soundbites
August '03

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Forest Whitlow & the Crash

Land of X
ERM Records

KC favs Forest Whitlow & the Crash have been playing gigs around Midtown for years and produced several fine albums chock full of their special blend of alt-country-folk-rock stuff (go to www.ForrestWhitlow.com for more info).

With (count em!) 16 new original tracks, Land of X continues that tradition in spades. Forest has always shown an ear for clever lyrics and catchy melodies in his song writing, and if anything his skills have improved. Backed by his faithful Crash members D.J. Clem, John Bersuch and Sam Hughes, Forest again delivers his whimsical pathos with a tongue in cheek attitude and some fast fingers on his guitar, proving that X does indeed mark the spot. —Brandon Whitehead



Annie Lennox

Bare
BMG Music UK and Ireland Ltd.

Still think of Annie Lennox only in terms of her Eurythmics days? Well think again. The girl who once walked on broken glass released two solo albums in the first five years after the band split in 1990 and Bare, her third solo album has been in the making since then. Without a doubt, the wait was worth it.

Lennox has created a feast for the ears, combining rich layers of melody with deeply introspective lyrics, which come together perfectly to form the most soothing, harmonious songs. Bare presents a mixture of musical styles and tones, from the jazzy seven minutes of “The Hurting Time” and the restrained whisperings of “Oh God (Prayer),” to the upbeat “Bitter Pill,” which could almost be mistaken for modern pop.

“Wonderful” stands out from the rest of the songs with its aggressively percussive chorus, which speaks of a love for someone who doesn’t return affection. Lennox makes it impossible for the listener to not feel her emotion. —Jessica Chapman



S.T.U.N.

Evolution of Energy
Geffen

With the sudden and unexpected (and potentially profitable) reemergence of punk music, studios across the country have started rushing out new pre-labeled-punk bands with all the skill of a hung-over hamster hunting hummingbirds with hand-grenades. L.A.’s own S.T.U.N. (which stands for — hold your breath now —”Scream Toward the Uprising of Non-Conformity” (which would actually be STUNC) has jumped on this already-packed-like-a-Train-to-Bombay bandwagon with their debut Evolution of Energy, with rather mixed results.

There is a disturbingly high level of “social conscience” spread across these twelve tracks (once again: political activism and punk go together like beer and church, kids), but tracks like “Annihilation of the Generations” pull off enough of the old-school sound to make up for all of that crap. Now they just need to realize that their dreams are dead, they’ll never make a difference and nobody loves them, and THEN they can up-rise in non-conformity towards anything they want. —Brandon Whitehead





Marilyn Manson
The Golden Age of Grotesque
Nothing/Interscope Records

Shock-slocker Marilyn Manson has teetered on the edge of becoming a Goth-metal version of Michael Jackson for years now, starting somewhere between the time he was dating the fashionably slutty Rose McGowan and when he got a boob-job.

The Golden Age of Grotesque
shows he’s still comfortably perched up there in the thin air of “an artist whose life itself is art”, meaning of course that the music is only a small part of the package here. Most of the tracks are so heavily engineered it’s hard to tell where the songs are in all the digital samples and overlaid vocals (Manson says most of the album was produced while under the influence of Absinthe). Still, there’s plenty of MM here for his fans to enjoy, and after an admirable defense of his music in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, you got to give it up for a former high school loser-geek who grew up and made a fortune selling songs aimed at exactly the same type of kid! —Brandon Whitehead


Spitalfield
Remember Right Now
Victory Records

Emo-pop (a sort of bastard offspring between Nirvana and “Saved by the Bell”, if you didn’t know) has always centered on your basic boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-calls girl-eight-times-a-day-to-hear-her-talk-on-the-answering-machine scenarios, such as they are. Chicago’s Spitalfield (don’t ask, don’t know…) has pretty much stuck with nuthin’ but that on their debut Remember Right Now, making Weezer sound like a bunch of happy-go-lucky young Republicans. Even the publicity photo in the liner notes look like these guys just got dumped.

The music is competent enough for a first album, but most of the songs are rather repetitious, although a few are catchy enough to stand out in the shallow and ever-shrinking sea of indie-pop imitators. Now if the could just explain the name…—Brandon Whitehead



Martin Pahinui
Ho’olohe (Listen)
Dancing Cat Records

If music is escapism for the mind and soul, there’s no more pleasant trip than letting Martin Pahinui take a listener to the islands. Considered Hawaii’s most gifted vocalist and master practitioner of slack key acoustic guitar playing, Pahinui’s voice invokes all the beauty of this island paradise, as natural and rhythmic as waves hitting the white sand.

Slack key is a tuning down of the strings on the guitar, a technique that can be traced back to the 1830s when the instrument was brought to the islands by Mexican and Spanish cowboys. With each cut, Pahinui makes adjustments to his guitar to perfectly compliment the song’s structure and pace. Accompanied by Bobby Ingano on steel guitar, many songs, particularly “Kauoha Mai (The Keyhole Hula)” and “Waikapu,” hum along in a Texas swing-like easy buzz. Sung in Hawaiian, the effect doesn’t need a translation; such is this celebration of life. —Bruce Rodgers

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