Posts Tagged ‘EP’

jew-damageLet’s be honest with ourselves here—there will never be another Clarity or Bleed American, simply because those records are modern classics, and Jimmy Eat World got older, and so did we. These days, I’m not expecting JEW to put out the next Clarity, because it’s not 1999 anymore, it’s 2013.

That being said, I don’t want them to abandon what made them excellent in the first place. I don’t think they ever completely did, but some of their previous records flirted with it, becoming poppier and more produced than I would have liked.

Damage is the closest Jimmy Eat World has come to returning to their classic emo/alternative rock roots in many years, and it is excellent indeed. The record seems to mix the older stripped-down emo sounds with the Futures-and-onward full-bodied aesthetic. In short, it’s a good mix of the old and new Jimmy Eat World.

Right off the bat, “Appreciation” hits the listener with an organic guitar-based approach that typifies most of Damage. It’s probably thanks to the bare-bones recording-to-tape approach used by producer Alain Johannes, a regular Queens of the Stone Age collaborator. The title track, “Lean,” and “Book of Love” are upbeat, jaunty pop-rock songs. Lead single “I Will Steal You Back” boasts one of the stronger choruses on the album.

“Please Say No” might be the “Hear You Me” of Damage; a gradually-building slow-tempo ballad with deeply personal and specific lyrics. The next two tracks step up the energy—the exceptional “How’d You Have Me” is full of driving guitar and catchy hooks, and “No, Never” is the closest thing to Bleed American/Futures-era Jimmy Eat World I’ve heard the band produce since those records were released.

JEW has always thrived in the open spaces—expansive, mid-tempo rock songs with emotive lyrics from frontman Jim Adkins. The superb “Byebyelove” is a great example: another standout for sure, and one of my favorites. Album closer “You Were Good” is a simple acoustic song that almost sounds like it could have been found on one of JEW’s lesser-known EPs like Firestarter, the self-titled EP, or Stay On My Side Tonight.

Along with guitarist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch, and drummer Zach Lind, Adkins has crafted another masterwork here with Jimmy Eat World’s seventh studio full-length. Although the record is rather short—ten tracks, clocking in at just over a half-hour—the band consistently pulls off what they do best: sweet and simple emo-rock songs that stick with you. 2013’s Damage is unexpectedly excellent.

~ J.M.

lucero-texas-and-tennesseeI pretty much divide Lucero into two eras nowadays: the old half and the new half. The old half, back in the That Much Further West/Nobody’s Darlings period, when the band had a more punk-influenced sound with crappier production values and more whiskey-powered sadness, seems to have waned in recent years. It’s given way to the new half, spanning 2009’s 1372 Overton Park until the present, which includes brass instruments and a healthy helping of Memphis blues and soul.

I enjoy both halves of the band’s career, although I prefer the old. On Lucero’s new four-track EP, Texas & Tennessee—to my knowledge, the first EP of their long career—they dip back into the old style a bit on the first two tracks, then give way to the rambling bluesy aesthetic on the last two. All in all, it’s a refreshing mix of their new full-bodied sound with a touch of the old depressing Lucero of yore.

The title track starts things off with an acoustic guitar that could fit it on some of the first Lucero records. Understated brass, a tasteful tambourine, and frontman Ben Nichols’s gravelly vocals round out the track nicely. Possibly the most solid tune on the EP.

My favorite part of “Union Pacific Line” is the beautiful finger-picking lead guitar part, supported by the full-bodied bass underneath. As with the first song, gentle brass swells accent the choruses—this is how I prefer the brass in Lucero’s sound: as supporting characters, accents to provide depth and emotion as Nichols groans on mournfully.

As mentioned, the last half of the EP relies on Lucero’s newer sound, a swinging blues-and-soul influenced aesthetic that seems decidedly, well, happier than the EP’s first two tracks. “Breathless Love” is a triplet-based groove with tinkling piano and more upfront trumpet lines. “Other Side of Lonesome” ends the EP in a ramblin’ Texas sort of way, complete with southern-style guitar riffs and a jolly tambourine-and-bass-drum foundation. These two tracks could have appeared on Lucero’s last full-length, 2012’s Women & Work.

Whichever side of Lucero you prefer, the Texas & Tennessee EP offers a little bit of both. If you like alt-country, southern blues, or soul music, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this latest offering. Texas & Tennessee might not be essential for a skimming of the Lucero catalog, or even a good place to start digging into the band, but it’s definitely a must-have for longtime Lucero fanatics or any fan of alt-country.

~ J.M.

P.S. Does anyone else think it’s weird that Lucero’s sophomore album was called simply Tennessee, and now this EP is called Texas & Tennessee? Maybe it’s suggesting an expansion of the old Lucero, adding a “Texas” style of rambling country to the old Tennessee sound. Or maybe they didn’t think twice about it and just liked the name. Conjecture on my part!

564315aef3a8dadb581c7c2ae222e177It’s one thing for an artist to indulge in his or her own creative vision, experiment, have fun, and go on a well-deserved tangent from the main project for a while. By all means, I feel artists have the right and privilege to do such things, especially when they’ve reached a certain level of success.

It’s another thing entirely for an artist to neglect the fans that put him where he is in the first place. And with Puscifer’s latest EP, Donkey Punch the Night, I’m really starting to feel that Maynard James Keenan is doing exactly that—neglecting the Tool fans that allowed him to achieve the success he has. This particular tangent is, in my opinion, getting a little old.

Yet another Puscifer EP, with the back half composed of remixes of the first half. Yet another Puscifer tour to accompany the EP. In all likelihood, another couple batches of wine from Keenan’s vineyard. All delaying indefinitely the recording and release of the mega-anticipated fifth Tool LP.

I hate to join the legions of Tool fans whining at Maynard: “Come on, man, get back to Tool! We want another Tool album!” I can’t help it, though; that is exactly how I feel. Puscifer is starting to feel recycled, expected, and, well, rather boring. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Donkey Punch the Night is the nail in Puscifer’s coffin, but I might say it’s the hammer preparing to slam the nail home. It’s not that the album is particularly bad, it’s just nothing special. It’s underwhelming. It’s unimpressive.

The EP leads off with Keenan’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s not a bad cover, but how many times has this song been done? Probably at least a gazillion. Of course, Maynard knows that, he’s just indulging. The other cover song is “Balls to the Wall,” originally by Accept. It’s okay, but again, nothing crazy.

The two originals on the album are “Breathe” and “Dear Brother.” The latter is the strong point of the album, although I don’t think it sounds vastly different from the tracks on the last Puscifer album, Conditions of My Parole, or even from prior Puscifer EPs. “Breathe” is a spacey post-industrial composition with a female vocal track accompanying Maynard’s growls. Once again, I can’t say I necessarily dislike the track, I’m just not impressed with it.

The EP rounds itself out with remixes of these two original tracks and a remix of “Balls to the Wall.” Although not available on iTunes, physical copies (and possibly copies from other online vendors, I’m too lazy to investigate) include a remix of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover. Classic Puscifer economics here—tack on remixes of each song, doubling the track count to eight, allowing vendors to charge almost what they would for a full-length, even though the release only really contains four songs. Two of which are covers, at that. Call me cynical, but this pattern is starting to get a little old, and I’m starting to feel a little ripped off.

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Sometimes, the blame for this kind of thing could fall on the artist’s label; maybe the band’s contract requires them to do so many albums and tours before they can go back to whatever they did before. Puscifer can’t even use that excuse, though; they’re on Keenan’s own label, the aptly-titled Puscifer Entertainment. So Maynard is essentially proving that he’s neglecting his Tool duties because he wants to record and tour with Puscifer instead. I’m joining in with the whining legions chanting, “come on, Maynard, we bought all your Tool records and made you a millionaire. Give us what we want!” It’s high time that Tool got down to business, if for no other reason than the fact that Tool is what made the tangent known as Puscifer possible in the first place. In a word, he owes us.

If there’s one thing I’ll give Maynard credit for on this release, though, it’s being able to sing the refrain of “Dear Brother,” which reads “donkey punch the night away,” while sounding serious. Oh, and the cover art is rather amusing—I mean, just look at that donkey’s face. Donkey Punch the Night isn’t a terrible release, it’s just an underwhelming and unnecessary one.

~ J.M.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve all but given up on Angels and Airwaves. In my opinion, it was cool in 2006 when the first album came out—and then they put out the same album three times after that. I hear you out there, die-hard AVA lovers (you know who you are), protesting my opinions: “All the albums are really different, you’re just not listening thoroughly,” “Every album is ingenious in its own right,” etc. etc. etc. Sorry, I just think the Love albums sound like uninventive variations on previous material and consistently tried too hard to be epic and grandiose and relevant and life-changing.

You may wonder, then, why I would even bother listening to the band’s latest release, especially one with a title this ridiculous. Nevertheless, I gave the Stomping the Phantom Brake Pedal EP a try. Call it nostalgia, or boredom, or just the fact that it popped up on the front page of the iTunes store. I don’t know why I did it exactly, but I previewed the album and eventually downloaded it.

Verdict? Meh. Mostly—key word here, mostly—the album is a disappointment. On second thought, it’s really not a disappointment, because I didn’t expect anything in the first place. That’s generally my life motto: don’t expect much, and you won’t get disappointed. It makes for a really rewarding and fulfilling life. Not. Back to the point: Stomping the Phantom Brake Pedal consists of three songs that are really “evolved” compositions from the musical score of the band’s Love movie (this band is really into love, aren’t they?). Before we get to those tracks, let us casually cast aside the latter half of the EP, which is made up of six remixes of songs from the second Love album. For one, they just sound… not that cool. Secondly, why would I enjoy remixes of songs I already don’t care for? They’re pretty forgettable, all things considered. That’s just me, though—if you are indeed a fan of those original songs, (greetings again AVA die-hards!) I suppose you’d probably enjoy the remixes.

Back to the first three tracks. Excuse me, reels. We’ve got to be hipsterly correct here. Wait… I should patent that term, that’s a good one. But again, back to the point—the first three songs. Tracks 2 and 3 (reels 5 and 6, confusingly) are instrumental tracks, showcasing a more techno/electronica/industrial sound than AVA usually offers. Interesting, but not something that’s going to change my opinion of the band entirely.

Then we arrive at the first track—reel 1, subtitled “Diary.” It’s a shame “Diary” leads off this EP, because it is the definite high point and makes the rest of the album a letdown if listening chronologically. The song starts out in typical AVA fashion; long intro, droning synths, a distorted backing beat. Then, at the 3:30 mark, it breaks into a nice groovy drum pattern courtesy of new drummer Ilan Rubin, formerly of Nine Inch Nails (so that’s where that industrial influence came from!), with simple piano notes above it. Eventually, frontman Tom Delonge’s voice appears over this pattern. Usually this is the point where most AVA songs succumb to a lack of variety and sound a bit ridiculous. Not the case this time. “Diary” places Tom’s vocals in the back of the mix, muddying and stretching them over the groove, resulting in a pleasing post-rock feel that suits the band, in my opinion, quite well.

Let’s be clear: I’m not praising “Diary” because I think it is a particularly groundbreaking or mind-blowing song. What “Diary” provides is a change of direction—a change of direction, finally, for a band that needs a breath of fresh air in their material. I’m praising “Diary” for being something different than what I’ve heard this band creating for the past six years and three full-length albums. The post-rock direction of this song—especially putting that whiny Delonge vocal back further in the mix—is where I would like to see Angels and Airwaves go in the future.

Will this happen? Not likely, since “Diary” is simply a reel, an evolved piece of musical score from that dratted movie. There’s no reason to suspect they’ll make more songs in this vein. I’m holding out hope, though, that Mr. Rubin’s new influence will make a difference. In the meantime I’m going to go listen to Tom in Enema of the State like it’s 1999.

~ J.M.

I’m sure many of you have encountered what I call a “punk purist” at one point or another. Punk purists are those people who get their panties all in a wad if a band produces something more musical than the same three power chords and a punk drum beat. For the record, I am NOT one of those people—I quite enjoy, most of the time, when a band expands their palette a bit and puts some experimentation in their music. Blink-182 is a good example. 2003’s self-titled album (“untitled” if you’re a twat about it) is one of my favorite records of all time and I would still contend that I haven’t heard anything quite like it since.

Then Blink broke up, and it all went down the toilet. Sure, they got back together, but I didn’t have high hopes after their reunion, and 2011’s Neighborhoods didn’t quite cut it for me, especially compared to the self-titled album. When I heard they were putting out a 5-song EP, Dogs Eating Dogs, I had hoped it might herald a return to the more experimentalist post-punk of Blink-182, and restore my hope in their innovative prowess.

Wishful thinking, I guess.

Maybe I should be a little more punk purist or something, because the new Blink material isn’t nearly as cool as self-titled-era Blink, and it’s becoming too cheesy to even compare to Dude Ranch/Cheshire Cat-era Blink (and that’s saying something—go listen to the chorus of “Strings” without laughing).

The problem is that far too much of the members’ hiatus-era projects found their way into the reformed Blink 182’s musical arsenal. The title track of the EP, while perhaps being my favorite of the five songs, sounds a little too much like a Plus 44 track. The guitar riff in the chorus of “Disaster” is ripped right out of at least four Angels & Airwaves songs. Leadoff track “When I Was Young” is okay, but it sounds more like an outtake of the Neighborhoods recording sessions than anything. “Boxing Day” isn’t terrible, but I wish the lads would have either gone full-Christmas-song on us or left out the holidays entirely. Instead, what you get is a quasi-Christmas acoustic song with a geeky electronic drum part that tarnishes the tune. Perhaps turning up that cheery sleigh bell part in the background and leaving out the electronics would have been more effective.

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

Then we get to the last song, “Pretty Little Girl.” Way to cap this off with a winner, Blink. You’ve got to be kidding me with this rap part in the bridge. Yelawolf? I love Travis as much as the next guy, but he really should have kept his rapper friends away from his main band. Yelawolf’s half-minute contribution sounds utterly ridiculous, and this isn’t just me not being much of a rap-lover. It just doesn’t fit in the song at all. In an instant, we go from a decent pop-punky chorus to a mediocre half-witted rap verse. For me, it ends the whole release on a sour note.

Allow me to hazard a guess at one possible reason for Blink’s recent decline (aside from the breakup, which obviously didn’t help). Legendary punk producer Jerry Finn, who produced every one of Blink’s albums since Enema of the State, died unexpectedly in 2008. Now Blink produces their own material. I hate to say it, but I think they needed Jerry around to give that extra 10% of awesomeness. Without him, they don’t seem to know what to do except rip parts off of their other bands and bring in half-ass rappers willy-nilly.

If you’re a die-hard Blink fan (as I am, contrary to the tone of the above paragraphs) you’ll want to pick up Dogs Eating Dogs. The first two songs are decent, and if you’re anal about owning the whole Blink discography (as I am) you’ll need it. Don’t get excited for something beyond the sound of Neighborhoods, though, and don’t expect—by any means—the incredibly refreshing sound of songs like “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Asthenia,” or “Violence,” all from the self-titled record.

Don’t worry, Blink-182. You haven’t lost me as a fan or anything; I still love you. You secured a spot in my all-time favorites a long time ago. But I suggest a re-titling of this EP. Perhaps Dogs Chasing Their Own Tails (in Vain) would be a better fit.

~ J.M.