The Weekly Jive

Posted January 21, 2009 in Music

Leathermouth—XO (Epitaph)

Ahh, side projects—those usually subpar self-indulgences of successful musicians that somehow get released because, so record labels think, some star might just have the Midas touch (or at least be famous enough for their name alone to shift some copies). Leathermouth—the side-project of My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero—is right up there with Limp Bizkit axeman Wes Borland’s spectacularly shite Big Dumb Face debacle for sheer misguided rock star wanking (and at least Worland’s main band were pathetic, so we had fair warning). XO consists of caffeinated Black Sabbath-y riffing, a chuntering rhythm section and Iero screeching like a microwaved possum. It’s probably an attempt to revisit Iero’s all-ages hardcore roots and, in as much as XO sounds like a teenage band’s first demo, succeeds. But so what, when it has all the new-thing vitality of a damp paper bag? Bring on the next MCR album, if only to make this stop. (Paul Rogers)


Pat DiNizio—Buddy Holly (Koch) 

We’re coming up on 50 years since The Day the Music Died (Feb. 3, 1959) when Buddy Holly and others were killed in an Iowa plane crash. As two vault busting releases (Memorial Collection, Down the Line—Rarities) commemorate the event this week, Smithereens leader Pat DiNizio pays tribute with his own excellent covers collection. You can tell it was a labor of love for the singer/guitarist, who considers Holly a major influence, once wrote a tune about Holly’s widow (“Maria Elena”), owns Holly’s original tape recorder and uses Holly replica guitars made by Fender. Most tracks here are orchestrated like the innovative Texas rocker’s posthumous top 20 single “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” DiNizio’s low vocal register gives the songs more dramatic heft (“True Love Ways,” “Raining in My Heart”). The Encore Chamber String Quartet’s updated arrangements—overseen by former 4 Seasons member Charles Calello—add a newfound warmth (“Words of Love,” “Well . . . Alright”). Sixties pop idol Bobby Vee (whose band replaced Holly on the ’59 Winter Dance Party Tour) does some buoyant harmonies on “Listen to Me” and an a capella take on “That’ll Be the Day” ends everything on a smile-inducing note. (George A. Paul) 


Duncan Sheik—Whisper House (Victor/Sony) 

Until recently, Duncan Sheik was considered a one-hit wonder for the sprightly 1997 pop tune “Barely Breathing.” His collaboration with playwright Steven Sater on the 2006 Broadway smash “Spring Awakening” snagged several Tony and Grammy Awards. Sheik’s sixth album Whisper House is a companion piece to a new musical created with playwright Kyle Jarrow and 30 Rock actor Keith Powell. Narrative in scope, the lyrics revolve around a haunted lighthouse and various characters that inhabit the surrounding area. The theatrical tie-in often hits you like a sledgehammer: dour opener “It’s Better to Be Dead” finds Sheik pointedly singing, “I present to you a story set upon the Northern shore,” while he intones “here are your lines/now stick to the page” during the upbeat pop/rock of “Play Your Part.” “Tale of Solomon Snell” is cloying at best. Holly Brook, a member of Sheik’s touring band, joins in with breathy vocals at every turn. As a result, the chamber pop music often recalls Aimee Mann or Suzanne Vega (though far less acerbic or witty). Sheik enthusiasts and theater nuts should dig House. If you’re neither, steer clear. (George A. Paul) 








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