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July 31, 2007

CD Reviews - 8/01

Ordinary GhostsPeople Noise(SELF-RELEASED)    Though this album is by People Noise, what comes through on the first listen is the music of Smashing Pumpkins, and of their era, and that unconcealed influence is something People Noise will struggle against. The vocals are polished and plaintive, the lyrics imagistic and surreal, the instrumentation tight, steady and rocking. In short, the music and its emotion are genuine, and the talents of producer Kevin Ratterman shine throughout. The best songs are like a room you walk into, beautiful and stirring, while the lesser ones underwhelm and float by. There is a lot going on here, maybe too much. Overall, it’s an enjoyable album, but I wish it were more striking. I wish I loved or hated it. When Mark Rothko visited Jasper Johns’ first one-man show in 1958, he looked around at the targets and flags, and said, “We worked for years to get rid of all of that.” Johns may have been looking back, but he brought about something new. Whether People Noise can do the same might be the question. After all, this is only its first release. —Adam DaygAameBig A little a(GIGANTIC/DELETED ART)    The other night, I was watching “The Big Lebowski” with a friend who had never before seen Jeff Bridges in all his majesty.    “When does the climax come?” he kept asking.    “It doesn’t,” I would say. “The Dude is just at this level of awesome for the whole movie.”     This idea of unspeakably ridiculous, peakless cool essentially sums up Big A little a’s latest record, gAame. The Brooklyn-based quartet is powered by three hyper drummers and some kind of a guitarist/keyboardist/bassist/vocalist character, which makes for a raucous, frenetic record that allots no time for breath-catching. There may be some lyrics buried within piles of maracas and tympanis, but this is both difficult to ascertain and immaterial; three songs in, you’re rocking out so hard you won’t have the brainpower to care.    Needless to say, gAame is not for the faint of heart. Be sure to have the ER on speed dial before tossing this on your turntable. —Kirsten SchofieldIt’s a New Day, Brother!Foree “Guitar” Wells (STACK HOUSE)    I can’t really think of anything to say that hasn’t already been more eloquently said by those people who knew him better. Foree was an incredible talent and a tireless supporter of the Louisville blues scene. Rather than cram another tired rehash of “Sweet Home Chicago” or “Let the Good Times Roll” down the throats of a barely interested public, he showed a range of styles that made for a consistently compelling experience.    The recordings on It’s a New Day, Brother! date back more than a decade but only recently saw the light of day thanks to the efforts of Foree’s friends and supporters who saw the need to ensure his legacy.    Next step: one of those giant building-sized portraits overlooking Muhammad Ali Boulevard. —Michael SteigerBuild A NationBad Brains(MEGAFORCE)    Long before the architecture of hardcore and punk rock deteriorated thanks to phonies, flakes and Fallout Boy, there were Bad Brains. Their inclusive mentality and incendiary stage presence allowed everyone to wail and dance (or mosh, as the case may be) to their hopeful messages. On Build A Nation, Bad Brains give us 14 more reasons to withstand our external and internal struggles.    The chops? Still there. Earl Hudson’s speed falls short only to his polyrhythmic agility on Nation’s genteel reggae moments. Dr. Know dances above Darryl Jenifer’s rock-solid bass before settling, with no notice, into roars of distortion that could shake the very throne of Haile Selassie himself.    Producer and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch is smart enough to mess with none of this. At its core, Build A Nation is not just about the music. It is a call to unite, because there never has been, nor ever will be, an alternative. —Mat HerronGa Ga Ga Ga GaSpoon(MERGE)    It has a tremendously ridiculous title, but Spoon’s latest, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, is anything but. Au contraire, it fits nicely into the band’s sinewy oeuvre. Frontman Britt Daniel has a knack for composing dense, rich songs that are paradoxically sleek and lean. Thus, “The Ghost of You Lingers” is appropriately spectral and fleeting, “The Underdog” features propulsive acoustic strumming that recall’s Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” and “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” is a sunny little pop tune without an ounce of fat. Spoon maintains their hipster cred by covering “Don’t You Evah,” an unreleased Natural History song (how’s that for inside baseball?). Despite the fact that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga isn’t as immediately gratifying as Gimme Fiction, its 2005 predecessor, it’s still Spoon, and therefore, another collection of off-kilter indie rock gems, and therefore, a great album. —Jay Ditzer