We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it.
Widespread Panic (Athens, Georgia)
Dirty Side Down (ATO)
It's been reported more than a couple of times that this record represents a serious and well-rounded effort taken by the band to produce an album that would succeed on its own merits--and not merely act as yet another addition to the bands merch table when they embark on their yearly tours. Typically, a three-minute song on a Widespread Panic album will morph into an 14-minute noodle session once they hit the stage, so why bother changing the formula? Well, it doesn't seem as though they really messed with their formula too terribly here. The first song clocks in at 6:47 and it features trademark smoky guitars, soft bongo-beats, rousing B3 Hammond, and the creepy, old-man--in a good way--vocals of John Bell. The next track features some serious southern crunch funk, which, again, has been a staple of the many WP offerings from years past. Something seems fishy, though--and maybe this is a crazy thought, but there seems to be a bunch of critics out there that aren't listening to every single album these guys release. (Personal aside: Unlike many other critics, I don't have a problem with jam-bands, in general.)
I made it to: the end of track four, "This Cruel Thing."
Rusko (Leeds, UK)
O.M.G.! (Mad Decent)
Scene: A teenage girl has escaped through her window and is at a party her parents told her not to go to. Loud, booming beats with cartoonish synths and nonsensical noises play in the background.
Teenage Girl on the Phone: "Hey, yeah, I'm here now, hurry up before the parentals figure out I'm on the loose... Sure, I brought extra glowsticks, don't be retarded... Wow, the DJ here is so not-hot... Yeah, it's weird, I think he's rocking a Casio... Holy crap! I forgot to get my shift at Old Navy covered!... Man, this song blows. Wait, is that the chick from Dirty Projectors singing? My dork brother, the one who is always trying to wear my jeans, goes apeshit over them, but he can't ever tell me why he likes them, exactly... Screw it, let's find another party."
I made it: 1:10 into the second track, "Hold On" featuring Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors
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Keane (East Sussex, UK)
Night Train (Cherry Tree)
The sensitive rockers are back, with an oddly long, eight-song "EP." It's always interesting to see a band attempt some sort of change in directions, but when that change isn't believable, it's akin to David Brent deciding it's time to act as a disciplinarian, rather than his usual, clueless, hack-comedian/manager--in short, it's unconvincing. Such is the case with this record. Opting for a heavier synth vibe, Keane's calling-card piano from a few years ago is still there, just not as prevalent. When the piano does creep back onto center-stage, Keane, who seems to really like their synth these days--mixed with a little K'Naan, no less--goes off on what has to be a tribute to the unforgettable classic, "Tarzan Boy."
I made it: two minutes into track three, "Stop For a Minute." And I did. But for more than a minute.