The Weekly Jive

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Posted March 5, 2009 in Music

Elvis Perkins in Dearland—Elvis Perkins in Dearland (XL Recordings)

 “I love you more in death than I ever could in life,” Elvis Perkins sings on “123 Goodbye” from his new record, and you’d expect that sentiment wrapped in a suitably somber audio package; given the tragic deaths of his parents (actor Anthony Perkins died of AIDS complications in 1992, his mother perished in 9/11), you’d almost be a fool not to. But “123 Goodbye,” like most of Perkins’ new disc, arrives with the same wistful joy that accompanies a New Orleans funeral march—swathed in organ swells, peppy pizzicato strings, and grand piano, the song’s racing tempo practically bubbles over by its frenetic wind-up. These accents were present on Perkins debut (2007’s Ash Wednesday), but here he incorporates them into the process—hence the band-name change—and they go from the sidelines to equal partners. Perkins’ detailed narratives, delivered with Rufus Wainwright-like drama run through Paul Burch’s nasal delivery, owe perhaps too much to the Leonard Cohen school, but it’s the air-tight arrangements of “I’ll Be Arriving”—Waits-like junk-store percussion pounding out a relentless steel foundry beat—and “Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville,” with its raucous horns breakdown, that mark In Dearland as a step up for Perkins. (John Schacht)

 

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs—La Luz del Ritmo (Nacional)

It’s tragic that Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have remained virtually unknown north of Calexico. American masses have somehow deprived themselves of LFC’s awe-inspiring mix of Zappa-esque fusion of ska-thrash, postpunk, calypso, progrog and funk. Launched in 1985, the group’s restless style-jacking eventually peaked with the masterful Fabulosos Calaveras and La Marcha del Golazo Solitario 15 years later. Selling out 50,000-plus arenas is one recently proven reason to re-unite after six years. Ritmo—a mish-mash of re-jiggered b-sides and inspired pub-rock covers—resuscitates their still-dazzling musicianship. But the Cadillacs’ truly maniacal synergy remains dormant. There are a couple eclectic flints. The title track’s Ozomatli-style funk rolls into “Malbicho,” a percussion-pumped marriage of War and Edwin Starr sampling Mixmaster Mike. The bi-lingual covers of The Clash (“Should I Stay Or Should I Go”) and Ian Dury (“Wake Up And Make Love With Me”) are inspired, rump-shaking gems. But much of the disc is perfunctory, smugly mailed-in recitals (“Nosotros Egoistas”). It’s as if the band didn’t know that reunion tours don’t necessarily require new material, and half-stepped through leftover songs in lieu of new ideas. Their live show still praised as mesmerizing, here’s hoping this release is merely prologue to a more holistic reincarnation. (Will K. Shilling)

 

Them Novus—Green Light (Green Light Productions)

Sometimes a lack of a jagged edge or imposing ‘tude can work to one’s advantage in the grander scheme of rock music. Enter Riverside’s Them Novus, for which an understated subtlety reigns supreme. Get into the chorus of “Peace” and you’ll hear lead vocalist Devin Vasquez’s elongated, sultry delivery caressing the ears. But the real treat appears at the tail end of each refrain, surprising the senses with an instrumental interaction that quickly recalls Police-esque arpeggiated riffage intermingling with ride bell accents. A great cover is also found within the mix via a coolly delivered version of Matisayahu’s “King Without a Crown.” And while Vasquez never gets completely in one’s face—her approach is largely even-tempered—she’s also never lifeless. In fact, she’s able to belt the vocal goods, as best evidenced in the chorus of “Better” and “Green Light,” plus keenly harmonize with herself all over the disc, bolstering the production’s dimensions. And that’s another feather in the cap for the threesome: The entire disc’s sharply self-produced and mixed by guitarist johnnyG. It’s a fine, feel-good first foot forward for Them Novus, indeed. (George Donovan)

 

 


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