Among the first run of American New Wave bands, the story of Game Theory is among the most quietly heartbreaking. While the ambitious musical and lyrical output of creative mastermind Scott Miller was never destined for an arena-sized audience, a combination of questionable management and bad record deals kept their music from an audience larger than the most ardent true believers.
Omnivore Records’ lush and expansive reissues are bringing Game Theory’s shimmering, melancholy pop to the widest audience it’s received to date. Dead Center, the second album they’ve repackaged and remastered, finds the 1983 iteration of Game Theory at an interesting point in their musical evolution. The production sounds more polished than on the home-recorded Dead Center, with a stronger low end and a greater sonic balance. Their arrangements show a greater sense of ambition, as well as the musical skill to back it up.
Every time I hear someone complaining that rock and roll is dead, I cringe. This proclamation is usually accompanied by a rant against Miley Cyrus or whatever Top 40 artist is being hyped at the moment. Which leads me to wonder: is the concern that rock and roll is dead, or that it’s no longer at the top of the Billboard charts?
Any handwringing over the fate of rock and roll quickly falls apart in the presence of Ty Segall. For one thing, he’s clearly beholden to his forebears while still sounding vital and original. He also puts out a lot of music on a frequent basis. And he releases honest to goodness singles. Granted, a lot of bands release singles these days, especially via iTunes, but what makes Ty Segall’s singles special is that they come with B-sides, which, if we’re going the traditional route, is way more rock and roll because it evokes the format in which rock music ascended the charts: the vinyl 45.
OK, full disclosure: as a sort of sommelier of the strange, I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen La Planète Sauvage (a.k.a. Fantastic Planet) until recently. But never fear, because this should prove to even the most jaded, freaky, boogie children that it’s never too late to discover something mind blowingly cool. If you haven’t seen this gorgeously animated Science Fiction philosophical allegory, seek it out immediately. Do not pass go; do not collect 200 dollars.
By Tyler Hodg
Lyrics are often the easiest way for a listener to develop a connection to a song. They can be manipulated to convey whatever meaning you desire and can bring a new perspective to the notes that they accompany. Brian Altano (IGN, The Comedy Button) defied the importance of lyrics to create an instrumental album that explores the notion that words aren’t the only way to make music a personable and thought-provoking experience. The result is Misanthrope, and it’s truly a remarkable ride.
The worst Christmas song I’ve ever heard that isn’t “The Christmas Shoes” is its glurgy precursor, Red Sovine’s “Is There Really A Santa Claus?” I heard the song on a country Christmas compilation I picked up at a flea market for a buck. In it, a widower (dead mom alert!) who has been very cross with his children on Christmas Eve (telling them there was no Santa Claus, that jerk) realizes the error of his ways and goes out to get them presents, hoping the stores haven’t closed. He gets hit by a car. The kids’ presents? Delivered by . . . Santa. The song is jawdroppingly awful, yet awesome.
Fans of Jellyfish and Redd Kross will already know about TV Eyes but what about the uninitiated? That’s who really needs to read this review.
The storied history and devoted fanbase of both groups would take at least two books to describe fully (someone get on that please, by the way), but you may be familiar with three names from those bands: Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.; Jason Falkner; and Brian Reitzell.
Fans of psychedelic music are lucky to be alive during the glory days of its resurgence. There are a lot of great bands out there doing inventive things with psych rock and one of these is Wand, whose debut Ganglion Reef should make several Top Ten lists this year.
It’s been 20 years since the Old 97′s released their debut album Hitchhike To Rhome. Listening to Omnivore’s reissue, I’m struck by how it sounds like The Old 97′s are a seemingly impossible creation: the bastard son of Merle Haggard and Roger McGuinn. Ken Bethea’s jangly guitar is there and Rhett Miller’s boozy, yelpy delivery is too, along with his witty lyrics that are chock full of wordplay. They’ve refined their sound, only just, over the years, but there’s something remarkable about a band that knew who they were and what their sound was from the get go.
Compilation albums are usually hit or miss. While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years Of Bloodshot Records is for the most part, quite a pack of hits. This collection of covers of songs by Bloodshot artists, including Neko Case, Ryan Adams, The Old 97’s, Alejandro Escovedo, and Justin Townes Earle, as well as many others, was recorded by non-label artists. Strong songwriting always helps, and these artists’ takes on the Bloodshot songs vary from straightforward, faithful covers to madly inventive versions. Some songs are epically beardy. Some songs sound as if they’ve come down from a mountain in a basket.
By Tim Murr
Oslo, Norway’s Timeworn has barreled out of the gates with a blockbuster album called Luminescent Wake. It combines elements of thrash metal and ’90s hardcore, in a wholly exciting way. I keep hearing comparisons to Converge, and I guess I hear that, too, but I’d compare them more to a meatier sounding Bloodlet.