February 25, 2013
Johnny Marr tops CD reviews
By Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

Johnny Marr

HEAR IT

Johnny Marr
The Messenger


Even the most intrepid explorer comes home now and then. So it is with Marr. After nearly 25 years of deliberately and defiantly trying to outrun The Smiths, the British guitar god has found enough distance that he can finally pull the thorn from his side, give his musical wanderlust a rest and gaze fondly in the rearview with his first solo outing in a decade. Constructed from the chiming, intricately interwoven guitar layering that Marr pioneered a generation ago, the 12-track Messenger confidently and comfortably resurrects the majestic jangle and anthemic sweep of latter-day Smiths, with touches of Bowiesque art-rock, post-punk new wave and punchy indie-rock tossed in to round out the menu. Granted, nobody is going to mistake Marr for a lead singer anytime soon, but his limited range actually suits the immediacy and wiry energy of these numbers. Ultimately, this won’t quell the Smiths reunion rumours — if anything, it might fuel them — but at least it lets Marr revisit where he came from while he decides where he’s going.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Atoms for Peace
AMOK


Science! And technology. They are, in many ways, the driving forces behind this supergroup from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, longtime producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer-for-hire Joey Waronker and RHCP percussionist Mauro Refosco. And listening to their debut full-length, it’s impossible not to analyse the results with the terminology of chemistry, physics and math: These jammy, flowing musical equations are all about catalysts and reactions and energy and ratios. But in keeping with the band's name, they’re also about collaboration and selflessness. Yorke’s ghostly croon and drifting melodies, Flea’s finger-popping but understated basslines, Godrich’s lightly dusty samples and loops, the percussionists’ percolating syncopation and circular Afro-Cuban grooves; they all join forces in a way that seems electronic yet organic, cerebral yet natural, methodical yet inspired. Somewhere between a warmer Radiohead and an artier RHCP, this is food for your head, heart and hips.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

ALBUMS

Jerry Garcia Band
GarciaLive Volume One

Do we really need more live Garcia? With 125 Dead concert albums, you’d think not. But this laid-back 1980 entry — featuring the usual mix of familiarity and inspiration, plus mega-jams, Robert Hunter cameos and a funky ’70s vibe — might prove you wrong.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Buckcherry
Confessions


How have Josh Todd and co. sinned? Let us count the ways. The L.A. sleaze-rockers cover the seven deadly sins on their half-dozenth disc, celebrating wrath, lust and the rest while downing a spiked cocktail of Sunset Strip riff-metal and action-movie power ballads.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Old Yellow Moon


You can’t go wrong with Harris. Or with Crowell. And hearing the two old pals and former bandmates finally reunite for this warm, intimate stroll down memory lane feels so right you wonder why it took more than 30 years. Here’s hoping a sequel comes sooner.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Ed Harcourt
Back Into the Woods


Harcourt doesn’t waste time. His or yours.The British singer-songwriter wrote his sixth album in a month and recorded it in one day at Abbey Road. But the soothing grace of these tender ballads means fans will spend many more hours than that listening to it.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Mogwai
Les Revenants


Who better to score this French undead-teen series than the Scottish post-rockers of Come On Die Young? As sombre, slow and spectral as you’d want — but with slightly fewer supernova guitars than you expect — this ominously pretty soundtrack satisfies.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Pissed Jeans
Honeys


Plenty of bands bring the noise. As usual, these Pennsylvanians prefer to unleash it on their fourth album — after dosing it with steroids, hooking a car battery to its gonads, sticking a grenade in its mouth and turning a flamethrower on it. Consider yourself warned.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

The Relatives
The Electric Word


It’s a resurrection. And a revelation. Two Dallas ministers (who are also brothers) revive their long-forgotten ’70s spiritual funk band — and deliver a righteously retro offering that preaches the gospel according to Saint James Brown. Good God! And Amen to that.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

The Mavericks
In Time


About time. It’s been nearly a decade since these roots-rockers recorded — but they re-emerge rejuvenated here, serving up a spicy platter of horn-topped Tex-Mex passion and spaghetti-western guitar twang, topped as always by Raul Malo’s Orbisonian croon.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Various Artists
Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys


Batten down the hatches. Producer Hal Willner sets sail with a rollicking sequel to his 2006 pirate-music tribute, crewed by scurvy dogs like Shane MacGowan, Keith Richards and Tom Waits, along with shanghaied landlubbers like Michael Stipe and BSS. Jolly good.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

MORE ALBUMS

Wayne Hancock
Ride


Wayne The Train keeps a-rollin’. Texas honky-tonker Hancock’s first disc in four years picks up where he left off — yelping and yodelling the best songs Hank never wrote while his band slap down some twangy hillbilly boogie and country swing. Right on track.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Trixie Whitley
Fourth Corner

You may know Whitley as the vocalist of Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub. Or as daughter to singer-songwriter Chris Whitley. But thanks to the noirish, nocturnal neo-soul and post-modern folk-blues of her entrancing solo album, now you can meet her on her own terms. And should.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Tiger Lillies
Either Or


“Nothing is sin,” sings criminal castrato Martyn Jacques. Perhaps not. Though it would be wrong not to hear these deliciously deviant cabaret-punks delve into a Kierkegaardian netherworld of hedonism and immorality on their 33rd album. Not for the humourless. 

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Matt Pond
Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand


No PA, but plenty of volume. Philly singer-songwriter Pond drops the geographic abbreviation from his name for his ninth full-length, but picks up the slack with punchier power-pop retro-riffs and faster, more upbeat tempos than usual. Dude deserves a hand.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

COLUMN

Think you’ve heard everything? Not even close.
With a seemingly infinite amount of music available on the web at the click of a mouse, it’s easy to presume that if you look hard enough, you can find every song ever recorded anywhere by anybody. Truth is, countless songs and albums have fallen into the cracks of obscurity in the 125 years or so since Edison recited Mary Had a Little Lamb onto a tinfoil cylinder.
Thankfully, the preservationists at Amoeba Records are doing their best to rectify the situation. The online version of the all-inclusive bricks-and-mortar music retailer now boasts a section dubbed Vinyl Vaults — “our boutique, curated collection of digitized vinyl and 78s, available for download” (and purchase, of course).
Looking for Blind Boy Fuller’s 1936 recording of Rag Mama Rag and I’m a Rattlesnakin' Daddy? How about songs from the 1980 Sex Sells EP by Canadian electro-punk duo The Shriek? Or perhaps you’d prefer to sample selections from Wine is Elegance, an instructional disc from horror-movie icon and oenophile Vincent Price? You’ll find them all here — and hundreds more — priced between 78 cents for MP3s and $1.58 for WAV files.
You heard it here.

SINGLES

Baauer
Harlem Shake


Bye, Psy. The new viral-vid dance-craze meme belongs to NY DJ Baauer, whose whomping track has inspired thousands of 30-second copycat clips from amateur fans and famous folk — and nudged the cut onto dance charts. Enjoy it while it lasts, dude.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Usher & Diplo
Go Missin’


Once is not enough for Usher and Diplo. A year after their 2012 Valentine single Climax, the duo reunited to release this soulful R&B seduction on Feb. 14. If it performs half as well as its predecessor, expect their relationship to blossom even further.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

The Strokes
All the Time


This is more like it. One Way Trigger, the poppy debut single from the New York band’s March 26 Comedown Machine, was sort of a dud. Thankfully, this sequel marks a return to the clanging, lo-fi garage-rock you want from Julian Casablancas and co.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

DVDs

Herman Brood & His Wild Romance
Live at Rockpalast: 1978 & 1990


Here he was a one-hit wonder. But in his native Netherlands, self-proclaimed rock ’n’ roll junkie Brood’s career outlasted Saturday Night. These two high-speed, hour-long TV gigs document his post-punk peak — and the tail end of his touring days. A rare treat.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

System of a Down
Vicinity of Obscenity: Live in Brazil 2011


THe upside: This 70-minute concert vid captures the reunited Armenian-American prog-metallers’ powerfully outrageous performance at Rock in Rio 2011. The downside: It’s missing the first 10 songs, and has two annoying graphics onscreen for the duration.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

IN THE PIPELINE

MARCH 5

Autechre
Exai

Chelsea Light Moving
Chelsea Light Moving

Jimi Hendrix
People, Hell and Angels

Robyn Hitchcock
Love From London

How to Destroy Angels
Welcome Oblivion

Krokus
Dirty Dynamite

Ashley Monroe
Like a Rose

Madeleine Peyroux
The Blue Room

Replacements
Songs for Slim

Josh Ritter   
The Beast In Its Tracks

Boz Scaggs
Memphis

Son Volt
Honky Tonk

They Might Be Giants   
Nanobots