The Weekly Jive

Posted August 28, 2008 in Music

Various Artists—Sounds Eclectic: The Next One (KCRW)

Growing up pre-Internet in San Diego, I sometimes took my lunch hour in optimum locations just to hear KCRW’s signal static-free—the Santa Monica-based station was that far ahead of the curve back then. Of course the Internet has reshuffled the listening deck, but it’s testament to KCRW’s tastemaker legacy that their “Morning Sounds Eclectic” in-studio gigs are still considered booking coups. On the sixth release in the series, you’ll find established players like the Shins turning out a rousing version of “Australia” from Wincing the Night Away or Spoon sparsely recasting “I Summon You” from Gimme Fiction, as well as Internet phenoms like The Ting Tings (“Fruit Machine”) and Bat For Lashes (“What’s a Girl to Do”). But the reason KCRW still has clout comes from local acts’ nuggets like “You’re a Wolf,” a deliciously dark, cello-driven indie rocker from Sea Wolf, Oliver Future’s casio-happy white-boy soul “Stranger Than the Stranger,” and Goldspot’s Cure-meets-R.E.M. blend “Time Bomb.” Sure, you could put this play list together through iTunes, with the benefit of deleting what you didn’t like, but it’s liberating letting someone else you trust occasionally do the gatekeeping, and KCRW’s track record warrants our trust. (John Schacht)

The Smithereens—B-Sides The Beatles (Koch) 

Many people will say we need another Fab Four tribute album like a hole in the head. They’re wrong. Who better to put their spin on ’60s classics than The Smithereens, British Invasion disciples best known for the late ’80s/early ‘90s hits “A Girl Like You,” “Too Much Passion” and “Top of the Pops”? The veteran New Jersey quartet follows up last year’s Meet the Smithereens, a spirited track-by-track replication of—you guessed it—Meet the Beatles, with an equally enthusiastic early B-sides collection. Clocking in at a brisk 27 minutes, B-Sides The Beatles finds Smithereens singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio, lead guitarist Jim Babjak and drummer Dennis Diken doing an ace job at harmonizing throughout, especially on “Ask Me Why.” Babjak and Diken admirably handle a few solo vocals too. Paul McCartney always said The Beatles tried not to place filler on the flipside of their vinyl 45 singles. That songwriting quality control is evident with The Smithereens’ faithful takes on such strong numbers as “Thank You Girl,” “You Can’t Do That,” “If I Fell” and “P.S. I Love You.” In a cool bit of serendipity, Andy White—who took Ringo Starr’s place on the latter’s original recording session—was recently discovered giving music lessons in Jersey. He agreed to reprise his role here. (George A. Paul)

Giant Sand—PROvisions (Yep Roc)

Everything seems up for grabs in Giant Sand’s two-decade-old alterna-universe: traditional tempos, hooks, choruses, rhymes and narratives are all sun-baked into slightly askew shapes based on founding father and Tucson fixture Howe Gelb’s decidedly instinctual whims. But Gelb’s methods eventually reveal their own logic, and PROvisions, like most recent Giant Sand efforts, turns out to be quite accessible. This one highlights Gelb’s twisted, desert-noir jazz-twang in cuts like the Johnny Cash-on-a-bad acid-road trip “Can Do,” and the sinister “Pitch & Sway,” whose rattlesnake guitar lines create a Friends of Dean Martinez vibe. Gelb’s husky voice has always sounded sublime when paired with the ladies, and five duets here bear that out, including a sexy shuffle with Neko Case (“Without a Word”) and the up-tempo opener “Standard Pearl” with Isobel Campbell. Gelb even breaks new ground here, turning P.J. Harvey’s “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” into a piano-with-horns number that sounds like one of Joe Henry’s recent ballads, and “Muck Machine” uses deep bass lines, haunted Waits piano, shivering guitar patterns, and treated vocals to conjure a peyote-flavored desert dream. Often branded alt-country, Gelb’s eccentric compositions don’t really fit anywhere—and the music world is a better place for it. (John Schacht)



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