips

With this pedigree in mind, it makes sense that the Black Lips' debut for the Vice Records label, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, was recorded live, in Mexico, no less.   It's an audacious move for any group to make a live record, especially when the recording is most people's first introduction to the band. But the Black Lips thrive in sweaty, dirty dives; and the sterility of a studio recording would only blunt the band's roughhewn onstage attack.

Somehow, these snotty adolescents missed out on the post-Strokes explosion of commercially oriented faux garage rock of 2002-2003. Most of those bands were old news by 2004, but the Lips have persevered to master their craft. Mixing the ferocity of The Seeds (Who could be the Black Lips' grandfathers) with an occasional dash of Velvet Underground drone and the pure fun of early punk, the band's garage rock is anything but anachronistic. Nobody knows what's in store for these kids, but who cares?   Los Valientes is for the here and now, and that's all that matters.

Lifetime

So it makes total sense for the band to regroup for a post-millennial cash-in, right? I'm not screaming sellout here. In fact, I'm glad these guys have gotten a chance to reap their due. After all, diapers must be purchased and mortgages must be paid.

Like their earlier releases, Lifetime is exceptionally short and to the point, delivering 11 songs in just under half an hour. Kicking off with the one-two punch of "Northbound Breakdown," the album mixes pop sensibilities with the riveting tempos of youth crew hardcore (See Minor Threat, 7Seconds). In other words, the band is doing exactly what they did before their initial demise.

Unfortunately, Lifetime part II has the same internal flaws as the prototype model. Sure, the rush feels great at first. But the initial thrills give way to irritation in no time flat. And the big budget of the new album serves to intensify this syndrome: one of the most compressed albums ever, Lifetime quickly becomes a headache-producing drone. Their aural output seems monochromatic and linear. Kid Dynamite, a post-Lifetime act propelled by guitarist Dan Yemen, was much more successful.  

As compared to their legions of followers, Lifetime is indeed a great band. And in limited doses, their hyperkinetic pop/punk hybrid is infectious. Sadly, the new album also serves as a reminder that these guys aren't all that. Let's just hope that Decaydance Records' mainman, Fallout Boy schmuck Pete Wentz, doesn't get a dime out of this. I just wish Kid Dynamite would've gotten back together instead.

Skinny Puppy

The release of Skinny Puppy's latest CD Mythmaker may disappoint those who want the gritty sound and structure-resistant songs they grew to love. If you believe the front line of innovation in music requires an alienating and inaccessible product, you will shudder when you hear this album.

However, accessibility can be a good thing. Music progressed in the last 25 years, thank god, and Skinny Puppy learned from the bands that built off their innovations. Mythmaker is dense with intricate, danceable beats, sometimes abrasive, often haunting synthesizers, and riffs that range from grating to ethereal. Still present are the aggression, sudden tone changes, and complex progressions long time fans should expect.  

Ogre's vocals shift abruptly from melodic and stirring as in "Jaher" and "Haze" to rapid-fire and violent as in "Pedafly" and "Politikil." Some listeners may disdain the extensive use of vocadors and other distortions, but one of Ogre's strengths is his willingness to treat his voice as an instrument rather than a centerpiece.

The weakest part of the album is lyrical. "Haze" and "Jaher" resonate, but meaning is often traded for rhythm. However, the album art is sufficiently interesting to ponder while you listen.

Chimaira

They got their act together, finally, since the release of the band's 2005's self-titled album, back when squabbles and pettiness almost destroyed Chimaira. You can hear the newfound sense of urgency when they bring whirlwind rhythms and granite blastbeats. They do it with a little less polish, and a lot more feeling, than medio-core bands like Killswitch Engage and Mower. But when you get deep into the album, you'll realize that what began as a promising, heavy tour de force, might be a one-trick pony. Each song bleeds into one another, perhaps intentionally, yet this sense of ongoing sameness will leave you wanting after a few minutes. There's a brief moment on the final track that may pique the interest of the theatercore kids; entitled "Empire," it's a song that begins with epic potential before it devolves into the same heavy shtick.

Like a sledgehammer to the face? Maybe at first, right before your face goes numb. There's killer stuff on Resurrection , no doubt, just don't take in all in at once.

Mute Math

The first track immediately impresses; it explodes into an agitating war-like beat, and then glides into the second track, with a sound that's half obscure and half pop. Sure, some of it's overdone, melodramatic and angsty, but it never loses its way for too long before it comes back to the territory we like. The later tracks are longer-winded, trippy and dynamic, using both technology and talent optimally. There's a fast tempo and a feeling of urgency throughout, and the album works as well in pieces as it does as a whole. They're coming to Knoxville in March, and they should sound great inside the Bijou.