Thursday, November 16, 2006
THE PIXIES | loudQUIETloud | MVD
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Pixies were one of the best bands in America. On masterpieces like 1988’s Surfer Rosa and 1989’s Dolittle, the quartet was known for producing songs that would rocket from pop rock hooks to pummeling blasts of riffing and screaming. The sound became an inspiration for later artists like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.
The new 85-minute Pixies documentary loudQuietloud shows the seminal alternative rock band reuniting for a tour in 2004. What’s amazing right off the bat is how all of the bandmembers—except for singer/guitarist Black Francis, who has had a modestly successful solo career as Frank Black—are struggling to get by when the group decides to get back together: Drummer David Lovering is an amateur magician and metal-detecting enthusiast; bassist Kim Deal is living with her mother in Ohio; and Joey Santiago, one of the most underrated guitarists in rock, is eeking out a living doing soundtrack work for documentaries.
Though there is superb footage of the band playing songs like “Hey” and “Gouge Away” at their reunion shows, loudQuietloud is more than just a concert documentary. Between shows, the film finds Lowering attempting to deal with the recent death of his father and the reunited bandmembers struggling to communicate with one another. —Stuart Thornton
BLOOD BROTHERS | Young Machetes | V2
For the Blood Brothers, who built a career on the shrieking of dual vocalists Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie, the decision of whether to make their co-screamers understood must have been met with a little trepidation. Luckily, on Young Machetes, the Seattle screamo band has found two workable solutions to help maintain their inscrutability. First, just because people can understand what you’re saying doesn’t mean that they should be able to make any sense of it. When the going gets smooth, the Blood Brothers get obtuse, adding interest to the albums’ most restrained moments with bursts of non sequitur.
A shield of self-referential nonsense can only get a band so far, however. It’s the delivery that makes the difference, and that’s where the Blood Brothers employ their second winning strategy. On Young Machetes, the band hired as a producer the father of emo himself, Guy Picciotto, to help them wring the greatest amount of heart-rending intensity from each baffling line. Whether it was either party’s intention or not, this seems to be accomplished through Blilie and Whitney copping the ex–Fugazi frontman’s moves. These include the creepy whisper (“We Ride Skeletal Lightning”), the punk-rock backup holler (“Vital Beach”), the elongated vowel (“Rat Rider”), and countless other distinctive Picciotto tricks. —Aaron Leitko
AMON AMARTH | With Oden On Our Side | Metal Blade
One of the strongest and most effective melodic death metal bands on the planet, the thing that most commonly identifies Amon Amarth is alsow the thing that makes them seem completely ridiculous. Namely, that this Swedish powerhouse is not just a melodic death metal band, but a Viking death metal band. (No, they don’t dress up like Vikings; they just sing about them a lot.)
It’s a shame that the group’s lyrics on Oden are thick with lines like “Thunder rolls across the plains/Thor rides in pouring rain,” because Amon Amarth’s music evokes a soaring power that’s more threatening than a fleet of ax-wielding Norsemen. The group’s sturdy, propulsive percussion and epic, chunky riffage is at peak effectiveness on Oden, but the facility with which vocalist Johan Hegg switches between a guttural death growl and throaty, melodic aggression is what makes them so impressive. Too bad he’s not singing about something besides Vikings. —Jason Ferguson