Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Second Dan: Oasis for a New Generation

Second Dan sound like Oasis without the posturing – which means that if you like Oasis you’ll really like Second Dan. The Australian-American band write warmly catchy, anthemic songs that are easy to like, that linger in your mind. The production here is more terse, going for sort of a vintage pop vibe rather than the wall of guitars that the Gallagher Bros. relied on to disguise their weaknesses. Which testifies to the strength of the songwriting here. Frontman Dan Rosen plays guitar and keys, alongside smartly tuneful, eclectically skilled lead guitarist Adam Lerner and drummer Sonny Ratcliff (who also adds bass on some tracks).

The upbeat anthem Today sets the tone for the rest of the album with its gleaming powerpop chords. The swaying midtempo title track plays off a swoopy vintage synthesizer hook; Let It Go evokes the stomp of Definitely Maybe rather than the Beatlisms of What’s the Story Morning Glory. We Can is fast and optimistic in the midst of chaos: “We can, we can, we can start a revolution.”

Opening gentle and acoustic, More Than the End builds slowly with some tasty, mid-60s style soul guitar fills. Wake Up finally throws in some Beatles allusions: Paul’s hoarse vocals at the end of Hey Jude, the chorus of She Came In Through the Bathroom Window and a big drum explosion after the last chorus. The band switch it up at this point with Pretty, which is sarcastic and jangly like the Saints at their late 80s peak and follow that with a surprisingly understated, nocturnal soul/blues ballad, I Want It, I Need It. The last track, Advantage isn’t bad but after everything that came before, it’s pretty anticlimactic. If this album is any indication, Second Dan are probably even better onstage where they can unleash the guitars and stretch the songs out.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Ray – Death in Fiction

Sweepingly majestic and savagely beautiful, a serious contender for best rock album of 2008. This cd ought to establish British rock quartet Ray as frontrunners for this year’s Mercury Prize (at least that’s how it looks from five thousand feet). With a big, anthemic sound that manages to be accessible without sacrificing intelligence or intensity, both in abundance here, Ray draws deeply from just about the darkest possible well of 80s influences. Their sound could be described as a mix of Bauhaus minus the, you know, “Alone, in a darkened room, The Count!!!” along with the big, potent anthemic sensibility of vintage, early 90s New Model Army and perhaps Madrugada albeit without that band’s Hollywoodisms or Stooges obsession. Death in Fiction is a concept album of sorts about dissolution, despair and missed opportunities. Frontman Nev Bradford has the baritone delivery that’s all the rage, but like his forerunners Peter Murphy and Nick Cave, he’s confident, completely unaffected, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the uptight, constipated posers of the National or Interpol. There is nothing whatsoever cold or detached about Ray’s music: John Rivers’ magnificent, epic production only serves to elevate these songs’ passion, tension and resolution, the clash of hope up against the cruel barbwire of reality. The trendoid crowd over here on this side of the pond will not get this band (although the cool kids will).

The album kicks off with a ferocious blast of sound on the opening hook to the catchy Five Times Cursed, what quickly becomes characteristically howling, anguished lead guitar over a lush, roaring, pounding wash of sound echoing and glistening with reverb and digital delay. The following cut Days to Come nicks the bass lick from the Alarm Clocks’ 60s garage rock classic No Reason to Complain, although they take it completely in the opposite direction. Lead guitarist Mark Bradford plays with an extraordinarily terse ferocity, like Peter Koppes of the Church in his most dramatic moments while the rhythm section of Martin Tisdall on bass and Chris Lowe on drums holds this relentless juggernaut to the rails.

The title track methodically builds to a crescendo over a propulsive Sister Ray groove: “This is the price you pay for believing that/A death in fiction would be fine.” After that, Roulette Sun raises a glass of absinthe to Pink Floyd’s iconic Time, Mark Bradford’s anguished lead lines painted stark against a somber Hammond organ background. The tense, desperate minimalism of Little Joy (“For a little joy…to call your own, what would you do?”) evokes nothing less than Joy Division at their most guitarish, again punctuated by another deliciously screaming, reverberating solo.

Next, Great Strange Dream is a meticulously arranged anthem that once again sounds a lot like the Church. Sound of the End is a snarling, slowly crescendoing broadside at conformists and their entertainment-industrial complex, building to a heartbreakingly beautiful, recurring hook, only to slip away gracefully at the end. Begging Like a Dog rages out at mindless consumption:

They have a lot of ways of placing
A godless advert on your shrine
They have a lot of ways of thieving
What was yours and what was mine
They have you begging like a dog

The album ends with the majestic Cut Out, both cautionary tale and a sort of requiem for a dream unfulfilled. All things considered, this a terrific ipod album, although its lush sonics benefit greatly from loud volume and big speakers. For readers in London, Ray next plays Sat June 21 at 8 PM at the ULU Duck and Dive Bar, 1st Floor, University of London Union, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY, five quid / £3 for students.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment