\ Hip Displeasure: March 2005

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An independent music and pop culture commentary collective.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Josh Rouse - Nashville


Between my childhood fascination with Hee-Haw and my numerous trips as an adult to my brother-in-law's place in southern Davidson County, the city of Nashville holds a special place in my gravy-filled heart. For years, "Music City" has been known solely as the epicenter of country music, but it has become an increasingly important indie hub in recent years, thanks to the emergence of such artists as Lambchop, The Shazam, and superb singer-songwriter Josh Rouse. After a handful of largely overlooked gems, most notably the playfully nostalgic pop found on his 2003 release, 1972, Nashville-based Rouse reaches new heights with an album named in honor of his adopted hometown.

On Nashville, Rouse showcases his versatility by weaving together the many elements and styles in which he has dabbled during his stellar career. While Nashville is by no means a country (or even alt-country) album, it does incorporate many of the components for which the music of this city is known, including pedal steel and upright bass. Each song is an intricately told story, many of which contain autobiographical overtones. The cream of the crop is "Middle School Frown," a poignant recounting of the new kid in town shunning his first real friend upon discovering said friend's unpopularity, punctuated by the shame-laced admission of respect resulting from adult retrospection ("You held your head high / When you walked down my street"). In another standout track, "CaroliƱa," Rouse sings, "in the Nashville sky shines a diamond bright," though none shines brighter right now than Rouse himself.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Righteous Babe

As someone whose autobiography could easily be titled The Gluttonous Consumption of Bacon, I truly appreciate the imagery invoked by the name of Andrew Bird's latest album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. And while it fails to unravel such mysteries as the fertilization of Jodie Foster (in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, "Best left unsolved, really."), it still manages to captivate the listener from beginning to end. Once again, Bird proves to be a multi-talented virtuoso, who is without a doubt the greatest whistler to come down the pike since Klaus Meine.

The tone of The Mysterious Production of Eggs deftly alternates between delicate ("Masterfade"), bombastic ("Fake Palindromes"), debonair ("Skin Is, My") and menacing ("Banking on a Myth"), thanks to a myriad of brilliantly complex arragements. Though the music is what calls you in, the lyrics are what keep you coming back for more. Bird's nimble wordplay ("They run you hot and cold like a rheostat -- I mean, a thermostat") adds depth to the rich texture that permeates this album. When he sings (in "Sovay"), "I was gettin' ready to threaten to be a threat," all I keep thinking is how he's woefully underestimating himself. This is an eggstremely serious contender for album of the year.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Robbers on High Street - Tree City

New Line

My buddy Diamond Dave LooGAR, the distinguished senator from Redlands, often says, "Amatuers borrow; pros steal." An excellent example of this truism is the first full-length from NYC's appropriately-named Robbers on High Street, Tree City, which would likely be triggering a wave of Klaatuesque rumors had Spoon not recently ended their three-year hiatus by announcing the release date for their new album. Tree City doesn't sound like Spoon, it IS Spoon...only with different members. The song structure, melodies, subject matter and instrumentation are all pure Spoon, and singer Ben Trokan's voice is so identical to Britt Daniel that Trokan could easily prank call Ron Laffitte and get away with it.

At this stage of the game, all music is truly derivative to some extent, so the only bands who should be condemned for theft are those who do so poorly. Tree City is worthy of praise, not condemnation, for such stellar tracks as "Japanese Girls," "Amanda Green," "Dig the Lightning" and "Bring on the Terror," which demonstrate the handclaps, piano, tempo and even lyrics ("Sometimes I need a punch in the face / Sometimes I need a leg in the ass") that were signatures of Daniel and Co.'s earlier work. But Robbers on High Street should be recognized as a band in their own right, and not mere musical mimeographers, because there's also plenty of originality scattered among the small stakes lining the sidewalks of Tree City. Fans of quality music will dig this, even if you've never been previously Spoon-fed.