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July 3, 2007

CD Reviews

At My AgeNick Lowe(YEP ROC)With what could very well be his last studio album, Nick Lowe provides listeners with a work that is at once careful and composed, but also fresh and dynamic in its style and execution.     What Lowe accomplishes with At My Age could very well be more impressive than it first appears. Not only does Lowe manage to incorporate many of his myriad influences, he does so without this work becoming a self-congratulatory or hodge-podge greatest hits record. He moves almost seamlessly between tracks that recall his late-’70s producing work like “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” or “Hope For Us All,” which sound reminiscent but comfortably distinct from Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, and “I Trained Her to Love Me,” which strongly echoes his work with the Cash family.     There’s no “So It Goes” or “Heart of the City” on At My Age, and there shouldn’t be. Essentially, Lowe has taken all the lessons he’s learned in his 40-year career and made an album that showcases them with style and thoughtfulness. He demonstrates, I think admirably, a desire and an ability to age with grace that other musicians would do well to emulate. —Justin KeenanLive in The Middle East DVDDinosaur Jr.(EGAMI STUDIOS)    A few years ago the heavens chose to intervene again. Desperation birthed a miracle: The gods empowered J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph to resurrect Dinosaur Jr. for a new tour.    I was unable to experience this reunion (and it hurt), but recently the band issued their “Live in the Middle East” DVD to archive the new era. The concert starts out strong. With tension and, surprisingly, a bit of nervous energy, the trio hashes out tunes from its first three releases. A few songs deep, the full-throttle switch is thrown and psych-anthem “The Lung” kicks in (note: The album version of this song contains the greatest guitar solo ever recorded). The rest is perfect. Lou thunders and screams, Murphs hammers and J. guts, shreds and guts. Finally, the door is slammed with their famous cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”     To the faithful: It’s time to savor that something awesome is back in style, if only for a few moments. —Dennis SheridanTied and TrueThe Detroit Cobras(BLOODSHOT)    If you want to ride a wild mustang, it has to be “broken” first. But when a rock group that used to gallop with the very best is now determined to display a more regimented gait — is something broken? Or should the results be looked at as a complementary venture? The Detroit Cobras’ lineup has changed frequently over a decade of making records, but they’re still sharply focused on covering ’60s garage-rock and soul numbers that are so obscure most listeners presume they’re originals. Now singer Rachel Nagy leads some James Brown (“If You Don’t Think”) and a Gerry Goffin song (“Only to Other People”) as part of an adrenalized party platter of obscurities from before my time and beyond my horizon. Unlike their late-’90s discs, though, the band now looks to studio production for stateliness and strut, and is less concerned with their once-awe-inspiring, proto-punk charge. They handily deliver a salacious novelty gem (“Leave My Kitty Alone”), but it’s a bit enervating when you hear them pull back on the reins. —T.E. LyonsLullKangaroo(NOISE POLLUTION)    Kangaroo played its final show on June 22. While breakups historically are a familiar reality check in local music, this four-song EP provokes questions about who they were.    And they were something. Its brevity practically demands repeat listens, but given time, Lull will hypnotize. “Drummer for hire” Colin Garcia ensures the opening title track swaggers out of the gate, while Andrew Padon and Alex Smith’s propulsive guitars careen in and around the beat just so as their smooth vocals create a post-punk aesthetic that puts the fun in function.    “What’s To Do?” — my favorite — feels like Gang of Four’s Andy Gill trading bong hits with Bootsy Collins, but less atonal, and glimmering with spindly counterpoints and fulfilling accents. Yeah, we wax about how everyone apes Gang these days, but Kangaroo’s minimalist, dissonant guitar work is integral because Padon and Smith believe in it, not as a result of some misguided need for hooks.    Here’s hoping that Padon, Smith, Garcia and bassist Trip Barriger stay on whatever musical path each of them chooses to follow. Meanwhile, I’ll selfishly wait for a reunion show. —Mat HerronIdiot VillageForeign Oranges(WALL TO WALL)    Neil Dey’s jazzy, near-baritone voice is the best thing since Valium. Seriously. It’s as if he’s spent his entire life on a beach staring at the sun and a tranquil ocean.    This would be boring were it not for his arrangements, which make such a low, rolling delivery necessary. Rather than swing for the fences, Dey keeps the songs rich in layered instrumentation that bubbles and squeaks but never boils over. You’re handed, in the end, a batch that soothes your aching bones, not to mention your mind.    Some of this follows Brain Wilson’s rubric a bit too closely, but hey, if you’re going to pick an influence …     Foreign Oranges celebrates the release of Idiot Village tonight at the Pour Haus, 1481 S. Shelby St., with Parlour, The Teeth, DJ Chaddles and Hi-Lo Fidelity. Showtime is 10 p.m. —Mat Herron