Dead Meadow-s/t

May 17, 2013

Dead Meadow

s/t (Tolotta 2000)

http://www72.zippyshare.com/v/65741584/file.html

In theory, I should probably love everything Dead Meadow ever recorded. They alternate between chugging anthems that crib all the right notes from the best hard rock albums of the 70s and elongated ballads that borrow from the right loners of the 60s. However, the obstacles to a deep appreciation of what they play is the fact that it sometimes feels a bit too much like an homage instead of original and forceful statement of purpose. That’s just a mere quibble since most of my favorites of the past few decades have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar more than once. All of their albums are guilty of this vice, but their debut captures them at an embryonic moment when all the edges were still jagged and the connections between influences not quite so obvious. They’re still feeling their way towards an identity and it kind of captures them at a place where there was a wide-eyed sense of wonder and they kind of let it all hang out. I also have fond memories of this album because it really stuck out like a sore thumb in the rock and roll landscape as the band didn’t really have a niche as the deservedly short-lived era of stoner rock was petering out and indie-rock was kind of in a woeful state in the year 2000. They were kind of a square peg that kind of sounded like an emasculated Black Sabbath with a fondness for the sounds of Nuggets and Spacemen 3. That was enough for me then and it still is thirteen years later.

This all sounds like half-hearted praise, but I really do dig Dead Meadow and their later albums have grown on me in recent years even though I still haven’t quite reconciled myself with the nasal whine of Jason Simon who is the nephew of David Simon, the brilliant mind behind The Wire and Treme. Yes, it’s pointless trivia, but I always thought it was a neat little factoid. His voice doesn’t ruin the whole enchilada like that John Garcia’s repellent snarl in Kyuss, but it sometimes mars the impact of his guitar playing which often matches the bruising, rugged heights of the idols they so eagerly ape. The opener “Sleepy Silver Door” is a perfect example of this conundrum as the band offers a perfect introduction to their bread and butter. Simon’s riff overtakes the song and kind of falls somewhere between a clumsy, yet forceful combo of Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath and Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs. It’s that good, but could be so great if the vocals matched the majesty of what his fingers hath wrought. It’s a bit of hyperbole, but it comes within spitting distance of it.

“Dragonfly” is another perfect slice of why Dead Meadow is capable of raising the bar beyond talented tribute as they carve out some unforseen landscape that taps into taps into the same well water the Verve were drinking on A Storm in Heaven. Like that classic album, it’s arena rock re-imagined for the small stage as they pen an anthem that kind of spills over the edge to the point that it kind of feels like it lasts forever. It’s kind of epic even though it only lasts four minutes. It kind of reminds me of the masculine counterpoint to Bardo Pond’s “Be a Fish” off of their Amanita album. Yes, it’s an overly esoteric reference, but listen to the two songs back to back and see if you jive with what I’m selling.

What makes Dead Meadow’s debut stand as their finest moment is that they kind of tried to encapsulate all that they loved into one single album and the end result is a flawed, but enigmatic mess that somehow captures the essence of all I love about the early 90s and mid 70s in a variety of styles: pseudo-shoegaze meltdowns, bluesy posturing and thudding riffs that I can hang my hat upon in times of jubilation. It ain’t perfect, but it beats the pants off of the majority of rock albums of the 2000s.

Bowery Electric-s/t

January 19, 2013

Bowery Electric

s/t (Kranky 1995)

ttp://www41.zippyshare.com/v/13064368/file.html (NEW LINK)

In my addled and biased opinion, Bowery Electric’s self-titled debut might be one of my favorite rock albums of the 1990’s. It’s definitely the near zenith of the Kranky Records discography as it kind of conjures an alternate universe where Spacemen 3 stuck to smoking weed instead of the harder stuff and laid up at night listening to old Slowdive and selected platters of 4ad’s finest. Both bands share that innate ability to jam out a hypnotically monotonous guitar riff that overtakes the entire song and leaves you wishing you could edit out the vocals because it’s just that good and it really has no business ever stopping. The best parts of Bowery Electric’s debut is when the band channels the vibe of Spacemen 3’s “When Tomorrow Hits” and replaces its dark, nihilistic vibe with something more airy and eerie. That track kind of serves as spiritual forefather for what goes down on this album as guitarist Lawrence Chandler plays with the same slow-motion desolation as the original, yet there’s something going on that’s entirely his own. It’s kind of funny that dozens of bands have done a fair to middling job of sounding like Spacemen 3, but no band has ever copied or emulated what Bowery Electric were doing here since its release. Hell, Bowery Electric didn’t even come close to duplicating the vibe of this one as they quickly switched gear on its follow-up, Beat, and became something much less palatable.

This is an album that ebbs and flows kind of organically. It has a perfect balance of slowly throbbing guitar codas that gradually give way to more gentle numbers that let everything echo into a sea of reverb and the tension between the two give it an almost epic quality at times. Unsurprisingly, “Slow Thrills”, the best track on the album, somehow combines the two and the result is positively glorious. All three members get their time in the sunshine here as drummer Michael Johngren and bassist/vocalist Martha Schwendener lock into a stoner two-step that makes these ten minutes all too fleeting. She dourly intones into the micropohone and the whole band breaks a lengthy crescendo that gradually loses a battle to a soothing interlude designed to ease your mind before they club you over the head one more time until its close.

It’s actually kind of a grim and joyless album. However, it’s the perfect album for those moments when you just want to listen to a gloriously monotonous album and blithely nod along for forty minutes. Actually, that sounds like most of my music listening habits, so it’s no surprise that I reach for this album more than most.

Spectrum

Geracao Bendita (Shadoks reissue of 1971 album)

http://www.mediafire.com/?z5gpzouyfgf

Once you stray outside of Tropicalia’s inner circle of Brazilian psychedelic royalty (Gilberto Gil, Gaetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and Tom Ze) there are so many more misses than hits. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to find an album that holds its own against any album recorded by the aforementioned artists. This Spectrum has nothing to do with Pete Kember of and his brilliant continuation of Spacemen 3’s work, but this Spectrum was assembled to perform the soundtrack to a Brazilian hippie flick.

Consisting of actors and actresses in the film as well as members of the 2000 Volts band, this Spectrum has much love for Os Mutantes’ first two classic albums, but the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour albums as well. Vocalists jump from English to Portuguese without rhyme or reason as the band professes their love of peace, love and understanding, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. The main attraction is in how this suddenly assembled band deftly builds upon the sound of Os Mutantes and slathers the tracks in fuzz guitar.

However, there is one track on Geracao Bendita that still floors me a year after I first stumbled upon it. “Mother Nature” combines the Brazilian vibes of Tropicalia, the wide eyed optimism of the Beatles and the laid-back West Coast vibes of Haight-Ashbury in one track. It’s Abbey Road, After Bathing at Baxters and Os Mutantes in one sitting. The rest of Geracao Bendita is good, but this track makes me grin from ear to ear. There is not hyperbole in my mutterings. I really, really love this song.