Known Johnson

May 18, 2005

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for May 17, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:18 pm

Sometimes the music industry seems to go into starvation mode for a few weeks, and we seem to be smack-dab in the middle of one of those periods right now. That’s not to say that no notable releases are coming out, but there certainly are fewer of them. That makes my job easier, I suppose – the wheat and the chaff are much easier to identify in times like this.

Mercury Rev: The Secret Migration – I fell in love with the lost, desolate feeling of 1998’s Deserter’s Songs, a title that seems to perfectly sum up the feeling of that album. Mercury Rev is certainly a band that tends to push themselves forward and further with their sound, but the follow up, 2001’s All is Dream felt like the band was, for once, spinning their wheels artistically. To say it was a bad album isn’t fair – it simply wasn’t anything new and was basically a retread of the territory Deserter’s Songs had already covered so successfully. Unless you were an absolute die-hard fan, it’s hard to see how All is Dream could be deemed an essential purchase. It just wasn’t. Four years later, however, the band has managed to get the juices flowing again and turned out The Secret Migration, a lush and yet strangely muscular album that finds the band exploring a slightly more mature sound. That isn’t to say that some won’t find it overly “precious” – Mercury Rev is an unusual band with an elaborate style, fronted by a man whose high, nasal voice is probably the source of most of the band’s criticism (think Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, or even outsider-musician Daniel Johnston.) For those who can look past the odd vocals – or even just plain enjoy them – The Secret Migration is going to provide a lot of enjoyment. It may just be the band’s best album. You would be remiss not shelling out the extra few dollars for the deluxe edition, which features a thirty minute bonus disc with live and non-album tracks.

The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks (DVD) – Speaking of the Lips . . . this weird Oklahoma band is the focus of a retrospective documentary that looks back at the last 20 years from the perspective (and camera-eye) of a friend of the band. If you’re anxious to see the band’s long-awaited Christmas on Mars, maybe this will tide you over. Being such an odd entry into popular music, a documentary on the Flaming Lips cannot be much of a disappointment. Blogcritic Kyle S has a nice review here.

Peter Gabriel: Growing Up on Tour: A Family Portrait (DVD) – A documentary that follows Gabriel around as he toured in support of his fantastic Up album, with daughter Melanie in the band, shot by other daughter Anna, and featuring appearances by his new wife and daughter. Should provide some interesting insight into this reclusive but brilliant artist.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: We Are The Radio – The other subjects of the award-winning documentary film Dig! (the others being the Dandy Warhols) must be getting a bit of a boost on this album due to the extra exposure their name is getting lately. I can’t say I know them, but listening to sound clips on Amazon sure makes a good case for why I need to check them out – full of spit and vinegar, the band churns out the kind of attitude-filled garage rock that most of the bands being labeled with that term only wish they could achieve. Rough and ready, the Brian Jonestown Massacre appear to be the real deal – and that’s both good and bad in human terms, but it sure does make for great music.

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