Garza is part of an endangered species — songwriters with an individual musical voice and an overflowing quantity of talent across the board. Like many endangered species, the threat comes from a destruction of habitat, in this case the razing of radio in order to make room for the musical equivalent of mass-market mini-malls and fast-food joints, leaving little room for unique and inviting sounds such as his. This is something Garza seems well aware of, making more than passing reference to the fact in “Drone” and “Say Baby,” the first two tracks on here. With lines like “used to start fires, used to harmonize with the stereo, now it’s just drone” and “soul is a four letter scam, DJ’s won’t spin your jam unless you say baby baby baby baby,” the songs serve as a searing indictment of the current state of affairs. Given the acrid tone of these songs (and several others on the album), it’s surprising that Garza remains on a major label that seems to be content to release his records with little fanfare or promotion. Perhaps there are contractual obligations at play.
But none of this seems to affect the sheer musicality of Overdub, which continues Garza’s tradition of great songs, catchy hooks, a trembling and quite personable falsetto, and inventive production. A bit more “rock” than previous outings, Overdub sometimes sounds like an effort to placate dumb-eared record executives, but this is done without Garza sacrificing anything — he simply seems to let the rocker out. For example, “Crown Of Thorns” features a pretty straightforward drums-bass-guitar bass attack, but also highlights Garza’s magic warble and stream-of-consciousness lyrics that seem to waver between religious and sinful. “Too Much,” a song that dates back from his independent days, makes a return with different production but with the same delicate melody and hearbreaking lyrics: “Can’t we try to work it out, there’s got to be a better way/I’d give you all of my tomorrows for one of your yesterdays.” As an added bonus, the CD includes MP3s of demo versions for all the songs — definitely lo-fi, but definitely David Garza. A very nice extra for fans.
Overdub is a fine, fine record, as good as any Garza has released (and they’ve all been fine, fine records). By now, Garza seems to have realized what many a critic realized upon release of This Euphoria, his first record for Atlantic — he’s too talented for major label success. In his inimitable fashion, he’s written about it, exorcised those demons from his soul, and entertained mightily while doing so. I’m not giving up hope that those major radio station music directors with an actual ear for music will stick their necks out and give Garza the opportunity and success he deserves, and that someday his music will be blaring from radios across the nation. In the meantime, you can take matters into your own hands and make Overdub blare out of yours.
Like The B-52’s performing Orff’s Carmina Burana or a retro new wave partry gone suddenly Satanic, The Rah Bras provide a feeling of simultaneous chirpiness and unease. With driving and often convoluted beats, and a penchant for woozy analog keyboard riffs and the occasional angelic vocals of the buxom Isabellarah Rubella, The Rah Bras are a wicked carnival, smelling faintly of sin and corruption beneath the bright colors and antiseptic. “Gently Jeanrah” sounds like a remake of a traditional offering, while “Fungry” is alternately fun and hungry, with a “hoo-hah” chorus and a space-age verse that seem to conflict (and often) in the scant space of its minute and a half. It’s hard to imagine how a trio (Boo Rah and Jean Rah, along with the aforementioned Isabellarah) can make such an unholy racket with only drums, bass, and keyboard. The Rah Bras once again carve deeper into their musical niche, generating something unheard of but quite compelling. Fans of Brainiac and The World Inferno Friendship Society take heed.
School shooting, loving each other, rocking hard? “Me and my crew,” “Sweaty thongs,” and a sex anthem? Live rapping? Um… what the hell happened here? Every song on V has elements of heavy rock, techno, and most newly added, rap lyrics? That’s right, Live fans, Ed is trying his hand at a thug life. Aside from being the singer of a band like Live, he’s really not all that bad, it’s just that he’s not a rap star — he’s not even that close to Bubba Sparxxx, for that matter. With every CD, Live have reinvented themselves a little, but this time, with this reinvention, they gave up a lot of the things they’re really great at: original sounds, honest and well-written lyrics, and thoughtful songs that every other band isn’t doing. It’s always important to try new things, but it’s too forced on V. The best policy is always to be yourself, and this CD is like a mask that what used to be this really great band is now wearing. This is by no means the CD to buy if you’ve never listened to Live before, because it isn’t really even them, in a lot of senses.
Radioactive Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.friendsoflive.com
How You Remind Me
Anyone who listens to alt-rock radio will have heard this song at least once if your DJs are doing what they’re supposed to be. The sweetly written and emotional rock thing is a little played out, but Nickelback’s new single “How You Remind Me” is their best yet. Creed, 3 Doors Down, Staind (on their ballads) and at least one local band from every little town has paved the way for the type A alt- rocker to expose his soul and actually write music that tells of something; the throaty voice, tight pants, shaggy hair, and dark aviator glasses are just accessories to the deeper meaning off all passionate guys with guitars. Telling about a fight with a significant other where he/she basically just rips you up, declaring all your faults in one session: “Never made it as a wise man/ I couldn’t cut it as a poor man stealing/ Tired of living like a blind man/I’m sick inside without a sense of feeling/And this is how your remind me/This is how you remind me of what I really am/It’s not like you to say sorry” is something that everyone can identify with in some sense. Other than that, it’s a strong track and a good example of what alt-rock is supposed to be like. These guys could be Nickelback, world-renowned recording artists, or your next door neighbor’s band — it’s just that kind of music.
Dirty Rotten Imbeciles
How Not to Reissue an Album or Compile a Retrospective, example #93: Dirty Rotten Imbeciles’ Greatest Hits. For fuck•s sake, is this any way to treat a legendary band?! Dubious title and track-selection squabbles aside, this compilation comes courtesy of the once-respectable/now-suspect, line-•em-up/ship-•em-out Cleopatra family, specifically its Deadline division, who are responsible for the shoddy reissue of Tiamat•s Sumerian Cry debut a couple years back (surprising that Century Media didn•t take their asses to court). That should tip off the more-astute of you, and then some. What we•re given in D.R.I.•s Greatest Hits is weak •remastering• (the original CD pressings sound as good, if not better, or at the very least louder), an all-fucked-up track listing (good thing I already own all of its contents, lest I should look like the fool), next to no liner notes (no track info and/or broad band history, but a tiny and inconsequential paragraph from somebody named •DJ Will,• presumably an old roadie/soundman of the band•s), zero graphic design (a bootleg probably would have looked better, basically because it would•ve looked like someone actually cared), and a song-selection solely focusing on their first three albums (Dirty Rotten LP, Dealing With It, and the ever-influential Crossover). It•s that lattermost element that makes me grumble the loudest and to no end, as Four of a Kind and Thrash Zone (1988 and •89, respectively) are no slouch by any means, and even as patchy and erratically recorded as their •90s output is, it•s still imminently enjoyable and certainly worth a nod. But seriously • this is Cleopatra we•re talking •bout here, folks. (Need proof? Check out all their horrendous tribute albums, piss-poor reissues, and bootleg cum official live albums • a real study in modern ineptitude if there ever was one.) However, there•s no denying the contents, as time-locked as it is, their thrash-meets-hardcore onslaught still resonating today, if not in a more vague form; consequently, •Nursing Home Blues• (from Dealing With It) still sounds as fresh today as when I heard it as a young skate-punk back in •88. Still, I can kinda understand the concept, but as for the execution? Sheesh•. Big question on everyone•s minds, though • where the hell was Rotten Records in all this? Latest D.R.I. update: played a thrashing-mad show at this year•s Milwaukee Metalfest (infinitely glad I was there).
Love And Theft
How did Bob Dylan become a better singer? He lost his voice.
Seriously, his voice is gone, and after listening to this, his 43rd album, I wonder why he hasn’t sung like this before. Love And Theft is unlike almost any other album that Dylan has done, if only because of the sheer number of musical styles that he incorporates through the 12 songs on here. It’s as if one day Dylan decided to go for a stroll through the history of the blues and take a shot at everything.
“Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is an excellent song to the start the album off. It prepares you for this ride with very strong rhythm and good guitar work. The best song on the album is “Mississippi,” the second track. Basically, it’s just about the truest Dylan sound of any song here. “Po’ Boy,” however, has the best lyrics. I mean, a “Knock, Knock” joke? From Dylan? Priceless.
After listening through this album a couple of times, the music only gets stronger after you get used to the voice. Dylan sings in “Mississippi”: “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.” I don’t think he needs to worry about this current comeback of his career; at 60 years and 43 albums, he’s still showing us how it’s done.
Newcomers Porter have been compared to Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. Those are very high expectations and on their first release, Whiskey Hill, they don’t quite meet them yet. In their favor, they utilize congas, wah rhythm guitars, chimes, a balafon, and an organ in many of their songs (among other staple instruments) which creates a very unique sound and an eclectic variety of material. While they still have a lot of shaping to do as a musical force, they have meaning and soul behind their songs and that gives the group an extra push. Some standout tracks are “What I’ve Learned,” “A Change in the Weather,” “Camouflage” and “Last Night.” Porter is The Barenaked Ladies meets Vince Gill meets Mel Tormé. Weird, but somehow also strangely lovable.
Blue Monster Records, http://www.bluemonsterrecords.com
Life Is Good
LFO (Lyte Funky Ones) are the pop answer to The Bloodhound Gang — infamous for celebrity name-dropping, cute rhymes, and feel-good songs about depthless subjects. On their second album, Life Is Good, LFO hands out a nice collection of what can’t be called rock, but is still better than pop and isn’t exactly dance, or R&B either… it’s radio, how’s that? “Every Other Time” is the first single off the album, and is already burned into the airwaves. A few other decent songs are the cute “wish I had her” song “6 Minutes,” “Alayna” (featuring De La Soul for a poppy, reggae/ hip-hop flavored tune that’s the most complete on the whole record). The LFO award for best writing goes to the song “Dandelion”: “I feel your vibe is kinda deep/the moon hung over Soho and I counted sixteen stars/I pointed at the brightest one and said ‘Now that one’s ours’/I thought she was a flower but I found out she’s a weed.” This beautiful bittersweet “love song” is on the album a second time, featuring Kelis. The title track leaves a lot to be desired and a couple of the other songs are borderline cheese with that permanent summer feel. If you’ve passed up LFO because they share fans with N’Sync, give them a listen before totally writing them off. If nothing else, they collaborated with two of hip-hop’s most beloved on Life Is Good, and that has to say something.