By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Not all the tracks are vintage. Jon Cutler’s “It’s Yours” is one of today’s house-club staples, and there ain’t a lovelier, dirtier modern-day soul voice than the one belonging to Moloko’s Roisin Murphy, who sings “Never Enough.” Those tracks are on the disc of “uplifting selections.” The other disc has “laidback selections” (Les Nubians, Deep Sensation, Maze), since groove is equally effective as a club or tub performance. (Tommy Nguyen)
THE MELODY UNIT
Choose Your Own Adventure (Hidden Agenda)
Comet of the Season (Backburner)
David Barbe, former bassist with Bob Mould’s Sugar and current engineer-producer, recorded his solo debut between projects over the past few years — and it sounds it. But his muscular, Beatles-via-Robyn-Hitchcock-influenced pop songs offer far more than just the showcase of intriguing sounds and textures you’d expect from a producer. He gives a fresh twist to familiar ideas — the odd, chord-bending guitars in “Two Small Stones” and “Medicine Takeover”; the rich, airy vocal mix in “Nickel a Minute” — and if cuts like the dreamy “Soft Distant Light” and “Silver White Flash” are too Hitchcockian, no problem, Hitchcock hasn’t sounded this good since Perspex Island.
Meanwhile, the Melody Unit takes more of an ensemble approach. Like New Jersey’s Speed the Plough or a more organic Stereolab, M.U. layers waves of shimmering guitars, squishy analog synths, and the wispy vocals of Jessica Folsom and Kevin Kelly over a gentle, driving pulse. Too often, “dreamy pop” translates to lack of substance. Not so with this batch of tunes, which is more focused and refined than the band’s previous efforts. The rhythm section is powerful without overpowering — a key ingredient to making the mechanical pulse of “Go (Or Not Go)” and the folk-pop of “Welcome Back Tomorrow” propulsive rather than wimpy. Even when the tunes are more about mood than song — “Snoqualmie” builds and swirls for half of its seven minutes, and the five-minute “Prepare the Juggernaut” consists almost entirely of two alternating chords — there’s a method to the music.
Two very different records by two very different artists from opposite ends of the U.S. (Georgia and Seattle). So, what’s the connection? Both are warm, personal, hand-tooled efforts by folks with a genuine musical vision — and the chops to pull it off. (Michael Lipton)
In Wes Craven’s 1977 horror classic The Hills Have Eyes, an urban family is stranded in the desert and terrorized by the local cannibals, and the surviving members must get in touch with their “inner savage” to triumph over their tormentors. Twenty years later, Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme began a similar social experiment in the form of the “Desert Sessions,” sticking a revolving cast of musicians in a small Joshua Tree studio. Free of the usual constraints, the players reconnect with the demons and desires that motivated them in the first place. The results are often as compelling as they are weird, but unlike in Craven’s film, the only things that get killed are brain cells.
This latest installment was written and recorded in six days by a motley cast including Homme, Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/Queens of the Stone Age), Samantha Maloney (Hole), Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Fred Drake (Earthlings), and Natasha Schneider and Alain Johannes (Eleven/Chris Cornell Band). Despite the participants’ hard-rock pedigrees, the 13 tracks feature mostly acoustic instrumentation. With their droning harmonies and martial beats, “Don’t Drink Poison,” “Up in Hell,” “Nenada” and “Making a Cross” could all be souvenirs from the Queens’ summer vacation in the Balkans; “Hanging Tree,” which features Lanegan on lead vocals, exudes the forceful yet mysterious air of his best work with the Screaming Trees.
For those with a taste for the unhinged, there are the hilarious audio collages of “Winners” and “Interpretive Reading,” and Drake’s cocktail-lounge ballad “Courvoisier,” with its seductive chorus, “Ooh I really miss you/Since I killed you.” Throw in a 90-second medley of cock-rock concert clichés (“Ending”) and a piano bench collapsing under the combined weight of Homme and Goss (“Piano Bench Breaks”), and it all adds up to the sound of several talented people having a blast to- .gether. Now the rest of us can join in on the fun. (Dan Epstein)