Known Johnson

July 12, 2007

Catching up (quick reviews)

Filed under: Music,Reviews — Tom @ 8:45 pm

My brain seems to be swamped at the moment trying to sort out all the great new releases this year, and limited time is weighing heavily on me, so here are a few very short impressions of some of the new things I’ve gotten recently (with more due later on some if I’m feelin’ it) . . .

Crowded House – Time On Earth: It’s hard not to hear a ghost lurking in the darkened corners of this album. Whether he is a direct inspiration for the lyrics or not, Paul Hester and his suicide a couple years ago had an obvious effect on the band, who turn out one of their more serious, shadowy albums. While it’s complete with the typical Crowded House wit, there’s a melancholy pervading nearly everything, including the upbeat “She Called Up,” which I can’t help but concoct in my mind as a story about Neil hearing about Paul’s death. The album takes a sharp curve into darker territory toward the last few songs, making it a little harder to leave this album with the rush of beauty that has marked most of their material in the past. The band has grown up and they’ve presented us with something a little more difficult than we might have been expecting. That’s okay – I’ve got plenty of time to digest this one.

Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist: I really wasn’t expecting much – despite wanting to go into it as neutral as possible. And after several listens, I’m left with the impression that this is a pretty good album, despite all the negative hyperbole that has been thrown around for the past few months since news of this release emerged. Billy Corgan plugs into the vital metallic edge of Mellon Collie with touches of Machina and even a bit of his solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, and the catchy, almost sunshine-y attitude of Zwan. So fans wanting more Siamese Dream and Gish era Pumpkins best look elsewhere – this is definitely the metal-tinged band that many of you grew to hate. I, however, am having a lot of fun listening to this one.

Brandi Carlile – The Story: Man, did this one take me by surprise – never heard of this girl before, but read something about her that alluded that she was no watered down, pop princess type. You could kind of get this impression if you looked her up – she’s very young and cute, so this huge, raspy voice of hers will blow you away the first time you hear it, like it did me. Think Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt – but she’s in possession of an additional skill: she also can sing like an angel, bringing immediately to mind Sarah McLachlan in the upper register. More than that, she’s turning out the kind of country-blues that so many vocalist of this caliber skip over because it isn’t going to get them a lot of attention. Deep, soulful, and moving, Carlile brings the goods. Give her a shot.

King Crimson – May 19-21, 2000, Nashville, TN: You won’t find this one in stores, but a tape-trader has released to torrent sites this incredible 4-show set of soundboard recordings from King Crimson’s 3 night stay at 12th & Porter just days before the release of The ConstruKction Of Light. Not my favorite album of theirs, nor my favorite tour (due to Pat Mastelotto’s electronic drums), but something like this is such an incredible rarity that I can’t help but be very excited. This is basically unprecedented – guitarist Robert Fripp has been watching over the band’s shows for ages like a hawk for tapers. He’s even requested that fans in the audience be on the lookout for tapers and photographers – even going so far as to have shirts made up that said fans could buy to wear. Dorky, I know. I don’t know what the deal is here, how this happened, but these fantastic, near-official release quality tapes sure did make my week. BitTorrent and cable internet sure makes things like this easy now – I remember having to shell out BIG bucks for bootlegs not knowing half the time what you were getting. Now I just download the torrent, for free, and if it really sucks I hold Shift and Delete and it’s gone forever. That won’t be happening with these – no, these will be getting archived as their original FLAC files on DVD for safekeeping.

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