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PCR #465 (Vol. 10, No. 8) This edition is for the week of February 16--22, 2009.

"81st Annual Academy Awards"  by Mike Smith
The Yellow Submarine Chronicles Part Eight: It's All Too Much  by ED Tucker
Top 20 Albums of 2008 part 2: #10-1  by Terence Nuzum
7th Annual Rondo Awards Are Underway .... Monster Kid Hall Of Fame .... Oscar Picks ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
A-fraud! .... Passing On .... Vote Early And Often .... .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Top 20 Albums of 2008 part 2: #10-1

10. The Cure - 4:13 Dream: It's been awhile since Robert Smith has really made an album that feels like it was natural. This one does it. It captures all eras of the Cure without sounding forced or trying to stay relevant. "Underneath The Stars" recalls the dreary loose jams of Disintegration, "The Only One" harks back to Wish era pop, "Freakshow" takes you even farther back to the psychedelic mania of The Top, the dark Goth of Pornography make an appearance in The Scream, and "It's Over" recalls the heavy rock of their self-titled album. It's The Cure sounding revitalized and better than ever. Back to making albums with no duds. So is this the last album like Smith claims they are all going to be every time? Well he didn't say it this time so maybe that's a clue that it is. A swan song like this one would be a more than worthy end to the greatest pop band of the last 30 years.

9. No Age-Nouns: This two man band came roaring out of the gate like a young Sonic Youth subtracting their guitar solos and dabbling in My Bloody Valentine mini-epics. It manages to capture that feeling of being a teenager during both the late 80's No Wave scene and the early 90's indie-rock boom with a dash of grunge.

8. The Hold Steady-Stay Positive: Though there's no argument that The Hold Steady's reference points are Bruce Springsteen's first two albums (Greetings From Ashbury Park, The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle) on their new album they seem to up the production a notch, Greg Finn starts to sing a bit instead of talk singing and it all seems like its trying to be their own version of the Born To Run album. But that's also only part of the story. While Springsteen's main fault was losing the long story lyrics about pimps and Puerto Rican street kids The Hold Steady make no such mistake. Finn's tales of evil women, indie rock clubs, boozing, and yes Ybor City is all still intact but is now accented by better music. "One For The Cutters" adds in Harpsichord and a hip-hopish beat while "Lord I'm Discouraged" revels in a hair-metal balled guitar solo that Slash would be playing on top of a piano if he were in the band. This is their first masterpiece and let's hope they continue in this vein. With any luck we will get their version of Darkness on the Edge of Town. I will be skipping their version of Born In The USA, though. Sorry, Boss.

7. The Kills-Midnight Boom: Nobody does it like The Kills. When they first appeared on the scene they played uncompromising blues. The most authentic update of the genre ever. On their second album they added in some acoustic juke joint country ballads amongst sure fire blues rock. While that second album was more blues rock than blues like their debut, Midnight Boom is even more of a departure. There is the usual blues come on's and swagger but other songs delve into electro-clash and dance punk mixed with hopscotch songs. I go on record as saying Jamie Hince is still the most original guitarist around,Alison Mosshart is still the coolest and hottest front woman in rock and while this isn't quite their best record, it's damn close.

6. Black Mountain-In The Future: Talk about a leap ahead! Black Mountain went from a so so but promising band with a so so uneven debut album to this towering monster of rock greatness. It is what you would think of then hearing the bands name, part Black Sabbath and part Mountain with some Jon Andersonesque vocals. It's not completely metal and not completely prog but some sort of happy medium. The opener "Stormy High" right off tells you what you are in for. It chugs along like Sabotage-era Sabbath before going into Yes like pop prog number "Angels" which leads into the albums greatest track "Tyrants". While the album isn't album of the year "Tyrants" just might be song of the year. It's a atmospheric mellotron laden bastard son of King Crimson and Hawkwind that beats your brain like no other and all without being that heavy. A totally concise and jaw-dropping experience.

5. Vampire Weekend-Vampire Weekend: Definitely best new band of the year. With all the gentle punk fuck you of the Kinks, this band attacks African music not trying to be authentic but just trying period. The style is used to fit the songs and no attention is made to be authentic. Copping some Peter Gabriel vocals (they even name check him) and some Paul Simon posing the band manages to be entirely their own by adopting all this to the song structures similar to late 60's Kinks tunes. Along with the music and the refreshing lyrics like " who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma, I've seen those English dramas too, they're cruel", this was the album that stood out among the pack, the one you couldn't stop playing, the one that even if you got bored of it you kept coming back for more, like a drug. Like an ex-girlfriend, like a perfect album.

4. Deerhunter-Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.: Though most reviews will say that the bands talk of making an album that sounds like 60's girl groups was an exaggeration it's only because they aren't listening hard enough. No there aren't any lyrics about walking in the sand, being someone's baby, or leaders of the pack but the music is recorded with that echoey Phil Spector sound that evoked dreams, care wrecks, love lost, and teenage death that so permeated those early 60's Ronette and Shangri-La's songs. A spacey yet controlled album that reminds one of those early shoegaze albums on 4AD records but without all the guitar. The second half of the album titled Weird Era Cont. (it isn't clear if it is officially part of Microcastle or a separate album on its own) revels more in the guitar landscapes of the shoegaze genre. Where Deerhunter's previous album Cryptograms had some naive obligatory guitar noise rock tracks this album drops all padding and creates a thing of timeless mature beauty.

3. Destroyer-Trouble In Dreams: I love Dan Bejar's work in The New Pornographer but his Destroyer albums, while good, always had something that held them back. They kind lingered in a sameness,a repetitive nature that held them back from being truly great. Destroyer's Rubies was a step in the right direction by adding a backing band but even then it lacked ambition to be greater than the sum of its parts. On Trouble In Dreams Bejar finally get's it done. Blooming with creativity he breaks out tunes with colorful melodies that have been lacking in his older work. The best comparison is that he has finally translated the pop songs he was writing for New Pornographers to his Destroyer material. It works like a well stirred pop martini. "Foam Hands" for instance reveals a slight early Beatles Lennon tune influence while "Shooting Rockets" takes a trip into mid-period Fleetwood Mac (after Peter Green but before Stevie Nicks). The perfect mix of 70's soft rock and dreary Berlin-era Lou Reed. Bejar has shown ambition to strive with his music and progress with a infectious enthusiasm that shows through in his singing and if for no other reason than that this is why Trouble In Dreams deserves a place this high on the list.

2. Boris-Smile: Originally Japan's Boris were part of the drone metal scene that includes Sunn-O))) but around the time of Pink they started to add more melody and vocals to their instrumental experiments. Pink its self was more buzz saw punk than drone. Now on Smile the band crafts its commercial record or as the band puts it their sell out album. From Blue Cheer workouts and Pink Floyd extended drone jams on "Buzz-In" and "untitled" to the shoegazing perfection of "Tonari No Sataan (My Neighbor Satan)" Smile just plain rocks more than any other release this year. And while the band claims to be posing as a sell out band and aping cheesy 80's bands from their home country in Japan by exaggerating everything, this can be faintly heard on the exaggerated guitar solos on "Buzz-In" and the melodramatic crooning on "Kimi wa Kasa o Sashiteita ("You Were Holding an Umbrella"), it actually backfires and succeeds as a kick-ass psychedelic knock-out. And yes it's named Smile after the Brian Wilson album, the relation ends there. [Note: this is a review of the Japanese mix and not the American Southern Lord release which was mixed by the drummer Atsuo].

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Dig, Lazarus, Dig: Talk about comebacks. While Nick Cave was never at the point where he was making bad records, he was becoming too comfortable in the sort of same old organ guitar piano goth ballads that he had been doing since at least Boatman's Call. After the departure of guitarist Blixa Bargeld, Nick formed a side project with most of the Seeds called Grinderman. What it did was reacquaint Nick with his garage rock roots and the wild scary sound of his first band from the 80's the devastating Birthday Party. His time in Grinderman flirting with primal garage rock fury has paid off as it spills over onto his best release since 1988's Tender Prey. Ditching the pallbearer suits he now struts around in polyester coats, has a mustache that looks like he stole it from Lemmy of Motorhead, and generally looks like he stepped out of a seedy 70's porn version of a Neil Diamond biopic. The music on the album ranges from the sing songy story rap of "Dig,Lazarus, Dig" to the Van Morrison in a swamp tune "Moonland" to doo woop punk of "Albert Goes West". "Albert Goes West" is perhaps fitting as this feels like Cave's Joshua Tree, his own record about American music from garage punk to sweaty Philly soul and as the album cover indicates the glitz of a Las Vegas-era Elvis. Don't forget way back when he came upon the scene he covered Presley's "In The Ghetto". There is, of course, the usual Nick Cave dark epic in "Night of the Lotus Eaters" and the dreary piano ballad Nick on "Hold On To Yourself". It all ends with the best and final track on the album, the Bob Dylan meets Al Green 8 minute epic "More News From Nowhere" whose narrator is lost in a strip club and is rejected by all the girls and then bumps into Deanna (from the Tender Prey album) who according to the narrator "all the horrors that have befallen me, well Deanna is to blame". As a whole, the album bursts with a looseness and freedom that isn't just limited to the genre-hopping on tracks but also in the fury and gusto of Nick Caves vocals. Like Jim Morrison on The Doors,like the Beatles on Revolver, Dylan on Blonde On Blonde, and like Nick Cave himself on Tender Prey you can tell he just knows he is making the best damn album of the year!


The Top 10 That Almost Made It.....

1. M83: Saturdays = Youth
2.Secret Machines: Secret Machines
3. The Black Crowes: Warpaint
4.The Fireman ( Paul McCartney and Youth from Killing Joke): Electric Arguments
5.Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher
6.Calexico: Carried To Dust
7.Nine Inch Nails: The Slip
8. The Brian Jonestown Massacre: My Bloody Underground
9. Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst
10. Bob Dylan: The bootleg series Vol.8. Tell Tale Signs

"The Audio Philes" is ©2009 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.