The Weekly Jive

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Posted December 11, 2008 in Music

The Rollo Treadway—The Rollo Treadway (Rollosounds)

Borrowing their band name from a 1924 Buster Keaton film (The Navigator) and an album concept from what could’ve been the 1932 Lindbergh Kidnapping, it’s no surprise this Brooklyn group’s music is a baroque throwback. But if the record’s conceit—announced by opener “Kidnapped” and reiterated by songs like the kidnap note “Dear Mr. Doe”—harks back to that sensational era, the music borrows liberally, and quite effectively, from sunny ’60s pop icons like the Zombies and Brian Wilson. But the songs carry a deliciously sinister undertone, like a day at the Fair where things just don’t quite add up from the get-go. David Sandholm’s gentle voice belies the creepy narratives, which only increases the sense of foreboding—check “You Laugh, I Cry,” where Sandholm sounds like Joe Pernice, another recent artist whose sunny music couches dark narrative fare. Soon enough, the swirling organ and electric harpsichord (try “Charlie” or “All Heads Turn”), the ringing guitar arpeggios, recorder, tuba, and intricate harmony vocals begin to take on a disturbing psychedelic aura. The songs go from sunny to dark but carry you along, smiling, to whatever terrible fate awaits. An accomplished debut that leaves you hungering for more. (John Schacht)

 

Gary Jules—Bird (Down Up Down/ Gary Jules Music)

Scoring a hit with a cover tune is truly a two-edged sword: it can launch a career (Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson) or shred street-cred (Alien Ant Farm, Orgy). For a singer/songwriter, being best known for someone else’s song is almost an insult, but such is the lot of local bloke Gary Jules, who had a UK #1 and enjoyed considerable airplay here with a haunting version of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World,” recorded with his buddy Michael Andrews for the 2001 movie Donnie Darko (and heard more recently in a TV commercial for Xbox 360’s Gears of War). Far from being the ’80s-head the TFF cover might suggest, Jules’ sound is in fact rooted in the flower-power era and echoes the airy aura and contemplative content of Simon & Garfunkel and early James Taylor. It’s sincere, inoffensive (other than his sometimes irritating upper register) stuff and Jules throws in occasional curve-balls like the brisk country twang of “The Road Beside the Highway,” but ultimately Bird still conjures bland images of campus coffee shops circa 1997.  (Paul Rogers)

 

We Landed On The Moon—These Little Wars (Welandedonthemoon.com)

This Baton Rouge-born quintet has been flipping through the ’80s section at their local record shops way too liberally, cadging synth whirls from the Cure, and post-punk guitar shards that the Edge and (before him) Will Sargeant used to call their own. Together with the metronomic new-wave percussion and rolling bass lines that that era was overly enamored with, These Little Wars might have emerged from the back catalogs of Rough Trade or 4AD. Might have, that is, except there’s nothing here we haven’t heard 10,000 times already, most of it done far better. Melissa Eccles’ vocals waver between Debbie Harry’s coo and Pat Benatar’s growl, and it’s their melodramatic arc that sucks the life from such otherwise rockin’ numbers as “Something New” and “Re: Your Letter.” Worse, though, is when the mood gets ballad-y, as on “Happy Accidents,” where a band-on-the-road lament like “the AC’s running dry and the van’s out of Freon” calls for little more than an extended middle finger and “smile, you could be working at McDonalds.” By the time Eccles whines, “I’m waiting for one emotion that is real,” you’ll likely be desperate for one yourself. (John Schacht)

 


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