The Weekly Jive

Posted June 11, 2008 in Music

Adem—Takes (Domino)

It seems these days every musician has in their contract—the one signed in blood at Robert Johnson’s crossroads—a covers’ record requirement. With the surprise factor vanquished forever, the only intrigue left is who the artist aligns themselves with in their choice of covers, and whether their versions are worthy foils for the originals. Adem, the British synth-folkie and former bass player for cut-and-paste proponents Fridge, limits his choice of cuts to what he calls his “formative years,” those between 1991–2001. His friendly, wood-cured voice is a natural fit for gentler cuts like Bedhead’s B-side single “Bedside Table” and Yo La Tengo’s “Tears Are In Your Eyes,” the Georgia Hubley-sung track one of several wise decisions to cover female singers. Adem also opts for drum kit-free arrangements that rely on double-bass, harmonium, grand piano, glockenspiel, and various acoustic stringed instruments to create rich organic textures that work best when they contrast strongly with the originals, such as PJ Harvey’s “Oh My Lover” and the Aphex Twin medley of “To Cure a Weakling Child” and “Boy/Girl Song.” If most of Adem’s reinterpretations hit the mark, a few are either unimaginative—he adds nothing to Pinback’s “Loro” or dEUS’ “Hotellounge (Be the Death of Me)”—or smothered by baroque embellishments, most egregiously when he turns the spacey loneliness of Lisa Germano’s “Slide” into audio Splenda. Adem’s never rocked anybody’s socks off, and his solo work is the embodiment of chill-out music—his choice of covers either reflects that directly or through his reinterpretations. If you can hang with that, Takes is a pleasant enough way to spend 50 minutes of your day. (John Schacht)

My Morning Jacket—Evil Urges (ATO)

Reinvention is part of many groups’ sonic evolution. If they go off on a tangent for too long though, a backlash usually follows. The tricky part is finding middle ground, which My Morning Jacket does masterfully throughout fifth album Evil Urges. Leader Jim James downplays the reverb and gets his R&B and funk jones on during the triple opening salvo. The title track—about mixed signals between religion and morality—is pure Smokey Robinson smoothness as strings swell in the background. Fat bass grooves and James’ helium singing dominate the urgent “Highly Suspicious,” which could be an early Prince outtake if not for the militant backing vocals. Longtime followers should dig the Kentucky band’s trademark crunchy rockers (politically-themed “I’m Amazed,” the fun “Aluminum Park,” “Remnants”). There’s a Philly soul vibe to the effervescent “Thank You Too” and an old-time country feel on “Sec Walkin’,” sweetened by pedal steel and prominent harmonies (the quintet ably assists James in this area). Other standouts—no filler here, folks—include the haunting narrative “Librarian,” volcanic guitar work in “Smokin’ from Shootin’” and “Touch Me, I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2,” a mind-blowing exaltation of love done epic, prog-rock style. (George A. Paul) 

Your Highness Electric—The Grand Hooded Phantom (Longhair Illuminati)

We’ll launch this review with the best thing about Your Highness Electric: This trio knows how to bring the rock. Hitting somewhere between the ’90s experimentalism of At The Drive-In (probably ‘cause of vocalist/guitarist’s Brandon Bondehagen upper register revelry) and the classic, distortion-drenched ’70s overtones of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin (again, credit Bondehagen’s pipes), YHE slam through the 15 tracks of The Grand Hooded Phantom with nary a flinch. Robust riffs? Check. Driving drums? No problem. Slinky bass lines? Right here. Scope out “Man the Doublewise” and you’ll unravel a plodding, catchy number, with bold, Plant-esque choruses. “We Kentuckians” offers a 6/8 chugging blues that wouldn’t be out of place droppin’ as a 45 in a dingy dive bar jukebox (and we’re talkin’ real dive bars, not these cool faux “dive bars” that hipsters love to frequent). However, the band isn’t completely about being a throwback, as YHE also wouldn’t sound out of place on a bill with other fretboard, fuzzed-out masters including ASG and Fu Manchu. After all, the “Electric” part of this moniker is anything but misleadin’. (Waleed Rashidi)



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