Friday, September 18, 2009


Welcome to the next installment of my mini music reviews. I was very excited because two of my fave bands came out with new stuff recently and I thought I'd give them a listen, as well as some tunes that were sent our way from Thrill Jockey. You guys never disappoint!

CLUTCH- Strange Cousins From The West
Clutch is a band that while amazing, are known for being just a little inconsistent. Their flirtation with big labels has resulted in both the classic Elephant Riders and overly slick Pure Rock Fury, and their last label apparently split in the middle of the night leaving only a boarded-up office and some bad distribution strategy. That's rock and roll! Now the boys from Maryland have gone all modern and are putting out albums under their own power, which is commendable. Unfortunately, Strange Cousins doesn't have much to say for itself. Clutch are a bunch of road dogs, constantly touring, and it seems like they need to take some time off. Frontman Neil Fallon has always been known for pouring out his redneck soul into quirky, esoteric lyrics that rank up there with the best, but that isn't so much in evidence here. The band is tight, but the songs don't stand apart. Remember- this is a group that wrote "Muchas Veces," the most rockin' broken heart song ever, where the hapless narrator gets fucked- literally and figuratively- as he follows his gender- and time-shifting ex across the world. Alongside a trombone solo by Delfeayo Marsalis. So, we expect nothing but the best, and perhaps it's time for Clutch to step back from such a rigorous touring schedule and recapture the intensity and high weirdness that ignited their earlier albums.

LIVING COLOUR- The Chair In The Doorway

"Oh, the Living Colour comeback. Right..." Those words were actually uttered about 16 years ago by my then girlfriend when Stain came out, and I'm not sure print really does the sarcasm justice. While it might have seemed unlikely then, with departure of bassist Muzz Skillings after their watershed album Time's Up, it probably seemed even more unlikely a decade later when Collideoscope dropped, with the band having been broken up and all but forgotten by average Joe. In the meantime the members had all pursued various side and solo projects- Vernon Reid's I mentioned in the last TMHU, and Corey Glover made an absolutely spectacular turn as Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar." Just to mention a couple. The past six years have been kind to Living Colour, and they've been continuing to do those same projects, as well as jumping up further in the public consciousness by re-recording their signature anthem "Cult Of Personality" as one of the tougher songs on Guitar Hero 3. What to make of their new disc, then? A little distracted, and perhaps lacking somewhat in the urgency of its predecessor. That's understandable- Collideoscope was a motherfucker of a comeback, and was a powerful disc with only one weak track (a joke cover of "Back In Black"). These are only minor relative complaints, and The Chair In The Doorway is evidence of what four accomplished musicians can do with all the tools at their disposal, and is a fine continuance of this new era of Living Colour's career.

So yeah. Ambient music is, like many musical genres, poorly defined. Underneath this broad umbrella you get cringe-inducing new age (ENYA. I'M TALKING ABOUT ENYA. SHE LIKES JOSH GROBAN'S WEEEEIIIIINEERRRR), rave cool-down joints, indie folk shenanigans, occult metal dronings, musique concrete-inspired avant garde, and everything in between. This release from TJ (Thrill Jockey, not Tom Jones) falls pretty squarely in the latter two categories of avant garde and kitchen sink. I'm not sure what pedigree Urick holds outside what is listed in his bio, but apparently it's enough that he feels he can anchor an ambient album. Now, while I can appreciate the stated approach of using only minimalist sound capture on limited equipment, and having a light touch in mixing and editing to retain the immediacy of performance, in this case I don't feel that it works. Husband never quite leaps above the level of self-indulgent, and even after repeated listen gave me the idea that perhaps this music would work better as the interstitials of more traditional pop or rock music, and not as a full-length ambient work. There's plenty out there that does work within the same space as this- Disintegration Loops for example. Anyone interested in where to start would be keenly advised to head for Kek-W's various essays on ambient music.

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