New Bruce Springsteen Album: A Wreck Or A Ball?
It's a serviceable week of new record releases!
Glitter and glam? How about that Bruce Springsteen? Sex, guts and glory? Check out the new Blues Traveler compilation! Ardent pacifism? You can't go wrong with Good Old War! Conspiracy theories? New releases by Andrew Bird and I See Hawks in L.A.!
Humans fully capable of growing wings and flying around the country spreading love and happiness via pixie dust?
Sure, that too!
Birth control an issue? Hey, you can put these albums between your knees and it won't be that costly!
Things are looking up all over!
Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (Columbia) Bruce Springsteen's physical transformation from a scraggly upstart to everyone's favorite Uncle Charlie from Mean Streets has been fascinating to watch, but sometimes--when the grip of Pete Seeger won't let him go--less than exciting to hear. This new disc is a little of both Bruces, and as such, it's an interesting listen. At least two songs sound like they're entirely mid-'70s E Street Band-worthy, several more sound like there's been a conscious attempt to change things up sonically (for which we can partially credit producer Ron Aniello, surely), there's a couple of mentions of Jesus, which is no small thing, and songs like "Jack Of All Trades" sound like they might've been written in the '30s, which was probably the idea. In all, it's a fine Springsteen record, though its conspicuous lack of deeply personal songs, which have often been his most rewarding, makes it less than the masterwork many would like it to be. Frankly, if I were him, I'd ask Columbia Records to give him the master of the first Electric Flag album and then record new vocals over it! Then I'd ask them for some money and see where they draw the line!
Andrew Bird: Break It Yourself (Mom + Pop) Is this the sixth album by Chicago-based singer/songwriter Andrew Bird or the six hundredth? All I know is he's quite good, a skilled multi-instrumentalist, and I have every one of his albums and I have played them all at least once! I admire him from a distance! He is the sort of artist that comes along once in every music fan's life, one who represents a crossroads of sorts--as in, if I listen to his guy a few more times I'd probably like him more, but, why do that, when I have other albums I know I'll enjoy even more? And once you go down that road, you're digitizing Thijs Van Leer albums and wondering if Kayak was ever any good! Incidentally, "Bird" is a funny name!
The Magnetic Fields: Love At The Bottom Of The Sea (Merge) Always at the edge of the daring and avant-garde, songwriter Stephin Merritt here fashions a marvelous new album devoted to an imaginary love triangle involving actors Richard Basehart and David Hedison and Superman's one-time girlfriend from the lost continent of Atlantis, mermaid Lori Lemaris! Then he loses the master! So he records a brand new album of Arthur Lee covers and decides it would be pretty cool to hear what it sounds like at the bottom of his swimming pool! But it's nearly inaudible! Then a little kid walks by and mutters, "Stop being so literal, you moron," so he decides to go into the kitchen and try to make a pineapple upside-down cake! Later, he makes a new album!
Blues Traveler: 25 (Hip-O Select) They say that time flies, and they really mean it when they're talking about Blues Traveler, founding fathers of that whole "jam-band" thing that's been around so long it's frightening! Now celebrating their 25th year together, the band is anthologized here in all their glory: 29 tracks, old, new, remixed, unreleased, etc.! Grammy winners, touted as holding the record for "the most appearances of any artist on The Late Show With David Letterman," and fervent proponents of the harmonica, Blues Traveler exist not only for your pleasure but their own! That said, it is a rather nonsensical band name, no?
Mark Lindsay: The Complete Columbia Singles (Real Gone Music) In the scheme of things, when albums such as Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland can get reissued and then re-reissued a dozen or more times, it is a compilation like this--a two-CD set collecting all the singles released by one-time Paul Revere & The Raiders vocalist Mark Lindsay--that really stands out as being needed, functional, and in fact, near-perfect. Not the highest of art, but respectable, and commercial--"Arizona" here was a late '60s hit--for students of the era, this collection is revelatory. Many fine songs penned by a variety of skilled writers display Lindsay's versatile vocal talents, driving home the point that when this stuff was recorded, "singles" artists like Lindsay, as opposed to the era's "album" artists, were unjustly penalized. Track for track? This is great stuff!
Good Old War: Come Back As Rain (Sargent House) A successful return here for Philly-based trio Good Old War, whose skills as musicians and harmonizers make them seem oddly removed from their era. Their live shows continue to draw significant buzz and expand their fan base, and their songwriting--on the evidence of this set--is getting better by the minute. Still, I was always under the impression that war was bad! What do they know that we don't?
Every Time I Die: Ex Lives (Epitath) In many instances, bands that are loud and aggressively obnoxious can best be enjoyed merely by reading their song titles! On this, the group's sixth or seventh album, highlights include "Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space," "Touch Yourself," "I Suck (Blood)," and "Drag King." Pretty funny, huh? I encourage all of you to check out their many song titles--try Amazon, maybe--and have a chuckle, perhaps while listening to Bon Iver or watching the Lakers on TV! Boy, will reading their obituaries be creepy!
Tom Northcott: Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings (Rhino Handmade) In the same manner as the Mark Lindsay collection above, some reissues just come out of nowhere and make you happy indeed. A Canadian folkie who signed to Warner Brothers in the late '60s, Northcott had little Stateside success--but weirdly enough had a regional hit in Miami with his cover of Harry Nilsson's "1941," back when there were such things as regional hits, which I heard well before I'd ever hear Nilsson's original. Featuring 20 of the singer's recordings, including six previously unreleased tracks, this exquisitely packaged set comes via the record-heads at Rhino Handmade, and you can read more about it here. I recommend it highly and, frankly, am surprised it ever saw the light of day. It's a limited edition, so grab it while you can.
Now, Now: Threads (Trans-) An enjoyable romp from Minneapolis-based dudes Now, Now on the label helmed by Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla? Yes, that's exactly what this is! Interestingly textured, energetic, and thoroughly well-produced, the disc will ideally give the band enough career momentum to eventually record a successor entitled Now! Boy, wouldn't that be great?