The Weekly Jive

Posted April 17, 2008 in Music

Sevendust—Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow (7 Bros/Asylum)

If heavy metal is the cockroach of rock & roll—despised by many yet almost admirably resilient—then Sevendust may just be the cockroach’s cockroach: after nearly 15 years, much of it spent treading commercial water, they just keep on popping up again. Chapter VII—yes, their 7th album—wriggles within their trusted nu-metal formula, adding industrial and orchestral accents to the de-tuned insect guitars and Morgan Rose’s voluptuous bellow, but they remain more worthy than inspiring. A bit of screamo singing/screeching does creep in, but otherwise Sevendust’s idea of “new” appears to be Nine Inch Nails circa 1990. Rose is capable of soaring melody and boasts an enviable palette of inflections yet, just as with former tourmates Skunk Anansie, what should be a slam-dunk formula—metal’s power with soul’s, well, soul—never transcends tattoo shop rock. Sevendust are one of the hardest-working bands on the planet—absolute road-dogs and now self-producing/releasing their records—but music’s not religion: devotion alone simply isn’t enough. (Paul Rogers)


Billy Bragg—Mr. Love & Justice (Anti-)

When Billy Bragg assembled backing band The Blokes close to a decade ago, his music suddenly took a loose, pals-playing-at-the-corner-bar turn. It was a far cry from the Brit’s captivating agit-pop of the ’80s, but we all can’t stay angry young men forever. 2002’s England, Half English contained world beat and soul elements that sounded forced alongside a handful of political numbers. Then Bragg wrote a book and drew attention for his complaints to MySpace about its proprietary rights clause. Now he has returned with ninth studio effort Mr. Love & Justice, a mature album which often recalls the folk rock of Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1-2. Bloke Ian McLagan (ex-Faces) adds shimmering organ to the title track and Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine provides lovely backing vocals on the relationship minded “I Keep Faith.” Elsewhere, a rambunctious “I Almost Killed You” borders on skiffle, the humorous “Johnny Carcinogenic Show” gently takes on Big Tobacco (and reminds of Peter Gabriel’s similar lambasting of tabloid TV) and the haunting “O Freedom” (about rendition) recalls the Bragg of yore. Still, little here will have you singing in the shower. Go check out the Yep Roc Records reissues instead. (George A. Paul)


Young Knives—Superabundance (Rykodisc/Transgressive)

All the world needs is a tweed-clad English Weezer: quirky, “intelligent” pop; brotherly “oh oh” choruses; country squire eccentricities and guffawing in-jokes. But this shtick at least set Young Knives apart from the gaggle of otherwise similar, restlessly melodic Brit bands that appeared around the time of their debut, Voices of Animals and Men, in 2006. What seemed at worst an exaggeration of these former college boys’ natural traits then, and helped Young Knives to multiple Brit hits and a Mercury Prize nomination, begins to feel like a slick party trick they feel obliged to repeat ad infinitum on Superabundance. There’s no doubting the record’s songcraft, stabby XTC/Gang of Four swing and freewheeling, laddish Supergrass zest—but the pervading smarty-pants aura has Young Knives teetering along a line between deft indie rock and the chummy campus fare of, gulp, Cake and Geggy Tah. (Paul Rogers)







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