Got hold of a promo download of the new Black Keys album Brothers and have been giving it a listen just now.

I think we’re way past the point now of talking about the Black Keys emerging from the shadow of The White Stripes — two bands, both guitar-drums duos working in a garage-blues milieu, and having similar-yet-opposite names, but one getting their mainstream (whatever that is these days) acknowledgment a bit ahead of the other. The Black Keys distinguished themselves in a big way with their most recent album Attack & Release as they moved stylistically a few degrees from raucous garage-blues towards more of a slow-burn soul sound that I think is especially well-suited to Dan Auerbach’s voice, sort of the Paul Rodgers to Jack White’s Robert Plant. Fans of Attack & Release will be happy to know that that stylistic progression didn’t end with the concept of writing songs for Ike Turner; Brothers continues forward with that songwriting vein, even as it moves a little bit backwards in production and arrangements toward the rawness of earlier Black Keys albums. The combination works well, and thought it’s hard to say after one listen, this could the the best Black Keys album yet.

Anyway not to beat the White Stripes thing to death, especially since I think I like the Black Keys better lately — but the reason I even bring it up is that Auerbach does start this album out with something new for him that has the potential to bring that reference back into play: the “Blue Orchid”-ish falsetto in which he sings the album’s opener, “Everlasting Light.” While probably unnecessary, it’s still an interesting new thing to hear from this band, and shows that they continue to experiment with their sound. He brings it back in a few well-chosen moments later in the album, but not many, and more generally explores the higher end of his vocal range on a few of the numbers here. I love Auerbach’s voice, and I love that this many albums and years in he’s still doing new things with it.

I’m not going to tell you where I found the whole album, set to be released May 18, because of the weird legal shit going on in the music game these days, but The Black Keys’ website should have a couple songs up for download and you can find out how to pre-order the “deluxe edition,” yet another of those music-business gimmicks that’s big these days, from there was well. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t at their show in Iowa City a couple weeks ago. Really just didn’t have that kind of cash to throw around at the time. As Cake said, how do you afford your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?

Heh, I love this band. This video is great fun. In the black-and-white shot of the two scientists freaking out, check out the blackboard behind them. I love when a heavy band doesn’t take themselves overseriously.

Also check out this live video of “Spirit Molecule”:

Both found via Sludge Swamp.

I posted a link to this awesome video to my Facebook the other day and should have posted it here. I love this guy. Plus he used to play drums for Parts & Labor, so he’s not just some jackass writing about music who knows nothing about making it. I recommend following him on Twitter.

And check out Hype Machine’s response.

UPDATE: Special thanks go out to Ippio for not having a way to embed videos that doesn’t start them auto-playing right when the page loads. That’s fucking annoying, guys. I couldn’t deal with it anymore so I took the embed out of this post, so just follow the link above instead.

Little Village Magazine tweeted this shit today:

Sorry Des Moines, but if you had this much art…. your brain would explode. Another average weekend in IC:

I don’t understand this shit-talking towards Des Moines that just about anybody in the art or music scene in Iowa City thinks is so necessary that they do. For as much as any of them pay any actual attention to Des Moines’ art and music, for them to comment on Des Moines they might as well be talking about fucking Mars. Yet for some reason there’s this perception in Iowa City that (a) they’re the only place in Iowa that has anything going on, and (b) Des Moines is a dismal shithole from which nothing good can ever come. It was hard enough to get a venue in Iowa City to take me seriously when I was a musician from Waterloo, then fate conspired to move me to Des Moines and if anything it got worse. We get treated better in Omaha and even Dubuque. Oh, Kent Williams reviewed Why Make Clocks’ CD, These Things Are Ours, quite positively in Little Village. The album was recorded in Iowa City, and we specifically sent it to Kent because I like the dude. But then he spent half the review tearing down Des Moines before spending the rest on why he liked the CD. Is that fucking necessary? He should have just made the review half as long instead.

Here’s an idea, Iowa CIty: maybe try looking outside your little fucking bubble once in a while. I mean I love Iowa City, I’m a fan and friend of several musicians in your town, I think it’s a cool place with a lot going on, and when I make it out there I usually make sure to pick myself up a copy of Little Village. Think anybody over there can be bothered to return the favor? Fuck no. So how the hell would any of you have any idea what we got for art here, if you aren’t even looking? Really, what the fuck is this bullshit high school rivalry you’re trying to run here? I ain’t playing that game.

I debated with myself whether to do reviews on this site. I think there are some very real potential pitfalls to being a musician while also casting oneself in the critic role. But oh well, if I think of something interesting to say about an album, I will. I figure that I download so much music for free (kind of a by-product of spending so much time on the Internet) that it’s the least I can do to spread the word about something if I like it. If you’re a band or label and think I might find something interesting to say about your album, you’re welcome to send it to me.

I suppose my having been exposed to Cathedral’s new album The Guessing Game follows from my having taken an interest in doom metal in recent years. Supposedly Cathedral are ranked among the heavyweights of the genre’s history. Knowing this, yet having not heard any of the band’s previous material, puts me in an interesting position with respect to this album, since what’s going on here is often quite different from conventional doom fare. Early in the album, “Funeral Of Dreams” makes this point quite clearly — after starting out with the sort of chugging heavy riff you’d expect, suddenly a passage breaks out in which vocalist Lee Dorian trades off spoken lines with an odd-metered melody played on some sort of organ or mellotron, perhaps doubled by marimba. The band has stated in interviews that they wanted to really let their love of prog-rock run free on this album. They manage to make strong melodic and textural reference to early ’70s prog while steering clear of most of the genre’s more self-indulgent and excessive tendencies — unless you count the album’s overall length, which necessitates a double CD.

Elsewhere in the album we get strings, more mellotron, synths, songs with mazes of changes, a classical-tinged instrumental (the title track), and the psychedelic twists of “Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine.” For all this decoration though, there’s no shortage of heavy riffage, but even where they stick closer to a metal sound, Cathedral follow their own madcap inspiration on The Guessing Game, somehow evoking the eccentric vibe common to ’60s British psychedelia without appropriating much of its sound. Guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings can obviously do gloomy when called for, particularly in the album’s doomier second half, and can also write a hooky riff that gets caught in your head, as on “Painting In The Dark.” Even the bassist keeps his part of things interesting, accenting changes with tasteful runs reminiscent of Faith No More’s Billy Gould.

Despite coming from a genre where lyrics usually tend toward the epic, apocalyptic, or mystical, Lee Dorian goes down-to-earth here, focusing on the issues of political and religious dogma, materialism, and the motives of the powerful, often in quite straightforward terms. Many of the lyrics wouldn’t sound out of place in more of an 80’s hardcore-punk setting, even to the point of including an animal-rights song, “Requiem For The Voiceless” (which happens to be, musically, the album’s most traditionally doomy moment). Given that Dorian got his start in Napalm Death, this political bent makes sense. Similarly straightforward is his vocal delivery, a clean melodic style favoring expression over flash, only getting growly when it suits the content as on “The Running Man.”

Honestly, Cathedral probably could have spared their label some trouble and expense by leaving off the closing track, “Journeys Into Jade.” Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it would have been enough to make the album fit on one CD, and it starts off as a rambling meditation on the band’s history and potential legacy that works each of their album titles into the lyrics — the sort of thing that suggests that a band might be considering hanging it up, which would be a shame in this case. Following this is the obligatory “ooh, bonus track” interval of silence followed by another “song,” a device I find to be kind of played-out and a bit silly in the post-CD era. The bonus “song,” in this case, consists of the artist responsible for most of Cathedral’s cover artwork over their career explaining the concept behind this album’s cover. Good cover art shouldn’t need such explanation, but I suppose it does serve as an enticement to downloaders like myself to purchase a legit physical copy, since from what I’ve heard, it folds out into something more elaborate than pictured above.

It’s difficult to catalog every type of sound Cathedral employ on the The Guessing Game. True to its title, it keeps you guessing. I’m not sure doom metal is usually intended to be this fun; whatever history this band has, however, they’ve made a conscious effort to transcend the genre here, and this rewards the open-minded listener with a pretty unique combination of heavy, catchy, and colorful.

Being Gone by the Poison Control Center from TAPES FOR LIFE on Vimeo.

From the forthcoming (May 18 is the release date) album Sad Sour Future.

I don’t who the gal is sitting at the modular in the top picture that looks like it’s from the ’60s in this but that picture rules. The ashtray to the side is an especially nice touch.

But at least Pinnacle Records still has their album Let Your Yes Be Yes available as a free download. And lots of other cool stuff too.


If it’s about music, and it crosses my mind to post it here, but then I find myself asking whether I should, I’m going to try to automatically [answer]( yes.

So, a little bit bored at work today, I thought I may as well mention that as of today Murder By Death‘s “Good Morning Magpie” has been out for a week and I still haven’t heard any of it. But if I had, I’d instead be writing about what it sounds like.

I wonder what’s to become of their May 13th date at The Picador now that it’s not The Picador anymore. Anyone know?