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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #531 (Vol. 11, No. 22). This edition is for the week of May 24--30, 2010.

Summer Movie Preview
"Sex and the City 2"  by Mike Smith
Album of the Month: The Hold Steady-Heaven Is Whenever  by Terence Nuzum
Loose in Las Vegas: 2010  by ED Tucker
Zombie Hunter Rika (2008)  by Jason Fetters
Everything New Sucks -- The Remix  by John Miller
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Album of the Month: The Hold Steady-Heaven Is Whenever

Album of the Month The Hold Steady: Heaven Is Whenever.  The Hold Steady will always hold a special place in the hearts of us Tampanians for immortalizing our own hive of scum and villainy Ybor City on pretty much every album. They aren't even from Florida so there is no bias when I say that they are currently one of the best and most consistent bands in America. Their unique mix of punk, bar bands, and Bruce Springsteen heart on their sleeve idealism and character studies is unequaled. Hell as far as character studies goes at this point they have surpassed The Boss and that's not an easy task. All that being said it is also evident that they have taken this thing as far as it can go and Heaven Is Whenever definitely feels like a final chapter. But its not a mopey affair at all but more like a grand celebration. "Weekenders" is possibly the greatest tune the band has ever written. Craig Finn's usual speak sing attack is on full form here but he also adds in some "gasp" actual singing. Which is a treat especially when he's still full of great lyrics like the already legendary "the theme of the party was the industrial age and you came in dressed like a train wreck".
Sample of "Weekenders" by The Hold Steady
The experimentation of the last album is mostly gone and whether that has to do with the departure of their keyboardist Franz Nicolay is anyone's guess but the band isn't totally out of surprises yet. "Sweet Part of the City" is almost Americana for instance and other tracks feature horns. The more interesting development is Finn showing his influences the most unapologetic being "Barely Breathing" with a riff directly lifted from "Mr. Grieves" by The Pixies and a soaring U2esque guitar chord on "The Weekenders". The rockers are out in full force here too on the obvious "Rock Problems" and the magnificent girl gone wrong tale " Hurricane J" which also has some of Finn's better lyricism, "Jessie, I'm not joking around/ I see the crowd you're hanging with and those kids don't seem positive/I know you're gonna do what I know you're gonna do/But 22 and banging around in restaurants
Isn't that much prettier than banging around in bars/And why do you keep going to his car?"
.The band has lost a member and seemingly is heading into a brick wall creatively but like Finn tells Jessie, the girl gone wrong character in "Hurricane J", " I don't want this to stop/ I want you to know/I don't want you to settle/I want you to grow" he, too, knows how to find the power of hope in the music.

The National: High Violet.  

I'll admit it. I never could really get into The National. They were always praised to death for mediocre lo-fi indie pop that tried to mime Morrissey and never quite got it right. They lacked that certain flash I guess. High Violet though almost made album of the month. It is perhaps the greatest mope rock record in at least a decade. From Ian Curtis and Morrisey vocal crooning to the amazing background music the band plays this one is a gift. The music never quite descends into rainy day malaise of The Cure's Disintegration but instead adds an amazing contrast of lushness and positivity against all the gloom. If The National continue in this direction on future albums then I for one am in for the long haul.

The Black Keys: Brothers.  

The Keys last album was originally supposed to have been a collaboration between them and Ike Turner who sadly died before this could happen. I'm not sure if any of it ended up on Attack and Release or not but I'm willing to bet if it didn't then what we have on Brothers is from those sessions or at least a direct influence. Gone are the hard edged blues rock of past Black Keys albums. Replacing it are funky soul numbers that take from everything from Ike to the whole greasy genre popularized by Andre Williams. And let me tell you this album is cool as shit. In a perfect world this would be the album of the year to get laid to. There are some missteps involving editing decisions which cause the album to drag too much in the middle and some of the production comes off to smooth and polished for an album dedicated to hot buttered soul and funk. But it's really a minor complaint of an album that is so damn good I barely miss the rock numbers. Juicy greasy bacon fat of the best kind.

LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening - This is the one I really thought was going to be the winner this month. Boy was I in for a surprise. James Murphy (that's the fat Big Bopper turned emo mofo on the album cover) has been reigning king of dance punk since the early 2000s at least when he co-founded the only important dance punk label the now iconic DFA records. Later he formed his own one man group like Trent Reznor called LCD Soundsystem (which also includes DFA co-founder Timothy Goldsworthy) which blew just about everyone he had on his label away. Murphys still greatest single ever is "Daft Punk is Playing at My House", a non-stop dance beat and frentic punk vocal showcase. His last album Sounds of Silver was his long form masterpiece. It included not only his signature The Fall meets New Order techno but also some really great electro ballads that introduced some introspection amongst all the ravey chaos. But on This Is Happening he seems to have returned to his roots. Unfortunately this album isn't anywhere near as original. It seems the best way to describe This Is Happening is that it is a really fun game of spot the Brian Eno rip offs. Murphy steals everything from the drone chord of Bowie's "Heroes" to basically the entire rhythm sections of Talking Heads Fear of Music album. Not a necessarily in a bad way though. While it is short on originality it is still damn good fun and the best party album you'll hear all year.

The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards - God I love this band. But God I wish they had more commitment. Jack White (The White Stripes) and Allison Mosshart (The Kills) have made no secret that this band is just them fucking around on the side. That being said how is it this damn good? Who knows but imagine what they could be if this was more than just an afternoon exercise. Sea Of Cowards is drastically different than last years unforgettable Horehound. For one Mossharts vocals are way cooler. She seemed unsure of her direction on the first album but here she comes out wailing and oozing dark sex like a gothic Shirley Bassey. White himself cameos more vocally too it seems than he did on the previous LP. The music its self is pleasantly not more of the same as this time the band adds a funky groove and bottom to their odd mix of hip hop vocal styling's and swamp rock. The only real problem lies in its short running time of 35 mins. So Horehounds epicness is replaced by experimentation and improvement, I guess we can't have it all.

Next Week: More reviews of May releases of STP, Smashing Pumpkins, and more!

"The Audio Philes" is ©2010 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.