"This is a sad fuckin' song," Steve Albini snarls as he kicks off "Squirrel Song." "We'll be lucky if I don't bust out cryin'!"
This tussle 'tween sad and mad is the emotional hallmark of 1000 Hurts, the new release from underground veterans Shellac. A leader in angry music since his first band Big Black, guitarist/vocalist Albini joins bassist Bob Weston and drummer Todd Trainer in rockin' your sulks off with their trademark blend of skronk, funk, and math.
The tone is set with the first track, "Prayer to God." Over a martial beat, Steve strums a single chord and pleads for divine judgment against the couple who betrayed him, for "a blow to the base of her neck/ Where her necklaces close Him, just fuckin' kill him/ But first/ Make him cry like a woman/ No particular woman" climaxing with screams of "Kill 'im! Just fuckin' kill 'im! Kill 'im already, kill 'im!"
Paranoia and sorrow lie at the aching heart of songs like "Ghosts," about a woman who lusts for the dead; "Shoe Song," with its mournful deadpan vocals; and the quick-footed curse of the cuckold, "Canaveral:" "Like to put him up there in one/ Blow him up in space/ He'll fertilize the rice in China/ With the cinders of his remains."
After all this melancholy, the last track comes as a relief. With "Watch Song," Shellac achieves catharsis (and shows the ZZ Top influence that gives the band the pelvic punch lacking in its host of imitators). "Hey, man, hey!/ I wanna have a fight with you Let's stop the dance and do what we came here to do!"
Hell, yeah time to stop the pinin' and start the poundin'. Fuck emo! Let's get hurt - 1000 Hurts! -Bill Widener
HAR MAR SUPERSTAR
Har Mar Superstar
Kill All Rockstars
Men, keep a lookout for your ladies. When Har Mar rolls into town, you'll have to chain them up, lest they be lured by his siren song. Harold Martin Tillman, better known to the world as Har Mar Superstar, is not much to look at. He appears to be made mostly out of baby fat. But within his pudgy frame lies the crooning voice of a hip hop lothario. His voice croons, swings, glides and swoops in sultry swoons; Har Mar's ability to harmonize is truly astounding, and he is able to fill each note with an innocent, naive sex-mania.
The accompaniment is largey insubstantial, performed by the most rudimentry of drum machines and casio keyboards, but they are a perfect match to Har Mar's voice box, just getting out of the way as Har Mar presents his unlikely ego in the music. It's all done with a bit of humor; in "R-E-S-P-He Sees Me" Har Mar establishes his volatility and makes it with a girl, or "Baby, Do You Like My Clothes" points out his stylish superiority and makes it with a girl, or the Take-My-Breath-Away-based "I Admit", where Har Mar brings unfliching unhonesty to his relationship after he makes it with a girl. But it's no joke how much funk, class and juice this album has.
It's difficult to know what is more striking: this white boy's attempt to be an Al Green with modern street cred, or his success. -RB
Anyone remember Unplugged, that MTV show spotlighting the acoustic stylings of various musical acts? (This was, of course, before MTV became the Real World Channel and took a stab at music programming)
Sadly, the show choked on its success like a bloated rock star on his own vomit as even the most talent-impaired bands took the stage and acoustic records started popping up everywhere. The class action suit against Tesla for its unforgivably annoying acoustic rendering of "Signs" is still pending.
The new Green Day record recalls the better moments of the early 90s fixation with stripped-down rock. This laid-back collection of happy rockers ("Church on Sunday") and intricate ballads ("Macy's Day Parade") avoids the jangley pitfalls of reheated R.E.M. to evoke thoughts of the Violent Femmes or Rubber Soul-era Beatles.
Some may miss the roar of electric guitars found on earlier Green Day albums and bitch about how "pop" this collection is. Whatever.
The strong, pounding beat of the opening track "Warning" should make the case that there are other ways to convincingly rock without falling back on the lazy garage band habit of sheer volume.
In fact, true Green Day fans should be thrilled by this record because it shows the band can grow.
When Green Day made its initial splash in 1994, the band's hook was showcasing its impressive power to mimic late 70s and early 80s punk bands. How long can that gimmick stay fresh? Fortunately with Warning, Green Day won't be asking the public to answer that question. - ADG