Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Cool Devices

Particularly appropriate that this would come over the transom a couple of days after seeing the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House: the debut seven-track album by Chicago band the Cool Devices shares a no-holds-barred, roaring ferocity and a smart, riff-oriented post-Stooges vibe with the recently reunited LES New York legends. This effort has more of an authentic Detroit feel than most of the innumerable Stooges imitators out there, frontman Jason Frederick assailing the mic with relentless, snotty energy. The whole thing has a live-in-the-studio feel, well-rehearsed but with a spontaneity that’s hard to get just doing the songs track by track.  Right off the bad, they take it to redline with (This Is Not A) White World, muted guitar chords sputtering with natural distortion with more than a bit of an early Jon Spencer Blues Explosion feel. Some fiery tremolo picking kicks off the second track, Fatso, snarling riff-rock with trebly Farfisa or what sounds like it by Casey Meehan of Jitney (another good band recently reviewed here). 

Once I Became One Of Those is careening and atonal in the Chrome Cranks vein, practically death metal but with swing instead of stomp. Come Get Me has the guitar punching a single chord over and over again as Frederick rails and the organ kicks in at the end of the verse, an effects pedal left oscillating wildly at the end. The absolutely evil, chromatically-charged The Line Starts Here staggers along with growly Stranglers bass over some tricky time changes. The big, obvious hit is Primitive, dark second-generation minor-key garage rock also evocative of the Stranglers with that oldschool organ swirling as the chorus hits a peak. The album winds up with Someone Stop Them, running a1-3-4 riff over and over again like a less sludgy Thee Hypnotics as the organ distorts, then hands over the reins to the guitar which eventually goes apeshit while Frederick screams the tortured mantra of a title. A Guantanamo parable? 

Another triumph for upstart Chicago label Rock Proper, who in a remarkable spirit of generosity make their albums available for free download: get the whole thing here. If this is any indication, they ought to be a great live band: Chicago fans ought to go see them at their cd release show on May 28 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont.

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Jitney – 86-300

Budget-conscious fans of edgy new indie rock should bookmark Rockproper, the online Chicago label that’s making all sorts of intriguing stuff available, absolutely free. Their latest release is the new one from Chicago indie songwriter Casey Meehan – a real life taxi driver – which takes its title from his cabbie license. To use the word “hack” here would be inaccurate. Jitney is a pleasantly melodic rock project with a heavy 80s/90s British influence that aims to strike a somewhat noir pose from time to time. The songs are terse and smartly crafted with layers of keyboards and guitars, Meehan playing almost all of the instruments himself with the exception of some bass and drums.  

 

After a brief intro, the first song is Butterfly Knife, an imagistic 6/8 ballad recounting an ominous car ride (in the cab?):

 

As he tried to keep his blood red and his money green

She’ll never know the secret life

Of his butterfly knife

 

The next track, Love Draws Blood sounds like 60s backbeat Kinks as covered by New Order, 1985. Dizzy Spells contrasts pounding piano and slinky 80s synth over aptly tricky rhythms: “You were casting dizzy spells.”

 

The album’s best cut is Twilight, a pretty, glimmering, janglerock ballad that wouldn’t be out of place in the Madrugada catalog:  “Don’t mistake the twilight for the dawn,” Meehan casually warns. There’s a nice solo on electric piano using a vibraphone setting, then a variation on the theme, Twilight Laser Battle, a synthy sci-fi flavored instrumental. Tricky Be is upbeat, ornate piano pop that reminds of Pulp with nice layers of keys in the playful, tongue-in-cheek style of Candida Doyle. The rest of the album is a basically quick run through what appears to be Meehan’s most-played list on his ipod: late 80s Cure, Tom Waits and the Velvet Underground’s third album. Even so, most of it’s quite pretty.

 

The album’s only drawback is the vocals. Your conformist indie rock crowd won’t notice or care, but for purists they could be a dealbreaker. Much of the time Meehan sings in a cliched, affected, languid drawl that’s as real as a Chinatown Rolex. It’s not clear whether he’s trying to be Richard Ashcroft or that moron from Coldplay, probably the latter. Songs this intelligent shouldn’t sound so clueless in places.

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