CD Reviews 09/15/10

Above & Beyond, Anjunabeats 8 Above & Beyond, Anjunabeats 8

Taking Stock Of Current Releases

By Eric W. Saeger

Above & Beyond, Anjunabeats 8

Above & Beyond

Anjunabeats 8

(Ultra Records)

It’s funny, I was hoping to avoid jumping the couch over this one and giggling girlishly about how this UK DJ trio make the music of heaven, but being that they recently soundtracked the official unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, maybe that’s not so hyperbolic after all. Once again the fellas stick with what works: upbeat progressive trance that magically combines potent, danceable beats with what has to be described as New Age sensibilities. Doesn’t sound like the toughest trick in the book, but it is when you consider what a horrible state the whole velvet-rope-club scene’s been in for over a year now, with even Digweed and Tiesto wrecking their recent albums out of some blind deference to Justice et al.  Just about everyone sashayed gleefully off the cliff, but these guys have gone on to refuse completely the Kool-Aid they dispassionately sipped on a few stray tracks from Anjunabeats 7.  Disc 1, as has become tradition, is the commuter-reverie stuff, gentle but powerful, full of effervescent and/or soaring synths, controlled hoover, parallel IDM-minded forces, and a few angelic vocal lines (“Chasing Love”). Disc 2 is the 8-cylinder party-hearty vibes.  The beauty part is they’re only the fourth-rated DJ team in the world, so there’s actually something remaining
to prove.

Grade: A+

flatfoot 56

Black Thorn

(Old Shoe Records)

Funny, I’m from Boston, but this Chicago style of Celt-punk resonates better with me than Dropkick Murphys’ stuff. Though the production can be a little cheesy and the punk a little light compared to Dropkicks, FF56
have a well-rounded sound that doesn’t always play to the back of the scuzzy bar, simpatico more with Ramones on the harder bits. That doesn’t go for things like the Street Dogs-worshipping “Smoke Blower,” but these guys know that hardness isn’t exclusively the realm of meathead moshers. In fact, there’s an ‘80s-ness in many places here remindful of Clash, Television, that sort.  The boozy shantytown singalongs reek of mawkish authenticity too (“Shiny Eyes”).

Grade: A-

Melissa Auf
der Maur

Out of Our Minds

(Phi Group Inc.)

Fans of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins will know bassist Auf der Maur (that’s her real name, not some dingbat shibboleth), who joined Courtney Love’s circus after the overdose death of Kristin Pfaff. Her bucket list accomplishments have thus far included forming a Black Sabbath cover band, sleeping with Dave Grohl, and generally being a go-to bassplayer associated with a diverse set of acts ranging from Smashing Pumpkins to Ryan Adams. OOOM is her second album, and if the music were more compelling I’d get off my ass and check the self-titled debut for comparisons, but for our purposes here it really should suffice to note that it’s a bass player’s album. No, not in the sense that Auf der Maur is Stanley Clarke’s Mini Me. I’m saying the lackluster skaggy post-punk riffing that goes on was obviously written on a bass, aimlessly rolling and meandering for some parts, settling into minimalist dumb-bunny grooves for others. It’s got a pulse, sure, but the sell-by date is expired – people don’t even get Lydia Lunch anymore (not that Hole had an iron grip on such punk concepts either). Glenn Danzig makes a bizarre duet partner in the stream-of-semiconsciousness gab-fest “Father’s Grave.”

Grade: B

Paul Manousos

C’Mon C’Mon

(Shock & Fall Recordings)

It takes more than one half-attentive listen to the title track to see that Manousos is influenced by anyone other than Van Morrison, so I’m proud to report that I bit the bullet – I cannot fricking stand Van Morrison – and noted the Elvis Costello in “Outside of Town” and the ‘70s approach to his cover of “Wichita Lineman” (one particularly angsty passage sounds like vintage Moody Blues). More and more voices pop out of the record as it presses on. This San Fran-based world traveler groks the advantages of sounding muddy-crazy, so there’s a hillbilly edge here reminiscent of Deer Tick in the more acoustic numbers and Kings of Leon elsewhere. But wait, he gets kind of Roy Orbison-vs-Robert Plant-ish on “Getting Out,” and then it’s Mick on twangy, stompy closer “Long Long Way Back Home.” The upshot, then, of all this is that Manousos’ voice is more a pastiche of familiarity than a wholly unique sound, but there’s certainly room in the music world for a Kings of Leon gone madly pop-melodic, which is the
general gist.

Grade: A-

Reach DCP freelance writer Eric W. Saeger at

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