Thursday, February 3, 2005
Pleetch | Om Records
Self-described as “fusing the rock eclectic with the electronic electric like p-funk and e-funk,” the Greenskeepers strive for a dance music that fits a new generation, and it’s clear from the bright packaging to the first notes on the disc. Starting off with a synth-heavy beat, and using a breathy, electronic vocal loop to set the pace on “You Don’t Know Me,” the music settles into a smooth, doo-wop grooviness, a mix of funky jazz and retro hi-fi. It’s surprisingly pleasant for a dance album, but it doesn’t last.
The Greenskeepers hit their real groove as the music veers towards mainstream poppiness. The heart of the playlist, starting with “Man in the House,” abandons the lounge and goes for the jugular with a monotonous Devo-style catchiness. The lead single, “Lotion” relies on the stripped-down Franz Ferdinand-type MTV bop, complete with meaningless lyrics. In the case of “Filipino Phil,” it’s incoherent to the point of being insulting: both songs border on being either racist or misogynistic. Of course, being merely remixers of these ever-popular tracks, the Greenskeepers aren’t responsible for any lyrical insensitivity, only their choice in songs. (BS)
Knuckle Down | Righteous Babe Records
For those who’ve been paying attention, this righteous babe has been averaging at least one album per year since 1990. As opposed to Educated Guess, DiFranco’s completely solo venture which came out nary a year ago, Knuckle Down is the complete opposite: the first Ani album co-produced with someone else (fellow folkie Joe Henry). She’s also joined by a number of backing musicians, giving the album a full band sound, complete with a string section.
But Knuckle Down comes so close on the heels of Educated Guess, there’s hardly anything on this short collection that makes a ripple, let alone a splash. Perhaps the most telling lyric comes with the closer, “Recoil,” in which she offers her “half written songs… to all the people out there, comforting themselves tonight,” and later admits there’s “nothin’ much going on.”
Today, more than ever, Ani may find herself becoming irrelevant. If there were a time for the protest song, this would be it. But instead of political outrage, we’re given only subtle hints at fair play—“I was just a girl, in a room full of women…I remember the feeling of community brewing, of democracy happening,” she sings on “Paradigm.”
Her unique arrangements have gotten increasingly experimental through the years, and as with every album DiFranco puts out, an inspiring D.I.Y. ethic emanates from every composition. That’s one of DiFranco’s most admirable qualities, but this time around, there’s nothing else that makes this album pertinent. (BS)
Back to the World | Brass Tacks
More hearty, heart-felt punk rock from retired firefighter and former Dropkick Murphys singer Mike McColgan. Any fan of the DKM’s would be more than happy to own this second StreetDogs offering, as it is not unlike the mother band, excepting the tin-whistle/bag pipe patina of ethnic authenticity.
It is literate, left-leaning, pro-working class anthemeering with an unusual mix—McColgan’s vocals sound completely effects-less and dry, as if to add to his natural plaintiveness. Its best moments articulate the same (“White Collar Fraud”), its low points re-hash the same tired assaults on the conservative state of radio (“Strike a Blow”). But it’s loud guitars and chanted choruses and not dumb in the least—how many Oi bands and punk nouveau acts of the ‘90s could have made that claim? A lived life as a real working class hero does have its artistic perks, you know.(JA)