Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll Roundup

The Fleshtones – Take a Good Look (Yep Roc, 2008)

The deans of New York City garage rock, The Fleshtones, Keith Streng guitar, and vocals, Peter Zaremba, harmonica and vocals, Bill Milhizer on drums, and Ken Fox on bass, play fresh, fun and completely unpretentious rock and roll. This album is consistently good and filled with enjoyable and reliably entertaining songs, and simple but effective playing. The raucous and funny "Shiney Hiney" and strutting "Never Grew Up" set the tone for the record, with juvenile lyrics and in your face music. "Jet Set Fleshtones" and "New York City" strut with good natured humor and the ironic "Back to School" proves that they aren't afraid to laugh at themselves. While other bands may be looking to make grand statements with their music, the Fleshtones have a more more modest, but still noble goal of playing straightforward guitar based rock 'n' roll and having fun with it. The perfect soundtrack to a summer afternoon, it's shallow but never stupid, flaky but always fun.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig! (Anti, 2008)

Speaking of grand statements, a rock and roll album about the biblical story of Lazarus rising from the grave might seem like a pretty heavy subject for a rock band to take on, but when it is from a songwriter as good and pleasingly warped as Nick Cave, it is a blessing indeed. In the first song alone "Larry" comes back from the dead to cruise Los Angeles and San Francisco only to end up strung out in a New York City soup kitchen. The religious themes are always delivered with a skeptical sly wink, like in "We Call Upon the Author to Explain" where answers are demanded from God, but none are forthcoming. It's not all deep navel gazing, "Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)" is a pulverizing rocker that sounds like an outtake from last years Grinderman project, and "More News From Nowhere" taps a great melodic feel with some excellent wordplay. This is an excellent album, deep but never pretentious, it's a thinking man's rock record.

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