Thursday, October 23, 2003
Today Is The Day
After releasing the subdued Summer Sun earlier this year, this Hoboken trio returns with an EP that recalls the band's earlier work like 1989's President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dogs. On President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dogs, the band veered dramatically from feedback-drenched rockers to simple, acoustic numbers. This EP begins with a rocking version of "Today Is The Day" from Summer Sun. Near the end of the song, Ira Kaplan's guitar emits gratuitous squeals of feedback suggesting that he has missed making the noise that marked the group's earlier work. On "Outsmartener," the group channels Sonic Youth with the help of William Parker on double-reed horn.
The second half of the EP slams on the brakes with a spare, acoustic version of Bert Jansch's "Needle of Death." The next song, "Dr. Crash," is a short instrumental that sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack to a '60s surf movie. The album ends with an acoustic version of "Cherry Chapstick" from 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
ThisEP is sure to be well received by longtime fans, and for newcomers, this is an inexpensive way to test-drive Yo La Tengo's sound.
The title is a goof on the two-CD/one-DVD premise, that is, this bass-less band (their bassist Allen Woody died a few years back) uses up the creme de la creme of rock bassists to fill Woody's shoes on this live one, and they do, more than capably.
The music itself, if you've never heard of these Southerners, is reggae-inflected blues boogie, the Allmans gone Caribbean or Skynryd to Kingston. It's also not quite as hooky as either of those bands (nor any pop reggae acts) and as a result, the best stuff is, as is always the case with lesser knowns, the cover songs. Jack Casady guests on bass on "Voodoo Chile" (which reprises his guest appearance on the original version of that song), Roger Glover does the same on Deep Purple's "Maybe I'm a Leo" and Jason Newstead, former Metallica bottom guy, does Sabbath--all on the DVD, natch. The live audio is not that memorable. If they ever make the DVD only, get it, for now, only freaks for the jam need apply.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Belle and Sebastian's sixth official release, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, is a well constructed and detailed album of Scottish indie-rock that will enjoy inevitable popularity in the United States. The composition is more poppy and frontman Stuart Murdoch's vocals are bolder than in earlier recordings; probably abetted by the fact that Dear Catastrophe Waitress was produced by Trevor Horn--known for his work with Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
The album (foolishly) opens with its single, "Step Into My Office, Baby" and is followed by the title track which may, if he is willing to litigate, award Donovan Leitch a handsome settlement for copyright violation.
"I'm a Cuckoo" and the final track, "Stay Loose" feature ironic riffing on Thin Lizzy's dual harmonic guitar work, which is cute but lacks the sincerity of the original. This idea, that it was better the first time around, could be expanded to aptly describe nearly every aspect of this album. That is to say, the listener will have an easier time of liking Dear Catastrophe Waitress if he or she has never heard Donovan's Sunshine Superman or Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left.