Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Grand Atlantic – How We Survive

The way “Brisbane’s favorite power-pop band” Grand Atlantic survive is by writing catchy songs. This is the excellent album Oasis should have done after What’s the Story Morning Glory but didn’t. True to their name, Grand Atlantic go after big, towering hooks. They know that hit songs are simple, and they keep them that way – this is the kind of album you’ll be humming despite yourself after you’ve heard it once. As terse as the writing is, the production has a massive, big-room 90s feel, with a ton of guitar overdubs ringing, pinging, clanging and crashing in their allotted spaces. What hits you right off the bat is how smartly and tastefully this has been assembled.

The album gets going with Coast Is Clear, a midtempo, harmony-driven escape anthem which sets the tone for the rest of the cd. Tripwires introduces the band’s other specialty, crunchy riff-rock, here spiced with some clever retro 80s synth patches. The big hit here, obviously, is She’s a Dreamer, which could be Oasis but thankfully without the coked-out poser attitude and all those pilfered Beatles licks (you can hear it right now on their myspace). The upbeat post-Oasis vibe continues on Freeway and its tasty layers of guitar.

The title track, interestingly enough, goes back in time another twenty years for a sort of Badfinger ballad feel. After that, the Rickenbackers kick in with some tasty jangle and clang on the sarcastic sha-la-la power-pop number Used to Be the Sensitive Type. There’s also a satisfying, electric piano-flavored dis of a gold-digging woman, a garage rock number, and the pensive anthem These Are the Times, a feast of textures with the Rickenbacker adding gorgeously echoey accents above the roar. Finally, on the last song, there are some Beatles echoes, specifically, Lennon’s Imagine. Otherwise, this is great driving music, great loud party music and something that could easily take off internationally. Keep your eyes on Grand Atlantic whether you’re in the antipodes or somewhere north of there. Oz fans can see the band live next at 8 PM on August 29 at the Coolangatta Hotel on the southern end of the Gold Coast, corner of Warner Street & Marine Parade in Coolangatta, Qld.

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August 17, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: Jump Back Jake – Brooklyn Hustle/Memphis Muscle

Damn, this is a good album. With their first release in decades, Ardent Music, the newly reactivated Memphis label that launched Big Star has definitely got back on the good foot. On their debut cd, retro funky soul band Jump Back Jake will win fans from the camp that discovered soul music from people like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Eli “Paperboy” Reed or Robert Cray as well as anybody lucky (or old) enough to have discovered this stuff the first time around. Fans of the Bar-Kays, Howard Tate, James Brown and Isaac Hayes’  Hot Buttered Soul album are in for a treat here. These guys really know their stuff, moving effortlessly from slinky Booker T organ groove to jangly Curtis Mayfield balladry to straight-up 60s funk, with a more aggressive, early 70s style blues guitar edge. The horn arrangements are gorgeously, sparingly retro, bringing out every bit of longing or bravado in a sax or trombone line. Frontman/guitarist Jake Rabinbach (who also mystifyingly moonlights as a sideman in one of the suckiest bands on the planet, 80s top 40 imitators Francis & the Lights) plays with soul and swing, unafraid to light up a song with a big incisive crescendo but never sinking into whiteboy wankiness.

The cd’s first track works a vintage Steve Cropper style guitar vamp with a nasty blues touch, setting the tone for the rest of the cd. The single best cut on the album is the second cut, The Flood, a slow, slinky organ groove that jumps to doublespeed and then brings it down to a sweetly dark horn chart, adding voices at the end before gracefully taking it down to just the trombone. Attempts at a beautiful, jangly, midtempo Curtis Mayfield soul ballad and a late 60s Charlie Rich country shuffle are rousingly successful. The big 6/8 kiss-off ballad teleports Blonde on Blonde to 1974 with more aggressive blues guitar: “You can be queen of the ice and snow,” Rabinach snarls. With its rapidfire, aphoristic vocal line and clever lyrics, the upbeat Pay Out on the Front End beautifully mines a late 60s vein. There’s also a ballad that builds to a big gospel vamp, another one that sounds like a rewrite of She Caught the Katy and a big, rousing number wherein Rabinach mysteriously goes on and on how he wants to be like Samson, “And I would give everything to the ladies like Delilah downtown.” The album ends on a radically different note, proving the band equally adept at early 70s Badfinger-style powerpop, right down to a neat George Harrison-esque guitar solo. The only miss here is aptly titled Terrible Mistakes, proof positive – as if you really need it – that vintage soul and the Jonas Bros. don’t mix.

It seems there are two Jakes in the band, Rabinbach recently off on the road with the other band, although all indications are that this will be a brief hiatus. In the meantime, the band continues to tour as a trio. They have all sorts of goodies available including free live mp3s from a recent Minglewood Hall show. Watch for this on our Best Albums of 2009 list at the end of the year.

May 20, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/27/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Friday’s song is #516:

Badfinger – Baby Blue

The greatest powerpop song ever written? Maybe. One of those songs that pretty much every band alive – every good band, anyway – knows and has run through in rehearsal at least once or twice, because it’s so much fun. MP3s are everywhere; if you’re looking for vinyl, good luck finding the 1972 Straight Up lp

February 27, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment