disclaimer is not a toy


Kent

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Isola

Willie's comments: This is the sort of wistful, guitar-driven, emotional album that inevitably earns comparisons to Radiohead in other bands (Travis, Coldplay, Arnold, et al), but like those bands, Swedish rockers Kent merely share an affinity for obtuse guitar lines and a supple-voiced singer (Joakim Berg here) without ever mustering Radiohead's more experimental leanings or Thom Yorke's blistering rage. Or even trying to muster it, for that matter. Kent is little more than an amalgam of their influences, but they manage to excise the most annoying traits of their heroes on Isola. Thus, "Things She Said" is what a Smashing Pumpkins song would sound like if Billy Corgan lost his whiny rasp and turned his "pretentious" knob way down; "If You Were Here" takes the Pixies' bass-driven dynamics and smooths out Black Francis's love of searing noise (even as the song steals lyrics from R.E.M.); and so on. Lyrically, the album is as cold as a Scandinavian winter- and intentionally so, with numerous references to summer's end- but its real appeal is in the bent hooks that stick in your head long after the album concludes. "Before It All Ends," "If You Were Here," and the epic "747" are all especially masterful. If you're already salivating for a new Radiohead album after Amnesiac, I'd recommend checking out Kent for a good dose of intelligent but simple art-rock, with emphasis on the rock. Grade: A-

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Kid Koala

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Some of My Best Friends are DJs

Willie's comments: When I caught turntable cut-and-paste artist Kid Koala a few summers ago, he opened his set by saying, "Hi, I'm going to play some records incorrectly for you now," and launched into a song that juxtaposed the score from Monty Python and the Holy Grail with a cornball rendition of "On Top of Spaghetti," and ended with a sound clip of the Muppets' Statler and Waldorf debating the quality of the music they'd just heard. It was a moment of pure, childlike fun that totally exemplifies the goofy corner of the electronica universe in which this DJ resides. His second album, Some of My Best Friends are DJs, is a lovable hodgepodge of old jazz, vaudeville, swing, lounge, and comedy records that are chopped up into funky new rhythmic concoctions. The arrangements of songs like "Basin Street Blues" and "More Dance Music" aren't particularly full- if DJ Shadow's densely layered hip-hop collages are like elegant sound paintings, Kid Koala's approach more closely resembles a kindergartener gluing macaroni to construction paper- but the joy with which he scratches, loops, and conflates his source albums is catching. And although his style may be simple, there's nevertheless an artful technical mastery with which he builds catchy textures on songs like the syncopated "Skanky Panky" or the laid-back blips of "Robochacha." There are times on Some of My Best Friends when the Kid's fondness for non-sequitur dialogue snippets threatens to overwhelm the music, which, given its brief running time, sometimes makes it seem a little too flighty for its own good. However, his occasional indulgences are easy to forgive when the whole project has such a whimsical aura about it, and there are plenty of fully-formed songs that succor the cutesiness with good, solid beats. Since a lot of DJs will allow humor in their work only if it doesn't disrupt the somewhat aloof attitude of their music, it's refreshing to hear someone like Kid Koala, who un-self-consciously dives headfirst into the Chuck-E-Cheese ball pit and merrily invites you to join him as he cavorts. Grade: B+

SEE ALSO: DELTRON 3030

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Kid Loco

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Jesus Life for Children Under 12 Inches

Willie's comments: Can I tell you how much I love these little remix-mix CDs that every DJ and his brother has released in the past few years? It's not just because the mix CDs I make to amuse myself have grown a wee bit predictable recently (where's the Mike Doughty song gonna go on this one?), but that these DJ mixes usually manage to balance a unifying mood with an impressive variety in the song selections. This Kid Loco disc is a perfect example of everything that goes right with these homegrown musical buffets: though the song selections here range from indie-rock to trip-hop to utter insanity (that would be "Youpi" by Cornu, whose calling card is the sound of someone shrieking the song's title in weird, Anime fashion), Loco's remixing talents buff all the songs to a spiffy, chilled-out shine. Granted, I'm pretty sure that these remixes were commissioned individually by the bands involved over a period of a couple years- and it's nice to hear someone making Pulp listenable ("A Little Soul") or the Pastels' vocals seem as though they're supposed to sound that way ("The Viaduct")- but with nearly every song draped in a slipcover of mellow breakbeats, Jesus Life for Children Under 12 Inches really does play like it was conceived as a single slick, noir-y song cycle. Though it sticks pretty rigidly to an alternating vocal track/instrumental track structure, predictability isn't a liability here, especially when you've got such awesome songs next to one another as Kat Onoma's droning "La Chambre" and Tommy Hools's spy-theme "Les Reprouves." Plus... naked chicks! Grade: A

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: THE PASTELS; MOGWAI

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Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy soundtrack

Ginny's comments: I don't know if it was fate or coincidence that the songs on this CD fit so perfectly with the movie (Movie Grade: B-) but whatever it was, this soundtrack served as the soil from which many of my musical interests grew. Nearly every band on here I've developed an intimate relationship with on some level (They Might Be Giants, Matthew Sweet, Yo La Tengo, Odds, etc.) so listening to this album is like visiting old relatives. But the good kind of relatives, not the crazy mean ones. Each band pulled some of their best stuff out of their collections for the Kids. "Pablo and Andrea" is the most beautiful song Yo La Tengo has ever played (it's rare that any of their songs are beautiful), making this album worth it from that one song alone. ("Someone came and took all the roses away," they croon. It'll make you weep like a baby.) And Dave Foley is a babe. I wasn't supposed to tell you this, but if Willie was a girl, he'd have a big crush on him, you know. For all I know, he already does... hmmm... Anyway, pop some Gleemonex, enjoy, and fuck happy! Grade: A

Willie's comments: The best soundtrack albums are ones whose songs actually fit the mood or theme of the film from which they come. This is one of them. Unlike such cynical packages as, say, Batman & Robin, which juxtaposes R.E.M., Bone Thugs N Harmony, Jewel, and Soul Coughing for no reason other than trying to appeal to the broadest demographic possible, Brain Candy features songs which quite often relate to the film's theme of instant gratification, either specifically (They Might Be Giants' anti-drug tirade "Spiralling Shape") or generally (Matthew Sweet's "Happiness"). Besides that, the songs are just plain awesome- stellar contributions from Stereolab, Cibo Matto, Pizzicato Five, and Guided by Voices make this the best soundtrack album ever. Grade: A

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King Crimson

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In the Court of the Crimson King

Willie's comments: Until recently, progressive rock was not a good thing. Nowadays, we have bands like Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, and Ween taking prog's defining elements (classical-sounding melodies, lush orchestration, unusual noises, seemingly endless songs and solos) and turning them on their collective head by adding such welcome elements as humor, brevity, and musical discipline. The new prog has taken the musical movement a long way toward respectability, but the spectre of the original prog rock bands still looms. In the late sixties through the early 80s (and onward, if you count Rush's inexplicable longevity), bands such as Yes, ELP, and Jethro Tull made wanky careers out of taking themselves too seriously and cranking out hazy, introspective rock that tended to noodle off into the sunset like a tetherball detached from its pole.

King Crimson fits nicely into that bunch, as you'd probably be hard-pressed to tell any of them apart. On this album, widely considered their best, guitarist Robert Fripp and his cohorts take traditional, anthemic classic rock melodies and then muck them up with messy noise and sloppy, experimental jams. If the hooks contained within the songs were left alone, the title track and "Epitath" could almost pass for some of Pink Floyd's more accessible material (if Pink Floyd was mixed very poorly), while "Moonchild" could have been a gorgeous, spacey ballad. Alas, Fripp 'n' friends transform each song into an endurance challenge. The random aural pileup of "21st Century Schizoid Man" renders it unlistenable, while "Moonchild" contains an interminable, bleepy middle section that recalls the patience-eating light show toward the end of 2001. Only "I Talk to the Wind," with its yearning flute work, escapes unscathed. Worst of all, King Crimson attacks their material with the utmost seriousness, as though the meaning of life itself is located somewhere within their aimless meandering. If I were you, I'd wait for Ween to cover this album in its entirety. Otherwise, you're in for a ponderous trip. Grade: C+

Ginny's comments:

READER COMMENTS:

Rich Bunnell writes: Personally, I can't see the Flaming Lips as "prog" in any way at all (even with the musical etheriality of "The Soft Bulletin"). Based on your throw-off of this album, I'm pretty sure you're just one of those people who just doesn't -get- prog. ***THIS IS NOT AN INSULT.*** That's the problem with progressive rock-- the bloated, long song structures, spacey lyrics and endless jamming really interest some people while REALLY turning off others. For example, I think that basically all of "21st Century Schizoid Man" is brilliant, and that the "aural pileup" simply sounds like an extension of the actual melody. "Moonchild" is admittedly a foible, however-- the eight-minute single-keyboard noodling after the actual melody ends is a true representation of when prog crosses the line from true ambition to silliness. Nevertheless, most of these songs are simply really good, and I'd have to go with an A- (the minus earned because of you-know-what).

Also, Tull, Yes and ELP were wildly different bands. All prog bands, yes (though all three started out as fairly simple "rock" bands), but with very distinct styles of their own. Just because the bands release albums with long songs (Thick As A Brick, Close To The Edge, Karn Evil 9) doesn't necessarily mean that those songs sound anything at all alike. By the way, if you haven't heard it, check out "Gates Of Delirium" by Yes-- though I'm not sure you would agree, that song's probably the only 20-minute prog song that actually manages to merit its length.

Caleb462@cs.com writes: Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull and King Crimson are all very different bands. They are all prog in one way or another yes.. but each has their own set of styles and influences. Anyway, maybe Rich is right, maybe you just don't "get" prog. Because to me, the middle section of "Schizoid Man" is anything but an "aural pileup". It's a precisely written and played "jam" that perfectly joins the opening and closing sections of the song. The drumming, the basswork, the guitar solos! That stuff is not random noise. The only thing I can agree with is your dismissal of "Moonchild". It's crap, and you won't find too many people who will tell you otherwise.

And just one more point I'd like to make, about prog bands taking themselves too seriously. Well, yes, It's true. Many prog bands are pretentious and try too hard to be important. However, Beethoven wrote 50-minute long symphonies, would anyone say "Beethoven took himself too seriously and wrote long wankfests"? Of course not! Would anyone call Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" noise? No! Then why do so many people do it when it's a prog band?

jgreen@i-cafe.net writes: You're right. The meaning of life itself is located somewhere within their aimless meandering: http://www.songsouponsea.com/Promenade/home.html (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a link to a King Crimson analysis site entitled "Promenade the Puzzle: The Poetic Vision of Peter Sinfield." Featuring twenty lengthy, theory-heavy "chapters" on the metaphysical meaning of In the Court of the Crimson King alone, the site is a goldmine of mythological criticism like this: "As the Middle Ages are characterized by the Hermetic Principle of Correspondence: As Above, so Below, and the album, In the Court of the Crimson King, is told from a decidedly medieval perspective, it follows that there is both a metaphysical [an above] and an earthly [below] Crimson King. [See chapter two]." I'm not certain whether jgreen@i-cafe.net was trying to support my point about the album taking itself way too seriously or to prove me wrong, but he was a good sport about it.)

Peter Sinfield (King Crimson's lyricist!) writes: "Its all folk music to me man I ain't never heard a horse sing." ( L. Armstrong)

Or if you prefer; " LIfe is too serious to be taken seriously." (?)

Whatever. "Its the friction of love makes the world go round." ;-)

ddickso2@uccs.edu writes: Iiiiiiiiiiiinteresting, if only for that "you'd probably be hard-pressed to tell any of them apart" bit. Many of us would actually attach that characterization to prog's nemesis, punk. I think it's hilarious how many critics can verbally splurge on and on about the minute differences between the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols' simplistic three-chord attack (*cough* *CHRISTGAU*), and yet simultaneously make (no offense) hilarious statements like that about prog. I think I've discovered the solution to this dilemma.

I think it's all in one's IDEAL. Like, the Greeks considered ultimate beauty an ideal, the Vulcans logic, and Western teenagers from the '90's rock and roll mayhem. The ultimate end, as it were. This here album is for the FREAKS (I mean, we really are FREAKS!!!) who instead consider rock and roll a possible MEANS to that end, not THE end. SACRILEGE.

See, we all like brevity and humor and pop melodies and short songs and fast and short mentalities that have roared back with a burning, livid vengeance since 1979 and all, but they're not always necessary. In fact, a little pretentious WEIGHT goes a long way in our day and age. I'd venture to say the primary reason why 99% of all albums ever recorded consist of two or three singles and a sea of filler shit is BECAUSE of that mentality--that demon voice that whispers evilly in everyone's right ear: "DON'T BE PRETENTIOUS." Then: "IF YOU DO, I'LL SELL YOUR SOUL TO ED ASNER." Chris, don't listen to the demon. He's not worth the promised donut.

Yeah alright, I admit it, I like every minute of this album in its entirety. Including the 10 minute amelodic xylophone wanking of "Moonchild." Somebody taser me. I can't say I've yet heard Ween, but I despised the Pixies until they became serious (Or at least pretended to be). And Steve Malkmus needs some throat lozenges, bad.

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: BRIAN ENO

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King Missile

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They

Willie's comments: Several years before "Detachable Penis" made them college-rock heroes, King Missile (Dog Fly Religion) was a pioneering anti-folk band who melded the simple, hippie-ish doodling of guitarist Dogbowl with the arty ramblings of poet John S. Hall. For this album, at least, the overriding joke seemed to be that Hall would write tremendously gory lyrics which would then be set to sunny melodies- an irony that wears thin pretty quickly. The melodies aren't the problem; they're mostly just as catchy and enjoyable as anything by, say, the Monkees (particularly the infectious "Stonehenge"). Hall's lyrics, however, seem either lazy and pointless ("Fish," "Farm") or like middling episodes of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts or Max Cannon's Red Meat ("The Love Song," "Leather Clown," "Double Fucked by 2 Black Studs"). There is no social commentary here on the order of "Sensitive Artist," or even any amusing tales like "Detachable Penis." Just an attitude, which, as the Dead Milkmen's weaker material proves, is never enough to sustain a song. If you're a fan of Very Bad Things, you might dig this. If not, beware. Grade: C

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The Way to Salvation

Willie's comments: Hall is in top form on King Missile’s second album without Dogbowl (the first, Mystical Shit, is available on a CD which also includes the band's debut album, Fluting on the Hump). His spoken-word stories are often as affecting as they are hilarious (“The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump Over a Church,” for example), and for every bit of uninspired silliness, like “To Walk Among the Pigs,” there are four brilliantly funny gems like “Scotland,” in which Hall expresses a desire to “wear a micro-mini-kilt.” The music ranges from searing sheets of noise (“It’s”) to punky bombast to cheesy pop. It’s all wonderfully listenable even without Hall's monologues, which is a testament to the talents of the backing musicians, particularly inventive guitarist Dave Rick. Grade: A-

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Happy Hour

Willie's comments: For a really interesting, eclectic album, you should definitely pick this one up. Vocalist/poet John S. Hall recites bizarre, intelligent manifestos that are equal parts pre-Beck free association (“I sawed the legs off the periodic table”) and cultural critique (the hilarious, frothing media violence addict portrayed in “Martin Scorsese”), while his backing band covers every musical territory known to man. “It’s Saturday” is one long drum solo, “Martin Scorsese” is Primus-esque funk, and “Heaven” is pretty pop, but the standout is the rockin’, funny “Detachable Penis.” Hall’s voice is as gregarious as Chris Ballew’s, which adds to the listening value. Grade: A-

King Missile

Willie's comments: Substantially less listenable than its predecessors, and substantially less clever as well, this self-titled album just seems aimless. The jazz-metal fusions that back Hall’s ramblings don’t ever fully cohere, and the only time Hall ever provokes genuine laughs are on “What If” and the hilarious “Socks,” on which he laments owning a surplus of socks. Apart from those two tracks, and the classic “The Dishwasher,” which is a chilling story made all the more chilling by Hall’s vulnerable voice, this is a pretty disposable album. Grade: C-

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Failure

Willie's comments: King Missile is now King Missile III, just so you know. After the four-album Dave Rick incarnation of the band fell apart, Hall recruited some talented multi-instrumentalists to take over the backing band reins. Musically, the new King Missile doesn't seem as concerned with big, memorable rock songs as they are with providing an appropriate (or appropriately ironic) backdrop for Hall’s verbiage. Relying on violins, pianos, and more unfamiliar instruments as much as guitars or traditional pop music elements (for most of the songs, that is, though they do jump around a bit), musicians Sasha Forte and Bradford Reed conjure an atmosphere of chamber music that's by turns whimsical, exotic, beautiful, and propulsive. Failure, the first album from this new collective, is more focused on bringing the funny than has been any of the more conceptual work Hall has done in the past. Sometimes the points of humor come across as deadpan cynicism (the title track, which declares, “Failure wants to be your friend, the one you can count on when success- that is ever elusive- eludes you”), sometimes as stream-of-consciousness stories (the hilarious “The Adventures of Planky,” about a plucky lump of plankton), and sometimes as Beavis and Butt-Head mock-but-not puerility (“Up My Ass,” an orifice which contains everything from scrambled eggs to the Louisiana Purchase), but you will laugh while listening to this album. Often. Though not always, I should note. A few tracks seem to have lost something between Hall’s head and the listener’s ear (“Mr. Pomerantz,” the endless “Despair”), but there’s always nice music to accompany the puzzlement, and it’s easy to forgive the misfires when you’ve got satire as achingly hilarious as “A Good Hard Look,” a song whose central joke is too wonderful to spoil. Those adventurous enough to buy it shan’t be let down. Grade: A-

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The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Willie's comments: Even better than its predecessor, this album is as eclectic, smart, and hilarious as any open-minded listener could hope for. Songs like the Asian-influenced "JLH" and the slick, brassy "My Father" are as fun to listen to musically as they are lyrically, in a Camper Van Beethoven sort of way, and that's no small feat here. Now, granted, the amount of amusement you get out of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is directly correlated to the amount of amusement you get out of paragraph after paragraph of profanity. Permit me to quote an example, from the song "The President": (pauses to adjust reading glasses, clear throat) "You fucking you fuck fuck fuck you fucking piece of shit fucking scumbag piece of shit motherfucking scumbag scumbag scumbag piece of shit fuck fuck fuck fuck." (Solemnly returns reading glasses to pocket, continues.) Now, if that song weren't about George W. Bush, I might be tempted to say that a few of those fucks were gratuitous, but the fact is, it is about The Worst President Ever Including All the Future, and like so much of Hall's work, it's effective on a few levels. Namely, it works as a logical, Get Your War On-esque explosion of frustration and rage at the way things are going, but also as an exaggerated parody of same, given that they're just silly words and really don't amount to anything. Not buying it? Well, might I suggest you then lend an ear to "Hamsters," which is entirely too cute and goofy to even describe? Or "Jim," which is another postmodern tale of random, meaningless fate that's tragically hilarious? Or the jaunty "The Miracle of Childbirth" and "Ennui," each of which finds novel, undeniably smart ways of making giggle-inducing jokes from perverse rants about sexual taboos and fetishes? A treat, whether you're up for Hall's unique brand of humor that's simultaneously deadpan and cartoony, or even just for some brainy, unusual pop stylings that happen to contain lots of curses. Grade: A

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Royal Lunch

Willie's comments: For a guy who is obviously on the far right-hand side of the indie-rock intelligence bell curve, John S. Hall sure does seem to have a mental block when it comes to noticing that he's repeating himself. Royal Lunch essentially takes all the same ideas from The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and then squashes them with the same smug deadpan obviousness that made They such a chore. For instance, the notions of an arbitrarily cruel deity governing our lives and shock value being an artistic dead-end when it's employed only for its own sake were already covered in a subtle and funny fashion on "Jim" and "Ennui," respectively, but the subtext is ham-fistedly converted to text on "The God" and "Brains Will Explode." In fact, nowhere is Royal Lunch's lack of inspiration more evident than in the fact that it inexplicably includes two more poems in John's "Pain Series" which was inaugurated on the previous album. While on Psychopathology, entries like "Hammer Thumb" and "Paper Cut" were very funny, profane jabs at modern poetry, this album's "Splinter" and "Stubbed Toe" inspire the same "We get the joke, dude" impatience as the umpteenth return of a one-joke SNL character. (Let's say... Mango.) It's still hard to find fault with the ever-eclectic music- I particularly enjoy the Ramones bop of the title track and Jane Scarpantoni's cello work on the furious "America Kicks Ass"- but it's similarly difficult to get much out of it when it only serves as a backing to these flat monologues. I'm not suggesting that Hall has lost it or anything, because he's more than proven the resilience of his satirical eye over the years, and there are a few good laughs on this album, but I do hope that he picks up on the concept of diminishing returns before he heads back to the studio. Grade: C-

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: YO LA TENGO; VICTOR KRUMMENACHER

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Kingsbury Manx

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Kingsbury Manx

Willie's comments: On paper, there's really not much reason for Kingsbury Manx to exist. We've already got umpteen million indie rock bands that earn their pittance by parroting Pavement's affinity for unusual guitar patterns, and we already have artists like Elliot Smith and Salako doing the whole twee-melodic-acoustic-rock thing. Frankly, quite a few songs on Kingsbury Manx's debut album could have been jettisoned for just that reason: agreeable though songs like "How Cruel" and "Whether or Not It Matters" are, they're about as distinctive in the rock world as any one green, plastic army man that comes in a bag of 300 identical such toys. Luckily, what makes this album stand a few inches taller than the rest are bits of inspired weirdness like "Hawaii in Ten Seconds," an a capella number in which the band sounds as though they're performing a blackface Vaudeville revue, or the shuffling, Gomez-esque roots rock of "Cross Your Eyes." The album lurches uncomfortably between moments of prettiness, tension, and inscrutability, but the band goes at it all wholeheartedly, and memorable tunes like "Piss Diary" are satisfying enough that you'll be able to get into them in ways you simply can't with bands like, say, Spoon. Whether you'll be able to get excited about them, however, is quite another matter. Grade: B

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Kings of Convenience

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Quiet is the New Loud

Willie's comments: As their clever album title suggests, Norwegian duo the Kings of Convenience are flag-bearers of the New Acoustic Front. This is the recent European musical movement which has turned away from the raucousness and bombast of what's left of rock 'n' roll, and attempted to strip pop music down to its bare minimum: gorgeous melodies performed using only quiet, often acoustic guitars, a vocalist, and maybe a gentle rhythm track. Given the inherent simplicity of this genre, it can be difficult for bands to distinguish themselves from one another- if everyone is writing great, beautiful singles that are arranged in a similar fashion, how are we going to tell who's who? (Case in point: Did you notice how quickly the buzz on Travis faded after Coldplay appeared?)

This is a problem that the Kings of Convenience can't quite surmount on their sophomore album. Erik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye have terrific songwriting skills and their voices blend as perfectly as Simon & Garfunkel (check out the marvelous opener "Winning a Battle, Losing the War"), but only their Scandinavian accents sound unique within the genre. Twee tunes like "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From" and "The Girl From Back Then" could fool you into thinking you're listening to Salako or one of Belle & Sebastian's calmer numbers, but the band puts no special stamp on the songs to claim them as their own. The near uniformity of the acoustic arrangements can be a drag, too ("Hey! A drum!" I exclaimed upon hearing the comparatively boppy "Failure"), but still, there's no denying the breathtaking quality of the songs. At the end of the day, you will come away from Quiet is the New Loud satisfied that you've heard an album that is packed with memorable, yearning melodies and well-constructed pop songs. The problem is, you won't remember who performed it. Grade: B

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Versus

Willie's comments: Get this one instead. Though the notion of a Kings of Convenience remix record might sound only slightly less ludicrous than a Carole King remix record, the Ks of C have here assembled a collection of sympathetic artists to tinker with their songs just enough. Without ever going against the grain of the songs' original intent or burying the melodies beneath layers of electronic goop, these remixes, when taken together, coalesce into the great, quirky acoustic-pop record that Quiet is the New Loud could've been with just a little more imagination. Royksopp's reinvention of "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From," for example, plays up the tune's exotic rhythm until something like a bedroom-calypso pop song emerges, while Riton turns "The Girl From Back Then" into a slick, jazzy number, and the always-clever Ladytron beef up "Little Kids" with their bottomless collection of vintage synth noises. Sometimes the additions to the songs are as subtle as a lush orchestral backing (David Whitaker's take on "Toxic Girl"), and sometimes the bands involved just decide that the thing to do would be to just cover the song themselves (Evil Tordivel's peppy update of "Leaning Against the Wall" being the better of the two remakes), but it all fits together as a beatifully casual, sweet pop record that finds inspiration in tiny flecks of electronica and other genres. Grade: A-

READER COMMENTS:

Tom McKeown writes: Hmmm...just posted a review of [Quiet is the New Loud] on my Livejournal [WILLIE'S NOTE: Everyone go read Tom's reviews at that link, because he's an awesome and entertaining writer and you owe it to yourself] that I already realise is probably too vicious, and then I read your review which says similar things but in a less vindictive way. The main problem I have with this album, which I can't get over no matter how much I try, is that I can't actually listen to it all the way through without wanting to break something, just to puncture the unbearable air of solemnity that pervades the whole thing. Essentially, I can't take this album seriously as anything except mood music, so little seems to be going on. If I can get hold of the remix album I might give it a listen, but for me the uniformity of instrumentation is only part of the problem - I don't really find any of the songs that melodically or lyrically interesting.

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This is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies and the Kinks

Willie's comments: The first truly good tribute album I've ever heard (the XTC one is fun, but I hardly ever listen to it), this collection of modern rockers interpreting Kinks songs should show the putzes behind the I Am Sam soundtrack how this sort of thing is supposed to be done. The Kinks' best-known numbers are absent, with the exception of Josh Rouse's slick, Tahiti 80-esque lounge rock rendition of "A Well Respected Man." That means there's no "All Day and All of the Night," no "You Really Got Me," no "Lola." Instead, you get Kinks acolytes like Yo La Tengo ("Fancy") and Fountains of Wayne ("Better Things")- bands whose signature sound would seem incomplete without the influence of Mr. Davies- running through their favorite tunes as an actual tribute as opposed to merely posturing. The misfires here are few: the insanely overrated Jonathan Richman turns "Stop Your Sobbing" into another annoying Jonathan Richman song, and the hammering version of "Who'll be the Next in Line" by Queens of the Stone Age is putrid. Thanks to Davies's gift for simple, infectious songwriting, though, it's really hard to wreck a Kinks song, and the rest of these tunes are a pleasure to soak in.

Ray's songs are refracted through a number of stylistic prisms on This is Where I Belong as well. Fastball sticks the closest to the Kinks' stripped-down style that most of us are familiar with on "'Till the End of the Day," while Cracker brings a honkytonk charm to "Victoria," and Tim O'Brien turns "Muswell Hillbilly" into a full-on bluegrass number that would probably be a big hit with all those O Brother, Where Art Thou? fans. Best of the bunch is Lambchop's beautifully weary "Art Lover," a song whose ominous and sad overtones are accentuated by Kurt Wagner's lip-smacking delivery; he sings the line "I'm not a flasher in a raincoat" exactly like a flasher in a raincoat. To wrap everything up, Davies himself appears with Blur's Damon Albarn, performing a casual acoustic duet on "Waterloo Sunset." Equally useful for both Kinks neophytes and fanboys (though I must admit I fall into the former category), This is Where I Belong can serve equally well as a collection of great bands making a case for you to check them out as it does a document of Davies' indelible talents. Grade: A-

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The KLF

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The White Room

Willie's comments: James Cauty and William Drummond, frontmen of the KLF, are notorious in Europe for such bizarre behavior as burning their entire fortune and packing their early albums with tons of uncleared samples (the band's name stands for the Kopyright Liberation Front). Strange, then, that this breakthrough album should be so bland. There are some good bits: "Last Train to Trancentral" and the big hit "3 A.M. Eternal" are wonderful 1991 dance music, full of diverse, catchy bits stapled together by one rhythm, and "What Time is Love?" is a straightforward- but entertaining- hip-hop song. But most of the second side is crap. The slow, housey "Build a Fire" starts promisingly, but goes nowhere, while "No More Tears" and "Justified and Ancient" are closer to Negro spirituals than anything befitting a nightclub. Still, "Last Train to Trancentral" is one tremendous song. Try to find an MP3 of it, if you can. Grade: C+

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: THE ORB

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Steve Knowlton and the Knowl-Tones

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Revenge of the Quirky Genius: The Best of Steve Knowlton and the Knowl-Tones

Willie's comments: If I have any hope of maintaining my modicum of critical integrity after that whole Cher fiasco, I should point out that there is no way you're going to get an unbiased review of the Knowl-Tones' greatest hits from me. Though I honestly and truly love this disc and think you should too, I have rather too many personal connections to the band to claim an objective viewpoint. For one thing, attentive liner-note readers will notice that I am thanked "for trying to remix this album." (Steve was kind enough not to put the word trying in sarcastic and exasperated italics, but he very well could've.) This is because, at one point last spring, my friend and colleague Steve Knowlton handed his four-track over to me, along with the Knowl-Tones' master tapes, with the intention of having me remix them. If the Knowl-Tones story were a film, that's the point where the audience would be shouting, "Don't do it!" at the screen, but luckily, I quickly realized my production limitations and returned Steve's tapes and equipment to him. Thus, I feel I'm somewhat more self-aware than Steve Albini. Also, one of the few highlights of the year 2002 for me was getting together with Steve, drummer Ken Pope, keyboardist Jason Justian, and bassist Jason Bickford for a joyous, one-time-only reunion jam of the Knowl-Tones, with me sitting in on second guitar. (Read: playing the exact same guitar part as Steve, only more sloppily, while looking over his shoulder at the tabs for each song.) So, basically, this isn't gonna be like your usual daily routine of sitting down and listening to ol' Willie gripe about some musicians he's never met and never will, so he's free to mention how bad Boys for Pele sucks.

Luckily, there's no need for me to resort to diplomatic, over-reaching compliments to avoid offending the Knowl-Tones with this album. Quite the contrary, it's one of those independently-released jewels that makes me feel simultaneously blessed to own it and a little angry in the knowledge that the public at large will never have the opportunity to luxuriate in its pop bliss. Unpretentious yet sophisticated, the band's compositions (mostly written by Knowlton, but there seems to have been a fairly democratic system in hammering out the arrangements) explore the latitude possible within a traditional rock setup, eschewing silly production tricks in favor of that rarity: melody! Steve's voice isn't technically the greatest- think Pere Ubu's David Thomas without the condescension- but his passion and ear for a unique vocal line easily overcome any asinine quibbles about his shortcomings. Take a listen to the infectious, Latin-tinged "Saskatchewan" or the jazzy "I Don't," for instance, and I guarantee two things will stand out for you: the clever ease with which Steve delivers his melodies, and the casual, addictive fun that the band obviously had in challenging themselves to try out new styles while remaining true to their garage-pop aesthetic. (The latter tune can stand with Crowded House's "Sister Madly" for best jazz-pop number I've ever heard.) Justian's keyboard parts are thoroughly inventive- especially on the woozy "Sea Sick" and organically new wavey "Knowlton Road"- and Pope's restless rhythms are a blast as well. The band's three bassists also exhibit a shared talent for subtly memorable basslines.

Lyrically, Steve is rivalled only by They Might Be Giants for high-concept wittiness; whether he's stringing together double entendres in "Garbage Man" and "Good Neighbor" or conflating Post-Its with evolution in "Successful Mistake," these songs weave a fascinating thread of groaner puns, head-scratchers, and quotable sound bites. I realize that my comments here add up to less a review than a choppy pile of superlatives, but frankly, so does this compilation. Possibly due to the rotating personnel involved, Quirky Genius doesn't quite cohere as a seamless listening experience so much as a satisfying bit of channel-surfing, but who needs "flow" when you've got so many great pop songs hitting you in the face, one after the other? You also get wry, knowing liner notes by Canuck critic Marco Ursi! So why don't you just go on and click on the above link to investigate this record? You can listen to sound clips and all! Oh, oh! I forgot to mention how much I love Justian's hysterical vocal contributions, whenever he shows up in the background! Well, I'm just gonna stop now, because otherwise I'll just have to put together a big list of bullet points about why this disc is so great, and you came here for a review, not a PowerPoint presentation. Actually, you probably didn't even come to this page for that, but under the mistaken impression that I'll supply a lyrical interpretation for some of King Crimson's more obscure nonsense... Grade: A

SEE ALSO: PSEUDONYMS

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Koester

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The High Highs the Low Lows

Willie's comments: Named after frontman Steve Koester and sounding like Elvis Costello singing for Grandaddy, this band is a snarky, unpretentious treasure who create stunning, rural indie-rock that's all gussied up with lo-fi "Casio woodwinds," "simulated strings," assorted keyboard-and-Stylaphone bleeps, and lyrics that exude a terrific, literary cynicism. For you see, Koester's pinched vocalizing isn't his only similarity to Mr. Costello; Elvis's approving spectre also hovers over eyebrow-raising one-liners like "The glass is half-empty and what's left is poison," or kiss-offs like, "I could hear you going at it in the back room at the bar/Projecting like a Broadway star/You were annoying even from afar." The band also has no shortage of interesting musical environments into which Koester drops his withering criticisms: "Flowering Judas" builds from a bit of angry guitar thumping into a trippy laser show of synths, while "Transistor Sister" is a more straightforward li'l boogie, and the acidic "One Day You Too Will Bleed" actually is a newfangled take on Costello's recent Bacharach-based chamber-pop. There are also a couple songs that sound like a tip of the hat to Cracker's countrified ballads (which comes as no surprise- Koester is on Camper Van Beethoven's Pitch-a-Tent record label), only better. The High Highs is too short at only nine songs ("Jennifer Tiger Hug" is one of those short, "atmospheric" little nothing tracks that more and more bands seem enamored of these days...), and these guys have yet to discover a sound that is wholly their own, but this might nevertheless be one of the best records of 2002. (How do you pronounce the band's name, by the way? Is it like "coaster" or "keester" or "keh-ster"?) Grade: A-

READER COMMENTS:

jlrskk@earthlink.net writes: your review is right on. i love this band. it's pronounced "kester" -- rhymes w/ "chester.

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: CRACKER, SPARKLEHORSE

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Komputer

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The World of Tomorrow

Willie's comments: There's one great song on the debut album from Komputer, a London robot-pop group: "The Perfect Pop Band." With dispassionate, chanted vocals, an aggressive, mechanical rhythmic bed, and sparkly-eyed synths, this tune exhibits a no-wasted-moves efficiency that suggests New Order recording the soundtrack for a Mega Man game. Alas, nothing else on The World of Tomorrow even presents Komputer as an adequate pop band, but rather nothing more than a shameless Kraftwerk ripoff. Using the same synths, vocoders, and drum machines as Kraftwerk, sticking tightly to the glossy formula that the band perfected on The Man Machine and Computer World, and going so far as to lift entire melodies ("Bill Gates" and "Singapore" being the two worst offenders), Komputer nonetheless fails to capture their predecessors' considerable talent for songwriting subtlety and emotional resonance within the boundaries of their synthesized techno blueprints. What's left is an awful lot of straining, which is something robots simply don't do. Grade: C-

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Market Led

Willie's comments: Apparently coming to terms with the fact that they couldn't remake The Man Machine yet again and retain their souls, Komputer goes all abstract on their second album, delving into glitchy minimalism (a la Pole, Pulseprogramming, etc.) and twitchy rhythmic collage (a la Mouse on Mars). They're much better for the journey. Where The World of Tomorrow was obviously the product of laziness, Market Led is splattered with intricate electronic details, be they a dozen or so interlocking percussive loops on "Gaps" or a pureed vocal sample that runs throughout the pop-o-matic "Keep Rocking." It's not especially melodic even when actual notes enter the picture- the themes are as much cut-and-paste as everything else here- and "Kompaktor" and "Joanna," cool though they are, will test your ability to withstand horrible, industrial clanging sounds as percussion. So Market Led isn't an album for the casual electronica fan. (Einsturzende Neubauten fans will think of it as easy listening, however.) If you like the idea of a million pieces of musical confetti Scotch-taped together in entertaining patterns that can be alternately raucous and simmering, however, this may be what you're looking for. Grade: B+

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Mark Kozelek

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What's Next to the Moon

Willie's comments: Apart from a snickering fondness for "Big Balls" in middle school, I've never really liked AC/DC. And I haven't heard a Red House Painters song that hasn't bored me silly. So it makes perfect sense that I have become obsessed with an album of spare, acoustic AC/DC covers by the guy from the Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek. I'm serious! There's a logic to the success of this project, because the sensibilities of the songs' interpreter differ so drastically and interestingly from those of the songs' authors that you get all the strengths with none of the weaknesses. Kozelek's thoughtful, respectful approach to AC/DC's melodies effectively strips the songs of the shrieky bluster that Angus Young's guitar and Bon Scott's vocals generated in the original versions. (Sorry, Brian Johnson fans, but only the Scott era is represented here.) And on the flip side of the coin, AC/DC writes songs so unshakably brawny, fast, and macho that Kozelek is shorn of his tendency toward slowcore tedium; even though these compositions are performed at half-speed without a rhythm section, their hooky simplicity ensures things move along at a good clip. Moreover, rather than being a simple gimmick of an album, What's Next to the Moon finds more emotion in these songs than you might think. The pensive plucking and emotionally murmured singing of "Love At First Feel," for instance, transform the song from a bawdy Bon Scott joke into a surprisingly sweet memory of teen lust, and a similar treatment renders "Walk All Over You" incredibly sexy despite all the lyrical testosterone. To keep things from getting repetitive, though, Kozelek finds quite a bit of wiggle room within the realm of solo acoustic performance: the title track's bluesy swagger is especially haunting, and "You Ain't Got a Hold on Me" is quite the lullaby. Even though I think it would've been vastly entertaining to see him take on "Big Balls," I can't be too disappointed at its absence, given the way Kozelek manages to spin intimate pop silk from textiles more typically befitting a certain beery, sweaty school uniform here. Grade: A

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Kraftwerk

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Autobahn

Willie's comments: This is really a pretty disappointing album. The single edit of the title track was apparently a worldwide hit, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe the single edit was more interesting than the album version (it was certainly shorter- the version of "Autobahn" on Autobahn is 23 minutes long or so), but its refrain of "Fun, fun, fun on the Autobahn" is blatantly lifted from "Barbara Ann" by The Beach Boys, which wasn't a good song to begin with. The rest of the song is basically dull, formless drones that aren't hypnotic like Stereolab or pretty like Eno. And that goes for the rest of the album, too, except for one song that features a flute. I don't know the actual name of the song because I own the German import version of this album, so all the song titles on the inlay card say things like "Kremmstuchlischtvitz." (NOTE: I later discovered that these songs never had English titles.) Grade: C

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Radio-Activity

Willie's comments: A big step toward genius, Radio-Activity is jam-packed with ominously poppy, synthesized songs that draw parallels between faulty nuclear power and the all-encompassing media. There still aren't many memorable tunes here, except for the title track and the groovy grind of "Antenna," but it's always agreeable music, and Kraftwerk's use of odd mechanized vocals and creepy radio transmission noises keep things from getting boring. Grade: B+

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Trans-Europe Express

Willie's comments: This album starts off with the insanely poppy and happy futuristic synth-pop of "Europe Endless," but quickly takes a turn for the darker. "The Hall of Mirrors" features pretentious existential poetry that sounds hilariously like Spinal Tap going ambient, but Ralf Hutter's comforting accent and the haunting vocal melody make it work. "Showroom Dummies" and "Trans-Europe Express" are similarly ominously catchy, and the rest of the album continues in that vein until the insanely poppy and happy futuristic synth-pop refrain returns on "Endless Endless"! Hooray! This is a good album to listen to when you're alone and feeling sorry for yourself- you'll come away from it feeling cleansed. Grade: A+

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The Man-Machine

Willie's comments: It all starts off with "The Robots," which is a perfect synth-pop tune in which a vocoderized voice chants, "We are the robots," and from there, The Man-Machine may stand as the quintessential example of the lasting mechanized beauty that Kraftwerk could create, even with instruments and effects that would sound hysterically dated in the hands of any other musicians. Less dependent on vocals than any of their other albums (except Radio-Activity, which favored fillery ambient pieces over the sort of fully imagined songs you get on this fillerless six-track record), The Man-Machine spends its time conjuring spooky, minor-key visions of robot civilization, letting sweeping soundscapes do most of the talking. "Spacelab," the title track, and "Metropolis" all scurry with the tension of technology gone awry, while fan favorite "The Model" is as intentionally soulless a love song as you will ever hear, with Hutter monotonously intoning that he'd "like to take her home; that's understood." Only the comforting "Neon Lights" allows any sort of respite from the anxiety. The Man-Machine is like a score to an early-'80s postapocalyptic Mad Max-style film that actually aged well. Grade: A

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Computer World

Willie's comments: "Pocket Calculator" is the most adorable song of all time. I smile every time I hear it. This album is more detached than Trans-Europe Express (save for "Computer Love," which by all logic shouldn't be as moving and wrenching as it is, what with all the dead-sounding keyboards and all), but it's just a nice, catchy, unassuming slice of pre-techno techno. "It's More Fun to Compute" sounds kind of ugly at first, but by the time it's over, you'll be humming along. And the computerized voices throughout the title tracks [sic] and "Numbers" are cute, too. Just a nice, cute album. Grade: A

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Electric Cafe

Willie's comments: Not only is this 1985 effort the first Kraftwerk album that doesn’t sound as though it came from the future, it’s hopelessly mired in the 80s. The sampled vocals of “Boing Boom Tshak” unfortunately recall Yello, while the airy, percussive keyboards used throughout the album sound like Boys Don’t Cry- a bit too human for Kraftwerk’s mechanic aesthetic. Worse still, most of the songs don’t have a single solitary hook to sink your teeth into. The exception is “The Telephone Call,” which is Klassic Kraftwerk: the tune is made up of melodic phone noises and includes a great medley of foreign operators (“The number you call is wrong. Please phone information.”). Grade: C

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The Mix

Willie's comments: Not really a greatest hits album or a straight remix album, The Mix contains a bunch of lengthy reworkings of Kraftwerk's previous songs as housey dance tracks, and the results are entertaining, if rarely as great as the originals. (The exceptions are "Radio-Activity," which benefits from the addition of a creepy computerized voice listing the sites of nuclear disasters, and "Autobahn," which is tightened up by about 13 minutes.) "The Robots" and "Computer Love" undergo interesting mutations to convert their syncopated motorik beats to a more basic dance rhythm, while just about everything else is left alone except for beefed-up percussion. "Pocket Calculator" loses some of its dinky cuteness, "Music Non Stop" is thrown into somewhat sharper focus, etc. It's neither a proper introduction to the group nor particularly essential listening even for die-hard fans, but if you like the idea of a Kraftwerk dance party, it should be right up your alley. Grade: B [WILLIE'S NOTE: 11/7/05: Every song on The Mix except "Computer Love" is now available in similarly transmogrified form on Kraftwerk's fine live album Minimum-Maximum, reviewed below. So the above grade still stands if this collection is taken on its own terms, but within the band's discography, it's pretty much entirely obsolete and probably merits a C- or thereabouts as far as whether you need to get it.]

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Tour de France Soundtracks

Willie's comments: An album of songs loosely connected to a biking theme might sound a little too organic for a group of synth-playing robot wannabes, but Tour de France Soundtracks works extraordinarily well for such a strange-sounding project, especially considering that it had been nearly 20 years since the band released a proper album. The 1999 standalone single "Expo 2000" was cute enough, but it sounded strangely behind the times in a way that was unlikely to heighten anticipation for Kraftwerk's subsequent efforts. As soon as you settle into the familiar, welcoming ticks, mechanical vocal samples, and invigorating synth hooks of the 15-minute "Tour de France Etape" suite that opens the album, though, it's clear that Hutter, Florian Schneider, and the rest of the Kraftwerk team have made it into the 21st century with their muse as strong as ever. (For evidence, the album concludes with the Computer World-style single "Tour de France" from 1983, and it's amazing how little their songwriting style has changed in the interim.) (Let's just forget about Electric Cafe.) As the record guides the listener through a pumping aural session of cross-training on tracks like "Aero Dynamik," "Vitamin," and "Elektro Kardiogramm," it's hard not to fall in love with the streamlined percussion and electronic timbres that sound decidedly efficient- practically mellow- while still not far removed from the ominous klingklang of Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express. There's nothing here to inspire the sort of awe at Kraftwerk's originality that they may have elicited in the '70s, but with more modest expectations, this is bouncy, quirky, thoroughly satisfying proof that they're still the rulers of the genre that they helped to create. Grade: A-

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Minimum-Maximum

Willie's comments: The notion of a Kraftwerk live album is an odd one, innit? I caught them in Toronto in 2004, and although I had a blast and the visual spectacle was amazing (more on that in a bit), I still wasn't entirely sure what the band was doing that constituted "performing": the four of them stood stock still in front of their komputerbanks on an otherwise empty stage for the entire show, and apart from the occasional live vocal on songs like "The Model" and "Pocket Calculator," the whole concert seemed so seamlessly regimented that I remarked that they may well have just been Instant Messaging each other as a tape played behind them. As I said, it was a fun experience, and an amusing subversion of the way people generally attend concerts to see their favorite songs performed with the immediate, human spontaneity that a recording can't provide... but to then turn around and release a live recording of that experience might be pushing things a little far.

Even if the two-disc Minimum-Maximum is a strangely redundant endeavor theoretically, however, it's just enough of a rewarding listen to recommend it to fans who've already heard all the studio stuff. "Radio-Activity" and "The Man-Machine" have each been impressively rejiggered to up the claustrophobic ante, "Expo 2000" has been rewritten in Tour de France Soundtracks style as the far superior "Planet of Visions," and Kraftwerk actually allows themselves to indulge in their equivalent of jamming on a truly trippy, effects-driven version of "Numbers." (Moreover, a few songs like "Pocket Calculator" and "The Robots" are present here in their dancier renditions from the now-useless Mix compilation.) Trouble sets in, though, on "Autobahn," "Trans-Europe Express/Metal on Metal," and the tracks from Tour de France Soundtracks, which come across as virtually verbatim readings of their album versions. In person, these songs were accompanied by visual treats ranging from films of gigantic, Atari-quality text blown up to a menacing degree on a backdrop screen to the group's glowing encore garb, which transformed their bodies into approximations of unrendered CGI skeletons. Without the visual atmosphere, there's nothing to justify the songs' inclusion- and you certainly can't say you're familiar with the live version of "The Robots" without seeing the actual, dancing robots that replaced the band onstage. That said, there's still probably more than a single disc's worth of quality listening here- particularly if you don't already own The Mix- and I do listen to Minimum-Maximum far more often than this review likely suggests. It would've been better packaged as an album-and-DVD set, but if you can't get Maximum Kraftwerk, Minimum Kraftwerk is no slouch itself. Grade: B

READER COMMENTS:

Thomas Burmester writes: Just for the record: The refrain on the title track [of Autobahn] is not "Fun Fun Fun", but "fahren, fahren fahren" which is German for driving. Sorry, no link to the Beach Boys this time.

blitzddr@gmail.com writes: What a coincidence then that Astralwerks is in fact releasing Minimum Maximum in a CD+DVD Boxset or the DVD by itself. [WILLIE'S NOTE: Yay! I'll update the above review to reflect that once I get my hands on the DVD. Maybe.] Anyway, the only Kraftwerk I have is Minimum Maximum but I think it's fantastic. There's almost too many catchy techno songs, so it's hard to take in one sitting. But still, fantastic collection of songs.

Rick Atbert writes: I was really excited by this release [Minimum-Maximum]. I liked "The Mix" because, being the kind of guy who puts amplifiers and subwoofers in his car, I liked how finally you could hear "The Robots" or "Pocket Calculator" with a thumping bass rhythm. "Minimum-Maximum" is an album that works really well with a good bass system, and the sound quality, selection, and performances are so great that for the casual fan this is all you really need. Only real noteworthy omissions are "Europe Endless", and maybe even "Antenna", which I love, and I do think that they could have lightened up on the Tour de France material a little bit. But besides that, I think this album is great!

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Victor Krummenacher

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Nocturne

Willie's comments: As the bassist for the great Camper Van Beethoven, Victor Krummenacher was an unsung hero, grounding their songs melodically while holding his own against the flashier instrumental stylings of Greg Lisher's guitar and Johnathan Segel's violin/mandolin/whatever, not to mention David Lowery's compelling vocal personality. Then he formed the Monks of Doom, where his reedy voice and sterile intellectualisms crashed the songs into the indie-rock dirt. No longer an angry young man, though, Krummenacher's third solo album is a thoughtful, mature gem of rootsy pop that could serve as the flip side of the coin of the more raucous Americana exercises of Lowery's work with Cracker (for whom Krummenacher has played bass on recent tours). Though his voice has gotten twangier and so have his guitars, the countrified mood of the proceedings is just skewed enough to stand next to the best efforts of performers like Tom Petty, Neil Finn, Mark Eitzel, and Jim White, none of whom has ever played their singer/songwriter role entirely straight. The beautiful "Broken Wings," for instance, is a rickety creature when you inspect it carefully- with its strange arrangement that keeps the guitars out of the verses and the bass out of the chorus, and then breaks for a haunting string sample in the middle- but it's anchored by Krummenacher's surprisingly emotional singing and an appropriately swooping melody. For the entire album, whether he's conjuring a brilliant sense of seductive ennui in the simmering "Let's Think of Nothing Now" (one of 2003's best songs) or giving more upbeat folk-rock a go in "Raise the Dead" and "The Price I'll Pay," he maintains an air of introspection and emotional disconnection without being dour about it. More addictive than albums this subtle usually are, Nocturne is smart, sincere, and full of great musical ideas. I think you need it. Grade: A

SEE ALSO: CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN

SEE ALSO: MONKS OF DOOM

THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: KING MISSILE

WRITE COMMENTS ABOUT VICTOR KRUMMENACHER


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