The Horror! The Horror!

Tales of lad rock, guyliner and the death of screamo


The Rakes

Ten New Messages (V2/Dim Mak)

Interestingly, a relatively recent permutation in the evolution of British guitar rock actually started on our side of the pond: The Strokes begat the sadly ignored-in-America Libertines, who, in turn, spurred the inception of a glut of rakishly endearing boy-gangs with guitars. â“Lad rockâ” is now London's musical milieu of the day, and piles of stylishly scruffy bad boys are cranking out the big chords and sing-along melodies of early punk, albeit with a modern-day twist. This seems like a positive development, right? Well, the Franz Ferdinands, Razorlights, Kaiser Chiefs, and Fratellis of the world really do make for some good fun. Soon enough, however, all of this bouncy refreshment becomes predictably passé and the albums wind up on the stack, neglected.

But never fear, citizens. The Rakes have managed to buck with trend and avoid the proverbial sophomore slump with Ten New Messages , a smartly constructed collection of catchy three-minute songs that provide the requisite sugar rush and also withstand the closer inspection of repeated listening. And, surprise, surprise, the band seems to have scrapped the Wire fixation of their first LP in favor of a sound which is quite similar to, but not patently derivative of the approach employed by The Strokes on their first (and best) album.  

The Rakes offer straightforward melodies perched over staccato eighth-note guitar patterns that sound simple, but that require strict musical regimentation that seems easier than it actually is. Lyrically, the album focuses on the travails of urban life, delivering a level of introspection and intelligence that stands out from that of your usual adolescent yobs. The cerebral factor and musical tightness is what gives the band an edge over their competition. This band bears watching. â" John Sewell

The Horrors

Strangehouse (Polydor)

Riding a wave of manufactured hype, London's bouffant Horrors bear a scarlet letter of prefabrication that would weigh down a lesser band. I mean, in a world where mainstream pop bands festooned in guyliner crank out faux goth anthems by the minute, who needs another allegedly scary troupe of MySpace miscreants? The goth canon has become so laden with yesterday's threats like Marilyn Manson and cuddly gloomsters such as My Chemical Romance, Evanessence, the third, â“darkâ” installment of Spider Man, and even the emergence of a Christian goth subgenre, well, what's threatening or sexy about this stuff?  

By the way, there's a new fast-food product in England called The Dark Whopper, â“inspired by Spider Man III.â” Now that's progress.  

Interestingly, ghoulish fry-cooks of the Horrors are serving some dark whoppers of their own, and they're actually pretty tasty. Drawing comparisons to The Damned, The Birthday Party, and The Sonics, the band cranks out horror rock with such glee and panache, it's difficult to deny their admittedly moronic charms. About as scary as a rerun of â“The Munsters,â” the Horrors bash out a handful of wicked little tunes that are nothing but fun.  

But the band's shockrock fast food, much like the Dark Whopper, is sure to disappear after a limited time. Strangehouse features only 11 short songs, and the last two are obviously filler. Something of a guilty pleasure, the album tastes great at first, and offers no nutritional value whatsoever. That said, I'll probably be making a few more drunken midnight runs to the drive-through. And I'm betting I'll see some of you there. Pass the catsup and be sure mine's blood red. â" J.S.

Chasing Victory

Fiends (Mono vs. Stereo)

Chasing Victory's new album, Fiends , has a diverse array of arrangements that sets it apart from other releases of the rock genre released so far this year. Hailing from Camilla, Georgia, Chasing Victory has been touring with August Burns Red since March, and they will eventually end their tour in Pennsylvania in mid-August of this year. Their freshman album, I Call This Abandonment , was originally heralded as a â“screamoâ” album, but Fiends is quite a departure from that effort. Chasing Victory will remind you of AFI, Linkin Park, and the Foo Fighters all rolled into one hard-rocking band. Among the best tracks on the album are â“Wolves,â” â“Queens,â” â“Janus,â” and the title track, â“Fiends.â” All these tracks stand out so much because they're so good and so unlike anything else on the album. Each song has a one-word title intended to be symbolic of a different vice. The lyrics are full of imagery intended to invoke a reaction in the listener, and depending on your own vices you'll identify with different tracks as you listen. If the intensity during their live shows is anything like their album, it should make for a great show. On the whole, Fiends is a solid album, and Chasing Victory is definitely worth taking the time to listen to. â" J.B.



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