Whoa, lots of 'em.

The Black Keys, "El Camino" - 5 stars.  Dig it.

Damn, what a record.

I was buying a coffee at the Starbucks outside my Apple store, and they had one of those free download cards for "Gold On The Ceiling."  "Hm.  Black Keys.  I think they're a bunch of hipsters, but whatever."  Downloaded it, didn't think much more of it...then it came up on shuffle during a run, and I fell in love...hoo, boy.  Down and dirty, driving, heavy power pop with just a taste of...something.  Shimmer.  11 songs, all under four minutes (none of that 18-song epic shit for these guys), and not a bad one in the bunch.  Seriously, not a single one - even the late songs feel integral to the whole thing.  Spectacular.

The Black Keys, "Turn Blue" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

Darn, and I was so excited for this record.  It's not "bad," it's just tame and unfocused.  Listening to these records back to back, it's just blindingly obvious where one ends and the next begins.  The first cut, after all the tight songs on "El Camino," is a trippy 7-minute dirge.  Followed by a 4 1/2 minute callback to "Dead and Gone," even to the point of copying the exact melody as a background.  It's obviously a Black Keys joint, and there are some nice spots, but it never gets out of second gear until the very last song, "Gotta Get Away," a pulsating chunk of garage rock that wouldn't have made the cut on "El Camino."  A disappointment.

Bobby Womack, "Across 110th Street" - 4 stars.  Dig it.

So I was watching the frankly remarkable "Jackie Brown"; as Pam Grier drives away from the man she might be in love with, she pops this song in the stereo, and as the camera stays right on her face all the way through the song, she runs all the way from regret and sorrow to elation that she's starting a new life with a pile of money.  It's a great scene, and the song is just like that, slowly building and simmering into a real celebration.  Terrific.

The Bottle Rockets

"Welfare Music" - 3 stars.  Hold it.
"I'll Be Coming Around" - 4 stars.  Dig it.
"1000 Dollar Car" - 3 stars. Hold it.
"Indianapolis" - 4 stars. Dig it.

I've written about the Bottle Rockets before.  They opened for Marshall Crenshaw at a dive bar in Grand Rapids, and I bought all four of these songs while we watched.  As always, there's a difference between live music and the artifact - these songs were sharp, tight, and pulsating in that bar, but they're a slightly mixed bag on record.  They stay in the pile, if nothing else.  They're a bar band - a really good one.

Blues Traveler - "Four" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

Another mixed bag.  Some of it - "Run-Around," "Stand", "Hook" - is good (or, in the case of "Runaround", really great).  But some of it is terrible.  Just unlistenable.  Why these guys would ever slow things down and do a ballad ("Look Around", The Mountain Wins Again") is beyond me.   Three stay, the rest are gone gone gone.

Brandi Carlile, "Dying Day" - 5 stars.  Dig it.

I didn't have high hopes, for some reason, but this is a fantastic song.  It's basically just her with an acoustic guitar, a violin, and some background singers, and she makes a whole bunch of noise.  Can't wait to buy the rest of it.

Caleb Rowden, "Love Song For A King" - 0 stars.  Dump it.

I hate Christian rock.  I'm not anti-religion, certainly, but rock and roll is about sex.

Califone, "1928" - 2 stars.  Dump it.

The name of the album?  "All My Friends Are Funeral Singers."  Want to guess the tone?  Exactly.

Carbon/Silicon, "The Last Post" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

I've written before - I love Mick Jones' post-Clash work with Big Audio Dynamite...but I think I wrote that Jones' creative peak is probably past.  Witness.

BAD was interesting and exciting for taking the Clash' world music influences, tossing some straight funk and electronic music on top...then adding a dance-hall groove to it.  That approach breathed new life into Mick Jones' penchant for fist-waving politics.  This record is somewhat cut from the same cloth, but seems like a retread.  "The News" is okay for a start, but the next two, "Magic Suitcase" and "The Whole Truth" are one-notes and don't go past that note.  The rest of the record follows suit.  Utterly forgettable, and it hurts me to write that.

AuthorMatthew Riegler