Saturday, December 09, 2006

Twelve From: Best of 2006 List

This is The Crutch's Top 12 of 2006 - in no order. Needless to say, several great albums were not included.

SSM - SSM (Alive)
[mp3] The freshest and best rock and roll this year.

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)
[live mp3] Probably won't be the best album they'll inevitably create, but this debut blows away the majority of the field.

Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang (Domino)
[mp3] Arctic who? Franz who? You should know Archie Bronson Outfit.

The M's - Future Women (Polyvinyl)
[live mp3] The drumming alone makes this album a must listen, but the over all craftsmanship puts it on this list.

Comets on Fire - Avatar (Sub Pop)
[mp3] The heaviest of the bunch, but it's just more to love.

Jay Reatard - Blood Visions (In the Red)
[mp3] The best thing Jay Reatard has done - and that's a statement within itself.

King Khan & the BBQ Show - What's For Dinner? (In the Red)
[mp3] If you've forgotten what rock and roll sounded like, listen to this album.

Soledad Brothers - The Hardest Walk (Alive)
[mp3] The last album this band may ever put out, but it's an impressive one.

Catfish Haven - Tell Me (Secretly Canadian)
Simple, soulful, and passionate - not much else is needed.

Functional Blackouts - Severed Tongue Speaks For Everyone (Criminal IQ)
[mp3] This isn't your average punk album - it'll put hair on your chest.

The Black Angels - Passover (Light in the Attic)
[mp3] Psychedelia done right.

The Drones - Miller's Daughter (Bang!)
[mp3] The Drones are the best band from down under since Radio Birdman.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Four From: a live setting

T. Rex - 20th Century Boy (German TV - Musikladen - 1973)
If not for Marc Bolan, David Bowie would've never been David Bowie.

The Reigning Sound - We Repel Each Other (Goner Fest - 2005)
The best band that the general public has never heard of.

The White Stripes - Hello Operator/Baby Blue (Peel Sessions - 2001)
This version of "Hello Operator" (minus the cover of Gene Vincent's "Baby Blue") is what made them popular in England (before the U.S.), and this session impressed John Peel so much that he touted them as the most exciting live act since Jimi Hendrix.

The Beatles - Money (Swedish Radio - 1963)
If I heard this in 1963, I'm sure I would've shit my pants as well.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Three From: 1989

The Pixies - Tame (Doolittle)
If the timing was right, The Pixies would've been Nirvana.

The Gories - I Think I've Had It (House Rockin')
Thank god for Mick Collins.

Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule (Let Love Rule)
Kravitz had some real talent before he became a "rock star."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Three From: 1979

George Thorogood - Who Do You Love (Move It On Over)
Over his career, Thorogood's covers are better than the originals themselves, including this Bo Diddley tune.

The Cars - Bye Bye Love (The Cars)
Hands down one of the best debut albums ever.

Wire - I Am the Fly (Chairs Missing)
Who would've guessed this Brits would have such an influence?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Three From: 1966

Nancy Sinatra - Lightning's Girl (How Does That Grab You?)
I'm waiting for Jack White to cover this.

The Sonics - Cinderella (Boom)
The godfathers of punk.

Love - My Flash On You (Love)
Love, The Zombies, and The Kinks (in a popular sense) are the three most unappreciated bands of the 1960s.

A New Direction

Monte has decided to go a different direciton. All our few contributors are busy doing other things, but we still would like to contribute to the world of music by introducing folks to new and old music. Therefore, we are moving in another direction. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Ettes – Shake the Dust (SFTRI)

Jonk’s Music Blog

“The Ettes are a band you'll love to love, bringing with them a magical story, a great look, and a killer sound.”

I was surprised at some of the side information this little piece was offering, but then I got to the end, read this quote, and saw that this was the press release off of BMI. You couldn’t just say two lines in your own words? Christ. What’s the point?

Review Rating: n/a


Big Stereo
Writer: Travis

"I’ve hated The Ettes for about one year now. To be honest it is totally not fair. Easy now, I’m working it out. You know when you hate the prettiest girl in the room just because she’s hot? And you kind of just want her to trip up because you’re a little bit envious or jealous or whatever. It’s kind of like that. The Ettes are hot, and I kind of want them to trip.

A year ago their music was sloppy in a bad way. They sounded like a high school band at their first battle of the bands. But. Ok.They had a change of bass players and have totally 100% pulled it together. I’m glad. Their new single “No More Surprises” is totally worth checking out. They are so much tighter as a band… like they’re listening to each other play. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the production is totally top notch. The Ettes have found perfect pop rock."

Did you hate them because they were popular or because their music was “sloppy”? I’m guessing this isn’t really supposed to be a review...or even writing. The odd thing is that The Ettes quote this. Yes, totally.

Review Rating: 8%


The Beacon (Florida Int’l University Newspaper)
Writer: Samanta Qui’on

“Blending Nancy Sinatra style with the fiery swagger of the Stooges, the Ettes are the latest band to hit garage punk.

The trio formed just two years ago in L.A. and nabbed a record deal with Sympathy for the Record Industry through live shows and the support of local radio.

Shortly thereafter, their debut album, Shake the Dust, was recorded with renowned London garage rock producer Liam Watson.

With most songs averaging around two and a half minutes, there's no room to get bored.”

It reads like something from a college newspaper, but at least she’s covering a band nobody knows about, while doing a decent job at comparing the band’s sound.

Review Rating: 50%


Conclusion From Reviews:
The Ettes are said to sound like...The Stooges, The Ramones, Nancy Sinatra, Patsy Cline, Shangri-Las, Holly Golightly, The Rolling Stones, The Slits...and they’re garage rock...pop. And everyone digs it.

We barely found anything on The Ettes – nobody covered this band, even though they made it to 15 on CMJ’s top 200. They did indeed move from NY to LA, but might have benefited from a stay in Memphis along the way to get a little fried chicken grease into their sound. They have all the logistics in place - recording with Liam Watson, being on Sympathy, and getting a natural buzz - but like their cover of Reigning Sound’s “We Repel Each Other”, The Ettes’ inclination to over-polish their sound will leave fans of their influences skeptical. We definitely give them credit for the effort, and we certainly recommend this over a lot that is out there, but if you find yourself loving this, do yourself a favor and have a taste of a female-led band that has a little more bite to it, such as Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra. The Ettes are worth a listen, but they haven't earned any invitations to bed.

Found Ettes Tracks:
No More Surprises

Reputation (live at Cinespace)
You can actually find this entire Cinespace set at YouTube. Just search on The Ettes.

Additional Listening:
Reigning SoundWe Repel Each Other (live at Goner Fest '05)
Miss Alex White and the Red OrchestraOut of Style
The Stooges – Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell
The Slits – So Tough
Nancy Sinatra – Lightning’s Girl
Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight
The Shangri-Las – Sophisticated Boom Boom
Holly Golightly – Virtually Happy

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monte's New Music Supplement #1

Here's some rock and roll that you won't hear on the radio, see on MTV, or find reviews of in major magazines. Suckers don't know what they're missing.

Carbonas - Cold Waste (S/T - Raw Deluxe)
Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy - Makeout/Breakout (Live at Double Door - In the Red)
Fe Fi Fo Fums - In the Summertime (In the Summertime 7" - Boom Boom)
Jay Reatard - Blood Visions (Blood Visions - In the Red)
The King Khan & BBQ Show - Treat Me Like a Dog (What's For Dinner? - In the Red)
River City Tanlines - I'm Your Negative (I'm Your Negative - Dirtnap)
Dead Brothers - Trust in Me (Wunderkammer - Voodoo Rhythm)
The Nevermores - I Lost Lenore (Live at KDHX - 2006)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Comets On Fire – Avatar (Sub Pop)

Village Voice
Writer: Nikhil Swaminathan

“Over three albums, Comets on Fire proved themselves the type of band that compelled you to check the volume on your Discman/iPod before pressing play. Their take on psychedelia paired standard, bright organ tones and meandering guitar lines, furiously stirring them into a dusty typhoon of whirring Echoplex delay loops and inscrutable, near-hoarse vocals drifting by in ghostly waves. Or, for the crowd that craves conciseness: The band sounds like entropy put to CD.”

* If you don’t know your audience, you shouldn’t be writing the review. The writer wastes this half of their short review trying to be cute. I’m not reading Henry James – if you can be economical, do so.

“In terms of sheer intensity of sound, it's as if the Comets of old have been miniaturized and are looking up at you from inside a Grateful Dead lunch box.”

* This is so far off base that we laughed at the absurdity of this statement.

A completely wasted first paragraph, and some drastic misdirection in regards to the band’s sound, leaves this review impotent and hardly worth the data storage space it takes up on the Village Voice server.

Review Rating: 18%


Austin Chronicle
Writer: Audra Schroeder
Chronicle Rating: 4 stars

“Comets on Fire have finally gotten a handle on their big, hot noise.”

* Powerful jab in the first line, and it’s only potent because the writer successfully supports this statement throughout the rest of the review.

“And then, abruptly, it's over. Solid and gaseous, dark and light in all the right places, this is the Comets' brightest so far.”

* Straight-shooting, encapsulating concluding line.

This is a wonderful piece of writing. The writer backs up the statements, manages to include comparisons to previous releases, gives a lyric example, and talks a bit about the background of the band’s members…in a 255-word review! If you want to know about Comets on Fire’s Avatar, read this review. It’s a near-perfect review.

Review Rating: 96%


Stylus Magazine
Writer: Andrew Gaerig
Stylus Rating: B

“Comets on Fire have been underground rock’s best big-dick band since 2001; all of the psycho-sexual analysis about boys and their huge, noisy guitars, their missionary drum beatings, and their ritualistic raping/pillaging/chest-thumping: all true. K-K-K-K-Katmandu or bust, motherfuckers.”

* Did he just compare Comets On Fire to Bob Seger?

“At the center of this new focus, unfairly lost in the coming-to-a-hipster-near-you “they changed!” tempest, is not only some pretty worthwhile songwriting, but what are unquestionably the most nuanced and skillful compositions the Comets have ever conceived. Quivering prisms, gathered moss, motorik tension all mole their way into the strata; where once was a short, brutish master now lies a patient captain.”

* This is a valuable statement, but it comes more than halfway into the review, which is to say it comes too late.

“It is, instead, the band’s shimmering, addled mastery that propels the album, their arrangements more complex, their pop crate-digging more subtle. Avatar shows Comets capable of a level of sophistication and skill previously unconsidered. Their inner rock beasts may be screaming for Bob Seger, but a push toward their druggier, blustery work could yield the loutish classic they’ve been threatening for half a decade.”

* He did liken them to Bob Seger. Fuck. It’s a gratifying conclusion, but the Bob Seger references have to go.

It’s not an awful review, but it simply takes too long to get to the meat of what the writer is saying. It sounds like the writer is trying too hard to sound like a music critic – if he would’ve just written the review without all the clever flare, he would have had more success. The information is in there, but there’s too much the reader has to get through in order to extract it.

Review Rating: 55%


Conclusion From Reviews:
Everyone seems to agree that Comets On Fire have improved upon their foundations and have finally reached the potential they’ve shown they had in the past. The vocals are clearer and the music is more concise and focused. Almost everyone recommended this Sub Pop release (and we agree).

The psychedelic backdrop of Comets On Fire is unavoidable, but didn’t anyone recognize the jazz-like musical rants that beg some Allman Brothers comparisons? Although producer Tim Green is no Tom Dowd, he does a notable job on Avatar, bringing out the best of COF – taking out the masturbation jams and ushering in the artistic dynamics that made the Allman Brothers, and even the MC5, important.

Found Comets On Fire Tracks:
1. Dogwood Rust
2. Jaybird
3. Lucifer's Memory
4. The Swallow's Eye
5. Holy Teeth
6. Sour Smoke
7. Hatched Upon the Age

Additional Listening:
Howlin' Rain - In Sand and Dirt
Howlin' Rain - Roll on the Rusted Days
Colossal Yes - Just Like a Mademoiselle
Colossal Yes - The Honeycreeper Smiles
Six Organs of Admittance - Bless Your Blood
Six Organs of Admittance - The Desert is a Circle
Six Organs of Admittance - Wolves Pup
Six Organs of Admittance - Black Wall

Monday, October 02, 2006

Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang (Domino)

Stylus Magazine
Writer: Justin Cober-Lake
Stylus Rating: B+

“The songwriting and composition makes the frequent garage/blues-rock comparisons shortsighted. While the UK band has tapped into the Southern gothic tradition, they resist becoming a part of it. Part of the joy of listening to the new album comes from the rush of near-relations that prove irrelevant just as the ABO train knocks them off the tracks.”

* Forceful correction of common misinterpretations by other media outlets is very much needed in criticism, and when it’s spot on, as this one is, it’s important that the reader gets the most accurate information and perspective.

“Even with its use of repetition and cross-reference, the album doesn't have a moment of excess. Windett may sing that he's "just dust and lust," but he and his band have put some craft into elevating, not that truth, but that fear. In doing so, they've sacrificed neither skill nor feeling, allowing the combination to feed into something bigger.”

* Another confident statement – excellent, especially coming in the concluding paragraph.

This writer has listened to this album through and through. His in-depth look at the lyrics shows he wasn’t cleaning his apartment while spinning the record – he displays an intimacy that every writer should strive for in a review. Everything is direct and to the point, without fluffing, and more importantly, sans the obligatory knockdowns that writers feel they need to include to sound objective.

Review Rating: 91%

Writer: Alan Baban
Cokemachineglow Rating: 65%

“Twenty puckered assholes crushed like mangos against the ramp -- if my memory serves me well, the peroxide bozo who had flagrantly disrupted Yo La Tengo’s set with requests for “MR. TOUGHHH!!” collapsed in a laughing sweat. The water cooler fountain had turned to steam; the Archie Bronson outfit executed coup after coup of bone vibrato, eschewing the Picnic and just plugging into the mainline. Those who bothered to turn up for their noontime Electric Picnic session in Dublin were treated to three south Londoners somehow evincing the embryonic murmur of Viking conquerors.”

* Awful introduction. Nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about, and as a quarter of the review, this is a waste of space, time, and energy – and it deters the reader from moving forward to hear what you have to say.

“Ultimately, there is enough great material here to keep a solid fanbase interested, and Derdang Derdang will no doubt attract new followers. The revolution, however, will have to wait: this recorded sound comes nowhere near their full-throttle potential; this album introduces the Archie Bronson Outfit minus their desensitising party trick; this collection disguises the fact that its better songs could swing like nooses on fire, titillating the tainted love of over-embellished Franz-a-likes if they were swimming a bit more left of the dial. The actual results simply leave this debut as a promising pamphlet manifesto, and not the Maenad-swarming rally cries their live show would have you expect.”

* First, use spellcheck (writer's fault just as much as the editor's). Secondly, again with the incoherent ranting. Thirdly, this isn’t their debut. The actual results of this review are conclusive: it's shit.

Read the remark above regarding shit. He rips the production – the producer is Jacquire King, who engineered most of Tom Waits’ 21st Century albums, Kings of Leon’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, and Modest Mouses’ acclaimed Good News... Not a bad resume, but the point is that King has proven he is able to give the proper sound to the specific artist. On a side note, Hotel, one half of The Kills, produced their first album, Fur.

Review Rating: 16%

Writer: Lee Fullington
Prefixmag Rating: 4 stars

“Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, the band's second full-length is the juddering result of what happens when you lock three English guys in an old and possibly decaying farmhouse with just their instruments and then thrust them off to the American South to see what kind of feral voodoo claws its way into a record. This album is so dirty you can see the filth caked under its fingernails. It's garage rock, sure, but it's so much bigger and heavier and totally bloody-knuckled from a bar fight.”

* A few statements that end up not having a lot of support, but to the writer’s credit, it’s a short review, and he makes statements like he knows what he’s talking about…

“It's all the frustration of wanting to be with your lover when she's not there, a feeling that's heightened because the taste of her lips is still on yours -- probably because you bit hers and drew blood.”

* …and though the review lacks specific examples from the lyrics, the writer obviously understands the spirit and meaning of the album. Regarding examples, again, it’s a brief review, so you can get by without them.

“Jacquire King is a beast of a producer. The drums on "Dart for My Sweetheart" are heavy and hollow, as if they're in a huge warehouse and all the air is getting swallowed up in the toms. "Got to Get Your Eyes" is sinister, a contusion of noise. It's so heavy that it made me queasy.”

* That last line is perfectly simple, bringing home his point.

Decent mid-length review, but it’s missing a solid conclusion, and as stated before, that will hurt any review. However, the writer gives the basics so well that it’s difficult not to praise his efforts, and the reader will not have a problem understanding what this album is about and whether they should pick it up or not.

Review Rating: 76%


Conclusion From Reviews:
This album is catchy, is about unrequited love, combined with the desperate teeter-totter of wanting it back and wanting to get over it, and is heavily laced with sexual desire. The Archie Bronson Outfit do not fall into any one hole of sound – they have created a style they can call their own. There’s no doubt it’s good, but it is apparent that it’ll come down to individual taste to determine whether you’ll like it, like-like it, or love it. Sample and see.

The actually has a nice little bio on Archie Bronson Outfit. Being on Domino has been a curse just as much as its been a blessing, with Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys overshadowing ABO the last couple years. The kicker is that ABO may be the best of the bunch.

Found Archie Bronson Outfit Tracks:
1. Cherry Lips
2. Kink
3. Dart for My Sweetheart
4. Got to Get (Your Eyes)
5. Dead Funny
6. Modern Lovers
7. Cuckoo
8. Jab Jab
9. How I Sang Dang
10. Rituals
11. Harp for My Sweetheart

Cherry Lips (this video is definitely rated R)
Dart For My Sweetheart
Dead Funny

ABO is touring the United States at the end of October. They're hitting LA, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, D.C., Philly, Cambridge, and NYC.

Additional Listening:
Tom Waits - Coney Island Baby (from Blood Money)
Kings of Leon - The Bucket (from Aha Shake Heartbreak)
Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo (from Aha Shake Heartbreak)
Modest Mouse - Float On (from Good News For People Who Love Bad News)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Additional Supplement to Soledad Brothers

The Crutch shut down before it could present this playlist done by Soledad Brothers' drummer, Ben Swank. We now offer it here, at Monte's Gauntlet (thanks to Chad for hosting the tracks), as a special supplement. One note: the title of the playlist was created by Swank as well.

"10 Songs To Groove To On a Pain Killer Cocktail After Being Administered a Particularly Nasty Beating From Overzealous Security Goons"

Lightnin' Hopkins - Black Ghost
Geeshie Wiley - Last Kind Word Blues
Skip James - Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
Abner Jay - Cocaine Blues
Alexander Spence - Little Hands
Bill Fay - Scream in the Ears
13th Floor Elevators - Slip Inside This House
The Outsiders - Misfit
Mammatus - Dragon of the Deep: Part 2
Black Sabbath - all of Volume 4 (Monte chose "Changes")

Soledad Brothers - The Hardest Walk (Alive)

The Onion AV Club
Onion Rating: B+

“Detroit's Soledad Brothers started life as one of those bluesy guitar-and-drum duos that seem to spring up like weeds in local garage-rock scenes, and though they've since added another guitarist and the occasional guest player, Soledad Brothers still cling to the raw, rootsy sound that stripped-down duos do best.”

* In one sentence, they give not only the history, but also an update as to what they are now and a clue as to what the band sounds like.

“The Soledads grapple with self-consciousness, and overcome it whenever they slip music past their own heads and into their bones.”

* Simple and direct conclusion.

Quality brief review. It’s nice when writers are forced to be economical and brief with their thoughts – most of the time, it turns out for the best. They do a good job of running through the release they’re reviewing, but I would always like to see some talk about past releases, especially when you’re talking about a band that has had four previous albums. However, space was obviously limited – no harm done to the reader.

Review Rating: 83%


The Washington Post
Writer: Mark Jenkins

“The band's new album, "The Hardest Walk," features four players -- only three officially Soledad sibs -- and a style that employs the blues as a foundation rather than as a straitjacket.”

* Wonderful statement that tells the reader which way the band goes in this subgenre that has a 50% success (or failure) rate.

“The brief "White Jazz" suggests that the band has even been listening to Albert Ayler, or at least the first MC5 album.”

* Offshoot information or insight is always appreciated by a knowledgeable reader and music fan.

It’s a preview review for a concert, so it’s short, but it does its job and would intrigue anyone who didn’t know the band – maybe even enough to put them in line at the concert.

Review Rating: 74%


Rolling Stone
Writer: Lauren Gitlin
RS Rating: 3 stars

“At their best, Soledad Brothers recall the Rolling Stones when Mick and Keith were fresh-faced bluesheads in the mid-Sixties: The prolific Detroit foursome kicks out solid, harmonica-laced blues riffs without sounding derivative or cheesily nostalgic.”

* I like the reference, and we kind of get the idea, but this misplaces the band, and isn’t very accurate, as the Soledad Brothers’ diversity in sound is more late 60s, early 70s Stones (especially Exile era).

“Meet the Motor City's newest hitmakers.”

* Again, we get the point, but the band isn’t new, and if you want to introduce them as “hitmakers,” do a longer review on them.

Big and bold, but brief and no support for the statements. What’s really sad (for RS) is that I must say it’s good to see Rolling Stone show some support for such an unknown band. So, in that sense, this review is wonderful.

Review Rating: 65%


Conclusion From Reviews:
This is an album to pick up – everyone is satisfied with it or raving about it. However, as stated, it would be nice to hear about who the Soledad Brothers are and what they have done until now. They’re said to be bluesy, but not completely, offering a variety of sounds and styles.

The Soledad Brothers started as a duo known as Henry & June, who had one release (Goin’ Back to Memphis) and consisted of Johnny Walker (singer/guitar) and Ben Swank (percussion). They added Oliver Henry around 2002 as an official third Soledad Brother. Several unofficial Soledad Brothers have contributed to the albums, including Meg White (White Stripes), Patrick Pantano (The Dirtbombs), Mr. David Viner, and currently, multi-instrumentalist, Dechman. Interesting tidbits related to these guys: Johnny Walker is rumored to have taught Jack White how to play slide guitar, Ben Swank has a song named after him – “Been Swank” by The Von Bondies, and Oliver Henry was once Brian Olive from The Greenhornes – and was dismissed from the band after an on-stage brawl with lead singer Craig Fox.

Gossip aside, Soledad Brothers got much buzz early on due to some touring with The White Stripes, as well as their debut album’s liner notes being written by MC5 manager, John Sinclair. They’ve also played as a back up band for Mr. David Viner. Starting with two phenomenal and practically overlooked albums on Estrus (Soledad Brothers, Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move), they moved on to Dim Mak for a live album, and then to Sanctuary with their fourth, Voice of Treason, before releasing The Hardest Walk on Alive here in 2006.

Found Soledad Brothers Tracks:
Downtown Paranoia Blues (The Hardest Walk)
The Elucidator (Voice of Treason)
Break ‘Em On Down (Steal Your Soul…)
Front St. Front (Soledad Brothers)

Additional Listening:
Henry and June – Goin’ Back to Memphis
Mr. David Viner – Sally Jay

Good Feeling
Handle Song

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller (ATO)
Writer: Aaron McMullan

“Ben Kweller opens with "Run", which you'll remember from a couple paragraphs ago, and what "Run" does is it makes a couple things clear with regards what a fella can expect over the duration of the album, thematically and musically. With regards the former, themes of running. That's what we're talking about. Running.”

* It takes the writer too long to get to this. He mentions masturbating in his teens (contrasting his experiences with Kweller’s, who was touring the world at 15), when in fact, he’s still jerking off – this time, with his writing. Get to the point.

“Ben Kweller's songs, you can find out if folks've heard them by taking a stool sample. They cluster and bunch and swell in every corner of a person's being, traces of them skit about the gastrointestinal tract for months afterwards. Special kindsa songs, y'unnerstann, they'll do that.”

* If you’re trying to compliment someone’s music, don’t use shit as an analogy.

This review is way too long, completely self-involved, and a poor attempt at being clever. It’s not worth wading through this review to get information.

Review Rating: 12%


Drowned in Sound
Writer: Ben Marwood
Drowned in Sound Rating: 7

“Harking back to the days of Sha Sha’s ‘Lizzy’, ‘In Other Words’ and ‘Falling’, Ben Kweller is tender, fragile and devoted. Gone are the grunge-pop moments, the raw recordings and the fuzzy distortion - in many ways it's all for the best. This is Kweller’s most complete-sounding long-player yet, a fully-formed entity whereas his previous outings skipped playfully from one feel to the next.”

* A firm statement here in the second paragraph, but it’s exactly what’s said in the first paragraph.

“If there’s a criticism to be made of Ben Kweller, it's that it might be a little too straightforward in places, maybe even a little samey. A high percentage of its eleven songs are ballads or just slower numbers, rarely deviating from the path they initially set out on. The new, ‘mature’ sound is a pleasant addition to the Kweller arsenal, but after a while you yearn for a twist to the standard time signatures or a satisfied yell, something – anything - to show us that Kweller has mellowed because he wants to, and not because he’s forgotten how to do anything else.”

* Yes, criticism is needed. If it sounds redundant, how can this effort be considered mature? It’s a quality criticism, but it sounds reluctant, as if the writer doesn’t want to offend a friend. He actually bunks the criticism in the next paragraph, stating Kweller succeeds with the final track on the album.

“How this album is perceived will doubtless vary from person to person, depending on which of Kweller’s qualities you most admire, but – personal preferences aside – you’d be hard pushed to argue that Ben Kweller is anything other than a beautiful, touching collection of songs, and one which marks an important rite of passage in one man’s career, even if it doesn’t always feel like his best work.”

* This is a good wrap.

It’s an average review. It’s shaky – tip-toeing around real criticism because the writer really wants to like this record. In the end, even as a fan, it’s apparent that this release has been a disappointment. That should’ve been explored more.

Review Rating: 53%


I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
Writer: Heather Browne

“The songs consistently have these great builds and breaks that make me want to dance around and airdrum on things. There's also that effect where I found myself somehow singing along on the choruses the very first time I listened to it. It's got a recognizable quality even if you've never heard him before, but it's eminently fresh.”

* Though it sounds like she’s talking about a distant album that I’ll never hear (“these great builds…”), the final line of this paragraph is the point she needs to get across.

“As we've discussed before, Ben Kweller plays all of the instruments on this album and wrote all of the songs. That's pretty impressive once you hear the variety of instruments he uses, and to such competent effect.”

* Good side information that hasn’t popped up in any other reviews. Writers forget to mention things like this when they’re too busy talking about themselves.

Not a bad review, but she uses a tone that pushes the reader away from the feelings she’s trying to describe. It’s too personal of a review, mainly because there’s no depth to it – it’s all surface shine. It’s missing a conclusion, which tears this review down, as it will any review. Never skimp on the conclusion.

Review Rating: 46%


You Ain’t No Picasso

“’s refreshing to hear someone with such a young voice reflect on their own life through meetings with old high school classmates and cross-country journeys. It’s like a “quarter-life-crisis,” but without the self-indulgent label.

It’s funny how many superficial judgements you can make about the new Ben Kweller album before you’re wrong.”

* Outside of “judgments” being misspelled, these statements are not only misleading, but they are also not supported. The writer refers to maturity, but the two situations mentioned are not signs of maturity. Who’s making the judgments? The writer assumes the readers are going to make superficial judgments?

Short review, but nothing really to read. Serves as a base to put up an MP3.

Review Rating: 35%


Conclusion From Reviews:
It sounds like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. That’s basically it.


The writers attempt to claim there is maturity on this album, but it says more about the age of the writers than it does about Ben Kweller’s album. While the music shows Kweller’s seasoned comfort with pop, and his proven ability to hone that craft (in comparison to his first album, Sha Sha), the album displays someone definitely going through their “quarter life crisis.” The NEXT album will be the true reflection upon this time, while this album documents the time. To anyone past the age of 25, the lyrics on the album will sound somewhat young and borderline silly. However, Kweller has been that growing boy throughout his career, and while he has become mannish musically, lyrically he still has a couple years to go before becoming a man.

Out of Kweller’s releases, Monte would recommend On My Way (ATO), as it contains a rawness not found on their other two releases, while still leaning on pop.

Found Ben Kweller Tracks:
1. Run
2. Nothing Happening
3. Sundress
4. I Gotta Move
5. Thirteen
6. Penny on the Train Track
7. I Don't Know Why
8. Magic
9. Red Eye
10. Until I Die
11. This Is War

The Rules (off of On My Way)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Black Keys - Magic Potion (Nonesuch)

Pop Matters
Writer: Jason MacNeil

“The comparisons to a certain Meg and Jack have been in abundance since the Black Keys started, but whereas the White Stripes seem to go for big rock bombast, the Black Keys rely on a steady, surefire groove that hits you in the gut.”

* The word “seem” shows the writer isn’t familiar with the subject. Therefore, he shouldn’t be using the comparison. The point is lost in his ignorance. However, since he went into it…

“Although some people will be pissed off that the Black Keys haven’t expanded on their sound by adding a bassist, a keyboardist, or zither player, Auerbach and Carney have not strayed from the plot they started with The Big Come Up.”

* Yes, people want growth and progression out of artists by the time they reach their fourth album. Unlike the aforementioned White Stripes, who have expanded their sound with their limitations as a duo, The Black Keys have, according to the reviewer, rehashed the same “blues rock” that they started with.

The review is just a rundown of what the writer thinks he hears on each song, with no real insight on the type of music being produced for the mass of white kids that don’t know anyone else on the Keys’ former label, Fat Possum (i.e. Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside).

Review Rating: 52%


My Old Kentucky Blog

“It's right in line with Keys' albums of the past and just as good. It's do-it-yourself-lo-fi-hard-driving-blues-rock.”

* Direct statements and informative.

It’s a short informative review and has the basics. There’s no journey into meaning or songs. It’s just a fan telling other fans. It does its job.

Review Rating: 76%


The Onion AV Club
Writer: Keith Phipps

“That's disappointing only because they've played this sort of music before. Then again, they've rarely played it better.”

* Contradiction. The criticism is lost. Is it disappointing because it’s the same old Black Keys? Or is it fulfilling because they’ve gotten better?

“Earlier this year, The Black Keys released the EP Chulahoma, which ended with a phone message of praise from Junior Kimbrough's wife. Magic Potion plays like the album-length thank-you for that encouragement.”

* Although a good segue, he leaves his point to be qualified by Junior Kimbrough’s wife. I’m sure it was a great compliment to The Black Keys, but it means nothing in a critique besides it being an interesting side note.

Not a bad review. Well-written and short. However, there’s confusion as to whether he likes it because he’s a fan or if he’d recommend it to the reader (as opposed to other releases that are said to sound similar).

Review Rating: 68%


Writer: Jason Crock

“They whip up everything they can between just the two of them, Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney, but what they work up this time isn't a sweat-- it's restraint. On Magic Potion, the pleasures are coyer and the variations much more subtle from riff to riff, song to song. In other words, it's not the record I want to hear from the Black Keys.”

* Who gives a shit what YOU want to hear? Get over yourself and think of the overall audience…who you’re supposed to be writing for.

Magic Potion is a record where overwhelming competence meets measured restraint, but for me, sacrilege trumps sincerity, and I'd rather hear tuneful blasphemy than a tasteful snoozer of an album. Shit, give me Blueshammer any day.”

* If the writer doesn’t write with only himself in mind, this is an acceptable conclusion to the review.

Too many words for what he wanted to say. The uncertainty in the writer’s voice and his lack of perspective on blues gives the reader the idea that he was assigned this review. He wants to hear a pop version of blues, and The Black Keys are somehow not that. Too many assumptions, all the focus is on himself, and an unavoidable contradiction takes away any credibility from this review, even though the 6.0 rating sounds objective.

Review Rating: 46%


Conclusion From Reviews:
Judging by the reviews, there is no depth, no thought-provoking ideas, and no ground breaking elements on this release. If you’re already a fan of The Black Keys, you will like this album. If you’re not, the consensus is that Magic Potion doesn’t divert from the Keys’ sound, so you probably won’t be a fan after this one either. For those being introduced, there is nothing on which to base a decision to go and listen. The reviewers failed to entice or repel. You’re on your own. You’ll just have to sample and decide for yourself.

Contemporary blues rock is alive in the independent world, but for whatever reason, people only hear about The Black Keys and The White Stripes, the latter of which is always mistakenly placed in this subgenre because they occasionally record a bluesy track, while the former focuses primarily on the blues. For example, it would be like paralleling John Mayall to Led Zeppelin. Most blues-based rock outfits tend to do better in Europe than in the U.S., but it does not mean there is a shortage of them in North America.

Some other contemporary blues rock counterparts include T. Model Ford, Pearlene, Skip Jensen, and Soledad Brothers. The aforementioned R.L. Burnside would definitely be in this category, but he sadly passed last year. Mr. Airplane Man and the Porch Ghouls can be placed here as well, but Mr. Airplane Man’s latest effort shows a departure from their first three releases and the Porch Ghouls are now defunct.

Found Black Keys Tracks:
Black Door
The Flame
Strange Desire
Give Your Heart Away
Your Touch

Additional Listening:
Mr. Airplane Man - Uptight
White Stripes - Stop Breaking Down
Porch Ghouls - Girl on the Road (Ford Fairlane)
Soledad Brothers - Break'em On Down
Skip Jensen - Abscond
R.L. Burnside - Snake Drive

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Monte's Mission Statement

Something needed to be done. With the abundance of music blogs, webzines, and magazines, someone had to step in and act as a check and balance. You have the mainstream whores at big-name magazines, the disgruntled nerds at dominating webzines, and a countless number of bloggers posing as pseudo-intellectual writers, attempting to inform a public that is looking for guidance in the technologically advanced independent music maze that has blossomed in the last few years. They’re falling short of succeeding.

As a reader, who do you turn to? As a music fan, who can you trust? You visit seven websites a day, can’t rely on $5 magazines, and grow tiresome of the sarcastic tone that has flooded the arena of music criticism. People are cutting down artists that haven’t even grown legs, covering only select pieces of the independent realm, and offering misleading information and ignorant perspectives. It’s out of control.

In a democratic society, the press is supposed to be one of the balances, but like our mainstream news media, our music related press is relying on sensational reporting, while failing to properly inform the public. Nothing can stop it, but we can help check it. We will be the committee that oversees the reviewers. We will act as watchdogs and hold them accountable. We will be a starting point and supplement for you.

It is time for the entire field to go through Monte’s Gauntlet.