The Weekly Jive

Posted February 28, 2008 in Music

Monster In the Machine—Butterfly Pinned (Emotional Syphon) 

Every couple of years someone attempts a fresh slant on melodic rock’s building blocks—the Beatles’ instinctive musicality; ELO’s cinematic elegance; the neo-classical pomp of Queen; and David Bowie’s lonesome romance. Jellyfish took a largely ignored, Technicolor shot in the early ’90s; The Polyphonic Spree continue to explore a cult/choir approach which works better on stage than on disc. Monster In the Machine—essentially ex-Cellophane frontman Shannon Crawford—plunder these same stimuli for their debut, Butterfly Pinned, with mixed results. The songcraft is accomplished; the tunes hummable; the vocals apparently heartfelt. The problem is a nasty nü-metal, bigger-is-always-better aftertaste (the band’s name and being signed to a Korn member’s record label don’t help). Butterfly Pinned doesn’t actually sound metal-y, but has a melodramatic, over-produced aura—ultra-treated vocals; oodles of sample trickery and digital polish; self-conscious pseudo-exotica—that’s the sonic equivalent of Orange County Choppers getting their mits on a classic café racer. Frankly, the songs deserve better. (Paul Rogers)

Mike Doughty—Golden Delicious (ATO) 

If Golden Delicious were a surreal sort of sitcom about a sincere troubadour who communicates to his fated love only through song, then 27 Jennifers would act as the opening title sequence, making it a better place to start listening to the album than the political ditty that Mike Doughty (Soul Coughing) chose to kick off his latest solo offering. Not that “Fort Hood”—which borrows a chorus from the Hair song “Let the Sunshine In” in making an anti-war statement—is a bad song, but combined with the similarly trademark repeta-peta-peta-tiveness of the next track, it makes the up-and-down rhythm of Doughty’s gravelly drone irritating, rather than hypnotic, like someone rubbing the same spot on your arm over and over. Starting from “Jennifers” though, the album breaks out of its paler shade of Soul Coughing echoes and becomes a likeable mix of humor, romance, and melancholy (the mournful “Wednesday” stands out) with tunes that allow Doughty’s poetry and vocal menace to please rather than punish. (Red Vaughn)

What Made Milwaukee Famous—What Doesn’t Kill Us (Barsuk Records)

It could have been Jeffery Dahmer that made Milwaukee at least infamous, or the city’s one time undying appreciation for Socialism—they elected Socialist mayors from 1916 to 1960—or that scene in Wayne’s World where Alice Cooper talks about the origin of it’s name, but everyone knows the city’s almost synonymous with crappy, watered down beer (Pabst, Schlitz, High Life) that’s not good for much except getting the job done. Comparably, Austin, Texas rockers What Made Milwaukee Famous aren’t from anywhere near Lake Michigan and, truth be told, they’re more like a finely crafted micro-brew. Their album What Doesn’t Kill Us is laden with subtle undertones of pop deliciousness without losing the it’s full-bodied indie-rock flavor, particularly the first track “Blood, Sweat & Tears” which is as rollicking as anything from the Queens of the Stoneage catalogue. Most of this material was brewed in small batches with a connoisseur’s attention to detail which keeps it from getting boring in a genre that sometimes lacks vision. Sure, Milwaukee’s pop infusion gets a little corny sometimes—and a few of the songs down the middle tend towards the bland—but what the album does, it does well: It goes down smooth. And you don’t have to be drunk to dig it. (Phil Fuller)


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