The Weekly Jive

Posted November 13, 2008 in Music

Frontier Ruckus—The Orion Songbook (Quite Scientific)

This debut from Michigan’s Matthew Milia doesn’t conjure the starry constellation as the title suggests, but a mostly-fictional Michigan town pronounced “OR-ee-un”—the result is nevertheless often heavenly. Judging from this record’s sonic and narrative tapestries, Milia’s town is a lonely, forgotten-by-time place where the plaintive sounds of bowed saw, melodica, fiddle and banjo are woven into a desolate plains-fabric of “whispering dark farmlands” and homes turned “gray frame(s) in winter.” Milia warbles like Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Magnum, and there’s similar desperation in dramatic, full-band numbers like “Mount Marcy” and “Foggy Lilac Windows,” propelled along by blaring trumpets and concert-hall percussion. But Frontier Ruckus is even more evocative when the music is stripped bare as the characters’ emotions—the Neil Young-harmonica accenting the redemption tale “What You Are,” melodica fleshing out the animistic opener “Animals Need Animals,” and throughout, the hand-in-glove harmonies from Milia and Anna Burch breathing life into loquacious lyrics about young summer sexuality, crumbling families, and rural disintegration. This is old-timey without the cloying nostalgia or self-consciousness that derails so many attempts to turn back the clock to allegedly purer times; by looking the present straight in the eye, Milia’s created something timeless. (John Schacht)


Starflyer 59—Dial M (Tooth & Nail)

After over a dozen years traversing myriad surfaces of the rock music map, Jason Martin still hasn’t ran out of gas. The Riverside-based songwriter and frontman of Starflyer 59 can pen gems like nobody’s business, and nowhere is that more evident than the body of work he’s generated through such an exhaustive career. His band’s latest effort, Dial M, finds Martin reaching deep inside for a case of the introspective, contemplative and, at times, reflective. Taken in the context of all things Starflyer 59, Dial M is probably the act’s most guarded (and therefore, likely least engaging) release in recent years. Yet, zoom out to its peers and it still stands heads and shoulders above its nearest competition. The dark, brooding undertones that pervade the album’s decidedly compact 10 tracks are light years better served than those of, say, the monotonous, quasi-spooky She Wants Revenge, but after a few listens, it’s easy to long for the infusion of electric guitar riffing for which Martin’s best known. Conservative, calculated and careful as it may be, Dial M nevertheless reaffirms that wherever Martin’s headed, he’s likely traveling in the right direction. (Waleed Rashidi)


Sammy Hagar—Cosmic Universal Fashion (Roadrunner

Some rockers approach senior status and dial back the wild celebrations. Not Sammy Hagar. The 61-year-old Fontana native still takes part in annual birthday shindigs at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico with his premium tequila at the ready. Now Hagar is back with an odds ‘n’ sods collection that frequently hits as hard as his Van Halen days. Only problem is these tunes really aren’t that memorable. The weird title track originated in Baghdad with some Iraqi musician. He emailed the exotic sounds to Hagar, who added a political, state of the world lyrical spin. A bleak, lumbering “Peephole” (based on a news report about a young girl found imprisoned in her home) and the lurching metal of “Psycho Vertigo” were recorded in 2004. Both feature Journey’s Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo, plus VH buddy Michael Anthony. The bassist, alongside The Cult’s Billy Duffy and Matt Sorum, are a force to be reckoned with on standout pop/rocker “Loud” where Hagar revels in the mindless fun. Breezy, harmony-laden “When the Sun Don’t Shine” could be a Kenny Chesney outtake and is another keeper. The Beastie Boys cover “(You’ve Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” a Hagar concert staple, is simply excruciating. Ditto the vaguely bluesy “Switch on the Light” with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons adding gruff vocals. Go the iTunes route on this one. (George A. Paul) 






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