The Weekly Jive

Posted October 30, 2008 in Music

Fall From Grace
Sifting Through the Wreckage
Equal parts mall punk and mainstream rawk, Seattle’s Fall From Grace are earnest and worthy—but not worth spending $17.99 on. Their generic name, clichéd album title, Hot Topic-five-years-ago image and the fact that they won their record deal in a “battle of the bands” (the Bodog Battle reality series on Fuse TV) all bode ill for their major debut and, sure enough, it’s just solid, vaguely angry stuff riddled with trite rhymes and tired musical motifs. The drums are boisterous, the guitars muscular ‘n’ mobile, the choruses anthemic and there’s obligatory pseudo-sensitivity on “Wake up My Friend” and the truly pathetic “This Sickness.” FFG’s hard-knocks, “phoenix rising from the ashes” (I kid you not) bio reeks of self-pity and Sifting’s lyrics stay in character. You can hear bands like Fall From Grace any night of the week in empty suburban bars across America (and some of them are probably called Fall From Grace). Forget you ever read this and move on. (Paul Rogers)

El Guincho
(Young Turks/XL Recordings)
If an afro-beat-induced epileptic fit sounds worth risking, then this American debut from Spanish sampling sensation Pablo Diaz-Reixa could be your gateway to synaptic-overload bliss. Like letting Animal Collective spin Esquivel at 45 rpm during Rio’s Carnival, the cut-and-paste collages on Algeranza! (an island between Africa and Spain’s Canary Islands) are global in nature but frenetic by choice: El Guincho samples from doo-wop and bossa nova to tropicalia and benga with border-ignoring promiscuity. But the repetitive, deep-groove patterns reflect their proximity to Ibiza’s dance floors because much of the record teeters on the brink of strobe-like delirium. The benga-guitar line from “Antillas Anone” eventually digs like a dentist drill into your consciousness, and the layers of clapping atop “Cuando Maravilla Fui” (and elsewhere) are more distracting than inviting. And that is where El Guincho falls short: the steel drums and Carnival-esque samples are too often subservient to the Dance or Die imperative. Nothing wrong with shaking your booty, of course, and it would take an act of supreme party-pooping to sit still during the pulsing rhythms of “Kalise” or “Costa Paraiso,” but there’s no shortage of music—too much of it non-descript—that can accomplish that. (John Schacht)

Ode to J. Smith
(Red Telephone Box/Fontana)
Travis’ exuberant 1997 debut Good Feeling included the appropriately titled “All I Wanna Do is Rock.” Then the Glasgow band shifted into stirring, more melancholy pop/rock territory for follow up effort The Man Who, which sold like gangbusters in the UK. (2.7 million copies—the 25th biggest album ever) and paved the way for like-minded acts Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Elbow. Unfortunately, that success wasn’t duplicated in the States, where Travis amassed an impressive following, but only moderate sales and radio airplay. On sixth disc Ode to J. Smith, the affable Scotsmen have taken that early declaration to heart with winning results. Inspired by a recent studio session with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick for a BBC-sponsored tribute to Sgt. Pepper, Travis recorded live and set a strict deadline. Songs were written on electric guitar, giving them a new rawer immediacy. Here, axe-man Andy Dunlop gets the spotlight and runs with it. His searing work is especially prominent during the first half: the dark, understated intensity of opener “Chinese Blues,” Fran Healy’s desperate vocal delivery on the Nirvana-esque “Something Anything,” and jaunty rocker “Long Way Down,” which recalls Village Green Preservation Society-era Kinks. Travis comes up for air and goes all folksy when Dunlop breaks out the banjo on “Last Words.” The only WTF moment comes at the end of J. Smith, where a choir suddenly sings in Latin. (George A. Paul)


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